Spherical military drone coming to a sky near you

spherical_drone

We’re always fascinated by flying drones around here, and this latest creation by Japan’s Ministry of Defense is no exception. The spherical drone, which looks far simpler than this drone we saw several months back, looks pretty benign at first glance. Once it starts moving however, you can see just how slick it is.

Reports say that it can hit a top speed of 40 mph, but it seems that the fun is relatively short-lived, as the drone runs out of juice after about 8 minutes. While it is flying, the drone appears to be incredibly agile and fairly easy to control. The built-in camera isn’t top end, but it looks more than sufficient for general surveillance use.

While we love quadrocopters and all of the cool acrobatics they pull off, there’s something awesome about a drone that can hit the ground at speed, roll, and take off again without incurring any serious damage.

Anyone care to start work on a civilian prototype with a longer battery life?

Comments

  1. Grabbydad says:

    Put some needles on it and it would look like the interrogation droid in Star Wars IV.

  2. Polymath says:

    Headline! Large government organization builds expensive replica of something that can be bought from Apple! Gotta love bureaucracies.

  3. Wes says:
  4. Dave says:

    make it smaller and you got http://stargate.wikia.com/wiki/Kino

  5. TBO says:

    Does anyone see how it can remain stable? It looks to be a single fixed pitch rotor, and I can’t see any stabilization rotors or anything. How does it steer? How does it not just spin in circles due to the single turning rotor?

    Does look very cool, though…

  6. kernelcode says:

    Would it last longer with an engine? (Like a nitro car)

  7. st2000 says:

    Hate to suggest it but it could eject batteries as they are being used to extend flight time. My understanding is this is common w/the military if weight is a problem (i.e. foot solders with several pounds of batteries).

  8. dombeef says:

    Prototype Wheatley

  9. beaglebreath says:

  10. barry99705 says:

    @TBO
    It has guide vanes under the prop. Should be 4 of them, all independently movable.

  11. TBO says:

    @barry99705

    Ahh, didn’t see that. Very cool!

  12. Tom the Brat says:

    I love it.

    Wonder how it works. Maybe controls its orientation with vanes under the propeller.

  13. steve says:

    The Japanese may better put some money into nuclear waste disposal research. The japanese military is useless anyway. If the US doesn’t protect them, they are lost with or without drones.

  14. Andy says:

    @TBO: Looks like there are 4 large fins just behind the rotor to vector the thrust, so they’re likely counteracting the torque with some of the thrust.

  15. Bob says:

    Remote control helicopter in a spherical housing. This is amazing?

  16. zuul says:

    comes with complimentary asian woman

  17. hal says:

    Hmmm. This looks like an early precursor to the Fallout Eyebot. With a few years (Fallout is in 21something) this could easily evolve into what we like to blow up for kicks and giggles.

    http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Eyebot

  18. Oren Beck says:

    Overall design- a win, energy to mass? we don’t know why the time in air sucks.

    My hack would be simple combustion engines.

  19. jentulman says:

    So hitting pause a few times whilst it’s sitting on the table at 1:46 you can see that there are servo sarms for 8 control surfaces. 4 planes just below the rotor and another similar 4 at the base of the central column.

    The thinner flaps around the upper ring a third of the way down also move, but it appears that they’re loose and just providing some form of stabilisation. Would people agree?

    Also around 1:57 it looks like it’s just built from some light balsa wood or similar, I reckon you can see what looks like the grain.

    Looks like a lot less hassle to diy than a quadrocoptor :)

  20. jentulman says:

    sarms?

    arms.

  21. oodain says:

    hmm it could be interesting to see an automated guidance system using either tracker, or maybe a special ir reflective paint fired by high powered paintballrifles, mark your criminal and keep surveilance on them

  22. evs says:

    I don’t know how they’re counteracting the torque, but they could do it by having 2 propellers in counter-rotation.

  23. Retroplayer says:

    This is just a prototype. Probably built by a civialian defense contractor. The military has access to extremely advanced battery technology.

  24. Whatnot says:

    @steve They aren’t allowed a full army as part of the surrender agreement, because once they start they don’t know how to stop you see.
    And there are large groups ion japan that want an army again and who have an aggressive attitude in general and I really think it’s better if they keep their army at a reduced size as agreed.

  25. Drake says:

    need one on every corner with facial recognition and with exposed wires hooked up to a tazer.

    Woman: “Stop that man he just stole my purse!”
    Man: “Run Away!!!”
    Police: “Release the drones!”
    Man: “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu”

    Then the drones procede to ram taze the guy repeatedly

  26. MrX says:

    Put a machine gun on it and call it the rise of the machines..

  27. Drake says:

    @MrX

    “rise of the machine *long pause* guns”

    Fix’d

  28. NickB says:

    Just the same principle as hovering an rc plane:

  29. Koplimi says:

    Just got to love that they use the music from Top Gun.

