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The CIA's Amazing RC Animals From the 70s

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the too-cool-for-old-school dept.

Robotics 113

GameboyRMH writes "If you were impressed at the remote-controlled ornithopters released in recent years, then this will really knock your socks off: In the 1970s, the CIA developed and tested a remote-controlled ornithopter that was disguised as a dragonfly — and at roughly the size of a dragonfly. It was intended to be used as a platform for listening devices. This 'insectothopter' was laser-guided and powered by a tiny gasoline engine built by a watchmaker. While its performance was impressive, difficulty controlling the tiny craft in crosswinds made it impractical, and the idea was scrapped. The article also mentions a robo-squid, and has information on a remote-controlled fish (video) that is also very impressive."

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113 comments

First post on my own article! (-1, Offtopic)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152900)

I won't forgive myself if I don't give it a shot!

Re:First post on my own article! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152982)

Gratz! You have won a strange loop.

Re:First post on my own article! (1, Funny)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153142)

Thank you, I'll cherish it forever ^_^

I'd like to thank my N900 for helping me work around my currently-unreliable office Internet connection, which nearly thwarted my attempt. It wasn't easy, I credit many hours on Quake 3 Arena with developing my ninja-like reflexes.

Re:First post on my own article! (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154168)

Your laughably puny ninja-like reflexes are useless compared to the pirate-like reflexes of those who modded you into oblivion.

Re:First post on my own article! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153362)

It's as intelligent and relevant to the article as 99% of your other posts, so why not?

Re:First post on my own article! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153416)

I have my own "cyberstalker" now O_O

This means that...I'm Internet-famous! AWRIGHT! \(^_^)/

Re:First post on my own article! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35154272)

Or he clicked on your name and read a few the posts listed there

Re:First post on my own article! (1)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153400)

Do you want a medal or what?

Re:First post on my own article! (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153858)

I think he just wanted first post on his story.

I get the reason for his post even if it is just noise to you and me. I don't get the reason for your post other than you wanted a chance to bitch at someone.

Really cool but... (2)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153034)

I have to admit this is really cool. I only wonder what something that small could have carried in the 70's. I mean with today's near microscopic cameras, mics and storage or transmission devices, it would be able to do some half decent surveillance; but 40 years ago even smallish "bugs" were fairly decent sized items. I have trouble believing even the CIA was THAT far ahead of the technology power curve. Maybe a microfilm camera for a few still shots could be fitted onto it; but there wasn't even hardly a concept of digital audio or video, let alone high density storage to hold the data.

Re:Really cool but... (2)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153132)

A variant of The Thing [wikipedia.org] could have been small & light enough?... (but I wonder if there simply wasn't much need, for the effort - with so many other methods to plant a bug, between strong arming and bribery / etc., with denying any involvement anyway whatever the case ... maybe such dragonfly wasn't even particularly practical)

Re:Really cool but... (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153178)

From the second sentence, "It was intended to be used as a platform for listening devices." There you have it, mystery solved.

Re:Really cool but... (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153334)

Well yeah, but again, unless your sibling is right about that Russian capacitance listening device being small enough (and to me the picture makes it look way to big, especially the antenna) there weren't listening devices small enough to be carried by something dragonfly sized in the '70s. At least none that I know of. I freely admit that those CIA guys are clever buggers (ha ha I made a pun) and they may have had something that would work, but given that such items are commonplace now I can't see why they wouldn't declassify it too so we could see the pieces as a package.

Re:Really cool but... (2)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153418)

I can't see why they wouldn't declassify it too

If they how you learned what you know then they'll know what else you could have learned and what you couldn't have learned that way.

Re:Really cool but... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35154310)

If they how you learned what you know then they'll know what else you could have learned and what you couldn't have learned that way.

Jesus Christ! Is that a sentence, or a one-time pad?

Re:Really cool but... (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 3 years ago | (#35156846)

If they know how you learned what you know then they'll know what else you could have learned and what you couldn't have learned that way.

Jesus Christ! Is that a sentence, or a one-time pad?

