Dragonfly spies hit the skies

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Dragonfly spies hit the skies

The worlds smallest nano air vehicle was unveiled last week by Delft University of Technology.

DelFly micro is a mere four inches across and weighs a minute 0.1oz - about the weight of an ant.

The light-weight bug is built from ultra-light thermo plastic polymers, carbon fibre, micro-circuitry and flies using a small lithium polymer battery.

These tiny flyers will be used by US military group Darpa (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) to buzz undetected into the most well-protected airspace with the mission to spy.

Dragonfly-like in appearance these machines fit in with Darpa research, which has spend millions of dollars developing insect-sized aircraft that mimic nature, to gain the surveillance edge they will need in wars to come.

At present these spy-bots only have a flight-time of three minutes, however Todd Hylton, a Darpa programme manager says, “We are interested in a system that has 20 minutes of flight time, can withstand 5mph wind gusts, can operate inside buildings and has a range of over 1,000 yards”.

Although these machines sound like something out of Philip Pullman, the Delfly micro is only the latest in a long line of NAVs, including a pocket-sized helicopter, hummingbird-like flyers and rocket powered wings.

Bigger robots have also been used by the military for years to scout out terrorists and launch missiles in Afghanistan and Iraq while the controller is safely tucked away in America.

Bart Remes of Delft University said, “One of our test aircraft beams images to the ground station, where a computer performs calculations and sends control signals back to the engine”. This development means that the future of remote-control pilots looks bleak, as they will most likely become redundant.

Remes continues to say that Delft “are now on the third generation of D elfly, and they keep getting smaller and smaller,”

“The next generation will be under two inches long. In the long term, we’re dreaming of an aircraft the size of a fruit fly.”
theinquirer.net (c) 2010 Incisive Media
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