Grossmann: Insectothopter — The First and Only Insect-Sized Drone?

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6 February 2014

There are rumors that Robo-bees will be shoving honeybees out of the way any day now — but these are only rumors.  Sort of like the persistent rumors suggesting that the U.S. Government secretly developed and used insect drones decades ago.  Given the substantial problems with the current development of controllable, insect-sized flying robots, it’s fair to assume that a robotic insect would have been impossible as far back as the 1970’s.  However, our assumption would be wrong.  These rumors are true.

The CIA’s simple dragonfly snooper was operational in the 1970’s.  The relatively unsophisticated “insectothopter” was the product of the CIA’s Office of Research and Development and rolled off the assembly line almost 40 years ago.  Its tiny gasoline engine was used to make its four wings flap.  However, the insectothopter was scraped because of its inability to fly in a crosswind.  So, with the shelving of the insectothopter, the development of robotic insects ended — only reappearing with the modern resurgence of robotic research.  Or did the U.S. Government secretly continue to develop insect drones?  Again, there are rumors. [7]

Is it possible that some agency has developed a secret, advanced version of the insectothopter?  Sources at the CIA have declined to comment.  When questioned about the possibility of the secret development of flying drone insects, an “expert in unmanned aerial vehicles,” retired Colonel Tom Ehrhard, simply said, “America can be pretty sneaky.”  [8]

On that less than comforting note, we can reconsider another rumor — the rumor of the dragonfly robots.  At recent political events in Washington D.C. and New York, several persons have reported sighting something that they described as a cross between a slightly over-sized dragonfly and a miniature helicopter.  Perhaps, these witnesses have mistaken real insects for robots . . . or perhaps not. [9]

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