Cicadas: Miniature drones can spy on enemy troops

Image Courtesy: Discovery News

By NewsGram Staff Writer

US military scientists have designed a miniature drone, Cicada, which can be used on civil missions and in wars. Cicada stands for Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft.

“The “micro air vehicle” is named after the insect that inspired its invention, the Cicada, which spends years underground before appearing in great swarms, reproducing and then dropping to the ground dead,” according to Discovery News.

AFP reported that it is designed to be smaller, cheaper and simpler than any other robotic aircraft but is still able to carry out a mission in a remote battlefield.

Aaron Kahn, a flight controls engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory, told the news agency, “The idea was why we can’t make UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that have the same sort of profile.”

“We will put so many out there, it will be impossible for the enemy to pick them all up,” he added.

The prototype model has cost just a thousand dollars, and Kahn also stated that the cost could come down to as low as $250 a piece.

Despite of its small size, the Cicada drone can fly at about 46 miles (74 kilometers) per hour and is fairly silent, as it has no engine or propulsion system.

Daniel Edwards, an aerospace engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory, said, “It looks like a bird flying down,” adding that the drone is “very difficult to see”.

The researchers have said that these miniscule-drones can be used for a multitude of missions, from weather forecasting or monitoring traffic on a remote road, beyond the enemy lines to eavesdropping on enemy troops.

Kahn said, “You equip these with a microphone or a seismic detector, drop them on that road, and it will tell you ‘I heard a truck or a car travel along that road.’ You know how fast and which direction they’re traveling.”

“They are robotic carrier pigeons. You tell them where to go, and they will go there,” Edwards told AFP.

Edwards added that despite their toy-like appearance, the Cicada drones are surprisingly robust.

“They’ve flown through trees. They’ve hit asphalt runways. They have tumbled in gravel. They’ve had sand in them. They only thing that we found that killed them was desert shrubbery,” he said.

The news agency reported that academics and almost every branch of government have expressed an interest in the Cicada program, including some intelligence agencies.

“Everyone is interested. Everyone,” Edwards concluded.