Smack! Was that a Mosquito You Killed, Or a Drone?

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Johns Hopkins researchers help develop MAV …Or maybe that high-agility flying robot was a tasty snack for an artificial toad. In a real-life nod to the classic science fiction novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University is helping to develop a micro aerial vehicle (MAV for short) that will be no bigger than a bug.

So, What Good is a Micro Aerial Vehicle?

An MAV would be used for military reconnaissance operations in urban areas, where densely packed buildings and unpredictable winds create unique challenges for a small flying device – no surprise here, since the Hopkins research is partly funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

And then there’s the Internet

On the other hand, the Internet started as a defense-funded project and look where we are now. As highly fuel efficient micro machines, MAV’s could become an essential part of the sustainable tech landscape, for example in wind turbine maintenance and other clean energy tasks, data collection, and  environmental monitoring. They could also be useful in emergency response, especially as the “search” part of a search and rescue operation

Secret of the Hopkins MAV

Student researchers Tras Lin and Lingxiao Zheng are spearheading the Johns Hopkins contribution to MAV research, using high-speed video cameras to analyze the way a butterfly’s body moves in flight. The advanced cameras enabled the researchers to separate one-fifth of a second of movement into 600 frames. According to Lin, the breakdown shows that the insect’s body in flight shares some characteristics with the body movements of figure skaters, who use their arm position to modify their speed while spinning.

According to Phil Sneiderman of Johns Hopkins, the key discovery so far has been to recognize that changes in the distribution of the insect’s body mass play an important role in its ability to perform intricate maneuvers while flapping its wings. Previous research into flight dynamics had overlooked this area of study and focused primarily on wing movements.

Look Out! More MAV’s on the Way

If something rings a bell about this project, you may recall that last year DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, released photos of the Hummingbird, a tiny, ultra lightweight remote-controlled flying vehicle designed to resemble an actual hummingbird. The Hummingbird was designed specifically to let troops in urban combat to get a look around corners and inside buildings.

The military’s interest in cutting edge urban combat technologies is not a new development. In an eerily prescient 1999 report prepared by the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, researchers noted that the frequency and scale of urban combat is “likely to increase,” further noting that:

“From early history on, urban combat has required masses of dismounted infantrymen, a significant amount of time, combined arms and astonishing quantities of ammunition. The assaulting force runs the risk of its own attrition by combat, insufficient supplies and epidemic diseases. Assaults on cities have resulted in heavy military and civilian casualties and shattered cities. Modern urban combat has often destroyed operations tempo, drained logistics stockpiles and ruined the reputations of promising commanders.”

That report must have been overlooked when the previous Administration planned its operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The current Administration seems to have absorbed the lessons with a focus on long-distance air and sea power, which by nature involves a renewed effort on cutting edge technology, so look for lots more than flying bug-type gadgets in the future.

Image: Mosquito (could outweigh an MAV). License Attribution Some rights reserved by tanakawho.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3148 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey

54 thoughts on “Smack! Was that a Mosquito You Killed, Or a Drone?

  • Pingback: US DOD Funds biomimicry Research on Firefly Bioluminescence

  • They’re going to be used against US citizens who support such subversive, radical, left-wing, liberal, values as peace, justice, equality, corporate and government transparency and accountability, the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other anti-American ideas. 

    • Oh don’t be silly ! WE are going to use them against all of you !!

      •  Not funny, It is true though that there won’t be many of us left out of this ugly surveillance/control game 🙁

    • “peace, justice, equality, corporate and government transparency and accountability” AND  Islamist fundamentalism ..

  • It sounds like these things sprang fully-formed from the brow of Zeus, errrr, Obama, with no advance work during, say, the Bush administration.

  • Pretty danged amazing.  Of course this sort of technology could be misued, but it can also be correctly used.

    How about we worry less about the technology and work on what we consider appropriate behavior of people who might use it.  We will need to evolve new rules as new technology emerges.

    Soon, I  think, we need to have a reasoned discussion of the use of lethal drones and decide if their use should be given to the Commander in Chief in the time of war or whether there should be an overriding body of some sort.  

