One day, the Japanese Ministry of Self-Defense decided to wander into Akihabara, a major electronics shopping center in Tokyo. In what I'm told is a relatively typical Akihabara experience, a year and a half and about a thousand dollars later they came out with this crazy spherical flying robot about the size and shape of a soccer ball.
According to the video, this is the world's first truly spherical flying robot (this may or may not be true). It can buzz around at up to 60 kilometers per hour [about 40 mph] or hover stably in narrow spaces like hallways. But its neatest trick is to land by just smacking into the ground and rolling to a stop to absorb the impact. It's also ideal for operating indoors, since keeping all of the flying and steering components inside the robot lets it happily bounce off walls, doors, windows, light fixtures, and startled people.
The robot relies on one propeller for thrust and eight separate wings for control, and while it doesn't currently carry a payload, it's designed to mount a camera or other sensors. Next up is to instill this thing with some autonomy, and at only $1000 a pop, they're cheap enough that someone who's not with the Japanese Ministry of Self-Defense should venture into Akihabara and bring us all back a sweet little robot soccer ball kit.
[ TV Tokyo ]
Thanks, Paulo, for helping us with the Japanese!