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Ed Yeates ReportingWhat appeared to be unusual birds flying over east Provo today were actually three ounce experimental surveillance planes taking a bird's eye view of things.
The aircrafts, under development at Brigham Young University for the Air Force, can literally be folded and carried in the pocket. Take it out of your pocket, unfold, and launch. That's almost all there is too it.
BYU and the Air Force are working together to develop the new breed of small surveillance planes, which can be quickly dispatched by soldiers on the ground.
Randy Beard, BYU Electrical-Computer Engineering: "So you roll this thing up and put it in a tube. It sits in his pocket until he needs to know what is behind the next hill or behind the next building, pulls it out, throws it."
Computers do all the work now, controlling the technical surfaces of the planes. On the ground the operator can send them wherever using a laptop or a hand-held PDA. As the BYU team demonstrated, you can even guide the crafts by simply talking to them.
The crafts communicate with global positioning satellites so, if needed, they can fly themselves.
Randy Beard, BYU Electrical-Computer Engineering: "We put an auto pilot on board and it can be completely autonomous, in the sense that you give it GPS locations and it does an auto takeoff, flies to the GPS location, flies back, and does an auto land."
The Air Force wants to keep the planes small. BYU believes they can get them down to a foot, perhaps even six inches, but still get the payload on board to see things.