Print 14 comment(s) - last by theangryintern.. on Jan 11 at 3:21 PM

Tiny drones are marvelously versatile, much like their insect namesakes

The U.S. Navy Research Lab's Tempest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) may not be the mother of all drones, but it is the mother of two drones, at least.  Hoisted up to 53,000 feet onto a high-flying trajectory via releasable balloon, the Tempest UAV "gives birth" in flight, launching a pair of mini "Cicada" drones.

The tiny Cicadas are an exercise in efficiency, with their logic boards doubling as wings.  The Cicada UAVs are gliders, complete with smartphone-like two-axis gyroscopes and GPS circuits for navigation.

Several variants have been produced.  The Cicada Mark I can be launched by firing it from a gun into the air.  The Cicada Mark III is designed with special wings for improved range and stability, and is the model used by Tempest "mothership".  Cicada stands for Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft.

Tempest UAV
The Tempest first floats up to high altitudes via balloon, then launches as a glider [Image Source: U.S. Navy Research Lab]

The drone reportedly has a custom algorithm that accurately estimates wind speed and magnitude without any purpose driven sensors (presumably the algorithm is based on drift from the expected navigation path.  A Cicada launched from an altitude of 18,000 feet was able to travel 11 miles, landing within 15 feet of its desired target, a remarkable feat.  The drone has been hardened to endure winds up to 40 knots.

Lithium ion batteries -- the same kind you could find in your smart phone -- power the drone.  The high-altitude versions have heaters to prevent the frigid temperatures of the upper atmosphere from harming the circuit board.

Comments Chris Bovais, NRL aeronautical engineer; "It gets quite cold at 30,000 feet—in the minus 57 degree Celsius range. So, we have to keep the batteries and electronics healthy and working."

The tiny drone will eventually be equipped with tiny imaging sensors and networking sensors as they near combat readiness. 

Cicada III
The Cicada III is seen up close on the right, with the full Tempest being hoisted by the NRL team on the left. [Image Source: U.S. Navy Research Lab]

For conspiracy fans out there, the petite declassified Cicada is bird-sized -- just a bit larger that the infamous "dragonfly drone" that protesters in Washington D.C. claimed was "spying" on their activities.  The government of course denied all knowledge of cooking up secret robotic dragonfly minions.

Sources: NRL, Signal Online

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By Shig on 1/2/2012 7:03:20 PM , Rating: 5
has arrived.

RE: Carrier
RE: Carrier
By inperfectdarkness on 1/3/2012 8:05:47 AM , Rating: 2
and here the first thing i thought of was the cicada from UT2k4. i figured there had to be somewhere they'd gotten the name from.

RE: Carrier
By amagriva on 1/5/2012 1:20:45 PM , Rating: 3
In italian cicala is the name of the balm cricket, the ugly and noisy hot summer cricket.
Wikipedia say cicada is any insect of the family Cicadidae. Maybe this is where they'd got the name from.

RE: Carrier
By amagriva on 1/5/2012 1:27:12 PM , Rating: 2
oops! Only after posting I've seen the little picture of the insect beside the title...

Yo Dawg
By TheSev on 1/3/2012 7:14:35 AM , Rating: 5
We heard you like releasing drones, so...

RE: Yo Dawg
By vanionBB on 1/4/2012 12:22:40 PM , Rating: 2
Epic Post!

That's nice but,
By zmatt on 1/2/2012 11:22:50 PM , Rating: 5
were they smart enough this time to encrypt it?

Cicada Great news
By fedelst on 1/3/2012 1:45:06 PM , Rating: 2
This is absolutely great news for me... Perhaps, as more people use the word Cicada, people will learn to pronounce my company's name properly. Cicada Security Technology.

RE: Cicada Great news
By geddarkstorm on 1/3/2012 3:01:08 PM , Rating: 2
Wait, that's pronounced "Sigh-kah-daw", right?


Just one thing...
By theaerokid on 1/3/2012 10:27:34 AM , Rating: 3
I may be nitpicking, but the use of the word "declassified" is not quite accurate. As far as I remember the CICADA was never classified. The appropriate term would be "unclassified", as I remember the CICADA being part of NRL's public tradeshow material since they were but PowerPoint slides.

Kudos to my buds at NRL!

By JDHammer on 1/3/2012 1:00:06 PM , Rating: 3 slowly taking over...

By ARoyalF on 1/4/2012 1:54:41 AM , Rating: 3
Do they make that obnoxious racket real ones do?

I think
By theangryintern on 1/11/2012 3:21:57 PM , Rating: 2
there is a "Yo Dawg" meme in there somewhere!

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