40 years ago, the CIA created a dragonfly drone!

It flew about as well as you'd expect (60-second flight time, no tolerance for wind) but what a cool bit of mechanical design! No idea how that "laser beam" control works. From Engadget

Back in the '70s, the CIA needed some kind of miniature flyer to deliver an audio bug, and after considering (and rejecting) a faux bumblebee, decided that a robotic dragonfly would be the best option. The wee UAV used a "miniature fluidic oscillator" as a motor and was propelled by a small amount of gas. It was somehow guided by a laser beam, which served double-duty as the "datalink for the audio sensor payload," according to the CIA Museum. Unfortunately, the insect-based mech proved too difficult to control, especially with any degree of wind, and was eventually scuppered -- all that's left of the now-declassified project is in the video after the break.

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Comment by Rui Manuel Cravo Marques on July 30, 2012 at 7:11pm

This is indeed an impressive work of engineering. But if this was 40 years ago, what could have they developed in the mean time ?! ...

Comment by Carl La France on July 30, 2012 at 7:34pm

The Dragon fly is kind of cool! I think it was around 1972  It was either Popular Mechanics or Popular Science ran an a story on different "Bug "Bugs" most were just concepts and never actually worked (older people might remember it) there was a spider a snail a caterpillar they had a low power fm tx that had a range of about 100 ft. I think they had better luck tapping phones ! It is amazing the time and $ they put in a project . One of the better ones was when they built a ship disguised  to dredge for diamonds on the ocean floor actually it was suppose to steal a sunken Russian sub. Have a good day!

Comment by Francisc Bereczky on July 31, 2012 at 5:05am

The dragonfly is an insect with a unique type of flight and an amazing efficiency and maneuvrability. This is the reason for a lot of research made in the last years. I have a model developed (1,5m wingspan) after more than two years of work but for a stable flight I need the bicopter configuration of the AC. I made some test flights with APM1 with two external PWM mixers and the results are good. Unfortunatelly I am not a SD... Do you think that the bicopter configuration will be developed in this community in the near future?   

Comment by Marooned on July 31, 2012 at 5:19am

The mix of the curiosity and scare are in my brain when thinking what they have in their labs in these days.

Francisc: any footage from your flights?

Comment by Francisc Bereczky on July 31, 2012 at 6:05am

This is the best I have for the moment. Was filmed last november.


Flight stabilisation with FY30A and two PWM mixers. I made also tests with APM1 (ArduPlane loaded) with two PWM mixers.

Comment by Marooned on July 31, 2012 at 6:30am

Interesting concept!

Comment by Harry on July 31, 2012 at 7:08am

They can probably hijack a real dragonfly and control it to deliver the goods.  I saw a paper where some university had tapped into the nervous system of a giant flying beetle and could control it with a Tx.  I could see them planting electronics in a pupa and then no surgery required, thing emerges as an adult all wired up.

Comment by Ellison Chan on July 31, 2012 at 7:19am

Cockroaches too.  Maybe they will put DNA in the insects which then grows an RF transmitter that's tapping into the brain's visual and auditory areas. That's not too far fetched anymore.

Comment by John Moore on July 31, 2012 at 9:12am


I think MultiWii has bicopter FW. Very cool design.


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