Robot Birds: Designing Micro Spy Vehicles [VIDEO]

Dr. John Ohab is a new technology strategist at the Department of Defense Public Web Program.

From his upturned palm, aeronautical engineer Ryan Carr launches then expertly flies what appears to be a remote-controlled bird. Scientist Joseph McDermott works at the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) in Dayton, Ohio, with materials so tiny the width of a human hair is huge by comparison.

Welcome to the world of micro air vehicles (MAVs) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Here, hobby-store aircraft are helping scientists design a futuristic line of miniature flying spy vehicles.

“We take the technology that we have and we try to design something that does the same thing as a hummingbird or dragonfly does,” explains Carr.

Micro Air Vehicle Integration & Application Research InstituteFor more MAV-related awesomeness, visit AFRL’s Micro Air Vehicle Integration & Application Research Institute, which brings together scientists and engineers, along with world-class experimental facilities, for the research, design, fabrication, and testing of MAVs. The Institute is comprised of four experimental labortories: the Unsteady Aerodynamics Laboratory, MAV Fabrication Laboratory, Flapping Wing Bench Test Laboratory, and MAV Indoor Flight Test Laboratory.

The Indoor Flight Test Laboratory, the cornerstone of the institute, allows researchers to simulate an urban environment by removing or controlling environmental effects such as temperature and wind. It also provides a contained test volume that can be highly instrumented, while minimizing interference and risk to people and property.

Special thanks to the National Defense Education Program for providing this insider’s view of every day work undertaken by Defense Department scientists and engineers. Check out LabTV for more great videos!

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