By David Ponce
The US’s military drones can do a bunch of things, but they aren’t the only drones in town. Currently in development by the Japanese Defense Ministry, the ball-shaped drone you see in the picture (and in the video below) can do some things regular drones can’t. Its spherical shape allows it to roll around the ground and land pretty much anywhere. It can takeoff vertically, but once in flight can deploy wings for forward travel at 60km/h (that’s 37 mph for you Yanks). If it hits an obstacle, it simply keeps on trucking like nothing happened (watch the demonstrator in the video slap it around some).
The prototype you see in the video was made with commercially available parts costing around $1,400. But that also means that it’s nowhere near final specification as production models will likely have parts engineered specifically for it. Consider this a proof of concept, so that 8 minute flight autonomy is more than likely to increase with later iterations. Currently it weighs 350g (12 ounces?) and is meant primarily as a reconnaissance craft.