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

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

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Audio Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid