Military-backed researchers have built a tiny drone that looks and flies like a hummingbird, flapping its little robotic wings to stay in the air. So far, the mock bird, built for Pentagon mad-science division Darpa, has only stayed aloft for 20 seconds at a time. But that short flight was enough to show the potential of a whole new class of miniature spies, inspired by nature. Darpa just handed AeroVironment, makers of the winged “nano air vehicle,” another $2.1 million to build a hummingbot 2.0.
Ultimately, DARPA program manager Todd Hylton says in a statement, he’d like see “an approximately 10-gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, can fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second, can withstand 2.5-meter-per-second wind gusts.” He also wants the nano air vehicle to operate inside buildings, and be controllable from up to a kilometer away.
AeroVironment, for its part, doesn’t just want its little drone to fly like a bird. The company wants the thing to look like one, too: