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"I can remember when the first pulsars were discovered. I was able to go and sit down and listen to graduate students talking about what their theories, to explain what pulsars really were."
- Vernor Vinge

Aerostat Monitor  
  A small flying platform, capable of maneuvering in three dimensions; can hover in place and communicate with others like it.  

I've seen a device very similar to this demonstrated on TechTV, but I can't find any other reference to it. It was about a foot square, with a fan in the middle, and looked like a flying bathroom ceiling fan.

...then Bud made himself scarce, because the monitors - almond-sized aerostats with eyes, ears, and radios - had probably picked up the sound of the explosion and begun converging on the attack. He saw one hiss by him as he rounded the corner, trailing a short whip antenna that caught the light like a hairline crack in the atmosphere.

Aerostat meant anything that hung in the air. This was an easy trick to pull off nowadays. Nanotech materials were stronger. Computers were infinitesimal. Power supplies were much more potent...a device built with several thrusters pointed along different axes could remain in one position or indeed navigate through space.

From The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson.
Published by Bantam Books in 1995
Additional resources -

Aerostat is really a generic word for craft that get their "lift" from the buoyancy of the surrounding air, rather than by the use of screws or turbines. At present, aerostats are in use as radar platforms; they are usually dirigibles and are not small.

Here's a bit more:

Each aerostat in the dog pod grid was a mirror-surfaced, aerodynamic teardrop just wide enough, at its widest part, to have contained a pingpong ball. These pods were programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern, about ten centimeters apart near the ground (close enough to stop a dog but not a cat, hence "dog pods") and spaced wider as they got higher. In this fashion a hemispherical dome was limned around the sacrosanct airspace of the New Atlantis Clave. When wind gusted, the pods all swung into it like weathervanes, and the grid deformed for a bit as the pods were shoved around; but all of them eventually worked their way back into place, swimming upstream like minnows, propelling the air turbines. The 'bines made a thin hissing noise, like a razor blade cutting air, that, when multiplied by the number of pods within earshot, engendered a not altogether cheerful ambience.

In the novel, the author does point out that flying or hovering devices are much easier to make in an era when nanotechnology makes very light, very strong materials and machines possible.

Take a look at copseyes, from Cloak of Anarchy, a story by Larry Niven, written about twenty years earlier.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Diamond Age
  More Ideas and Technology by Neal Stephenson
  Tech news articles related to The Diamond Age
  Tech news articles related to works by Neal Stephenson

Aerostat Monitor-related news articles:
  - Epson uFR Micro Flying Robot
  - uFR-II Micro Flying Robot - (Lighter) Son of Micro Flying Robot
  - Micro Imagers For Sensing On Nano Air Vehicles

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China's Drone Fleet Flies In Formation

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