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Will Knight

A View from Will Knight

CyPhy Works’ Micro Drones Will Follow You Indoors

Toaster-sized UAVs could fly into buildings ahead of soldiers and emergency workers.

  • December 3, 2012

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones are an increasingly important part of the U.S. military’s strategy. Much smaller “micro-UAVs could soon follow soldiers, police officers and other emergency personnel inside buildings, too. A startup called CyPhy Works, which came out of stealth mode today, has developed two such micro UAVs for military and emergency service use.

The EASE micro-UAV.

The Extreme Access System for Entry (EASE), shown above, resembles as flying desk lamp; it can hover into a building while relaying high-definition video footage to an operator outside via a tether. A slightly larger UAV, a quadrocopter called the Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC), can fly up to 1,000 feet above ground.

Here’s a video of the EASE system in action:

CyPhy Works says the benefit of using a tether, or “microfilament” as it calls its cable, is that it doesn’t suffer interference, cannot be jammed, and can deliver high resolution footage back to the controller.

Notably, the CEO of CyPhy Works is Helen Greiner, who along with MIT professor Rodney Brooks previously cofounded iRobot, a company that makes many different military robots, as well the Roomba vacuum robot cleaner.

The ascent of military’s UAVs has been dramatic. Today, thousands of UAVs are used by the military in Afghanistan and elsewhere, ranging from high- and medium-altitude fighter-jet-sized aircraft like the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-1 Predator, to small model-aircraft-like vehicles such as the RQ-11 Raven, which can be carried by soldiers and used for short-range reconnaissance. This boom has spawned new UAV makers, and the Federal Aviation Authority is currently drawing up rules that will allow for much wider use of civilian drones inside the United States. 

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