Home Science Energy Robotic hummingbird being built by U.S. to spy

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The Defense Sciences Office of DARPA is developing a robotic hummingbird it calls the Nano Air Vehicle that one day will provide indoor and outdoor reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities for the United States within urban environments. No, it is definitely not a bird-brain scheme!


DARPA is short for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It is the research and development agency of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), whose job it is to develop new technologies for the U.S. military.

Its DSO (Defense Sciences Office) takes new scientific and engineering concepts and develops them into new technologies for use within the DoD.

One of its latest projects is a miniature spy it calls NAV, short for Nano Air Vehicle. The program manager for NAV is Dr. Todd Hylton, a physicist (Ph.D. from Stanford University) and inventor (with nineteen patents).

According to the July 3, 2009 Gizmodo article Pentagon's Robot Hummingbird Christened "Nano Air Vehicle Hylton is attempting to build “… an approximately 10-gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, can fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second, can withstand 2.5-meter-per-second wind gusts."

Hylton has not accomplished that goal, yet, but he is well on his way. Check out the video of the very small experimental hummingbird craft at the Gizmodo web site.

A real hummingbird is a bird in the family Trochilidae. They are some of the smallest species of birds.

Besides being able to fly backwards and hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings, they can also fly at speeds exceeding 34 miles per hour (15 meters per second). Hummingbirds, also, flap their wings at 12 to 90 times per second.

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William Atkins

William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University

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