Robo-wings: Military drones that mimic hawks and insects

Story highlights

  • A Defense agency is working on a surveillance robotic hawk that could fly through an urban combat jungle at 45mph
  • The study is looking at developing new algorithms to allow a small UAV to operate without a remote pilot
  • The algorithms developed in the program could enhance other unmanned missions, including marine environments

(CNN)Picking through the rubble of war-damaged buildings in combat zones, looking for enemies, survivors, booby traps or worse is one of the most dangerous jobs in the military.

To take the dirt and danger out of mopping up operations, a Pentagon agency is developing a surveillance robo-hawk that could fly through the detritus of the urban combat jungle at 45mph.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -- already famous as the maker of some of the U.S. military's more far-fetched war robots -- aims to develop autonomous drones small enough to fit through an open window.
    Speeding through unstable buildings or threatening indoor spaces at 20 meters per second, the unmanned aerial vehicle would obviate the need for physical entry that puts troops or civilian response teams at risk.
    Part of a military brief called the Fast Lightweight Autonomy program, the study is looking at developing new algorithms to allow a small UAV operating without a remote pilot and without use of GPS waypoints to navigate stairways, corridors and other obstacles.
    "Birds of prey and flying insects exhibit the kinds of capabilities we want for small UAVs," said Mark Micire, DARPA's Program Manager. "Goshawks, for example, can fly very fast through a dense forest without smacking into a tree.
    "Many insects, too, can dart and hover with incredible speed and precision.
    "The goal of the FLA program is to explore non-traditional perception