Those Dragonflies You See Might Actually Be Spies for the CIA


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The CIA developed a small espionage drone back in the 1970s that resembled a dragonfly. Now that it is on display, viewers are truly impressed by how realistic the tiny spy looks.

According to Business Insider, the drone was called an “Insectothopter,” and was used as a discreet way of recording and collecting audio intelligence.

The ahead-of-its-time drone is now on display at CIA Museum in Langley, Virginia, and is an object of intrigue to everyone who comes to view the exhibit. Because of security considerations, only a select few are able to personally visit the museum to gaze at the spy tech of the past.

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“Its five galleries are hidden from public view, accessible only to CIA employees and special guests who’ve been granted security clearance,” Slate reported. “In these rooms lie artifacts from decades of espionage dating back to World War II, when the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), was established.”

But in the digital world, physical presence is no longer required. The has made some of its considerable collection available for online viewing.

The Insectothopter was one of the agency’s tiniest spies, measuring in at just 2.3 inches long and weighing only one gram. According to the CIA, it was created to, “prove the concept of such miniaturized platforms for intelligence collection” was possible.

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“A tiny, gas-powered engine crammed into the insectothopter’s thorax moved the wings up and down, giving the tiny drone height and thrust. A laser beam, according to the CIA’s insectothopter video, ‘provided guidance and acted as the data link for the audio sensor payload,'” Atlas Obscura explained.

I mean, how cool is it that a dragonfly had a laser beam on its head?!

The technology was created with help from a watchmaker and during the test flights the drones had an impressive range of about 650-feet, but had a flight time of only 60 seconds.

According to multiple outlets, the project was eventually canceled and the dragonfly drones were decommissioned after they proved to be too susceptible to crosswinds in the field.

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This project, however, opened the door to many more spy drones based on animals. Another one on display at the museum is known as Charlie. Charlie was a robotic fish with a communication system built into its belly, and was able to operate unmanned and underwater.

According to the CIA, Charlie’s capabilities included, “speed, endurance, maneuverability, depth control, navigational accuracy,” and most freaky of all, “autonomy.”

Add Charlie and the Insectothopter to the fact that the CIA used to use camera-mounted pigeons, and you’ll see why the museum is such a hit with the few visitors who are allowed in.

But considering the engineering advances that have taken place since the 1970s in the fields of robotics, miniature devices and cameras, it is a little disconcerting to consider the possibility that innocent-appearing dragonflies you see, or even fish underwater, could be spies for the CIA.

Talk about thinking outside the box!

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