AeroVironment, the California-based company behind the largest, highest and longest flying unmanned aircraft system, the Global Observer, has now achieved a remarkable technical milestone with a much smaller aircraft. With its “Nano Hummingbird” the company has for the first time achieved controlled precision hovering and fast-forward flight of a two-wing, flapping wing aircraft that carries its own energy source and relies only on its flapping wings for propulsion and control.

The hand-made final concept demonstrator Nano Hummingbird has a wingspan of 16 cm (6.5 in) and weighs just 19 g (2/3 oz), which is less than the weight of a AA battery. Into this tiny and lightweight package the AeroVironment UAS team has managed to cram all the systems required for flight, including batteries, motors, communications systems and even a video camera.

The aircraft can climb and descend vertically, fly sideways left and right, fly forward and backward, as well as rotating clockwise and counter-clockwise – all under remote control and while carrying a video camera payload. It is even capable of doing a 360-degree loop.

The Nano Hummingbird can be fitted with a removable body fairing, which is shaped to have the appearance of a real hummingbird and, although it is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, the aircraft is actually smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird found in nature.

Development bucks came from taxpayers via DARPA. Maybe the rest of us will get to play with it after the spooks are through using it as a mini-spyplane.




  1. Randomized says:

    So now I have to give the finger to every hummingbird I see?

  2. bobbo, are we Men of Science, or Devo? says:

    and the flight time is at least 8 minutes. Not bad–even useful on the battlefield.

    Interesting how its the “power supply” that is always the buggaboo. Same power supply probably can last twice as long with a more efficient helicopter blade design?

  3. McCullough says:

    So….12 Gauge bird-shot it is. Got plenty of that. Also, they could have made it realistic, I could be wrong but I have never seen an hummingbird that large.

  4. Reagan says:

    I am so old, I can remember when devices like this existed nowhere outside of nightmarish science fiction.

    I am so glad I lived long enough to see so many nightmares break on through to the other side and become reality.

    So, when can I purchase one of these things to peek at my neighbor lady taking a shower?

  5. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    McCullough…not sure what species that thing is supposed to be, but common ruby-throated hummingbirds are like giant bumblebees, head-to-butt just over two inches, but much faster. I have a feeder on my living room picture window. Cool birds.

    Found this:
    Average length: 3.5 inches
    Average weight: 1/8 ounce
    Body temperature: 105°-108°F
    Wing beats: 40-80 per second, average about 52
    Respiration: 250 per minute
    Heart rate: 250 beats/min resting; 1200 beats/min feeding
    Flight speed: 30 mph normal; 50 mph escape; 63 mph dive

  6. McCullough says:

    No doubt it’s cool. But after my cat got a hold of it, the guv would probably send me a bill.

    Wonder what the cost of that would be?

  7. Mac Guy says:

    “Is that a hummingbird outside my window?”

    No, I’m just happy to see you. 😉

  8. Pete says:

    This technology will only be safe until they develop a robotic cat. And then they will develop a robotic dog as a countermeasure. And our newest arms race will be on.

  9. Nolimit662 says:

    Ever played the game of Half-Life? It had these spy camera things flying all over snapping shots as you played the game. Soon your every move will be recorded.

  10. Orion314 says:

    Can’t wait for someone to get one of these with webcam capabilitys and take a scenic tour
    of Area 51

  11. The Monster's Lawyer says:

    #9 – Not if you wear your tin foil hat.

  12. God, Allah and other monikers says:

    Cool toy, but why not just modify My hummingbird to be radio controlled? No THAT would impress me.

  13. God, Allah and other monikers says:

    That should have read, “Now THAT would impress me”. Being ethereal makes it hard to type.

    To all my followers who think I am perfect… give your head a shake and look around you.

  14. msbpodcast says:

    Its a question of economics.

    What would it cost to saturate an ares with “hummingbirds” which would reveal some bad-ass terrorist boss’s hiding place in real-time and then target that a cruise missile right there, as opposed to a mission failure?

    You can even recruit local kids to retrieve lost or powered down units for some dough.

    It would be a win-win situation (well except for the dead baddies.)

    Its all about targetting intel and those that have it are infinitely better off than those that are causing collateral damage without it.

  15. msbpodcast says:

    Oh I forgot to mention the secret sauce.

    A high enough level of encryption would render the device useless to anybody else.

    In fact, they could/should/would be used for surveillance. Just let the fuckers soak up some sunlight and send the encrypted site recon signal back to HQ

  16. deowll says:

    You could make this thing look like any small flying critter including bats as well as birds.

    It would be a cool toy. You just know the paparazzi are going to get their hands on these things.

  17. Big Brother says:

    So those bird’s nests we see on power poles are not real… they’re recharging stations for robo-bird.

  18. eighthnote says:

    Hmmm…now where did I put my paintball gun…?

  19. Uncle Patso says:

    How long until this shows up in the x-tremegeek.com catalog?

  20. Buzz Mega says:

    The final unit—not the demo—will have a tiny gasoline engine. Developers say the exhaust trail is “not a problem.”

  21. B. Dog says:

    If you are willing to settle for a dragonfly, you can pick one up on Amazon for half a C-note.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=MY5yOJ_-Z3s


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