Sorry about dropping that word... Try reading it in Rumselfd's voice [youtube.com]: If they know how you learned what you know

Re:Really cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153434)

Again, you show your ignorance of technology. A tunnel diode transmitter was easily small enough, *IN 1959*. But hey, whatever. So when exactly do you think we suddenly acquired the mountain of technology we use today? 10 years ago? Twenty? It popped into existence, magically, fully formed, overnight? People were stupid before the invention of the transistor? What? I really want to know.

http://www.electricstuff.co.uk/glassadc.html

Oh look, an 8 bit ADC from 1953.

Oh look, a digital scope with GHz bandwidth and digital readout, from 1962...

http://w140.com/tekwiki/wiki/567

Re:Really cool but... (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153722)

Care to provide a link to this ultra small transmitter which would fit (with audio gathering equipment, power, and an antenna) in a dragonfly in the 70s? I'm looking at "tunnel diode transmitter" on Google and most of the stuff that's coming up doesn't look like it would fit (again with power, mic, and antenna) into a small enough space. Regardless, I never claimed to an expert on 40 year old technology, and my whole post is more a matter of curiously wondering what they were planning to do with it, not declaring that there wasn't anything they could have done. So stop being an ass.

Re:Really cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35154352)

"I never claimed to an expert on 40 year old technology,"

Yes, you did, when you said "but there wasn't even hardly a concept of digital audio or video," and "there weren't listening devices small enough to be carried by something dragonfly sized". Pretty authoritative, don't you think?

You showed astonishing ignorance of the history of technology, an inexcusable sin in an era of instant information access.

Please scroll to page 3 of this PDF

n4trb.com/AmateurRadio/SemiconductorHistory/GE_Tunnel_Diodes.pdf

Do you think that maybe given an unlimited budget, a team of two or three engineers and technicians could have hand picked (or even built) the correct tunnel diode and battery, in the 1970s? Tunnel diodes were already obsolete by 1970. I assure you that IC technology was already advanced by then. Anyways. Let's say it took months to design and build, and it only ran for 10 minutes, broadcasting a tiny, jittery signal to a white van crammed with receivers and reel to reel tape decks. That's all you need.

"So stop being an ass."
I will, as soon as you stop acting like people were morons 40 years ago and that "modern technology" popped into existence overnight from a vacuum of knuckle-dragging and slack-jawed ignorance.

I daresay that actually very little has changed in 40 years, we're just better at mass manufacturing and making smaller transistors. That's all. I go even further to say that PEOPLE changed a lot more than technology did in 40 years. I used to get beat up for being a computer nerd in the '80s. And yes, I'm too lazy to make proper URLs. That's a computer's job.

Re:Really cool but... (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154646)

there weren't listening devices small enough to be carried by something dragonfly sized in the '70s. At least none that I know of. I freely admit that those CIA guys are clever buggers (ha ha I made a pun) and they may have had something that would work

Gosh that looks an awful lot to me like I was saying that I "wasn't aware" of any. I made no authoritative claim there. Damn. Gosh you'd almost think I was hedging my bet against the fact that I was ignorant of something that would work.

I only wonder what something that small could have carried in the 70's

And there right before the first quote you take out of my post, "I wonder". Almost like I don't know and I'm, ya know, wondering. God damn. As to the "Hardly a concept of digital audio and video" I admitted I was exaggerating a bit. I *meant* the tiny digital audio devices of today that would actually fit on something this small. Yes, with enough gear you could encode and store digital audio in the 70s. It wouldn't fit on a tiny robot though.

My point was not and is not that technology popped into being, and you're right the major change in the last 40 years has been the size of transistors. Considering we're talking about something the size of a god damned insect, that's a pretty damned relevant change wouldn't you say? As others have (nicely) pointed out there are some potential devices that could have worked. That's interesting. I posted becasue I was vaguely curious and I may have learned something. Regardless of whether they planned to use something like "The Thing" it's a cool bit of tech, especially for the time. those were the kind of posts I was hoping to get. So thanks very much for being a superior asshole.

Re:Really cool but... (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35155190)

I love voluntary surveys where people click "no opinion". It is quite something to go out of your way to visit a site, or phone a number to tell them that you have no opinion.

The same with "that I am aware of". The phrase may have a place in the discourse of an expert in a particular field. For example, a renowned cancer specialist rebutting a question about Bruce Lee movies curing cancer might state "There is no evidence, that I am aware of, that watching Bruce Lee movies cures cancer".

