Tiny robot drones that look like a swarm of cicadas when they fly, are being tested by the U.S. Navy. The gadget costs no more than $250 and is designed to be dropped from the sky along with a bunch of “his brothers” into conditions of a natural disaster – hurricanes and tornadoes.
The project is run by the U.S. Naval Research Lab since 2011
The MK5 drone’s purpose is to be stackable while being dropped from an aircraft. They have a GPS system, and they maintain a 15 feet range between each other. After the moment of their landing, they are able to collect data from the built-in sensors and send it back to the aircraft. The process is continuous as the antennas on their wings keep the information updated. As long as the battery lasts, no interruptions between the airborne and the drone are going to happen. This system had its debut at the Sea Air Space Expo this year in April, and it allows 32 drones to be released at once.
The little drones are going to be built by machines, and their price will stay at $250 each. This is a very good value as military hardware tend to cost much more. The devices can be considered disposable. NRL’s Dan Edwards told that CICADA MK5 drone has most of the basic research done already.
Another interesting idea that Edwards suggests is to add a second or even a third sense to the small drone, and by that, he meant chemical or biological sensing. Electronics that can detect seismic dangers could also be added in the near future, said the representative.
Here’s a video that demonstrates the use of the drones as they perform various tests, dropping from separate altitudes and different locations.
NRL aerospace engineer Daniel J. Edwards told that the projectile and its drones are easy to carry and can be launched by a manned or unmanned aircraft, balloons, as well as guided missiles. Right after their release from the airborne, the group of drones, each with its own GPS-guided parameters and sensor, would take data samples during their descent. The data include meteorological and chemical information. In other words, all this fuss would mean that scientists are going to have a much larger vision of how tornadoes and hurricanes behave.
The only thing that is still missing for the CICADAs is a customer
At this moment, the research lab is constant with their work as new suggestions arrive at a fast pace. The electronic device is a simple board of circuits that is flying, meaning that you can add almost anything at its component level and it should work. The main concern of the research is to improve the drone’s ability to drop into the eyes of a hurricane or tornado and send info about the natural hazard, said Edwards.
The research team is also working on other several unique projects. As a matter of fact, one example would be the studying of seal’s whiskers. They believe that the whiskers are able to sense the environment. This means that the team may be able to develop a new way to improve the sensory mechanism of ships and underwater vehicles.