If you’ve ever wanted to test your lightsaber skills against a flying robotic orb ala “Star Wars,” you’re in luck, because the Japanese Ministry of Defense has developed and successfully demoed what it calls “the world’s first spherical flying machine.” Lasers not included.
The remote-controlled, spherical flying machine (TPM note: there’s got to be a better name than that?) is seen wowing journalists at the Digital Projects Expo in Tokyo, displaying aerial maneuvers and rolling on the ground, in the following video from Tokyo-based news outlet DigInfo TV, posted online Sunday.
The device’s operator claims it can go from zero to about 40 miles (60 kilometers) in seconds in mid-air, can take off and land vertically, can be operated on the ground, and that it was all assembled from “commercially available parts” for the low, low cost of $1,400.
It contains a propeller, which helps the craft take off and land vertically, as well as “wings” on its sides, which are used to provide lift when the craft tips on its “side,” with the propeller pointing horizontally to provide thrust. There is also some sort of gyro-stabilization going on, allowing the operator to smack the device and permitting it to collide into walls while maintaining its balance.
According to DigInfo, the sphere is just over 16 inches in diamater (40 centimeters) weighs less than a pound (350 g).
In the latest footage, DigInfo explains that the potential applications of the spherical flying machine include rescue and reconnaissance in difficult-to-reach areas. But earlier, CNN had reported that another potential application is surveillance.
The pilot also told the news outlet that it came up with the idea for the spherical flying machine after experiencing difficulty with other vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) projects.
And while the orb itself may seem more benign and ridiculous than practical and threatening, there’s little denying that Japan is actively pursuing VTOL technology in a more serious and deadly fashion.
Indeed, Korean news outlet Chosun Ilbo reported that the Defense Ministry is planning to build a 19,500-ton aircraft carrier with enough deck space to allow vertical takeoff and landing.
But beyond just using the new carrier to keep up with the China, which began the first trials of its own aircraft carrier in August, the Japanese Defense Ministry is also looking to purchase Lockheed Martin F35 B Lightning II stealth fighter jets, which have VTOL capability.
We’ve reached out the Japanese Ministry of Defense for further information on the device and will update when we receive a response.