But, in an idle chatter, it takes on quite a different meaning. Something like "I really don't have a clue but would like to participate".

Anyways, why don't you knuckle heads get back to bashing each other for our continued enjoyment...

Re:Really cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35156768)

You mistakenly drag digital and computers into this discussion, it's entirely irrelevant. Perfectly good analog solutions exist for your microphone transmitter. It's really not as hard as you think it was in the 1970s. Like I said, a custom built doohickey, maybe using tunnel diodes because they're so small and can work on low voltages, transmitting an analog signal to an analog recording suite would have been enough. Now, getting the wind noise and engine noise and wing noise out of the signal? Hmm, if only there were a bunch of smart people working on acoustics back then...

Oh yeah, BBN Technologies. You know, those guys that invented a lot of the computing we take for granted today?

"Considering we're talking about something the size of a god damned insect,"

Insects can be quite large, you're being intentionally vague. Watch the video, the thing looks HUGE. Nothing at all like the "darning needles" I kayak with in summer.

And yeah, maybe I was being a bit harsh with you, but NOTHING gets under my skin more than the whole "there was no technology back then!" thing. 40 years ago was the maiden flight of the 747, and nothing's really changed or improved on the performance of the 747. We have better, quieter engines, and better toys during the flight. But the basic technology and physical principles? Same shit.

Technology-wise, we've been stagnating since the 1960s. Refining a few things here, more medical knowledge there. But all we're doing is twiddling numbers after the decimal point.

Re:Really cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35156402)

>I used to get beat up for being a computer nerd in the '80s.

And it shows...

Re:Really cool but... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35159692)

I reckon I could have built it into eight cubic centimetres or so in 1970. And if you took the components out of their packages and had a watch/jewlry maker assemble it you could probably get it into one CC. My dad built radio controlled model aircraft in the 1950s but they were one channel and he had to build a lot of the gear himself.

Re:Really cool but... (1)

eiiiI'monslashdot (1951772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153594)

there are a lot of conspiracys theorys looking for guys like you to believe them. you can google for them, they will make your day more fun. or do you already believe some of them? ahhh i thought u didn't sorry never mind then :)

Re:Really cool but... (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153958)

..since you can build an FM transmitter with just a transistor, a few diodes, a couple of capacitors and resistors, some wire, and a condenser mic, you are quite clearly wrong about the size and weight of listening devices possible (and well documented) in the 70's...

The problem was of course power. A small enough battery wouldnt last very long.. perhaps a few hours..

A small wireless bug is pretty much step 1 for most amateur electronics hack. Its really quite simple, and even in the 70's there were books filled to the brim with instructions on how to build stuff like this. More than a few of the designs featured here [educypedia.be] are small enough.. using parts that were certainly available in the 70's from radio shack and its ilk.

Re:Really cool but... (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154820)

And a lot of the parts can be even smaller if you strip the casing with a suitable solvent...

Re:Really cool but... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35159734)

I built a two transistor FM transmitter some time in the late '80s. To test it I left it in my young sisters bed room when my mother was reading her a story. I then got into my car and drove up the road listening to the signal. Two kilometres away I decided it was working a little bit too well so I turned right back and switched it off. I still have it here for emergencies or whatever.

Re:Really cool but... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154006)

It looks perfectly within scales required on the picture, especially since its antenna (and a whip one, essentially, not anywhere near the smallest possible) is simply determined by the wavelength to which it responds. A bit shorter wavelength, much shorter (1/4) the antenna.

And whole device is perfectly close to the shape of a dragonfly, can form its structure. The few acoustic / electronic components - also easily much smaller (The Thing was built at the end of WW2!)

A lot of stuff isn't declassified (what do you think such devices were used for? And in this case, if my guess is correct, it would be largely a copy of something the godless commies did, we can't admit to doing that...)

Re:Really cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153322)

You seem to be woefully misinformed on the history of technology. In WWII there was already encrypted digital voice communication.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIGSALY
Digital recording of music was already an experimental reality in the 1960s.

http://www.1stopcdshop.com/info/historycd.cfm.htm

I mean, if you honestly believe "here wasn't even hardly a concept of digital audio or video" 40 years ago, when, in your opinion did it start?

