Are miniature drones with flapping wings really practical?

The U.S. military has turned to biology for inspiration in the manufacturing of smaller and quieter unmanned aircraft machines through the study of such creatures as bats, insects and owls, but the chief problem so far is how to provide enough battery power to keep tiny, wing-flapping unmanned aerial vehicles aloft for more than a few minutes, reports Katie Drummond at Wired's Danger Room blog.

Aerovironment's 19-ounce Hummingbird, for example, is able to fly forwards and backwards, hover in mid-air and zip through doorways and other passages, but can stay aloft only for eight minutes at a time, the blog said.

Researchers are hard at work trying to figure out how to extend the flight time of the Hummingbird and other tiny-winged drones. Meanwhile, the Army plans to take winged UAV research to the next level when it opens next year at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., a wind tunnel in which to refine the winged airborne machines.

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