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Robotics United States

The CIA's Amazing RC Animals From the 70s 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the too-cool-for-old-school dept.
GameboyRMH writes "If you were impressed at the remote-controlled ornithopters released in recent years, then this will really knock your socks off: In the 1970s, the CIA developed and tested a remote-controlled ornithopter that was disguised as a dragonfly — and at roughly the size of a dragonfly. It was intended to be used as a platform for listening devices. This 'insectothopter' was laser-guided and powered by a tiny gasoline engine built by a watchmaker. While its performance was impressive, difficulty controlling the tiny craft in crosswinds made it impractical, and the idea was scrapped. The article also mentions a robo-squid, and has information on a remote-controlled fish (video) that is also very impressive."

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The CIA's Amazing RC Animals From the 70s

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  • And of course... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ethanol (176321) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @01:42PM (#35153158)

    Those of us who are a certain age and were geeky enough to read Danny Dunn books know exactly where the CIA got this idea.

    (Luckily Danny was able to destroy Professor Bullfinch's notes so the CIA wouldn't be able to replicate the much better dragonfly he'd invented, so they had to fall back on tiny, impractical gasoline engines instead.)

  • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @01:46PM (#35153216) Homepage

    When listing robotic and cyborg animals from the cold war era, let's not forget poor Acoustic Kitty [wikipedia.org].

    Some people might say that it was a myth, but one of the people on the project was my boss in the 1990s and he showed me a souvenir. Yes, I have held the skull of Acoustic Kitty in my hands. It had fine channels engraved in the bone so that the microphone wires would not cause bumps under the skin. The detail work was impressive, even more so when you realize that the cat lived through the operation.

    My boss also told me how he was present on Acoustic Kitty's first and only mission. The poor thing was kidnapped from an ambassador's home and put through hellish surgery, including installation of batteries that were destined to kill it after a few months. Then they released it across the street so that it would walk back into the house and begin to spy on its owner. Can you blame it for jumping under the tires of a taxicab? 20 million dollars and months of work, down the drain.

    My old boss is dead now. Sometimes I wonder what happened to AK's skull. It should be placed in the Smithsonian, as a visible reminder that some experiments just should not be done.

  • by metrometro (1092237) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @02:06PM (#35153392)

    "Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too. "I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security. "

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/08/AR2007100801434.html [washingtonpost.com]

    Nothing definitive in the story, but reasonably well reported eyewitness accounts.

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