Japan Defense Ministry Spins Flying Spherical Robot
The Switchblade "kamikaze" reconnaissance drone, one of the smallest used by Army and Air Force special ops forces in Afghanistan, is still larger at 24 inches than the 16-inch flying sphere from the Japanese Ministry of Defense. (Source: AeroVironment, Inc.)
The photo shohs that it is not really anything remarkable, but that a sperical frame has been placed around a more traditional flying platform. So while there are indeed a few advantages to this shape, it is certainly not a "revolutionary breakthrough". It is an interesting concept. and probably one that could be adapted to some of our current UAVs and provide a benefit. But aside from the spherical framwork, it really did not look that advanced. Probably similar devices, more of the toy quality though, could be found in some of the Chinese export catalogs.
REmember that what makes our military stuff so expensive is the amount of documentation and the fact that tactical items must be far more reliable than any consumer item could ever dream of being. And verifiable reliability is not cheap.
What's really amazing to me is that they built this for under $1500 with off the shelf components. At that price, we should be seeing these all over the place.
I'm tempted to comment that if the U.S. military made this, it would cost at least $1.5 million, use all custom components, and not work. But it seems unnecessary to point that out.
Still, not bad for a country which is constitutionally banned from having a military, huh?
Yet another great example of out-of-the-box thinking leading to some pretty cool designs. I like the idea you posed, Ann, of how industrial engineers should be thinking in terms of adapting similar capabilities to address hard to reach places on assembly lines or elsewhere on the factory floor. There's likely a lot of great applications there.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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