Improbable Research — jet-powered maple seed drone

In 1992, Litos et al. patented their bio-mimic throw-in-the-air toy called the ‘Autorotative Flyer’. It might not occur to everyone that the passive toy could be updated, and militarized, with the addition of a supersonic jet pack. But occur it did to high-tech weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin Inc. which has just received a US patent for its Active Maple Seed Flyer.

The flying jet-seed, which can be used for transporting a miniature video camera for remote surveillance purposes, can also eject an (unspecified) ‘payload object’ on demand. The (unspecified) ‘payload object’ carries an adhesive causing it to stick to surfaces when it lands.

The remote-controlled, 10 gram, 3.5 cm long vehicle can fly for 20 minutes or so, and spins 250 times per second thanks to its supersonic jet thruster. Onboard (or offboard) electronics can de-spin the resulting images says the patent. For the convenience of the human-in-the-loop the seeds come in a blister-pack of 5 or more.

Martin Gardiner asks, “Is this the first time that a children’s toy has has been adapted to form a military device – rather than the other way around?”

My guess is probably not. Different age groups is all.

One thought on “Improbable Research — jet-powered maple seed drone

  1. Smilin' Jack says:

    Press release August 16, 2011: “Lockheed Martin Unveils Samarai Flyer at Unmanned Vehicle Conference” http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/press-releases/2011/august/LockheedMartinUnveilsSama.html “…Lockheed Martin tested the first 3-D printed Samarai last week. The vehicle was produced by “printing” successive small layers of plastic to create a single form. The printer eliminates expensive production costs, allowing engineers to quickly and affordably produce Samarai tailored to specific missions.” Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories design of the “SAMARAI Monowing Rotorcraft Nano Air Vehicle” as presented to the American Helicopter Society’s 65th annual forum in 2009 @ http://www.atl.lmco.com/papers/1628.pdf Additional video and info: “Lockheed’s SAMARAI Monocopter Makes Its Public, Neon-Lit Debut.” Popular Science August 18, 2011 http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-08/lockheeds-samarai-monocopter-makes-its-public-neon-lit-debut

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