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The Ultimate Spy Weapon – Mini-Drones

By James Donahue

We suppose it was inevitable that the government’s unmanned drone aircraft would find its way into the labs of the nanotechnologists to give the world controlled spy drones so tiny they can fly through window screens and photograph everything going on inside our homes.

Indeed, the U.S. military has been field testing a lightweight drone called the Switchblade, made by AeroVironment Corporation in Monrovia, California, that weighs less than six pounds, can circle above the enemy on a battlefield, and strike with armament on command.

This deadly little drone, dubbed the "flying shotgun" by field commanders, can be carried into the battlefield on a soldier’s back, and like the big drones that strike from high overhead, these guys can fly in low and are controlled from a video screen.

The field tests have proved so successful that we can expect to have these little killers in battle within months.

Of course the ultimate spy drone would be a controlled "insect sized" device that could fly undetected overhead, carefully photographing and recording everything going on without being detected. The perfect size of such a machine would be comparable to a mosquito, but this may be a bit out of reach . . . at least for now.

A team of researchers at the University of Illinois has developed a buglike aerial vehicle with a body about the size of the edge of a penny that flies while tethered by thin wires that allows its controllers to power to guide it. So far this device, nick-named the RoboBee, only lifts off the table, hovers and flies around in different directions. But the team hopes to have it doing much more.

The team perceives this tiny flier searching collapsed buildings in search for survivors or sniffing for hazardous chemicals, terrorists or enemy soldiers before humans are sent in.

The ultimate dream mini-drone would be something about the size of a mosquito that could be controlled from a great distance and equipped with a camera and microphone. Some researchers perceive of such a drone being equipped to land on a person and use a needle to take a DNA sample with the light touch of a mosquito bite. It hits and flies off before the victim realizes he or she has been stung.

Accomplishing such machines is not as easy as it may seem. After all, if nature can produce tiny insects that fly, why can’t humans? And there lies the great mystery of nature. People who study flying insects still marvel that certain fliers like the bumble bee, for example, can get off the ground. Their tiny wing span and body bulk defies both logic and scientific research.

Thus the act of building a tiny bug-sized device that carries a motor to drive its wings, and the weight of a camera, microphone and guidance system, presents a challenge. The advent of nanotechnology, however, involves finding ways to manufacture working machines that are so small they are sometimes impossible to see without the help of high powered microscopes. Thus it is conceivable that drones the size of mosquitoes will truly be flying around in our homes, perhaps even in our lifetime.

The concept of privatization has been under attack for many years. Once these minute-sized drones come into production, the sound of a mosquito flying around our head on a warm summer night may prove to be more of a fright than it is a nuisance.

But never fear. We still have that wonderful defensive tool that should still work very well even against all this advanced technbology. It is called the fly swatter.