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Robotic Spies: Hummingbirds, Dragonflies & Co.

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In the movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise is chased by an army of government deployed robotic spider spies attempting to hunt him down:

Although this is science fiction, the US military and others are working on robotic spy bots that already drop the fiction part of the equation. This is amazing from a technology point of view and a bit scary at the same time. The following is a summary of spy bots that already exist today.

A robotic hummingbird

Pentagon researchers are building a robotic hummingbird (spy-drone with camera) for potential use as a flying spy that is capable of maneuvering through windows and inside buildings. So the next time you see a hummingbird look twice you might be watched by the military!

The robotic hummingbird is one the TIME Magazine’s list of the top 50 inventions for 2011. Watch it fly and spy:

A robotic hummingbird Watch this video on YouTube

Watch the video about the making of here.

A robotic dragonfly

Researchers at Georgia Tech have created a robotic dragonfly that that flies like a bird and hovers like an insect. It is designed for aerial photography, advanced gaming, R&D and security. With the help of a $1,000,000 grant from the Air Force, the team has built multiple prototypes of the consumer device and is now working on an Indiegogo project to sell the basic dragonfly for $99 and an upgraded version for $179. The ultimate version will cost $399 although they expect it to cost $1,500 retail.

The TechJect Dragonfly can be used for any task requiring live and mobile video feed; such as photography, home/workplace security, swarm robotics, advanced gaming and spying!

A robotic dragonfly Watch this video on YouTube

A robot that flies like a bird

Festo, a German industrial control and automation company, built SmartBird – a robot that flies like a bird:

It is a large, lightweight robot, modeled on a seagull, that flies by flapping its wings. See it fly:

A robot that flies like a bird Watch this video on YouTube

And from the same company comes AirPenguin, a flying robot based on a penguin.

GroundBot, A spherical all-terrain surveillance robot

GroundBot by Swedish robotics firm Rotundus is an all-terrain, amphibious surveillance robot in the shape of a bug-eyed sphere. Roughly the size of a car tire, the robot moves silently at up to six mph.

GroundBot houses two cameras which provide a stereoscopic view to its remote operator.

Rotundus GroundBot at airport Watch this video on YouTube

Flying quadrotor drones

At the University of Pennsylvania a team is working on an autonomous quadrotor drones for surveillance:

Quadrotor Surveillance Watch this video on YouTube

In the following video you will see this small autonomous drones perform precise maneuvers like flight through windows:

Aggressive Maneuvers for Autonomous Quadrotor Flight Watch this video on YouTube

The latest experiment from this team is a swarm of nano quadrotors. See them here.

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