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Recent sightings have raised question over whether the government has secret miniature spy drones

New York college students attending an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month were convinced they saw small flying machines that were "definitely not insects" hovering above. 

Bernard Crane, a Washington Lawyer, saw them too and said he had never seen anything like them in his life.

These sightings are among a group of sightings occurring recently in Washington and New York.  Some observers think the unidentified flying objects may be miniature high tech surveillance tools set loose by the Department of Homeland Security to observe the protests.  Others say that the devices are just dragonflies, despite observers’ insistence that the flying entities are not insects.

None of the various government organizations, have admitted to deploying robotic spy bugs over the U.S., but many of these organizations and private companies they contract with acknowledge that they want to do so and are actively pursuing the technologies to make it possible.

Some government organizations are not looking to redesign nature, but rather to modify it.  They are growing special live insects with computer chips in them that control the insects' nervous system.  The insects could also be made to carry devices, like miniature wireless cameras.

These robobugs could have a plethora of uses, including crawling after sneaky suspects, guiding our missiles, or exploring collapsed structures--and perhaps snooping on protesters.

Gary Anderson the Defense Department's Rapid Reaction Technology Office, when questioned by interviewers about if such drones existed responded, "If you find something, let me know."

The CIA, according to The Washington Post, developed a simple dragonfly snooper in the 1970s.

Tom Ehrhard, a retired Air Force colonel, specializing in unmanned aerial vehicles admitted that the U.S. government can be pretty sneaky.

The armed forces have been using robotic fliers since World War II and currently have 100 official models ranging from the size of planes to the size of birds.  These models flew 160,000 flights last year, according to official estimates.

Recent reports by the Army suggest that these unmanned flights may make air travel hazardous, with their increased frequency.

It appears that designing robobugs is a bit harder than robotic planes though.  Insect flight is "theoretically impossible" and only recent research at Cornell University has been able to fully explore how dragonflies fly.

The research revealed how the dragonflies conserve energy while hovering by fine wing adjustments.  Such discoveries could help future robobugs hover in place while they watch their mark.

The CIA developed a gas powered dragonfly robot in the 1970s, which was declared a failure when it could not handle the crosswinds.  It was powered by four small wings.  The CIA's spokesman George Little said he could not comment on what the Agency had been working on since.

Only the FBI officially denied having robobugs.

DARPA declared though that they are hard at work implanting moth pupae with computer chips to make "cyborg moths" when the pupae emerge from their protective casing.  The Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems hopes to allow researchers to grow insect nerves into silicon computer chip connections to allow the insects to be remote controlled like RC airplanes.  DARPA researchers also are raising cyborg beetles.

At a scientific symposium in August DARPA program manager Amit Lal announced the following:
"You might recall that Gandalf the friendly wizard in the recent classic 'Lord of the Rings' used a moth to call in air support.  Today, this science fiction vision is within the realm of reality."

Many in the armed forces have serious doubts though about if the project will ever take off of the ground.

Fully robotic fliers may be a better way to go.

The California Institute of Technology and Vanderbilt both demoed robotic flying insects, though their devices looked robotic.  However, Harvard University managed to get a truly insect-looking robot to fly, by beating its robotic wings 120 beats per second.  The device, machined by lasers and weighing a mere 65 mg is a technical marvel.  However, its power supply is still too limited to allow it to be autonomous.

Japanese researchers have succeeded in launching autonomous radio control fliers with four inch wing spans, though.  These fliers are the size of hawk moths.

There are many practical challenges to designing insect fliers for example dangers from birds or spider webs that could take out the expensive pieces of electronics in an instant.

The question still remains though what the sightings in Washington and New York were.

Entomologists interviewed believe the entities to be black dragonflies, based on descriptions.  The dragonfly population of Washington "can knock your socks off" according to one entomologist.

Unfortunately, the entomologists could not explain the bulb shape attachments to their tails that many reported seeing; nor could they explain their organized flight which was widely reported by observers.  Dragonflies do not fly in packs, according to entomologists.

While these strange sightings will certainly raise the paranoia level, they bring to light the large amount of fascinating research into autonomous aerial vehicles.

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By iFX on 10/10/2007 11:07:21 AM , Rating: 2
<<<Some government organizations are not looking to redesign nature, but rather to modify it. They are growing special live insects with computer chips in them that control the insects' nervous system. The insects could also be made to carry devices, like miniature wireless cameras.>>>

That's insane.

/me puts on tin foil hat.