    (I trust the present guy.  It’s one of the future ones that concern me.)

    •  you trust the present guy???  really ???  what do you know about him to be able to trust him? where he was really born ? no, where he went to school? no, what his real plan for this country is ? no ….but you trust him LOL

    • We can kill these mechanical mosquito’s the same way we kill the real ones, just wonder how much these nuisance things will cost and will we be billed for the cost if we should exterminate one???

      • Billed and/or prosecuted. 

        Suggest you focus your energy on seeing that reasonable rules are written for drone use rather than go all camo-bluster.

        Just think about getting lost in the woods.  Happens a lot.  Drones can be used to cover a lot of rugged territory in a hurry and find folks before they really get in trouble.

        Climbers in trouble on a mountain.  Get some good information prior to sending a rescue team.

        Leaking oil pipe.  Fly some drones down the line and quickly find out where the gusher is.

        Drones can be a very useful tool for getting us detailed information for a low price.  No one is really interested in seeing what you read when you sit on the pot.

        • Kill every mosquito you see!

        • That’s a total nonsense. These miniature “drones” wouldn’t have the reach plus they would likely be susceptible to wind and bad weather. If you are talking about the full size drones, yes, possibly, they could do all that — unfortunately, these positive uses will only come long after they are fully utilized by the military as killing machines. As with virtually everything.

          • Right now there are some people trapped in a collapsed tunnel in Japan. Bet the people working that problem would like to have the ability to get video of what conditions are.

            Need to do rescue in a burning building? How about being able to flood the place with drones equipped with infrared sensors so that you can locate the people?

            Shooter on the loose or hostage situation? Knowledge is power.

      • Are those your real worries?

    • You must be kidding! The only one we all should be worried about misusing such technology is the gov.

      • No, I am not kidding.

        You can kill people with a hammer. Does that mean that we quit making hammers and building houses or do we determine what the appropriate and inappropriate uses of hammers might be?

        And you need to remember that we, the people in America, are the government. The people sitting in the seats of power are people we hire. If they continue to to do a poor job and we leave them in their jobs that’s our fault.

        Drones are nothing but airplanes that don’t carry their pilots on board.

  • The key may be dragonfly simulation. baffling for decades, and probably for decades to come. We cannot yet afford to monitor everyone with a camera
    and drone operator. But this latest govt. is making new money at a scary rate..

    • ” But this latest govt. is making new money at a scary rate.. ”

      What does this mean?

      •  U.S. owed no money in 1900-1910.  Owed less than $3 Trillion during Reagan years.  Owed $7 Trillion to the world in 2008.  Owes DOUBLE that – $14 Trillion today.  This number is on a trajectory to exceed $20 Trillion by 2020.  Any country that exceeds 50% of debt / annual GDP has collapsed……right now, the U.S. is at about 100%.

        • Well, aren’t you a clever cherry-picker?

          Let’s look at some actual data, shall we?

          At the end of the Ford administration the US national debt was 35.8% of GDP.
          At the end of the Carter administration it had fallen to 33.0%.

          At the end of the Reagan administration it had risen to 52.6%.

          At the end of the Bush I administration it had risen to 65.9%.

          At the end of the Clinton administration it had fallen to 57.5%.

          At the end of the Bush II administration it had risen to 74.1%.

          You catch that pattern there? Democratic administration and things get better. Republican administration and things get worse.

          (You ever look at how the stock market does under different parties in the White House? Same sort of thing. Businesses do far better under Democratic administrations.)

          Right now debt to GDP is close to 100%. But one needs to look at the context. We are climbing out of the very deep hole into which we were driven by the previous administration. Cut taxes and start two unfunded war. That screws up the finances every time. And Republicans in Congress keep trying to pull us back down in an attempt to put one of their’s into the White House.

          The debt/GDP ratio is not going to look good until Republicans quit screwing over the country for political game and we get on with the recovery. Right now the country is in about the shape your finances would be in had you been out of work for a couple of years and now trying to pay off all that debt working on a poorly paying job.

          “Any country that exceeds 50% of debt / annual GDP has collapsed.”

