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Teeny Tiny Microcopter Deploys to Afghanistan With British Troops

Black Hornet is an itty bitty nanocopter designed for personal reconnaissance

2 min read
Teeny Tiny Microcopter Deploys to Afghanistan With British Troops

It's hard to tell how tiny this helicopter is from the above pic. But it's damn tiny. It's only four inches long (about 10 centimeters), and weighs just 16 grams, but will happily carry a pan-and-tilt camera that streams video back to a base station. It's called the Black Hornet, and it's . . . adorable.

In a military with an emphasis on big expensive robots like predator drones and PackBots, we're starting to see a different trend towards much smaller and slightly less expensive (but still quite expensive) robots designed for individual soldiers to use whenever they need them. No need to spend time calling in some sort of big fancy aerial remote sensing platform: you can just toss out your own personal recon bot, like so:

The robot is controlled with that handy little thumb joystick thingy, while you watch the video feed it sends back on a tablet. It self-stabilizes to make the flying easier, and there are autopilot modes including GPS waypoint navigation, hover and stare, and pre-programmed search patterns. The Black Hornet is nearly silent, has a range of 1000 meters, can fly for 25 minutes, and can go from pocket to flying in under 60 seconds.

When, at some point, every single soldier has personal robots like these to perform reconnaissance before putting themselves in danger, it's going to make a big difference. Heck, it's already making a difference to British units in Afghanistan:

Black Hornet is definitely adding value, especially considering the lightweight nature of it. We use it to look for insurgent firing points and check out exposed areas of the ground before crossing, which is a real asset. It is very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground.

Black Hornet is a serious military robot, but we can't help but point out how much it looks like existing toys that you can buy for under $100. It's much more intelligent, of course, but at the same time, it's not that much more intelligent or complicated, and it's not a stretch to imagine a consumer version of this thing showing up in a few years. Just promise us you won't use it for anything nefarious, okay?

[ Prox Dynamics ] via [ UK MOD ] and [ Sky News ]

Images via TU

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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