World's tiniest copter unveiled

Japan's top ink-jet printer maker Seiko Epson has unveiled the world's lightest and smallest robot helicopter which it hopes will be used as a "flying camera" capable of operating during natural disasters.

    The helicopter weighs just 10 grams

    The Micro Flying Robot was shown off at the biennial 2003 International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo.


    "The robot has a camera and can fly into dangerous areas or areas hit by disasters in place of human beings. In a word, it functions as an eye," said Junji Ajioka, manager of Seiko Epson's strategic business development division.


    "For example, the robot can enter a house flattened by an earthquake and check if anybody is trapped inside," he said.




    The prototype four-legged robot weighs just 10 grams and measures 70 mm in height. It can be operated by remote control but, at present, it must be powered via

    a 1.5-metre-long cable connected to an electric generator.


    It took Seiko Epson three years to develop the Micro Flying Robot, Ajioka said while declining to give financial details


    "The robot can enter a house flattened by an earthquake and check if anybody is trapped inside"

    Junji Ajioka,
    manager, strategic business development section, Seiko Epson

    The company hopes the robot will eventually fly independently using an onboard battery but so far has been unable to find a suitably lightweight battery.


    "That's why we showed this robot at the exhibition. We want to attract battery makers who can manufacture a very light battery for us," Ajioka said, adding the company had yet to set a date for marketing the robot.


    The Tokyo exhibition is held every two years and runs for four days starting Wednesday. There is a record of 117 corporate participants and 27 organisations.


    The previous exhibition attracted nearly 100,000 visitors, according to the organisers.



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