Re:Really cool but... (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153402)

Yes, the theory for digital sound existed, forgive me for exaggerating a bit, I forgot that /. is such a literal place. It required (for the time) fairly massive amounts of computational power to encode and decode though, and small scale storage for it didn't really exist. My point was that you couldn't have fit the required computational and storage capability on such a small device unless the CIA had technology *much* more advanced than the rest of the world. Like, decades ahead.

Re:Really cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153936)

First off, back in the 80's, I came up with this interesting idea for a digital microphone. I figured a simple laser bouncing off a diaphragm would do the trick. That approach would allow for a digital voice output. Found out that something similar was developed in the 60s.
Secondly, USA had great tech pre WWII. We developed decent memory in the late 50's and early 60's. The issue was not size, BUT PRICE. Bubble memory comes to mind. However, the US military and spying is not about being economical and they have toys that will hit the market 20-30 years LATER. These days with US companies hiring Chinese, it hits the Chinese market within 1 year.

Re:Really cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35154088)

I have trouble believing that 1970's fake dragonfly actually flew. Nor does a cheesy animated rendering really do enough to convince me either. (I've seen better animation done by people screwing around with Poser or Gary's Mod for lulz.) To me the actual artifact looks like something stuck on a wall or tree and used as a clever way of hiding an antenna. Particularly when looking at the wires in the wings. As for the fish, it looks like something that would be hollowed out and used as a dead-drop in a pond or shallow river. (Not to mention it would seem less suspicious to pull that up with a fishing line than a rock.)

Now with today's technology, maybe they do have robotic dragonflies and fish with microcams and other sensors. Hell you can even buy (a somewhat large-ish) robotic dragonfly [youtube.com] of your own. So it wouldn't surprise me that they have something more advanced.

But those old ones? Pssh... Seriously doubtful.

Re:Really cool but... (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35155516)

Skip to 0:45 of the video. The live action shots start there. The video ends with a live action outdoor flight.

Re:Really cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35156456)

The Slashdot groupthink never ceases to amaze me. The delusional Space Nutter drawings of space stations, moon mining, space based solar from the 1970s are supposed to be the sacred cloth of geeks. But the same era was apparently unable to build a small motor in a dragonfly. Either the people in th'70s were complete drooling morons or prescient technological masters. It can't be both.

Oh look: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3785509.stm [bbc.co.uk]

An amateur built a small motor in his spare time in 1960... But somehow professional scientists and engineers of the era, the same era that invented modern computing, intergrated cicruits, the mouse, gigahertz sampling oscilloscopes, jet airplanes, missiles, satellites, color TV, planetary probes and a worlwide net of telephones and computers would have been stumped by a small motor, given the budget of the world's richest country.... Makes sense!

Ah yes, "today's technology", that mysterious entity that popped into existence from a vacuum ten, twenty years ago? Yes, from nothing at all!! It's a miracle! Praise Jeebus!

I, for one, welcome our new robo-squid overlords! (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154264)

Oh, come on, hasn't somebody posted something that obvious yet? In Soviet Russia, You eavesdrop on CIA!!

Re:I, for one, welcome our new robo-squid overlord (2)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154860)

Exactly.

Guess why Americans bulldozed their half-finished embassy in Moscow and rebuilt it from scratch with all-imported materials (even sand, brick and concrete) in the 80-es.

Why bother with a dragonfly if you can bake everything you need into a brick ya know...

Re:Really cool but... (1)

knarf (34928) | more than 3 years ago | (#35155252)

Maybe the intention was to use the laser reflectors on the head of the thing to create a laser microphone [wikipedia.org]? That would require no power whatsoever on the bug - but a line of sight to the laser.

Re:Really cool but... (1)

scurvyj (1158787) | more than 3 years ago | (#35156434)

I have to admit this is really cool. I only wonder what something that small could have carried in the 70's. I mean with today's near microscopic cameras, mics and storage or transmission devices, it would be able to do some half decent surveillance; but 40 years ago even smallish "bugs" were fairly decent sized items. I have trouble believing even the CIA was THAT far ahead of the technology power curve. Maybe a microfilm camera for a few still shots could be fitted onto it; but there wasn't even hardly a concept of digital audio or video, let alone high density storage to hold the data.

