Iran's Fars News Agency, which is generally acknowledged to be "semi-official" with ties to the Iranian government, is reporting the unveiling of "a home-made flying saucer." Here's the picture that they posted along with their article:
Seriously. Check the link. I mean, I would have just chalked this up to a hilariously misunderstood translation, but, well... That's their picture.
I apologize for simply quoting their article here, but I'm worried that if I don't, you're all going to think that this is just one big joke:
"The unmanned flying saucer, named "Zohal", was unveiled in a ceremony attended by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.
Zohal, designed and developed jointly by Farnas Aerospace Company and Iranian Aviation and Space Industries Association (IASIA), can be used for various missions, specially for aerial imaging.
The flying machine is equipped with an auto-pilot system, GPS (Global Positioning System) and two separate imaging systems with full HD 10 mega-pixel picture quality and is able to take and send images simultaneously.
Zohal uses a small, portable navigation and monitoring center for transmission of data and images and can fly in both outdoor and indoor spaces."
Okay so obviously, if it can fly in indoor spaces, it's probably (probably) not the giant flying saucer blurrily hovering over a forest like in the picture. I did some digging, and a few other (less "semi-official") Iranian news sites refer to this thing as a "cuadrotor." Ohhh, okay Iran, you made yourself a quadrotor. Well that straightens that out, I guess, if we're going to assume that Fars News is just messing with us and Iran does not in fact have an actual robotic flying saucer.
And what if they did have an actual robotic flying saucer? It might not look like the thing in their picture, but it could easily be something like this:
Yep, that's an actual flying saucer UAV. It's called a Coandă effect UAV, in reference to the effect that causes air (or any fluid) to tend to stick to a curved surface. The UAV has a rotor at the top that thrusts air downward, and the air sticks to the body of the UAV, flowing around and down over the curved bottom edge to provide lift and thrust. Vanes around the edges of the UAV are used for steering and to counter the torque of the single rotor. While Coandă effect UAVs are generally not as efficient as helicopters, they're dynamically balanced in flight and have a rotor that's both enclosed and smaller than the body of the UAV, making them much more resilient.
So an Iranian Coandă effect UAV is within the realm of possibility, but I'm still betting that Iran has just put together a regular old quadrotor with GPS guidance and a data downlink. Pretty cool, but sadly, it's no flying saucer.
[ Fars News ] via [ Daily Mail ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.