Mr. G.B. shared this one, and as you can see, it made the “final cut” in this two-weeks’ period of email-and-article vetting, and this one is both fun, and profoundly disturbing. Since the profoundly disturbing part concerns today’s “high octane speculation,” I’ll leave it to you to distill the fun part out of this article:
Now, when one gets past the computer modeling of insect wing behavior and the resulting vortices and resonance effects, one comes to this intriguing paragraph:
“Dickinson and electrical engineer Ron Fearing won a $2.5-million DARPA grant in 1998 to apply these principles to a fly-size robot. They assigned a graduate student named Rob Wood, among others, to help develop techniques to fabricate the tiny parts and painstakingly assemble them with a pair of tweezers. Dickinson and Fearing also communicated which aerodynamics insights the students should try to reproduce. ‘Flies have really complex wing trajectories. There are a whole bunch of subtle things that happen,’ Wood says. ‘Michael told us the most important features to generate vortices and other aerodynamic effects.’”
In other words, enter DARPA, the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, or, as we lovingly refer to it here, the Diabolically Apocalyptic Research Projects Agency. One wonders just exactly what interest DARPA would have in the ability to create insect drones. Hang on, we’re getting there…
…before we do, however, consider these paragraphs, and I think the answer becomes self-evident:
“…other researchers have used flapping-wing dynamics to reduce the size of aerial vehicles capable of carrying payloads. In 2011, California-based AeroVironment demoed its Nano Hummingbird. The aircraft has a 16.5-centimeter wingspan; it can fly vertically and horizontally and hover in place against gusting wind. It weighs 19 grams—lighter than some AA batteries—but it carries a camera, communications systems, and an energy source.
“TechJect, a company that spun off from work done at the Georgia Institute of Technology, recently unveiled a robotic dragonfly with a six-inch wingspan. It weighs in at 5.5 grams (lighter than a quarter) and can be outfitted with modular electronics packages enabling high-definition video and wireless communication. The TechJect Dragonfly takes advantage of an aerodynamics principle called resonance. When wings flap at their most efficient frequency—which happens when air density, wing speed, and an organism’s weight are perfectly balanced-—they create waves of vortices that merge and build. The audible result is the hum of a hummingbird or buzz of a bee, says Jayant Ratti, TechJect’s president. A flapping-wing drone utilizing resonance generates significant improvements in energy efficiency, creating optimal lift with minimal effort.”(Emphasis added)
In other words, these tiny insect-like drones carry publicly available camera and communications technologies.
Now imagine taking these engineering techniques, and replacing them with small, more-life-life sized and miniaturized technologies available to the military and intelligence , communities, and with the requisite enigeering, one would have a platform for surveillance, or for the delivery of small surveillance packages (is it a real fly speck, or a microphone?) or even if one were particularly diabolical – and remember, we’re dealing with DARPA here – a means of delivery of some nasty toxins via the mosquito-bite of an insect drone.
Thus, one can envision the impact on security as well: room sweeps will now have to include making sure all “insects” have vacated the room…
See you on the flip side….