I quite agree, there is a large amount of FUD from the C acronym here. The listening devices they dropped in the 60s during the Vietnam war were a joke, the enemy used to collect them and put them in chosen places to send incorrect accoustic signals back to the US forces. The 'bug' is an impressive piece of engineering but its targeted goals are only just now becoming feasible.

Re:Really cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35158806)

For some reason the sentence "While its performance was impressive, difficulty controlling the tiny craft in crosswinds made it impractical" made me smile.

Re:Really cool but... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35159674)

I read once that the CIA dropped masses of little listening devices into the Vietnamese jungle as kind of a remote sensing system. I assume they monitored the system with receivers on relatively low flying aircraft.

What about the cat? (2)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153080)

The Cocaine Importation Agency also made a cat/listening device. They put a cat under, installed a bug inside of it, and put the antenna in its tail. It was supposed to wander across the street and eavesdrop on the Soviet Embassy, IIRC, and it cost a few million in research. After the surgery, the cat was a little woozy and got hit by a car immediately after release, and the program was scrapped.

Re:What about the cat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153172)

Actually, it worked fine until the cat deafened a listener by hacking up a hairball...

A win nonetheless (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153096)

It doesn't matter whether government's projects "succeed" or "fail" -- what matters is that the money passes through the hands of the elite who designed the spending process, giving them a chance to leverage it for personal gain. If you look at history, you'll see that the business of government isn't concerned nearly as much with "success" or "failure" as the size of the cash flow. There's a reason why every year government costs more and seizes more power over the people, and it's not because reckless spending is worthless to the people who actually call the shots. On the contrary, at the top of the pyramid, reckless spending is every bit as valuable to them as responsible spending.

Re:A win nonetheless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153208)

Yes, because if anything is clear, it's a global upward trend in the amount of money governments spend.

Ultimate weapon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153116)

It would be nearly impossible to protect yourself from a swam of these things if they were stalking you.
Think poison dart from the movie Dune.

And of course... (3, Interesting)

Ethanol (176321) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153158)

Those of us who are a certain age and were geeky enough to read Danny Dunn books know exactly where the CIA got this idea.

(Luckily Danny was able to destroy Professor Bullfinch's notes so the CIA wouldn't be able to replicate the much better dragonfly he'd invented, so they had to fall back on tiny, impractical gasoline engines instead.)

Re:And of course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153278)

Loved those books! I spent many hours reading the series when I was just a sprog, dreaming of the day when I too could be like Danny. Too bad that part never came around. Turned out you need to be a main character in a book before cool stuff like that just happens to you... and I wasn't one.

Re:And of course... (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153352)

Those of us who are a certain age and were geeky enough to read Danny Dunn books know exactly where the CIA got this idea.

I may not yet be an Invisible Boy [wikipedia.org], but I've got one hell of a Homework Machine [scholastic.com] these days. (Especially compared to the computers I grew up with, let alone a 1958 "Miniac" that filled an entire house :)

Re:And of course... (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153504)

Was that what it was? I would have sworn I first read about the remote-controlled dragonfly in a Hardy Boy's novel, in the '70s. But I was just a kid, so it could have easily been some other Boy Genius novel.

Re:And of course... (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153834)

Oh wow... I'd totally forgotten this. Thanks for bringing back the memory. IIRC, the DD dragonfly had sensory feedback too. There was a part where it got into somethat that was too hot, and he had to let go.

Re:And of course... (1)

ElrondHubbard (13672) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153862)

Those of us who are a certain age and were geeky enough to read Danny Dunn books know exactly where the CIA got this idea.

(Luckily Danny was able to destroy Professor Bullfinch's notes so the CIA wouldn't be able to replicate the much better dragonfly he'd invented, so they had to fall back on tiny, impractical gasoline engines instead.)

Boo, you got there first! If I couldn't post first about DD, I wish I had some moderator points so I could upvote. Just hearing the name Danny Dunn makes me feel like I'm ten years old again, curled up at Riverside Library. Ah, memories...

Re:And of course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35155722)

I was a kid in the late 80s -- and I was still reading the Danny Dunn books from my public library.