RE: Jeeebus
By Misty Dingos on 10/10/2007 11:31:10 AM , Rating: 2
At least you know to use a tin foil hat and not the aluminum ones. Aluminum will never stop them from using a brain probe or mind control on you.

RE: Jeeebus
By therealnickdanger on 10/11/2007 7:26:03 AM , Rating: 3
The funny thing about foil hats is that they will never stop any an intrusion into your brain. Radio waves enter your skull from your face, jaw, neck, etc. You would need to encapsulate your entire body with foil in order to be successful.

RE: Jeeebus
By jacarte8 on 10/11/2007 11:34:49 AM , Rating: 2
That's the funny thing about tin foil hats?

I always thought it was the sheer idiocy of those wearing them...

RE: Jeeebus
By NicePants42 on 10/10/2007 12:12:31 PM , Rating: 2
Why stop at cameras? A living, remote controlled bug would make a terrific delivery vehicle for disease. A robotic one could simply inject Cyanide.

RE: Jeeebus
By geddarkstorm on 10/10/2007 1:51:59 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking the exact same thing. As weapons, these things could be incredibly dangerous. Released on mass in a city, there really wouldn't be anything anyone could do. All we need is a good enough small power source.. that's the only thing really holding these back. But, with those new nano generators and such, that barrier may be crumbling fast, or gone already.

RE: Jeeebus
By Brockway on 10/10/2007 5:44:01 PM , Rating: 2
Wasn't there an article on how nanomachines could use blood for power? How about a mechanical mosquito that runs on the blood of its victims and injects ebola or some other disease?

RE: Jeeebus
By buckao on 10/10/2007 12:46:57 PM , Rating: 2
This sounds like something straight out of the X-Files. I guess truth IS stranger than fiction...

RE: Jeeebus
By clovell on 10/10/2007 1:27:59 PM , Rating: 2
*invests in tinfoil*

RE: Jeeebus
By murphyslabrat on 10/10/2007 2:26:21 PM , Rating: 2
we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).

Take that, you Aluminum-Foil Deflector Beanie wearer, you!

RE: Jeeebus
By Misty Dingos on 10/10/2007 2:17:38 PM , Rating: 2
*buys bug spray*
*buys stock in bug spray company*

Mutters how paranoid we have all gotten.

*puts on TIN foil hat*

Forget dawn of the dead
By Rotkiv on 10/10/2007 11:26:34 AM , Rating: 2
Here come Dawn of the Moths

What if the Moths took control of the implant and achieve a new level of of of well, something...

RE: Forget dawn of the dead
By GaryJohnson on 10/10/2007 11:39:47 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if moths aspire to achieve the consciousness of June bugs.

RE: Forget dawn of the dead
By geddarkstorm on 10/10/2007 1:54:43 PM , Rating: 2
Once they do, they'll finally have the power to rise up and defeat the mighty Cockroach gods, and claim the planet as their own.

Amazing, really...
By DEVGRU on 10/10/2007 1:20:53 PM , Rating: 2
How would you like to be the spider of that web? "Mmmmm...dinner..." <bite> OW! WTF!?

Regardless of the intents of use for such technology, the tech itself is pretty damn impressive. It truely is science fiction in the here and now.

Of course, military and espionage applications would be at the fore-front for funding and R&D, but the tech has endless possible applications in the civilian sector as well.

In a future 9/11-esque incident, how much time and lives could be saved by having robo-insects search through rubble and debris to find survivors? Or to have robotic insects control real insect pests destroying crops? A home security system with 'fly on the wall' tech? Watch your children play? Monitor pollutents in the air?

RE: Amazing, really...
By murphyslabrat on 10/10/2007 2:33:55 PM , Rating: 2
Or, equip your Robo-Crop-Defender (RCD) with a laser gun, and have him patrol your crop for you. Show them Crop Invaders who's boss, and even play the completely origional game called "Crop Invaders". Yep, hours of fun shooting at this worm winding it's way down your crops!

A laser would solve the bird and spider problems, too. Just hope that you don't live anywhere near a Bald Eagle.
"Hey kids, guess whats for supper?"
"oh, it's not another protected species of bird, is it?"

Only problem with a real-world application is how a half-dollar-sized flier would carry a semi-truck-sized laser gun.

Interesting stuff
By Bioniccrackmonk on 10/10/2007 11:03:49 AM , Rating: 3
I just hope it is regulated so we don't have a real Umbrella corporation in the future.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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