n. An extremely small aircraft.
Aircraft weighing as little as a chocolate bar could one day be darting over the surface of Mars with the agility of dragonflies and the eyes of bees. Australia-based scientists say they have developed navigational and flight control devices based on research into several types of insects. The resulting sensors are so small that they can be placed on "microflyers" weighing just 75 grams. The team of researchers at the Australian National University won over NASA during a test flight of a prototype earlier this month, and the U.S. space agency has agreed to help finance further work.
Spy planes that are small enough to fit in the hand could be taking to the skies within three years. Called microflyers, the planes will have a wingspan of about 15cms and weigh less than 100 grammes.
It sounds like something on the cover of a Ray Bradbury novel. The idea of a metre-long mechanical insect flitting across the rust-red canyons of Mars can surely only belong to the pages of science fiction? Not if Robert Michelson realises his concept of the "entomopter", a robotic drone capable of both flying by flapping its wings and crawling like an insect. Michelson says it would be perfectly suited for the low- level aerial exploration of Mars, which he believes could occur within the next decade or so.