Remote operation air vehicles -- commonly referred to as "drones" -- have some interesting potential uses for environmental monitoring and video sousveillance (as well as myriad other less worldchanging uses). Recently, we've looked at "open source" remote flyers and large solar-powered long-duration flight vehicles. Today brings news of a couple of remote operation flyers that hit the other end of the size spectrum: tiny "unmanned air vehicles," or UAVs, weighing about an ounce -- or less.
Swiss researchers have come up with an experimental self-guided drone able to avoid obstacles and weighing only around 30 grams, with an 80 centimeter wingspan. The device has two cameras onboard (each weighing about a gram), used for navigation. The Swiss team is at work on an even smaller UAV specifically for search-and-rescue and reconnaissance missions. (Technology Review, Roland Picquepaille)
Don't work in a Swiss research institute? The Plantraco company is now selling a remote operation flyer that's even smaller than the Swiss device. Weighing less than four grams, the "Butterfly" is really only suited for indoor operation. It's also less sophisticated than the Swiss flyer, requiring complete control from the operator rather than having any on-board navigation. A one-gram camera would undoubtedly be too heavy for this one, but CMOS "camera on a chip" technologies are coming down in price; don't be surprised if the next version has remote video capacity, too. (Engadget)
Check out Patrick Farley's most *excellent* online comic "Spider' - which features tiny crawling robots scouring Afghanistan - all being remote controlled by online communities back in the states...~! Also a stellar example of an online comic that isn't pretending to be a print comic - ie is fully exploiting the web medium... http://www.e-sheep.com/