April 13, 2012 at 3:06 PM ET
Remember launching balsa-wood airplanes with a rubber band? Then check out the AggieAir Flying Circus: a high-tech drone purpose built for quick aerial imaging that launches with a slingshot-like bungee cord.
Think of it as blend of fun and work for big kids.
The drone was created by researchers at Utah State University and is billed as a remote sensing platform for uses such as monitoring irrigated farmland, mapping wetlands, tracking wildlife and surveying construction projects.
While these uses may not be as exciting as, say, spying on military operations in distant lands that other drones routinely do, AggieAir is able to acquire high-resolution imagery of a small area more quickly and more frequently than other remote sensing platforms such as satellites or piloted planes.
Bungee cords are a popular method for launching lightweight drones, notes Fast Company, because “they are extremely energy efficient and let small vehicles save precious, precious battery life.”
The drone flies a pre-programmed flight and land autonomously. While in the air, it takes pictures of the ground every four seconds. In an hour’s flight, it can collect upward of 400 images, which the researchers then stitch together into a mosaic.
--Via Fast Company
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.