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Lockheed Martin’s Maple-Leaf UAV Helicopter Is Too Much Fun for Spying

Proof positive that working for a scary-ass defense company can be fun: the Samari mini monocopter. It’s a research project to develop an innovative unmanned spy drone, sure. But it also looks like the fun hybrid of a boomerang and an RC copter.

samari uav

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Proof positive that working for a scary-ass defense company can be fun: the Samari mini monocopter. It’s a research project to develop an innovative unmanned spy drone, sure. But it also looks like the fun hybrid of a boomerang and an RC copter.

From what the folks at BotJunkie can work out, this device is the latest development in a Lockheed Martin defense project, also dubbed Samari, that dates back several years but was apparently canceled back in 2009. That aircraft was much larger, so it’s possible that the apparent cancellation was actually a re-direction of the project toward producing this smaller 12-inch vehicle, for nano-UAV spying purposes. Whatever happened, the new variant is, frankly, awesome. Check out the video of it in flight to see why–it’s a maple leaf-like, sci-fi-esque fantasy gizmo in flight:

The monocopter is apparently incredibly simple and has advantages of being small and launchable from a flat surface. Or it could be coarsely boomeranged into the air, which is handy when you’re thinking about battlefield launch situations at the hands of a possibly inexperienced soldier. Despite its simplicity, it also appears to be extremely controllable, far more than the indoor remote-control helicopters that are flooding today’s toy stores, since it can be accurately landed at a chosen point, and steered through the air. The simplicity of flying bots like this would be an asset when deployed in the field. Assuming that development of a micro-sized sensor suite (able to ignore or compensate for the continuous rotation of the airframe) is also underway, a production micro-UAV based on this design may be more resilient than a more normal micro-copter, with all those delicate rotary blades and control surfaces to worry about.

But flying the thing looks like too much fun to be altogether good science, though.

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About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)

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