Science fiction films have frequently made use of robots that float down hallways or waft through the sky as they chase down the heroes. Aside from the fact that it’s simply easier for the FX team to hang a metal ball on a piece of fishing line, there’s something undeniably fascinating about a machine moving in a way that common sense tells us is impossible.
So it’s with pleasure that I introduce the newest addition to Japan Self-Defense Force’s aerial squadrons:
At just 42cm wide and weighing 350 grams (less than a pound), the orb can hover, maneuver in any direction, and reach speeds of up to 60kph, giving it great potential as a reconnaissance and surveillance tool. What’s more, it’s built entirely from off-the-shelf parts available to hobbyists in Akihabara for an estimated price tag of $1,300.
TV Tokyo recently featured the device and its developers on their “Trend Tamago” show, highlighting it’s maneuverability and unique design.
The “Top Gun” music was a nice touch.
As you can see, its small size and hovering capability allow it to handle tight spaces, such as avoiding telephone lines, flying through windows and going up staircases. The advantage of its spherical shape (According to the developers, the compact flier is the the only one of its kind to use such a design) becomes evident at the 1:10 mark: rather than requiring a careful approach over flat ground for landings, the flier can simply come in low and roll to a stop.
- The propeller can also be used to roll the bot along the ground
The flier has already been fitted with a camera, making it useful for police or soldiers scouting out buildings or urban areas, rescue workers looking for survivors in wide areas of rubble (such as after a tsunami) or, as seen in the Trend Tamago report, chasing women through hallways.
One of the downsides is that its flight duration is currently only about 8 minutes. It’s also not all that inconspicuous or stealthy. It’s also not yet capable of self-controlled flight, instead relying on a human to pilot it via remote control, so it’s not technically a robot or drone as many have been calling it (guilty!). Still, it’s an interesting new design for a refreshing low price tag, and and should act as a springboard for a lot of other innovators.
Just so long as I don’t catch one hanging outside my window.