Hovering Snoop Offers
There is no shortage of small, flying VTOL
designs these days, but the Extreme Access System
for Entry (EASE) from CyPhy Works (cyphy
works.com) is a bit different. Instead of carrying
its own battery power, it is linked to a lightweight
ground control station via a very thin
"microfilament" tether that provides both power
and communication to the vehicle.
This design allows you to fly it almost
indefinitely by performing battery hot-swaps on the
ground. Plus, it offers more secure operation, as its
communications cannot be intercepted, jammed,
The microfilament — which spools out from the
vehicle — is said to be unaffected by water, power line
EMI, and other hazards. In addition, "the microfilament
enables high quality, full-frame-rate unbroken HD video
CyPhy's EASE operates in close quarters, beyond line of sight,
and in GPS denied areas.
that no other small or micro UAS can match."
Features include 300 ft AGL maximum altitude and a
1,000 ft range with autonomous launch, hover, and land,
plus down-looking and forward-looking HD color video and
optional thermal cameras. The 12 x 16 in device operates
up to 50 min between battery swaps.
Fiddler on the Beach
Those of us who grew up around salt marshes and
mangrove swamps have long been familiar with the
comical little creatures called fiddler crabs. Defying the
principle of symmetry in nature, the males of the species
sport a single oversized claw, which one might assume to
be somehow related to self-defense.
According to an Australian National University
( www.anu.edu.au) study conducted with the assistance
of a set of "RoboCrabs" with varied claw sizes, its main
function is actually to attract females, and the bigger, the
better. In a fairly complicated ritual, the males display their
appendages and wave them around in an effort to
impress the ladies. (This sort of thing is not uncommon in
nature and, in fact, a couple of my college buddies were
taken into custody for similar behavior.)
The study indicates, however, that a female is not so
easy to woo and, in fact, she may scrutinize as many as
100 males and their burrows before deciding that he is
Mr. Right. In addition, "We know that females prefer
larger claws and faster waving," according to Ph.D.
student Sophia Callander, who has been studying the
subject for three years. "They also prefer leaders: males
who wave slightly before the other members of the
In spite of their fussiness, females seem incapable of
telling the difference between a real crab and a RoboCrab,
which consists only of a plaster claw attached to a
moveable metal arm. The bottom line is that successful
males tend to (a) have the largest claws; and (b) cleverly
surround themselves with smaller-clawed males to make
themselves look more manly.
A (real) fiddler crab attempts to attract females.
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