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Soda can shape shifting surveillance micro drone.

Is that a box really a box??  The University of Florida is seeking companies interested in commercializing a palm-sized aerial vehicle that alters its shape to avoid detection.

The small flyer, equipped with a camera and microphone, is capable of transforming into an inconspicuous object (e.g. a soda can) upon landing. In recent decades, unmanned micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs) have gained acceptance for military applications.

They are frequently preferred for so-called 3D missions, ones that are particularly dull, dirty or dangerous. For example, some of these military tasks can include long periods of uninterrupted surveillance, sampling hazardous materials, exploring collapsed structures and exposure to enemy fire. University of Florida researchers have invented a MAV with retractable wings (in the plane-style embodiment) or retractable blades (in the helicopter-style embodiment) that can be powered either by batteries or a gasoline engine. When equipped with a camera, microphone and other sensors, the device becomes ideal for reconnaissance operations.

With the US Air Force Research Laboratory announcing its goal to have fully operational bird-sized micro-aerial vehicles by 2015 and insect-sized MAVs by 2030, the demand for smaller and less conspicuous micro-flyers is readily apparent.


A palm-sized micro-flyer that uses urban camouflage, transforming into a soda can, bottle, box or other object to hide in plain sight during stealth missions


  • Avoids detection by camouflaging itself as trash, making it perfect for covert intelligence-gathering
  • Large carrying capacity permits the integration of sensors that can protect human operators by alerting them to chemical/biological hazards
  • Small in size, permitting greater maneuverability in tight spaces
  • Employs an innovative design, allowing flight at high or low altitudes
  • Operates quietly and could incorporate night-vision equipment for nocturnal missions, augmenting stealth


The proposed micro-aerial vehicle can be designed as either a small plane or helicopter with retractable wings/blades that disappear into the micro-flyerâ??s fuselage (i.e. the main body section) when not in use. After the device lands, it appears to be an ordinary soda can or beverage bottle. Incorporated sensors can function as early warning systems, detecting the presence of explosives and/or biological weapons. By showing soldiers the dangers that lie ahead, it removes the enemyâ??s ability to launch surprise attacks and saves lives. The technology also lends itself to considerably larger designs, measuring one meter or greater in length.

To discuss this technology with a licensing officer call (352)392-8929 or email [email protected] and ask about record UF ID: 12779

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