When people talk about drones, the discussion will eventually turn toward privacy concerns and safety risks. However, this technology can also be used to do a lot of good. A new Japanese spherical drone was launched to the ISS last month, providing astronauts with helpful features. Plus, it’s very cute.
New ISS Drone Is Adorable and Functional at the Same Time
Astronauts aboard the ISS were happy to welcome their new friend on board. A spherical drone designed by Japanese space agency JAXA has now taken up permanent residency aboard the ISS. The device looks pretty cute despite being only 15cm in size.
Looks are only one part of the equation, however. The main reason to put this drone aboard the ISS was to help astronauts save time so they can continue work on more important tasks. It appears this drone will be tasked with maneuvering around the ISS in zero-gravity and capturing video of day-to-day operations. It will also take pictures whenever needed. Right now, this media must be manually collected by astronauts, taking up a lot of their valuable time.
The ISS has no shortage of cameras recording everything that goes on aboard. However, manually operating these devices to snap photos and record video can take up as much as 10% of astronauts’ time. Using a drone with filming equipment on board makes a lot more sense in this regard, and it will help increase overall productivity. Plus, it has a friendly face that immediately brightens your day.
Getting a drone aboard the ISS was not an easy feat. The drone hitched a ride aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which was launched in June of 2017. Int-Ball, as this mechanical companion is named, features a three-axis control unit to orient the robot itself. Its engineers had trouble figuring out how to make the drone work in zero-G, but it worked out thanks to pink 3D marker targets.
One thing that makes the Int-Ball stand out is its two large eyes on the front. Despite what some people may assume, these are not cameras. They are merely a way to make the drone appear more friendly and appealing to humans. Plus, they help communicate which way the drone is looking at any given time. Its actual camera is located in between those eyes.
The Int-Ball streams video down to earth in real-time, allowing the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center to monitor what is going on aboard the ISS at all times. Although capturing video is already a useful feature, engineers are looking at ways to make it behave more autonomously in the future. There are also undisclosed plans on the table to make this drone more useful to the crew. A cute little helper, that Int-Ball, and one that could prove to be quite competent as well.