Re:And of course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35159112)

Thanks, I was about to say that! Danny Dunn and the Invisibility Machine. It also predicted VR (the professor made a helmet that would display things from the dragonflys POV, and even had 'gauntlets' that would let him feel what the 'claws' on the dragonfly felt.

That was one of my favourite books as a kid.

Really tho, it wasn't Bullfinches motor tech they were after, but his transistor tech. ;)

What's more likely? (1, Funny)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153186)

What's more likely? That some intelligent hand designed and built these? Or they evolved over hundreds of millions of years?

Re:What's more likely? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153270)

Hundreds of millions of years?
Haven't you heard, Bender says: "robots do *everything* faster"

Re:What's more likely? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153328)

The TFA was clearly written by some religious nutball who was brainwashed by his parents and can't think for himself. Seriously, who still thinks that we need some "intelligent" entity to explain the existence of robot insects? Even more ridiculous is that they can't think of a better name than "Central Intelligence Agency". Might as well call it the "Intelligent Design Agency". Sheesh. Take a second grade biology course next time. It's obvious these insects evolved their individual mechanical parts over millions of years and this "CIA" is just trying to take the credit so they can use it as a tool of fear and control.

Re:What's more likely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153872)

In this case, since it is the only one of its kind, it doesn't reproduce, and it obviously lacks the tremendous sophistication and complexity of biological organisms, this thing was built.

Not to mention Acoustic Kitty. (5, Interesting)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153216)

When listing robotic and cyborg animals from the cold war era, let's not forget poor Acoustic Kitty [wikipedia.org].

Some people might say that it was a myth, but one of the people on the project was my boss in the 1990s and he showed me a souvenir. Yes, I have held the skull of Acoustic Kitty in my hands. It had fine channels engraved in the bone so that the microphone wires would not cause bumps under the skin. The detail work was impressive, even more so when you realize that the cat lived through the operation.

My boss also told me how he was present on Acoustic Kitty's first and only mission. The poor thing was kidnapped from an ambassador's home and put through hellish surgery, including installation of batteries that were destined to kill it after a few months. Then they released it across the street so that it would walk back into the house and begin to spy on its owner. Can you blame it for jumping under the tires of a taxicab? 20 million dollars and months of work, down the drain.

My old boss is dead now. Sometimes I wonder what happened to AK's skull. It should be placed in the Smithsonian, as a visible reminder that some experiments just should not be done.

Re:Not to mention Acoustic Kitty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153354)

Is your name Steven Heck by any chance? ;)

Re:Not to mention Acoustic Kitty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153674)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnkDpG1fAbY

Re:Not to mention Acoustic Kitty. (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153758)

There is a museum in Langley, at CIA headquarters, that contains several of the robots discussed in the article. It's possible AK's skull resides there too. They have a website, but there's a lot in that museum off limits to non-CIA people, perhaps they're still embarrassed by Acoustic Kitty.

Re:Not to mention Acoustic Kitty. (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154384)

It's possible his estate gave the skull back to the CIA. All I know that in 1996 he kept the skull in his living room on a nice wooden stand.

Re:Not to mention Acoustic Kitty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153776)

Figures... Did they ever stop to think it might have been an 'indoor' cat and didn't know what a car was?

Re:Not to mention Acoustic Kitty. (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153964)

Acoustic Kitty reminds me of the extremely creepy head transplant experiments [wikipedia.org] done in the Soviet Union in the 1960's, as detailed in Mary Roach's book "Stiff" and another book called "Elephants On Acid". The latter includes pictures of an obviously functional, conscious small dog head sticking off the shoulder/neck of a larger dog, who is also obviously conscious. Really unsettling, especially when one considers that if we *really* needed to keep someone alive for what they had in their brains, we could, even if they were mostly missing a body.

Re:Not to mention Acoustic Kitty. (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35155048)

if we *really* needed to keep someone alive for what they had in their brains, we could, even if they were mostly missing a body.

Not in evidence. The fact that the dog and the body were animate in no way demonstrates that if you did it with a human they'd be in any fashion rational or coherent.

What, no armaments? (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153224)

I remember back in the 70's there was a scandal about the CIA storing deadly Hawaiian shellfish toxin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_MKNAOMI [wikipedia.org] . A drop of that stuff can kill a human, really fast. Now, imagine this dragonfly armed with some of that. Even "Q" from James Bond would stand up and applaud.

