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Hummingbird robot the future of high-tech spying

Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - 02:01

Mar 2 - The Pentagon is developIng a new high-tech recruit for its spying missions in dangerous war zones like Afghanistan. Called the Nano-hummingbird, it's a robotic drone that looks and behaves like the tiny bird but is designed to fly where humans cannot - or dare not - go. Rob Muir reports.

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It looks innocent enough but this delicate hummingbird is designed for warfare, specifically - for spying. Funded by the US Defense Department, the Nano-hummingbird as its called was created by California-based company AeroVironment and project manager Matt Keennon says it's a major advance in drone technology. SOUNDBITE) (English) MATT KEENNON, PROJECT MANAGER, AEROVIRONMENT SAYING: "It weighs 19 grams, the endurance is between five and 11 minutes, depending on how it's configured. The maximum speed right now is about 11 miles an hour. It's fitted with a moderately low resolution color video camera, the range is quite short. So right now it's really just a demonstrator that's showing the novel application of hovering flight with two flapping wings." The flapping wing technology is the secret of the hummingbird's success both in nature and in the robot. It can hover, fly backwards and remain stable in high winds. It can manoeuvre with precision and speed unlike any other unmanned aerial vehicle. For military spying operations in war-zones like Afghanistan, the nano-hummingbird could become a an invaluable asset. It's equipped with a video camera and a live streaming capability that will allow operators to see what it sees from up to a kilometre away. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TIM CONVER, CEO, AEROVIRONMENT SAYING: "It is a very small airplane and it is the first that has ever demonstrated full control in this flapping wing configuration. So from a technology perspective, it's a real breakthrough. It's still very early in terms of the application of this technology and this reduction to practice, so it's like a newborn baby, it's not clear what it's value in the world is going to be." AeroVironment had built and tested ninety different version of the drone before this latest model came into being. The nano-Hummingbird may still require further refinement befiore its ready for action but the company hopes it won't be too long before their bird can take flight in the field. Rob Muir, Reuters.

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Hummingbird robot the future of high-tech spying

Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - 02:01