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Hummingbird-Size Wing-Flapping Drone Unveiled 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-fill-your-bird-feeder-with-batteries dept.
garymortimer writes "AeroVironment, Inc. has demonstrated a tiny new drone called a 'Nano Hummingbird.' The hand-made prototype aircraft has a wingspan of 16 centimeters (6.5 inches) tip-to-tip and has a total flying weight of 19 grams (2/3 ounce), which is less than the weight of a common AA battery. This includes all the systems required for flight; batteries, motors, communications systems and video camera. The aircraft can be fitted with a removable body fairing, which is shaped to have the appearance of a real hummingbird. The aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature."
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Hummingbird-Size Wing-Flapping Drone Unveiled

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  • It's amazing how much control they appear to have over the thing. I feel lucky when I can get my RC helicopter to go anywhere near the general direction that I want. And especially outdoors! The very slight breeze outside makes toy helicopter impossible to fly, but it seems like they have complete control.

    • by 517714 (762276)
      I'll bet that the commercial or promotional video you saw for your helicopter made it look like it was fully controllable too!
    • by hitmark (640295)

      could be a gyro involved, that keep it stationary unless other input is given.

  • "The aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature." --- I don't really get that sentence, can someone explain?
    • It's chunky, but not obese.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday February 18, 2011 @05:53PM (#35249022)
      The largest hummingbird species are bigger and heavier than the drone, but the average of all the hummingbird species is smaller and lighter than the drone. So, while it's bigger than what a hummingbird is likely to be, it is not so big that it couldn't possibly be disguised as a hummingbird.
      • by sabrex15 (746201)
        Thanks for clearing that up for me.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        So, while it's bigger than what a hummingbird is likely to be, it is not so big that it couldn't possibly be disguised as a hummingbird.

        And in particular, there are quite a few hummingbird species of about that size, and the largest species, the appropriately named Giant Hummingbird [wikipedia.org] is significantly bigger. So "smaller than the largest hummingbird" isn't some kind of cop-out phrase where there's one such example in the Andes mountains but everywhere else it's too big to be a hummer.

        But in some places it certainly would be too big. For example in the Eastern United States, the only hummingbird is the small Ruby Throated, and seeing somethi

      • by blair1q (305137)

        Regardless, if I see a hummingbird this big, I'm getting a net. They just aren't common around my secret lair.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Kufat (563166)

      Car metaphors are so last week, so here's a fast food metaphor:
      It's bigger than a medium but smaller than a large.

    • "The aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature." --- I don't really get that sentence, can someone explain?

      If the average hummingbird is 1 unit in weight, and the world record heaviest hummingbird is 2 units in weight, the mechanical one weighs 1.5 units.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      The aircraft is bigger and has more mass than the mean(average) hummingbird. The aircraft is not quite as large as the largest hummingbird, nor does it mass more than the heaviest hummingbird.

    • There are multiple [wikipedia.org] species of hummingbird. A few of them are common [wikipedia.org] in north america, but there are less-common species, as well. Hummingbirds are rather remarkable, being the most maneuverable group of birds (ever seen a bird fly backwards?)

    • by umrguy76 (114837)

      Hummingbirds range in size from very small to not so small. While this aircraft is larger than the average size hummingbird found in nature, there are real hummingbirds that are larger.

      . ---> o ---> O
      hb aircft big hb

    • It means it's larger than the European Hummingbird but smaller than the African Hummingbird...
    • "The aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature." --- I don't really get that sentence, can someone explain?

      Sure, it means that he aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature.

  • Will these be available for Christmas this year, or next year?

  • I want one (Score:3, Interesting)

    by a-zarkon! (1030790) on Friday February 18, 2011 @05:56PM (#35249056)
    But I have to wonder what the endurance is for this thing. TFA describes the requirements as:

    1. Demonstrate precision hover flight within a virtual two-meter diameter sphere for one minute.
    2. Demonstrate hover stability in a wind gust flight which required the aircraft to hover and tolerate a two-meter per second (five miles per hour) wind gust from the side, without drifting downwind more than one meter.
    3. Demonstrate a continuous hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source.
    4. Fly and demonstrate controlled, transition flight from hover to 11 miles per hour fast forward flight and back to hover flight.
    5. Demonstrate flying from outdoors to indoors, and back outdoors through a normal-size doorway.
    6. Demonstrate flying indoors âheads-downâ(TM) where the pilot operates the aircraft only looking at the live video image stream from the aircraft, without looking at or hearing the aircraft directly.
    7. Fly the aircraft in hover and fast forward flight with bird-shaped body and bird-shaped wings.

