Coming Soon to a Powerline Near You: Surveillance Drones Disguised as Trash

Big BrotherBy Shea Gunther
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

In the world of top secret spy tech, there’s sneaky cool and then there is sneeeaky cool. This next item is set firmly in the second camp.

The US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) is working on a tiny spy plane that has the ability to land on a standard power-line and siphon off energy to re-charge its battery. What’s even cooler is that they’ll be able to transform to look like an ordinary piece of trash caught on the line. The remote controlled planes have a wingspan of about three feet (a meter to everyone else in the world) and are expected to fly at ~46 miles per hour (74 km/h). Upon landing on the wire for a recharge their wings would collapse and they’d hang limply in the wind, blowing around like your typical cast-off shopping bag.

The idea isn’t without its challenges however. Some experts fear that such a craft could spark shorts on the line, knocking out power for itself and potentially the entire surrounding neighborhood, to say nothing of how hard it’ll be programming them to be able to flawlessly land on a wire half an inch in diameter. The AFRL will be running test flights in 2008, so keep on the lookout for strange, potentially sparking shopping bags with camera eyes fluttering on power lines anytime after ’09. Big Brother is watching.

Link [New Scientist]

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