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"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford

Scarab Robot Flying Insect  
  A tiny flying robotic machine, used for surveillance.  

In this short story, a strange new fortress threatens; it is impossible for planes to approach. What sort of device could be used to penetrate its defenses?

The Scarab paused on its perch for a moment, as if to determine for itself whether it was perfectly fit for action. It was a tiny thing, scarcely more than an inch and a half in length... Its body had a metallic sheen, and its vitals were far more intricate than those of the finest watch...

The Scarab rubbed its hind legs together, as flies will do when at rest. Then, apparently satisfied that it was in condition, it unfolded the coleoptera-like plates over its wings. With a buzz that any uninformed person would have mistaken for that of a beetle, it started out on its journey.

...It landed close to the stone walls of the structure.

About it, as it scrambled forward, were weeds and bushes and grass, which, from its miniature point of view, constituted a thick and threatening jungle... a large, vicious-looking beetle barred the way, its chitinous mandibles opening and closing suggestively.

...the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might, and sought the security of a shadowed corner. There it studied its surroundings, transmitting to its manipulator, far away now, all that it heard through its ear microphones and saw with its minute vision tubes.

From The Scarab, by Raymond Z. Gallun.
Published by Astounding Stories in 1936
Additional resources -

The amazing Scarab also has the ability to deliver, via a "sting," a minute quantity of a powerful soporific agent to put evildoers quickly to sleep.

The Scarab could fly thousands of feet high into the sky; it was powered by "wireless power plants".

Note that the Scarab is not an autonomous robot; it is remote-controlled at all times. This story demonstrates the good humor of Gallun; the user of the Scarab describes having fun picking fights with beetles and other small creatures.

The only part about the Scarab that seems unattainable today is its power source; wireless, broadcast power, which was all the rage in the Twenties and Thirties.

Compare to the infiltrators from Vulcan's Hammer (1960) by Philip K. Dick, the commercial fly from The Simulacra (1964) by Philip K. Dick and the blurbflies from Nymphomation (2000) by Jeff Noon. Compare also to the housefly monitor from Lies, Inc. (1964) by Philip K. Dick - not a robot but a controllable organic insect with attached surveillance technology.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Scarab
  More Ideas and Technology by Raymond Z. Gallun
  Tech news articles related to The Scarab
  Tech news articles related to works by Raymond Z. Gallun

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