    Based on the current crop of micro RC helicopters, I'd be surprised if this gizmo has enough battery life for more than 10-15 minutes of flight. Any real-world James Bond types out there care to chime in as to whether this is going to be sufficient to support a real-world mission?

    Sounds like it would be a lot of fun for messing with coworkers in the cube farm though.

    • by msauve (701917)
      Bonus points if it runs on sugar water.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Current $15 rc helis have 10 minutes flight time. I am going to bet this unit has more since it does not need to cost less than $15 to build.

    • by Jesse_vd (821123)
      sounds like the requirements don't need 10-15 minutes

      3. Demonstrate a continuous hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source.
    • by Motard (1553251)

      These things could be a godsend for troops that have to clear buildings as they had to in, say, Fallujah. Being able to survey the situation before going through the door could save a lot of lives (well, on the American side at least).

    • What I'm a little confused about is that the CIA claims to have made fully flyable dragonfly-sized drones in 1970. I can't find it but wasn't here a slashdot story about this a while back?

      Anyway, a link to the CIA 'bots is here, but I'm skeptical of the validity of this bot, even with the provided video: http://hackaday.com/2011/02/10/the-cias-amazing-bots/ [hackaday.com]

    • No real world James Bond would need it for more than 15 minuets, nor want to be engaged in operating an expensive remote machine manually for any extended period of time. Real world james bond's have a way of being where they need to be only long enough to get what they need and get out. The plain light as well be equipt with a physical object acquisition hand as well, sense the trouble of navigating it back to you should be most worth while. Having it Auto fly back to it's handset or have options of loi
      • by DrVomact (726065)

        No real world James Bond would need it for more than 15 minuets...

        As an old (really old) James Bond fan, I must protest your mischaracterization. James Bond wouldn't even need a Tango, much less a bunch of minuets—he gets the girl without having to even dance with her first!

    • Think of the following. Some guys in a battle are hunkered down and shooting at you, say through a hole in a wall. This thing flies over there and shows you where they are -- or whether they are displacing to another place -- so you know where and whether to shoot. Don't even need one minute for that. If they're running away, you now know which way if you want to chase them -- they've gotten out of cover. And so on.

      This can be a pretty life saving thing for the good guys, and devastating to the other

    • by ctrimm (1955430)

      Based on the current crop of micro RC helicopters, I'd be surprised if this gizmo has enough battery life for more than 10-15 minutes of flight.

      According to a Wired article [wired.com], the flight time has, indeed, only reached about 10 minutes.

  • by JumpDrive (1437895) on Friday February 18, 2011 @05:57PM (#35249084)
    These could be used to follow around truant kids and determine whether they are going to school or not.
    • by kehren77 (814078)

      Come on. Like all new technology, the industry that will commercialize this first will be the porn industry.

      • by 517714 (762276)
        That does not adequately explain the aircraft industry, there is no membership fee for the mile high club.
        • by kehren77 (814078)

          That does not adequately explain the aircraft industry, there is no membership fee for the mile high club.

          So then you are sneaking onto these flights? How are you making it past security without a ticket?

  • I thought nano meant, like, really small i.e. nanometers....this thing sounds pretty large, for calling it nano...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Welcome to 2001, when nano and nano-tech words became co-opted by marketers. No-one seems to give a shit about definitions anyway, e.g. picosatellites, microchips. Might as well call processors nanochips because the process size is measured in nanometres.

    • by M8e (1008767)

      It's definitely smaller than a femtoparsec.

  • They should make one with weapons capability, like something you'd expect to see in a James Bond film. they could use some kind of laser, but I don't think it would have enough power to life the necessary shark. Maybe they could strap a Colt 45 to it (no not the drink, the gun). That would be cool (BLAM!! followed by a spray of hummingbird shaped parts).

  • One step closer to developing actual man hacks, from half life two. All that has to happen now is for the military to get a hold of this tech.
  • "The aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature."

    I'm confused.
    I thought I knew English.
    Can anyone help me?
    Is this an experiment on how to create a brain aneurysm using an illogical statement?
    "I sense a Star Trek moment here ladies and germs...".
    • by denzacar (181829)

      Let's say that hummingbirds come in sizes (or weights) 1 to 5.
      Average sized hummingbird would then be the sum of those sizes, divided by the number of sizes available. I.e. (1+2+3+4+5)/5 = 3
      So the "average hummingbird size" would be 3, while the largest hummingbird size would be 5.

      So, if this artificial hummingbird is "larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature" - that means that it's size is somewhere between 3 and 5.

