Tumbleweed Spy Robot Camera

A prototype tumbleweed spy robot camera is being tested for use by British soldiers engaged in urban warfare.

(Tumbleweed spy drone)

The Tumbleweed device can be carried in a backpack and can be launched in seconds; live images are sent back to command personnel, providing real-time information for decision-making.

Six angled blades (propellers) arranged in a ring provide lift; the Tumbleweed spy drone can hover and fly in three dimensions.

Amazingly, the Tumbleweed can also roll along the ground to its destination, bouncing along or lying in wait in doorways or on the tops of roofs.

The Tumbleweed was designed by a team from Manchester University, led by Dr Bill Crowther, senior lecturer at the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering. He remarks:

'The idea is pretty new. This design only dates back around 10 months, and we only got a patent granted last week.

'The problem with existing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is that they're fairly unmanoeuvreable, particularly close to the ground among buildings in gusty winds.

'Instead of having to turn and tilt in order to move - like a helicopter - the Tumbleweed remains level and relies on very rapid variations in power to each of the six propellers - so it can generate forces to move in any direction.

'It will fly but it will also roll along the ground which is a far more efficient way of moving, so we have longer endurance.

Star Wars fans of course remember the Droidekas, robots that roll along until they are ready to face a threat.

(Star Wars Droidekas)

For another real-world example of the rolling idea, take a look at this Soft Robot Powered By Shape Memory Alloy Spokes.

Read more at the Daily Mail; thanks to Moira for another great tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/18/2008)

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