back to article DARPA orders 'Katana' monoblade nano-copter

Famed Pentagon crazytech bureau DARPA has handed out half a million greenbacks to buy a tiny one-bladed robot helicopter slightly bigger than a coin, dubbed "Katana" and apparently intended for "indoor military missions". DARPA - renowned for being of the dungeon laboratory school of science rather than the ivory tower one - …


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  1. Ian K

    Now that's what I call beancounting

    "awarding $546,076"...because they've costed it, and while $546,075 clearly wouldn't be enough, $546,077 would just be profligate.

    We need these finance people for the FSA!

  2. Adrian Miller
    Thumb Down

    Nano-prefix overload

    Nanocopter? "Slighty bigger than a coin" is not nano by a long way!

  3. Schultz

    It won't fly

    But the dollar bills might be folded just right to get some 100 yards or so.

  4. David Evans
    Black Helicopters

    I see a new business opportunity...

    ...big fuckoff nets over buildings. Can you imagine the impact of these things once they get civilianised? A paparazzi's dream, never mind all the nefarious uses our wonderful police forces will dream up. I look forward to the first court case for damages when some C-List celeb is smacked in the face by a badly piloted nanocopter.

  5. Peter Ford
    Black Helicopters

    re: Nano-prefix overload

    Agreed. Given that (for example) a Merlin (EH101) - a fair-sized helicopter - has a main rotor 18.6m in diameter, and (for eample) a UK 5p - a small coin - is 18mm in diameter, then "milli" seems like the appropriate prefix. This baby is about 1000th the size of a helicopter.

    Of course, if you then scale all three dimensions by 1/1000 you get a billionth of the *volume* (in the same way that a millilitre is 1000th of a litre, but a cube occupying a millilitre is 10mm on a side, while a cube of 1litre is 100mm on each side), so perhaps "nano" is remarkably accurate...

    Helicopter icon, because that's about actual size for the Katana

  6. Cameron Colley

    Strange name...

    ... for something so small -- wouldn't Tanto be more appropriate?

  7. Nicholas Ettel


    "*In old-time Japan the Katana was the long sword of the Samurai warrior, of course."

    Incorrect. Or, at least, partially inaccurate.

    The Katana was the standard sword (and almost always paired with an identical wakizashi/short sword)used by Samurai, correct, but it was not a long sword. The Japanese longsword is the nodachi, but was mainly an infantry/field weapon (and not used often anyway as it was far more difficult to forge, required significantly more strength and dexterity to wield, and was at least equally matched in capability by the naginata and nagamaki).

    So, yes it was the sword most commonly identified with Samurai, but it was not a long sword.

  8. Peyton

    @Nano-prefix overload

    The definition of nano was changed after the release of a product from a company named Apple - please update your dictionaries.

    @Katana - If a samurai has only two swords, and the wakizashi is his short sword, then the katana, by process of elimination, is the samurai's long sword. ^_^

  9. Ron Christian


    When can I buy one on ThinkGeek?

  10. Mister_C

    @ Peter Ford

    "Helicopter icon, because that's about actual size for the Katana"

    What size monitor have you got?

    OK. I'm sorry. Its Friday and I'm nearly on holiday

  11. Anonymous Coward

    @Cameron Colley

    Erm, wasn't Tanto the Lone Ranger's friend?

    @Peyton - You forgot your pedant icon. ^__^;;

    Anyway, darpa can't spend those tax dollars fast enough to stimulate the economy... :-(

  12. Chris
    Thumb Up

    At Last!

    For the Dune fans out there, Knife Missiles!

  13. Jonathan McColl
    Black Helicopters

    Nano is fine

    18m -> 18mm in length, but we're talking *volume* here, so it could be milli-milli-milli, ie nano!

  14. Oli Beaumont
    Black Helicopters

    Does anyone know

    Where I can get one of those for my PSP? I think I need one and I'm sure I'll be able to come up with a persuasive argument in time.

  15. Tim

    Awsome Payload

    No doubt the "Katana" monoblade nano-copter's missiles will strike fear in the hearts of the peoples of Lilliput and Blefuscu.

  16. lIsRT

    @ David Evans

    You think they will be in danger of hitting the celebs' *faces*?

    Given the interests of the paparazzi, I suspect the first incident will involve one of them flying too fast in the upskirtwards direction outside a club.

    El Reg - please replace the icon radio buttons with checkboxes, I should be able to have Paris + black helicopter as well for this one.

  17. ratfox

    one blade??

    There are good physical reasons why copters usually have three blades, not one... and even not two.

    Unless they mean many blades which are part of one bloc?

  18. Andus McCoatover

    Sure I had something similar as a kid..

    Triple-bladed disk, sat on a stick, with a hefty pull it'd fly about 50-75 metres.

    Got 'em from (sob) Woolies at about a quid a throw. No propane, so little carbon footprint. Some methane, when I fouled my pants as a car ran over it...

    Slap a nano-camera and transmitter on it - winner!

    Hope the manufacturers aren't looking to patent this - the one I had surely qualifies as "prior art", as does a sycamore seed.

  19. ShaggyDoggy


    I for one welcome our nano chopper psp overlords

  20. Anonymous Coward


    See, I thought that said "Katona", presuming it was named because of the way it would fly (all over the friggin' shop!).

    The one with the Iceland sausage rolls in the pocket.

  21. James

    Am i missing something?

    Why the F*ck give it one blade?

    Diagrammatically: ---() (the brackets being the helicopter and the hyphens the blades) as opposed to ---()--- ??????

    Surely it would be much more manouverable/cheap/quiet/efficient/better?

  22. Martin Usher
    Black Helicopters

    All that glitters....

    A local UAV company has built a rather neat tactical tool in the form of a small electric plane (about 18" wingspan) that carries a bomb designed to take out annoying infantry positions. Its flown from a hand-held controller that's a bit like a PSP. A nice idea except for two things...

    -- It might give the wrong people the wrong ideas

    -- Flying a model plane using this kind of link is really difficult. They have hired a prominent local modeler to try to train people but I don't know how successful he'll be. The plane will really need some serious smarts (and guidance kit) to be controllable which might make it a bit expensive for everyday use (and the extra kit detracts from the payload).

    So we'll have a fun micro-heli to play with. I'll get out my fly-swatter.

  23. SkippyBing

    @ one blade

    You may want to let Bell know that most of their products are defective only having two blades.

    I'm guessing it's some sort of sycamore seed style arrangement like this:-

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ one blade?

    Please read the article before commenting - these machines are based on the design of certain seeds which fly very effectively with only one blade.

  25. Rich

    Range of 80's Suzuki motorcycles

    Katana was used for Suzuki's "futuristic" range of high-end bikes in the 80's:

  26. Rob Haswell


    Question - does any of this stuff work in anything over a light breeze?

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