  30. Jeff says:

    You could drape some colored material over it, paint some googly eyes on it, and it’d be an amusing representation of Inky, Blinky, Pinky or Clyde.

  31. Gordon Freeman says:

    I hate it when those things make their barking sounds and light the flash right in my face.
    Gotta give ‘em a whack with the good ol’ crowbar.

  32. Robert Lane says:

    Is it just me or does the motor look like a dremel with a propeller placed in the end, or maybe a drill.

  33. M4CGYV3R says:

    And only 1100…now why can’t American military contractors come up with stuff like this?

    Oh yeah, because the love to rape the government for tons of free money while doing no useful research.

  34. gcat122 says:

    I like that you can bump into something and not break a propeller.

  35. superbarnie says:

    Does this remind you of the city scanner from Half Life 2 or what?

  36. asdf says:

    @M4CGYV3R

    Because U.S. contractors like to do things that actually work, not just create toys.

  37. George says:

    “I like that you can bump into something and not break a propeller.”

    Potential application to MOUT operations? A surveillance drone that can go through windows, and generally is unaffected by utility lines, et cetera?

  38. lolowski says:

    Why I want to shoot it down with grenade launcher?

  39. wardy says:

    Lots of video game character references in this thread. Here’s my nomination: “343 Guilty Spark” from Halo 1. Stick a voice synth in this thing and you have a robot capable of destroying the universe.

  40. strider_mt2k says:

    Paint it gold and you’ve got Larry Niven’s “copseyes”.

    -anyone seen Ron Cole?

  41. FontFiend says:

    /waits until somebody else figures out how it works and posts.
    OH HAI GUIZ I BET IT USES 4 FINS OR SUMTHING I FIGURED THAT OUT ALL BY MYSELF!!1

  42. Yep that works.

    Have just been testing an R/C heli (15 gram ultra lightweight) and these often put out nearly half their weight again at full power.

    I did come up with a number of ideas for extending flight time, mail the usual address for this as it would take too long to list them here.

    Also you can get stable hovering with a single rotor by thrust vectoring, essentially the flaps are adjusted to apply an equal and opposite force to the precession at all power settings using a MEMS gyro as the feedback system.

    the force needed isn’t as much as you would think because all you are doing is altering the air path; think of it as a FET altering the flow of current.

  43. @st2000 Scratch that, just eject full ones with an internal time delay short generator, and you have an anti-missile chaff defense as well :-)

    Using a supercapacitor would work, to smooth the power surges from sudden flight changes (ie gust of wind) so a smaller high capacity but lower peak current LiPo could be used.

  44. xorpunk says:

    looks like the Japanese ignored physics and made a inefficient toy.

    I’m just surprised it lasts 8 minutes..

  45. R.O.U.S. says:

    I saw a functionally identical design to this at e-fest (http://www.gpe-fest.com/) a few years ago. It’s basically an RC airplane with the center of gravity very far back so it hovers stably and a control surface has been added opposite to the rudder. Granted, the ball design is neat, but this isn’t exactly groundbreaking considering that it’s a state funded project.

    As far as flight time, if it was scaled up it could hold a much larger battery pack without gaining too much weight in the airframe.

  46. lsellens says:

    what all could you really use this for besides some reconnaissance, and chasing giggling asian girls around?

  47. Isotope says:

    Am I the only one who immediately thought of the movie Real Genius?

  48. T.P. says:

    From the source article (Wired UK):

    Inside the roll-cage you’ll find a propeller which is used for thrust, and eight separate wings for control. It can also hold a camera and sensors. Obviously, we need to shove a Kinect in this thing, stat.

    According to a report from the robot’s developers, most of the components were sourced from Akihabara — a geek-heaven shopping complex in Tokyo. Akiba is filled to bursting with shops that sell electronics, gadgets, video games and anime junk. The components only cost about 110000yen (£600).

  49. Thanh says:

    For all those who wonder why only 8 minutes of flying. It’s typical for a battery powered RC helicopter to fly around 8 – 15 minutes (note that RC plane can fly a lot longer). The more battery the longer you can fly, but the weight also increases and that gives you some other complication (stronger air frame, more expensive power system, slower, etc.)

    I don’t see anything new with this set up. The RC plane guy doing this for many years already (see the Yak hover video above). Many guys at RCgroups.com have done this type of helicopter. The only difference in this article is the sphere case wrapped around the heli. I guess it also contributes to the short flight time because of the increase weight and drag.

    -Thanh

  50. John Lock says:

    Honeywell Electronics has something over here in Albuquerque, too. You can watch it on their tiny little flight-line/test area from behind their building. After hearing them running it on their test harness, I could swear I had heard the distinct whirring in the air over my neighborhood across the valley last winter. I thought it was a blimp at first but couldn’t spot it in the sky, then it faded abruptly. Anyway, yes, Honeywell has build a cool tool for aiding in the destruction of privacy for the “lesser” classes (politicians and the insanely wealthy need not be concerned).

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