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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.

Next Story

Environmental Activists Postpone Drone Protest at London Airport; Could Endanger Travelers’ Life

Heathrow Airport called the planned action "reckless", saying it "could endanger the lives of the traveling public and our colleagues"

FILE - A photo shows a large screen at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 in London, Britain, April 23, 2014. VOA

A group of British environmental activists have postponed their plan to ground flights at London’s Heathrow Airport. Extinction Rebellion had planned to use drones to paralyze Europe’s busiest airport intermittently in June and July to draw attention to the environmental harm that would be caused by the planned third runway.

The first of the protests was to take place Tuesday. “Extinction Rebellion will not be carrying out any actions at Heathrow Airport in June or July this year,” the group said in a statement. “The Heathrow Airport authorities will therefore not have to pause any summer flights.”

On Friday, British law enforcement authorities warned the activists that flying drones would result in life in prison for the participants. Heathrow Airport called the planned action “reckless”, saying it “could endanger the lives of the traveling public and our colleagues”.

In December, thousands of flights were grounded at Gatwick Airport outside London after drones were spotted flying around it. Wikimedia Commons

But the group rejected claims that its actions could cause harm.  The group said it is not abandoning its plans for drone protests. On Sunday, it detailed its plans saying the lightweight drones would only be flown at head height within the 5 kilometer exclusion zone around Heathrow, forcing the airport to ground flights.   It did not disclose the dates for its protests.

ALSO READ: Washington Supplies 34 Aerial Drones to Southeast Asians through Security Assistance Funds

“There is nothing violent about flying drones when there are no flights in the air as it is perfectly safe,” the group said in a statement. “We are there first. The responsibility is with the airport authority to not initiate flights.”

Extinction Rebellion said its aim was to achieve “economic disruption” not to hurt people. In December, thousands of flights were grounded at Gatwick Airport outside London after drones were spotted flying around it. Extinction Rebellion says it was not responsible for that action. (VOA)