Video: Bug-sized robot takes flight

updated 8/18/2004 8:50:19 PM ET 2004-08-19T00:50:19

Seiko Epson Corp. is developing a flying robot that looks like a miniature helicopter and is about the size of a giant bug. The company hopes it'll prove handy for security, disaster rescue and space exploration.

The robot, 3.35 inches (8.5 centimeters) tall and weighing 0.4 ounces (11 grams), follows a flight-route program sent by Bluetooth wireless from a computer.

On board is a 32-bit microcontroller, a super-thin motor, a digital camera that sends blurry images and a tiny gyro-sensor, which the company said may also appear in digital cameras and cell phones as soon as this year to help deliver more precise images.

The Micro Flying Robot barely managed to get off the ground in a demonstration this week. It crashed off the table at one point and required long waits for battery changes. It can fly just three minutes at a time, for now, and its lift was wobbly because the machine's precision is not much better than a windup toy.

But developers say its power, relative to its minuscule size, makes it potentially a useful tool for rescue and surveillance. The robot is not yet available for sale; a commercial model is planned for release in two or three years.

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