A miniature robotic hovercraft that can navigate in midair and take pictures independently has been built by students and researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, the Technion’s computer sciences faculty revealed last week.

The helicopter-like aircraft can serve in special missions that include surveillance and observation.

“The hovercraft can enter a building via the window, do its work and exit,” says Prof. Ehud Rivlin, who headed the project and whose students contributed by processing data and performing computerized vision.

The vehicle’s sensors enable it to identify barriers and prevent crashes, preserve altitude and keep its bearings in different environments using a three-dimensional map, Rivlin says.

A Pocket PC that fits in the palm of a hand boosts the craft’s ability to process data, adds Arel Uziel, a Technion computer graduate who was a member of the development team.

The computer controls the craft using a box on the platform that is responsible for steering. Thus it has wireless communications with the base station to receive flight instructions, broadcast its location and transfer photos while using the computation and communication abilities of the Pocket PC,” Uziel explains.