The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)'s latest robotics project aims at building tiny drones that can fly through cities at 45 miles per hour.
The initiative, called the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, will have researchers build unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that won't need a human pilot or a GPS to travel through unstable buildings and dangerous areas, according to CNN.
DARPA Program Manager Mark Micire says the project draws inspiration from birds of prey and insects that can fly at fast rates without hitting anything in their way.
"The goal of the FLA program is to explore non-traditional perception and autonomy methods that would give small UAVs the capacity to perform in a similar way, including an ability to easily navigate tight spaces at high speed and quickly recognize if it had already been in a room before," Micire added.
Stephanie Tompkins, director of DARPA's Defense Sciences Office, said the agency is focused on using these robots for urban and disaster relief missions, and that these tiny flying machines could keep soldiers from getting fatigued while doing tasks, increasing their efficiency and safety in the process, CNN reported.
"By enabling unmanned systems to learn 'muscle memory' and perception for basic tasks like avoiding obstacles, it would relieve overload and stress on human operators so they can focus on supervising the systems and executing the larger mission," Tompkins said.
The drones also have the potential to be used in underwater missions, since GPS systems can't work in this kind of environment.
The FLA program is the latest move made by the U.S. military involving the development of small drones that navigate indoors, as the ARL (Army Research Laboratory) is currently working on tiny robotic insects designed for surveillance, CNN reported. The group is looking for other organizations to work with in order to get a fully working prototype up and running.