          You might want to consult with Zombie Reagan about that. And the Bush family.


            And here’s a bonus for you…

            “Since 1929, both parties have held the Presidency for approximately 40 years each. According to ‘The New York Times’ and data from ‘Bloomberg’, during this period the consolidated returns for the S&P under Republican rule give a gain of only 0.4%. If you exclude the 30′s crash under Hoover, Republican reign produces a gain of 4.7%, still far below the compounded rate of 8.9% produced by their Democratic counterpart. Over that time a theoretical $10,000 investment in the S&P over Democratic rule would have grown to over $300,000. Under Republican rule the same $10,000 investment would be just over $51,000 today…and putting Hoover back in the mix dwindles your return leaving you with only $11,733.

            A more technical look is given by Yale and Jeffrey Hirsch in the ‘Stock Trader’s Almanac’ showing a Dow Jones industrial $10k investment compounded during Democratic reign since 1901 would have grown to over $279k after 48 years. The same $10k investment during 56 Republican years would be worth just over $78k. The dull glimmer of Republican reign comes with the appearance of inflation. Adjusted for inflation your 10k investment under the Dem’s would be just over 33k compared to 26k under Republicans. Democrats still fare better but the margin between is greatly reduced.
            The research takes new light when running the same test against GDP. A similar pattern emerges as Democratic Presidents produced a 5.4% GDP growth, contrasted by the Republicans 1.6%.

            Pedro Santa-Clara and Rossen Valkanov, finance professors at UCLA, decided to further test the above theory using weighted portfolios and broad based indexes. According to their paper, entitled, “The Presidential Puzzle: Political Cycles and the Stock Market”, published in the October issue of the ‘Journal of Finance’, stock market returns are on average about 5 percent higher when the White House is run by a Democrat than during Republican rule.

            According to the UCLA professors reduction in volatility was also affected positively under Democratic rule. Between 1927-1999, the study shows broad based indexes returning an average of 11% annually over 3-month Treasury’s under Dem’s as opposed to the Republicans 2% average. Controlled portfolios (value (1) & equal weighted (2)) under the UCLA study also validated the theory of Democrats being better for the Stock Market than Republicans. On average, over 72 years, the value-weighted portfolio returned 9% more, and the equal-weighted portfolio 16% more, under Democrats than Republicans.”


            So who does well when Republicans are in control seeing how investors in general don’t? I’d guess a few select corporations that have an inside track. Remember Bechtel and their non-competitive bid contracts when Cheney/Bush was running things? Or how the CEOs pulled fortunes out of our banks and finance companies as they ran them into the ground?

          • you see what you want to see and it’s radically backward lol lol

          • I think the next president is going to be Republican, based on past election patterns.

          • It will be difficult for Republicans to win national elections going forward unless they make drastic changes to their party. Republicans, since Nixon, have relied heavily on white voters and “hate of those others” for votes.

            Whites, each year, become a smaller percentage of voters. Non-whites are increasing in number and are voting in larger numbers. Hispanics, in particular, are seeing that their votes count and I suspect African Americans will keep voting in larger numbers. Also Asian Americans seem to be moving to the Democratic Party.

            Republicans have used hate of gays to bring voters to their side. To a great extent the country has gotten over its homophobia. Sure, there will likely be some for a long time, but it is greatly reduced. Four states had same-sex marriage bills on their ballot this year and all four were decided in favor of same-sex marriage. More people voted for same-sex marriage than voted for Obama which means that a lot of Republican voters supported same-sex marriage.

            Four years from now a lot of old, conservative voter, people who grew up when segregation was the law of the land, will have died off. Many younger voters who have grown up with minority and openly gay friends and relatives will have entered the ranks. Everyone will have had four more years of getting used to people who are different from them.

            There just won’t be enough “hate” voters available. And I don’t think the Republican Party has enough time to reinvent itself as a fiscally conservative, socially tolerant party by then. I think they will have to lose another election in order to get the message. I expect the Republican Party to shrink into a regional “neo-confederate” party before it wises up to the fact that America has changed.

