News / USA

California Company Unveils Hummingbird Spy Drone

Matthew Keennon demonstrates AeroVironment's nano-hummingbird spy drone
Matthew Keennon demonstrates AeroVironment's nano-hummingbird spy drone

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Mike O'Sullivan

A California company that makes unmanned drone aircraft for the U.S. military has unveiled a tiny flying drone that looks like a hummingbird.  The airborne spy is part of a new kind of military technology that also has civilian uses.

Several years in development, the so-called nano-hummingbird is a smaller and more maneuverable version of drones now used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It looks like a real hummingbird with quickly flapping wings, and just like the real bird, can hover in mid-air and fly backwards.

The company that created it, AeroVironment, develops and tests drones outside Los Angeles.  They give observers an eye in the sky, and spot objects and track people on the ground.

The tiny bird-like drone has a camera and transmitter and a wingspan of just 17 centimeters.   It is operated remotely and flies by moving its wings, says project manager Matthew Keennon.

"It's being manipulated and controlled to allow the forward and backward flight, the rotation and also the side-to-side flight.  And all that's happening by just changing the curvature and the shape and different aspects of the wing movement at a very high speed," noted Keennon.

The tiny drone is still experimental.  The challenge and the funding came from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which asked for an airborne vehicle that would mimic something in nature.

Project manager Keennon says the challenge was huge and the work has been exciting.

"Because every time we made an improvement, got better, we were just so amazed," added Keennon.

While the company is developing some of the world's smallest drones, it is also testing one of the largest.  Called Global Observer, this unmanned craft is thin and sleek but has a wingspan almost equal to a Boeing 747.  It is powered by liquid hydrogen and can hover in the stratosphere, says AeroViroment's Steven Gitlin.

"And it's designed to fly for up to seven days at a time at about 65,000 feet [20,000 meters] altitude and carry a payload that either helps somebody see what they want to see or relays communication from one point to another," explained Gitlin.

The company spokesman says airborne drones are used for military surveillance, but also have civilian uses.

"Applications like first response, search and rescue, law enforcement, border security, even facility security and event security - anywhere a bird's-eye view in the sky in real time can help somebody do their job more effectively and more safely is a potential application for this technology," added Gitlin.

And the new nano-hummingbird will go places that larger drones cannot.

AeroVironment engineers say the device will still be in development for the next few years, and may not reach the market in its present form.  But they say the technology developed for the device will be used in future products.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid