Sunday, May 13, 2012

Israel creating butterfly-sized UAV

From Israel HaYom:
At first, it seems like something “Q" developed for British superspy James Bond. The artificial butterfly is handheld and is capable of a vertical takeoff, just like a helicopter. Returning to the Bond movie, we will replace the two main characters: "Q" now becomes the IAI and "007" now becomes a Golani Brigade officer. True, the movie may not be a blockbuster, but no one will want to be the target of this metallic bug.

This butterfly does more than just fly around in the air. Just like any self-respecting UAV, it can also take color images and relay them back to ground control in real time. If you ever imagined what it would be like to be a fly on the wall at a critical moment, this butterfly can fulfill your dream. To explain how it works, Dubi Binyamini, head of IAI's mini-robotics department, takes out a helmet with a visor that looks like something from a science fiction movie and says, "When you put this on you are actually inside the butterfly's cockpit. You see what the butterfly sees. You can fly at any altitude and distance and see everything in real time."

"The butterfly's advantage is its ability to fly in an enclosed environment. There is no other aerial vehicle that can do that today," Binaymini said. "The enclosed structure may be an airport terminal or an indoor train station. You can follow a suspect around without them aware of the fact that you are observing everything they do."

Binyamini mentions airport terminals, but in fact his butterfly can function just as well in forests and jungles. This is important because in locations like southern Lebanon, there are quite a few forests with which Israeli soldiers have unfortunately had to become familiar over the years. Aerial vehicles in use today can fly over the forests, but they don't have the ability to observe the goings-on within them. Hezbollah ambush forces can elude UAVs easily, because UAV cameras cannot "see" past the tops of the trees. If the butterfly meets its planned specifications, it will be able to fly among the trees and plants of a forest.
They are even talking about weaponizing it.

(h/t Elder of Lobby)