          • Yes I see they taught you well. Just keep on believing all conservatives are evil, racists, sexists, everything wrong people. Yeah forget Grandma and Grandpa, clearly the old generation just doesn’t “get it” anymore.

          • Knowing that Bob is 70, this is sort of funny to read. Regarding the first part, the issue isn’t that all conservatives are those things (clearly), but that the GOP and its media emphasize that as a dividing line (that is growing more and more counterproductive).

          • Please, not yet 70.

            Let’s me enjoy my second decade of “the Sixties”….

          • Wait, I’m confused — didn’t you reply that you were 70 the other day. Oh wait, are you just having fun with words here (2nd decade)?

            I know you’re young at heart and have a quick mind — most important things. 😀

          • “I know you’re young at heart and have a quick mind — most important things. :D”

            You should experience coming down the stairs in the morning with my knees.

          • i was initially typing “all that matters” at the end, but knew you’d have plenty of examples of why that’s not true, so changed it to “most important things” 😀

          • Not all conservatives are racists, sexists or homophobic. And even some who are racists, etc. are not “evil”, they just have some crappy attitudes toward people who are different than them.

            Review your history. During Nixon’s time in office there was a recruitment of racists to the Republican Party as a way to win elections. It was a very intentional move. Fiscal conservatives alone couldn’t win national elections so they had to find another group of voters to join them.

            As anti-black racism lost some of its effectiveness they moved to hating independent women, gays, Hispanics, intellectuals – any identifiable group that could be used to fire up the ‘hate wing’ of the party and get it to polls.

            Now fiscal conservatives are in a pickle. The US simply does not have enough dedicated haters to keep that strategy viable. Some of the haters are dying out. Some are loosing their hate. The young voters coming of age have no concept of what life was like in the Segregated South or when gays stayed in the closet. That stuff is ancient history to them. Many of the next crop of voters in 2016 will have been born in 1998. The group after them will have been born in the 21st Century.

            Personally, I’ve got nothing against fiscal conservatives. It’s just the company they keep.

            I first became “politically aware” when Ike was our president. (I was too young to pay much attention to FDR or Harry.) Conservatism, back then, was about being fiscally responsible and taking good care of the country. Conservatives conserved.

            Nothing wrong with wanting as small a government as possible. Nothing wrong with wanting an efficient government. Nothing wrong with wanting to pay as little as possible in taxes.

            There is something wrong with partnering up with “the Klan” in order to forward your agenda.

          • My grandmas don’t agree with you either, and they are in their 80s. 🙂

            Most people, including very elderly people are not right wing.

            They are more socially conservative than the younger generations because people are become less and less socially conservative with each successive generation, but their economic policies remain progressive.

            Over the past 100 years, conservatism never dominated in the U.S, as is partly reflected by the large number of Democrat presidents that have been elected over the past 100 years.

            I am pretty sure that conservatives didn’t vote those Democrats in.

          • I know most are probably so tired of politics they don’t want to think about it, but I’m actually looking forward to the next presidential election.

            Of course, the bigger issue is getting people to get out and vote intelligently in 2 years.

          • This is probably the most important thing we can do for the climate.

            We must get Congress under control of people who are willing to work on climate change.

            We’re likely to get little done in the next two. The House is controlled by anti-science, pro-fossil fuel industry Republicans. If we had a pro-science Congress in 2015 and 2016 we could get enough new projects under way to cause a permanent rapid transition.

          • don’t make me laugh

          • People who talk about the Republican party being good for the economy and business are a hoot, aren’t they?

          • It is sad that history keeps repeating itself.

          • 12/31/2009OBAMA$12,311,349,677,51215.1% $14,256,300,000,00086.4%$383,071,060,8152.7%12/31/2010OBAMA$14,025,215,218,70913.9% $14,745,100,000,00095.1%$413,954,825,3622.8%12/31/2011OBAMA$15,125,898,976,3977.8% $15,321,000,000,00098.7%$454,393,280,4173.0%12/31/2012OBAMA$16,432,730,050,5698.6%53.6%11.3%$15,811,000,000,000103.9%<1st time: Exceeds 100% of GDP

          • The first year of PBO’s term was run under a fiscal year budget set when Bush was president. At the end of PBO’s first year in office, at the point where he had an influence on spending, the debt was $16.687 trillion.

            The national debt is $16.744 trillion as of today.

            That’s an increase of 0.1% per year, far less than inflation, so a slight drop in normalized dollars.

            Will PBO be able to bring down the national debt during his next three years in office or will he break the pattern? We’ll have to wait and see.

            The Treasury Department has paid down some of the national debt this year. The first time that’s happened since 2007.

            With the economy finally out of the basement, the war in Iraq ended and the war in Afghanistan about finished I suspect he’s got a good chance of once more showing how Democrats are better financial managers than are Republicans.

        • Reagan More than doubled the National debt, Bush Sr added a bunch, and Bush Jr if the War debt he did not add to the budget is counted added to another doubling bringing us to about 11 Trillion ( not 7 )

          Actually, your 7 Trillion is off by the amount of Iraq/ Afghanistan debt Bush did not put on the budget up to aug or sep 2009 ( Bushes last Budget ) and then some. It was almost 7 Trillion after the Bush first term… not sure where you got that number. Also, with the War debt now added, the National debt is almost 16 Trillion, but the deficit is cut in half finally. Bush last budget was a 1,3 or trillion deficit ( not counting War debt ) The deficit is now somewhere less than half that.

        • Size of gross debt Federal account debt

          Before Reagan $1 trillion $250 billion

          Ronald Reagan $2.9 trillion $677 billion

          George H.W. Bush $4 trillion $1 trillion

          Bill Clinton $5.6 trillion $2.2 trillion

          George W. Bush $10.6 trillion $4.3 trillion

          Barack Obama $16.4 trillion $4.9 trillion

          You would have to read the text to understand where this came from, and be aware as there was a complicated deviation of the Iraq/Afghanistan war debt Washinton Post Dec 31 2012

      • I can only think he means the Fed’s money printing as if it were going out of style…!

        • We’re trying to recover from a recession. We recently went through one of the most severe economic crashes this country has ever experienced. This is the time for the government to spend money, create jobs, and get the economy going once more.

          If the government was creating too much new money then we would see inflation becoming problematic. Inflation rates are extremely low.

          • the feds (the federal reserve bank) are the onoes printing the money.. they are also the ones who set the official inflation rates.
            5 years ago, the aussie dollar bought approximately 65 america cents.. nowdays, the aussie dollar is worth more than the american dollar. that is the true measure of worth now, international exchange rates, not national inflation

          • No, governments attempt to control inflation rates. They do not set inflation rates.

  • It could mean, mosquitoes and hummingbirds will be on the endangered species list, if people chose to destroy everyone they see…

  • I don’t know how they brainwashed the press into leaving their knowledge of history behind. Russia failed miserably in Afghanistan while we succeeded. And yes, the press will be standing outside the closed bunkers when they use the “bugs” against “us”. I am sure they will think a republican “locked the door” behind themselves.

    • “Succeeded”? Are you sure about that?

  • Wasp and hornet spray and spray paint in a can might be good or something like Elmer’s spray glue in an aerosol can, or hair spray, the last 2 items would glue the wings in one position when it sets and then these things can fall to the ground and stomp on them, just wear shoes, garden hose turned on high jet spray should mess them up and even birds might slow down these little spybugs when they get eaten. More taxpayer money down the tubes for the paranoid government toys.

  • so it will sting you and take your dna and then moving on to the next person and further help the spread of aids. Got to love the government death penalty for the good hard working people in the usa!!!!! Nice

  • wow, people actually think that the government is going to use this for GOOD 😀 sorry but I don’t think so, everything they have done so far with their advance technology is try to use it to cause a war or initiate a strike somewhere (cough) Syria.

    • We used drones to gas children? First I’d heard of that….

  • “Smack! Was that a Mosquito You Killed, Or a Drone?”

    If it was a drone you may be charged as a terrorist for purposely destroying a drone. Or sent away to the modern day equivalent of debtors prison. (That’s what is otherwise known as not being able to afford the best attorneys.)

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