It looks like the kind of gadget you’d see CGI’ed into a sci-fi show (in fact, similar CGI flying spheres did appear in Doctor Who not all that long ago). But this particular flying object is very real, very cool, and very coming to a battle zone near you in the not-too-distant future.
This radio-controlled spherical flying drone is the work of Japanese Defense Ministry researcher Fumiyuki Sato. Built entirely using off-the-shelf parts and electronic components for a fraction over $1,300, the flyer could be put to all manner of uses: checking for survivors in disaster zones, keeping an eye on enemy movements, and scouting for missing persons.
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The device weighs practically nothing and can survive impacts with walls or the ground. If it gets stuck or damaged, it can just roll to a standstill. If the video above is a little too crazy for you, Reuters has a more straightforward, non-embeddable summary over here.
The drone has an impressive maximum flying speed of 40 miles per hour, but that’s countered by a not-so-impressive eight-minute battery life, eaten up so quickly by the central fan that gives the whole thing thrust. The rest is simple air foils for steering, and a bunch of smart electronics including gyroscopes, so that it knows which way up is when flying.
Even if the military don’t order hundreds of these once the design is final, Hollywood will be all over them. Imagine how much cheaper those overhead tracking shots will be.