Perhaps worried that their bid proposal for insect cyborgs will never pan out, the wacky minds at DARPA are now looking at the humble maple tree to provide inspiration for their future fleet of tiny surveillance drones. The agency has just awarded Lockheed Martin a 10-month contract to develop maple seed-shaped UAVs known as remote-controlled nano air vehicles (or NAVs, for short) that can be deployed from a hovercraft and whirl around urban battlefields snapping pictures and confusing enemies who have never seen a maple tree. DARPA is stipulating that the single-blade NAVs be equipped with a self-stabilizing wireless camera, yet weigh only 0.07 ounces and be capable of traveling 1,100 feet with the help of an onboard chemical rocket. Seems like a lot to ask from such a minuscule device, but the $1.7 million DARPA is shelling out will probably be enough of an incentive for Lockheed to get the job done.

[Via Boing Boing]

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DARPA to Lockheed: Build us a maple seed-shaped UAV