Researchers in the US Army have developed a new fierce weapon that is perfectly suited for modern warfare. The miniature drones called “Cicada” are thought to be highly effective at carrying out logistics and reconnaissance runs and providing the soldiers with information that is vital for the success of their missions.
The Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft, nicknamed Cicada, can be easily confused with a toy-drone by an untrained eye. The mini-drone can be easily dropped from any air vehicle, such as airplanes, helicopters, air balloons or even by their larger counterparts. After that, the Cicada can glide like a bird towards its designated location, thus earning another funny nickname – robotic carrier pigeons.
There is nothing funny, however, about the tasks the Cicadas will perform. The US military plans to use them on essential missions, like eavesdropping on enemy troops or even spotting resurfaced submarines. The very small size of the drones will make them very stealthy, and army officials believe that most of them will go undetected by the enemy.
Researchers say they were inspired in their work by the iconic Great War pigeons. “The idea was why can’t we make UAVs (e.g. unmanned aerial vehicles) that have the same sort of profile,” flight controls engineer Aaron Kahn explained. “We will put so many out there, it will be impossible for the enemy to pick them all up.”
The Cicadas have no engine or propulsion system whatsoever, and only rely on gliding to reach their target once they have been dropped off. Daniel Edwards, one of the other engineers working with the Naval Research Laboratory said that their trajectory is very similar to a bird flying down, reaching speeds of to 75 kilometers per hour. At such speeds, the toy-sized drones are nigh impossible to detect.
However, even if they get spotted by the enemy, researchers believe the success of the missions can be guaranteed through sheer numbers. The model will be relatively cheap to manufacture. The first prototypes cost about $1,000, and their designers believe that once they reach large scale production, the Cicadas can get as cheap as $250.
And in spite of their minuscule size, the drones are not at all fragile. During the tests, the scientists observed how the Cicadas were still functioning properly after having hit the asphalt, flying through trees or getting filled with sand. According to Edwards, they do have one surprising weakness: desert shrubbery.
What isn’t surprising, though, is that every government agency, either military or intelligence, have expressed their interest in the Cicadas. The tiny drones are specially designed to carry out reconnaissance missions and help the army get a much needed edge over its enemies in terms of information.