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Flying orb can slip through windows, snap pics

Eight-winged Japanese sphere can fly up to 40 mph, enter buildings, and do rolling landings.

Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

We've seen different flying robots in recent months, but none is as easy to kick around as this orb under development by Japan's Ministry of Defense.

It's remarkable not only for its spherical frame, which allows it to bump into walls and perform rolling landings without damaging itself (as seen in the TV Tokyo vid below), but also for the fact that it cost only $1,000 to create.

Developed by the ministry's Technical Research and Development Institute, the machine is also unusual in that military robots are almost culturally taboo in Japan. The sphere, however, is designed to carry a camera, not weapons.

It's also one of the only flying spherical robots in the world, according to the ministry. Apart from that Death Star torture droid.

With a top speed of about 40 mph, the remote-controlled machine flies on a single propeller and eight wings. It can navigate through windows, inside buildings, and even in narrow spaces.

Wind only has a limited effect on the orb, according to the institute official in the vid. It took about a year and a half to create, and most parts were sourced off the shelf in Akihabara, Tokyo's electronics district.

The institute is working to give it autonomous navigation, and says it could be used to enter buildings in disasters, or be used by police.

It's a bit of a scary concept, but when it's presented with that "Top Gun" theme, who can object?

(Via IEEE Spectrum)