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Hand-held drone flies around targets like a maple seed

August 15, 2011 | 11:42 am


Drone aircraft has taken on all shapes and sizes in recent years: stratosphere-skimming spy jetshelicopters, birds with flapping wings.

Now we see a flying machine based on "the seeds that drop from maple trees," according to an article in the Air Force Times.

The Lockheed Martin Corp.-made drone, dubbed the Samarai, is slated to make an appearance this week at the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington, D.C., the article said.

Lockheed engineers gave the Associated Press a preview last week at an indoor soccer field in Southampton, N.J. The field is near the company’s Advanced Technology Laboratories in Cherry Hill, N.J., where the Samarai was built.

"We have taken the shape and design of a maple seed and harnessed it with intelligent flight controls and avionics," Bill Borgia, director of Lockheed’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, said on the company’s website. "The design is incredibly simple, making Samarai quite affordable even in small quantities."

The Samarai is about a foot long. It has just two moving parts and carries a camera, Lockheed said. The Associated Press reports that it can be controlled by a remote control or by an app on a tablet computer.

“Troops could carry the devices in their backpacks, launch them by throwing them like boomerangs and use real-time images from cameras to find out what might be around the next corner,” the Air Force Times article says.

Take a look at the video above posted on YouTube by an Aviation Week & Space Technology editor. The clip was posted about a year ago, so the drone’s capabilities may have been improved.

Those attending the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference will find out whether it has been fine-tuned this week. The event is an annual showcase for defense contractors to showcase their newest robotic wares. It starts tomorrow, so stay tuned.


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