The skies over the United States were a little more crowded than usual following a test by the Department of Defense that sent more than 100 drones scattering across the sky, according to a report from the BBC. A total of 103 of the miniature, unmanned flying vehicles were released from a trio of Three F/A-18 Super Hornets, a popular Navy fighter aircraft. Called Perdix drones, the flyers have a wingspan of just 12 inches and move entirely autonomously--no human control required. Footage of the devices in action from October 2016, taken from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, was recently released by the Department of Defense. In it, the drones can be seen being released into the sky and swarming together, making use of the collective brain that controls them.
These being pandemic times, a recent visit to the Silicon Valley offices of drone startup Skydio involved slipping past dumpsters into the deserted yard behind the company's loading dock. Moments later, a black quadcopter eased out of the large open door sounding like a large and determined wasp. Skydio is best known for its "selfie drones," which use onboard artificial intelligence to automatically follow and film a person, whether they're running through a forest or backcountry skiing. The most recent model, released last fall, costs $999. The larger and more severe-looking machine that greeted WIRED has similar autonomous flying skills but aims to expand the startup's technology beyond selfies into business and government work, including the military.
So your kid wants a drone. That's not surprising: They've been a hot holiday gift for a few years running, and more options than ever are explicitly marketed toward the younger set. Still, there are a lot of drones out there, and it can be hard to tell not only which are actually good, but also which are safe, sturdy, and beginner-friendly enough for children. Your young pilot will probably crash this thing a few times, after all -- in a lot of cases (though not all!), a low-cost toy drone is your best bet. When it comes right down to it, the best drones for kids are ones that will be relatively easy to fly and can take a beating.
Inspired by wasps and spiders that need to drag prey from place to place, but can't actually lift it, engineers at Stanford and Switzerland's EPFL have created drones that brace themselves against the ground to get the requisite torque. The grippy feet and strong threads or jaws let them pull objects many times their weight along the ground. These FlyCroTugs (a combination of flying, micro and tug, presumably) act like ordinary tiny drones while in the air, able to move freely about and land wherever they need to. But they're equipped with three critical components: an anchor to attach to objects, a winch to pull on that anchor and sticky feet to provide sure grip while doing so. The engineers claim that the drones are capable of moving objects 40 times their weight.