Feeds

DARPA orders 'Katana' monoblade nano-copter

Whirly spybird runs on lighter fuel, flown by PSP

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Famed Pentagon crazytech bureau DARPA has handed out half a million greenbacks to buy a tiny one-bladed robot helicopter slightly bigger than a coin, dubbed "Katana" and apparently intended for "indoor military missions".

DARPA - renowned for being of the dungeon laboratory school of science rather than the ivory tower one - made the ink-on-contract announcement this week, awarding $546,076 to US arms gigantocorp Lockheed "to perform the Katana: Mono-Wing Rotorcraft for Tactical Applications effort".

Lockheed had previously done early development work on a tiny, single-rotor aircraft modelled on the "samara" whirling winged seeds found in nature. That effort was dubbed "Samarai", as a portmanteau of samara and samurai.

The Samarai, developed under DARPA's Nano Air Vehicle plan, was intended to be a remarkable gadget which US soldiers or intelligence operatives could carry pocketed in a small blister pack. To take off it would spin up on a handheld spindle, driven by a blade-tip jet running off a tiny propane reservoir in the hub.

The propane tip-jet would offer flight endurance of twenty minutes, allowing the tiny whirling Samarai to fly off and into a target building up to a kilometre away under remote control. Advanced micro-electronics would allow it to deliver a useable video image back to its operator despite the fact that the whole thing was spinning very fast. (A Lockheed paper (pdf) gives the impression that the operator might be using a Sony PSP to control the machine.)

Having reconnoitred the building, and perhaps dropped off a small 2g "payload" - presumably a bug - the Samarai would fly out again and stall in to land on command for recovery. Though an operator could easily carry several spare microchoppers, refuelling "approximating the ease with which a cigarette lighter would be refuelled" would allow easy re-use.

But following Phase I design studies for the Nano Air Vehicle effort, DARPA seemed to favour Aerovironment's rival micro-ornithopter concept and Samarai seemed to be kicked into touch.

Given the name*, the relatively small amount of money involved, and the fact that it is a "mono-wing rotorcraft" it seems pretty clear that Katana is in fact son of Samarai. The boffinry chiefs at DARPA have awarded the Katana money not under the Nano Air Vehicle programme, but under a general heading of "Innovative Systems" funding for which inventors are invited to apply with their own ideas.

It would seem that someone at Lockheed has jazzed up the Samarai plans in some unspecified fashion, re-applied to DARPA under the name "Katana", and so breathed life back into the programme. ®

*In old-time Japan the Katana was the long sword of the Samurai warrior, of course.

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.