Re:What, no armaments? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35158638)

Read that particular Wikipedia page very carefully, and notice the lack of citations for key claims. Note in the discussion page that it was once almost deleted for being full of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

Robosquid you say? (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153256)

Please, don't let the Japanese hear about this...

(although Rule 34 suggests it is far too late)

Re:Entomopter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35157164)

Yes, that makes more sense.

helicopter = helix (heliko-) + pteron = "spiral/turn-around wing"
ornithopter = ornis (ornitho-) + pteron = "bird wing"
entomopter = entomon + pteron = "insect wing"

but

insectothopter = insectum + THO + pteron ... what's a "tho"?

Languages never were the CIA's forte.

In the wild, tracking anti-war protests in 2007 (5, Interesting)

metrometro (1092237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153392)

"Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too. "I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security. "

https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/08/AR2007100801434.html [washingtonpost.com]

Nothing definitive in the story, but reasonably well reported eyewitness accounts.

Re:In the wild, tracking anti-war protests in 2007 (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153544)

I remember reading something like that a few years ago, but it could have been a Wowwee Flytech Dragonfly:

http://www.wowwee.com/en/support/flytech-dragonfly [wowwee.com]

I have one myself. The wingspan is a bit over a foot and they make loud squeaky noises when they fly, but that could have been drowned out in a protest.

Re:In the wild, tracking anti-war protests in 2007 (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153850)

.Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security. "

I'm just glad they aren't using this tech for anything that would actually make anyone more secure, like improving crop yields, delivery of clean water, improving waste management, and so on. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if technology like this was deployed in any economically useful way!? It's a good thing it's being carefully restricted to the deadweight loss of the security-industrial complex!

Re:In the wild, tracking anti-war protests in 2007 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35154038)

Did all of these problems get unsolved sometime after 1970?

Re:In the wild, tracking anti-war protests in 2007 (1)

brkello (642429) | more than 3 years ago | (#35155164)

How would you know it didn't? There are tons of example of military/intelligence technology eventually making it in to consumer products that we use every day now. They have a problem they are trying to solve so they focus on that. As a side benefit, we get to use it for a different purpose years later if they were good ideas.

power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153794)

When the goals are total control and dominance, and there are infinite funds available, there are no limits to human ingenuity and cruelty.

"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - William Blum

Of course it never worked. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153826)

Yes, we tried it and gave up, heck we can't figure out how to tap phone lines, read e-mails or any of that stuff. It's just beyond us, completely.

Inspiration for Dark Tower guardians? (1)

Deagol (323173) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153948)

Seeing this article made me think of the robotic/cyborg "guardian" animals in the Dark Tower series. I wonder if this cold war stuff inspired that part of King's story?

Why so soon? (1)

sb98052 (857171) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154090)

Why are we hearing about one of the coolest pieces of technology developed in the last 30 years in a tabloidesque news bulletin? Another area that could benefit from wikileaks.

Probably a Hoax (1)

littlewink (996298) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154198)

Circa 1970 we got one of the first portable lasers in our physics lab. It weighed about 6 pounds. Prior to that the only lasers we had were built on lab benches. So the part about it being laser-controlled I seriously doubt.

Re:Probably a Hoax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35154516)

Circa 1970 we got one of the first portable lasers in our physics lab. It weighed about 6 pounds. Prior to that the only lasers we had were built on lab benches.

So the part about it being laser-controlled I seriously doubt.

The laser wasn't on the dragonfly, it just had to have some kind of way of using the laser as guidance. I don't think sensors were all that big, as transistors had taken over, but still.

The claim is they had a gas engine, a laser guidance system, wings and actuators, a microphone, and a transmitter all in a body the size of a dragonfly.

This is *classic* CIA propaganda. It's really amazing how an organization with a record of being pitifully inept can get people to think they are staffed entirely by super spies and have technology 10 years ahead of their time.

What happend after they scrapped this project? (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154436)

They sat down and started to think hard...
While staring at goats

But what about the noise? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35155068)

It seems like the "tiny gasoline engine" they used must have been a cousin to old Cox glow-plug engines that I used to fly on model airplanes. Those things howled like banshees.

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