Tiny surveillance vehicle inspired by maple seed

Seedcopppptptpt Researchers have designed micro-unmanned aerial vehicle inspired by a maple seed. The University of Maryland engineers studied the spiral flight the seeds take when they fall from a tree and created what the university claims is the "world's smallest controllable single-winged rotocraft."
In the 1950s, researchers first tried to create an unmanned aerial vehicle that could mimic a maple seed's spiraling fall. Ever since, their attempts have been foiled by instability, resulting in a lack of control over the tiny (less than one meter) vehicles, which were easily knocked off course by wind.

The Clark School (Aerospace Engineering) students have solved the steering problem and provided a solution that allows the device to take off from the ground and hover, as well as perform controlled flight after its initial fall to the ground after being deployed from an aircraft. The device can also begin to hover during its initial descent, or after being launched by hand.
"Spiraling Flight of Maple Tree Seeds Inspires New Surveillance Technology"


  1. I remember seeing a device very like this in a model airplane magazine around the late 1960s or early 1970s. It was a free flight machine powered by a small gas engine and the designer called it, IIRC, Charybdis.

  2. “surveillance vehicle?” wouldn’t that require this vehicle to carry a camera or microphone or something like that? ;)

  3. Is it really surveillance if it’s not a police state that’s surveilling you? What if it’s your neighbors? Well, they do anyway. If you take away the big government paranoia and put these powers in the hands of ordinary people, you just have to worry about the public eye. Which I admit can be harsh at times. But a lot of random misdeeds could be prevented or accounted for if surveillance tech is omnipresent. Look at Jaycee Dugard, the kidnapped girl in the backyard. If some nearby fluttercam had been around to eyeball the secret prison in the backyard, that might have been stopped years earlier.

    So it’s a tradeoff of course. A powerful tool for oppression, and a powerful tool against it.

  4. Of course, the problem with using this as a surveillance vehicle is that those watching the monitors usually wind up barfing after just a few seconds.

  5. “…the tiny (less than one meter) vehicles…”

    Seems the definition of “tiny” has expanded somewhat….

  6. Put this together with the iwatch program and we’re all saved…or is that doomed?

    Excuse me while I make sure the blinds are closed….

  7. Wow.
    Just a few more bugs to work out now (image stabilization, let alone find cameras small enough and transmitters light enough, actually making it robotic as opposed to R/C). Single bladed props have long been used in model aircraft, I’m sure somewhere I’ve seen single bladed helo models. Having the whole thing self-contained, okay, I’ll grant you, pretty cool.
    Still, I have serious reservations about this.
    Just choosing to ignore the weird whistling sound outside my window…

  8. these are great… one would have to account for the spinning of the vehicle with respect to the raster scan of the camera.
    they could be made lighter and lighter until they are just a mylar solar cell with a minimal skeleton… they would never fall except in turbulent winds. You could stitch together many feeds into a single 3space and create a true panopticon.
    It is simple testing to figure the range at which these vehicles are invisible.

    I’m not in favor of this sort of thing per se, but technology is driving things and possible is as good as done. The important thing is that normal persons derive a benefit, and in my mind the truth always benefits normal persons ultimately.

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