    • Different species of hummingbirds come in different sizes. An "average" hummingbird is smaller than this drone, but at least one species of hummingbirds is capable of growing larger than the drone.

      Seems pretty logical to me.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday February 18, 2011 @06:42PM (#35249472) Homepage

      I'm honestly shocked that "more than average, less than maximum" is confusing so many people. Okay, maybe the sentence is difficult to parse (I didn't find it so, but whatever), but it is not illogical in the least.

      • by IICV (652597)

        The grandparent post is, however, a perfect example of Star Trek "logic" which most of the time is, in fact, illogical.

        I mean, come on. Half the time they interpret "logical" as meaning "only do things that have a 100% chance of success, do nothing otherwise" (if there's a 50% chance we'll blow up after reticulating the deflector array, that's still the logical course of action if the only other option is a 100% chance of explosion from not dispersing the negative space wedgie!), and the other half of the t

      • by DrVomact (726065)

        I'm honestly shocked that "more than average, less than maximum" is confusing so many people. Okay, maybe the sentence is difficult to parse (I didn't find it so, but whatever), but it is not illogical in the least.

        "Not illogical", eh? The writer was trying to give us a sense of the scale of this device. Usually, this is done by referring to something simple and direct—like maybe the traditional "smaller than a breadbox, bigger than a pack of cigarettes". But our author strikes directly for familiar ground—the average and extreme weights of hummingbirds. Right, I know all about that. On the one hand, you have those really small, pip-squeak hummingbirds that you can mistake for wasps. On the other, we have

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          I believe, good sir, that if you were to examine the bong in your hand you would observe the following warning label: "Caution: Usage of the wacky tobbacky may alter one's sense of what is or isn't logical."

          And if there isn't one, it was clearly an omission on the part of the Surgeon General and you should add it yourself. :)

          But in not entirely all seriousness, there isn't exactly a tremendous range of hummingbird sizes, and anyone with any humming bird experience should have at least a ball-park idea of

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Nope. That sentence was perfectly constructed.

  • by trollertron3000 (1940942) on Friday February 18, 2011 @06:29PM (#35249338)

    Jesus Christ look at that HUGE hummingbird! Why does it have a muffler? ... DUCK!

    • by 517714 (762276)

      Why does it have a muffler? ... DUCK!

      To keep its neck warm!

    • Jesus Christ look at that HUGE hummingbird! Why does it have a muffler? ... DUCK!

      No, it's definitely a hummingbird.

      badum-ching!

    • Why would you call for a duck to protect you from a hummingbird? Or is that duck a larger version of the same device, with floating capability?
  • Could two of them carry a coconut?

    And the size comparisons, were those for African or European hummingbirds?

  • by SnoopJeDi (859765) <snoopjedi @ g m a i l . c om> on Friday February 18, 2011 @06:39PM (#35249442)
    Here's a youtube video of the drone meeting several of these criteria. http://youtu.be/a8ZbtZqH6Io [youtu.be]
    • Excellent citation, thanks.

      Just judging from watching the video in hi-res, it's more like a helicopter with individually variable prop angles than a hummingbird - it looks like it's limited to "body straight up" flight.

      Still pretty astounding work for a prototype - but I'd be willing to bet a few dollars that something similar to this but with much more maneuverability - yaw and pitch - is on sale in department stores in maybe 5-7 years :-)

      If anyone has any more decent info on this,

      • by SnoopJeDi (859765)
        The device actually already has yaw, as the video above shows (you can spin the craft around). As for pitch, I can't find a video, but I'm under the impression that it does have pitch control, being able to do loop-de-loops [wired.com].
        • by SnoopJeDi (859765)
          Err, link should be this [wired.com].
        •   A helicopter can technically loop the loop, too, but that's not the same thing as full sustained pitch control like hummingbirds can do (they can fly head-down)

            Still pretty neat kit tho.

          SB

  • ... Iran has recently placed orders for thousands of high speed oscillating fans to, "keep their government buildings free hummingbird infestations".
  • That looks like an awesome skeet target. And I'm sure anyone being observed by one in a warzone will agree.

  • by thewils (463314)

    Methinks it's time to dust off the crowbar again :)

  • "The aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature." [I think] This qualifies it as USDA organic...
  • "has a wingspan of 16 centimeters (6.5 inches) tip-to-tip and has a total flying weight of 19 grams (2/3 ounce)," Color me bad, but I think that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry may be able to claim prior art: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quidditch#Golden_Snitch [wikipedia.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or cross between Harry Potter and James Bond.

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