While still in development, AeroVironment's Nano Hummingbird is poised to be a phenomenon of biological mimicry and urban surveillance. Which means pretty soon, my assertions that the birds are gathering reconnaissance and plotting against me will no longer label me a paranoid schizophrenic. They will label me f'ing right! A DARPA-sponsored research project spawned the creation of the Nano Air Vehicle, functional both indoors and out, and equipped to record video of the environs while:
- Hovering precisely in flight.
- Hovering with stability in gusts of wind--tested to 5 mph side winds, which were unable to drift the Hummingbird downwind more than 1 meter.
- Hovering continuously for 8 minutes with no external power source.
- Transitioning from hovering to forward flight of 11 mph, and back to hovering in a controlled manner which does not make those viewing the aircraft's spy camera footage dizzy and slightly pukey.
- Flying between the out of doors and the in of doors through a standard-sized way of doors.
- Allowing for "heads down" flight, wherein the pilot operates the Hummingbird by looking exclusively at its live video stream, as opposed to seeing or hearing the aircraft directly.
A hummingbird was chosen for the Nano Air Vehicle because AeroVironment and DARPA's focus groups indicated that people generally find little hummers cute and bemusing, unlike pigeons, which they often try to kick, or shoot away from the roof gutters with BB guns (ahem, Mom).
The NAV Hummingbird spy camera recently completed Phase II testing, and was named one of the "50 Best Inventions of 2011" by TIME magazine. Also, Sigourney Weaver seems to like it..