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Ba-ba-ba bird, bird, bird, it’s a snoopin’ bird!

No, not “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen or even by the Family Guy….

Or, “Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s a Pentagon drone…!

The Nano Hummingbird is a battery-powered tiny robotic drone (mini-spy plane) that flies by flapping tiny wings and is built to look like a hummingbird for use in surveillance in urban areas. It was developed for the Pentagon by AeroVironment Inc. of Monrovia, California (1). The results of the five-year development effort were announced yesterday by the company and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). (You remember them. They had a lot to do with the Internet. :-) )

The drone has a camera and can hover and fly, at speeds up to 11 miles/hour forward, backward, sideways, clockwise, and counterclockwise, by remote control, for eight minutes.

As far as I know, the mini-Hellfire missiles are just a pipe dream! :-) Or maybe not…. :-) Maybe they could teach it to shoot a .22 short! Now wouldn’t THAT be an interesting assassination device!

Industry folks see the technology as eventually being able to fly into open windows or sit on power lines and capture video and audio. More goodies from the people who erroneously believe that “knowledge is power….

The wingspan of the little 19-gram “bird” is 6.5 inches (19 grams is less than a AA battery). The drone is slightly larger than the average hummingbird. The Hummingbird program manager for the Pentagon’s research arm, Todd Hylton, said that the success of the program “paves the way for a new generation of aircraft with the agility and appearance of small birds.” Since 2006, the Pentagon has given about $4 million to AeroVironment to develop the technology and the drone. Matt Keennon, the company’s manager on the project, said that the technology pushes the limits of aerodynamics and is an example of biomimicry. Critics have noted possible privacy issues.

Keennon noted that a future “bird” may not be a hummingbird but a sparrow, considering that hummingbirds are rare in, for example, New York City.

However, hummingbirds are pretty common in a wide range of other places (see below) including California, so all of that work will not go to waste. Wikipedia says:

“Hummingbirds are restricted to the Americas from southern Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, including the Caribbean. The majority of species occur in tropical and subtropical Central and South America, but several species also breed in temperate climates and some hillstars even occur in alpine Andean highlands at altitudes of up to 5,200 metres (17,100 ft).”

-Bill at

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