At approximately the size of a beach ball and completely black, the Spherical Air Vehicle looks likes a miniature Death Star that can transmit live video from a camera. The drone can fly down alleys, hover, take off vertically, and it can even bounce on the ground, reports AFP.

The latest model, the seventh prototype, is equipped with a single propeller, shielded by the shell, with flaps and wings to control its flight, and can zip through the air at up to 60 kilometres (37 miles) per hour.

Sato said all its components can be found in shops in Tokyo’s electronic tech-geek heaven of Akihabara, at 100-yen shops where every item sells for about a dollar, or on the Internet.

The motor at the core is contained by a modified plastic bottle, and the total cost for the parts come to 110,000 yen ($1,400) for the latest model, which weighs just 350 grams (12.3 ounces) and has a diameter of 42 centimetres (16.8 inches).

Sato admits that many hurdles remain before the flying sphere can be put to practical use, including adding an autopilot function and finding ways to cope with turbulence and poor weather conditions.

The current model could not, for example, be used at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, crippled by the March 11 quake and tsunami, because it can only fly within the field of vision of the controller, he said.

Photo by Zach Chisholm

Comments are closed.