Feeds

'First-ever' flight of robotic ornithopter announced

Prototype 'nano' bugging-bug drone gets another $2m

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Vid Famous crazycraft company Aerovironment has won a $2.1m contract to further develop its robotic "Nano Air Vehicle" (NAV), which flies and hovers using flapping wings like a hummingbird. The company has also released a video of the innovative craft in test flights.

According to Aerovironment, the fluttering NAV achievement is the first ever "controlled hovering flight of an air vehicle system with two flapping wings that carries its own energy source and uses only the flapping wings for propulsion and control".

The NAV project is one of the swarming brainchildren of DARPA, the Pentagon tech-wizardry bureau. Many of DARPA's spawnings don't make it past Phase 1; the new Phase 2 deal with Aerovironment indicates a somewhat greater chance of eventual success.

Such a success, according to DARPA's Dr Todd Hylton, would see the tiny ornithopter shrink to 10 grams' weight and a maximum size of 7.5cm. The little machine, to meet the US government's requirements, must also achieve forward-flight speeds of 10 metres per second (22 mph) and be able to resist gentle gusts of wind in the hover. It must also become quieter.

The hummingbird- or large-insect-sized craft is intended by DARPA for clandestine "urban mission operations" in "indoor and outdoor environments". Future versions of the bugthopter are expected to be able to "perch" in suitable locations, relaying sound and video back to their controllers up to a kilometre away. They might also drop off very small payloads such as listening devices.

“The NAV program will push the limits of aerodynamic and power conversion efficiency, endurance, and maneuverability for very small, flapping wing air vehicle systems,” says Hylton.

It's not immediately clear why an ornithopter like the NAV is better than a tiny helicopter (for instance the Norwegian PD-100 Black Hornet). But DARPA believe that "low Reynolds number"* bird-style flying could offer advantages over normal aircraft technologies.

Even if the idea of pocketsize bug-dropping bugthopter drones never takes off with the US military or intelligence communities, DARPA seems to be suggesting, learning more about exactly how the birds and the bees pull off their tricks is well worth doing. ®

Bootnote

*The Reynolds number is the ratio between inertial forces and viscous forces arising where fluids such as air flow over solid surfaces such as aircraft wings. It is generally high for big, fast things like normal aircraft; but flying critters such as bats and insects operate in low-Reynolds-number flight regimes.

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
Who wants to be there as history is made at the launch of our LOHAN space project?
Two places available in the chase plane above the desert
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.