NASA deployed a swarm of over 100 tiny, insect-like drones known as CICADAs at the Beaver Dam Airpark in Virginia.
On Thursday, April 18, NASA's Langley Research Center posted a video of the test flight on YouTube. The video demonstrated how the small aircraft raining from the sky like confetti after a much larger vessel, called HIVEs, released them mid-flight.
NASA Releases A Swarm Of Tiny Drones In Virginia
CICADAs, which stands for Close-in Convert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft, were developed by the United States' Naval Research Laboratory. The extremely small drones are equipped with scientific instruments that can measure air pressure, wind speed, and temperature as well as steer themselves as they fall from the sky.
"CICADA is a concept for a low-cost, GPS-guided, micro disposable air vehicle that can be deployed in large numbers to 'seed' an area with miniature electronic payloads," said the U.S. Navy. "These payloads could be interconnected to form an ad-hoc, self-configuring network."
The larger drone called Hives are responsible for bringing and deploying the CICADAs to the sky. Each Hive drone can carry more than 20 CICADAs per flight. NASA used four of them for the test.
According to the video released by NASA, the CICADAs are attached to the underbelly of the Hive drone. The smaller drones were released on demand with a mechanical switch.
The CICADAs gather data as they fall like confetti from the sky. Researchers will have to retrieve the tiny drones when they hit the ground, but they would not be hard to find. The CICADAs emit a low chirping sound and move their flaps so that they will be easier to recover.
While NASA is interested in using the CICADAs to monitor the weather, the military is looking into deploying the drones in hostile territory.
Drones In Mars
The CICADAs are not the only insect-like drones that NASA has been interested in recently. The U.S. space agency wants to develop a swarm of robotic bees that could one day fly on the surface of Mars. The proposed technology was nicknamed "Marsbees."
The Marsbees will explore the possibility of launching flapping wing aircraft in the Red Planet. The robots will also expand the possible areas that scientists can explore in future missions.