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Microbot Helicopters
Jamais Cascio, 20 Aug 04

Okay, so I really don't know what I'd do with one, but this Bluetooth-controlled microhelicopterbot made by Seiko Epson is pretty damn cool. Weighing in at just under 9 grams without the battery, this is the lightest wireless flying robot around. Bluetooth is used to send the control program -- so it's not a remote-control unit so much as a remote-programmed unit, kind of like the Mars landers -- and to receive pictures from the on-board image sensors.

But what do you do with a wireless microhelibot? It's too big to serve as a mobile spycam, fortunately, and Bluetooth, while useful, is not a long-range medium, so individual applications are presumably limited. But if we think of the microroboflyers not as individual units, but as parts of a larger system, some ideas spring to mind. Imagine a network of sensors using small, cheap, rugged "smart dust" technologies, but mobile, like the "feral" robotic dog project at Yale. They'd be able to keep in touch with each other via an ad-hoc "mesh" network, extending the range of the pack well beyond the normal Bluetooth distance; as long as at least one remained within range of a more powerful transceiver, data from any of the units could be sent back to researchers/operators. They'd be perfect for emergency exploration of damaged buildings, or as tools for knowing nature through technology.

So the question isn't "what would you do with one of these?" it's "what could you do with a swarm of these?" The answer, I suspect, is "quite a bit"...

(Via Near Near Future -- which has a very cool picture of one in flight, check it out -- and Engadget)

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This is a natural for journalists who have been
proscribed from certain areas (read Palestine,
WTO protests, etc.)

Posted by: H. Taylor on 21 Aug 04

As a swarm system, most definitely. Multiple units mean that taking it out is significantly harder than just smashing a single camera.

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 21 Aug 04



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