Insectothopter: The bug-carrying bug

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 20, 2020, 01.24 AM(IST) Written By: Praphul Singh

Image courtesy: CIA Photograph:( Others )

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Declassified CIA files reveal how the CIA designed a Robot Dragonfly Spy-Insectothopter back in the 1970s.

Newly-released documents of America's Central Intelligence Agency documents revealed how Insectothopter, first micro UAV flight of an insect-seized vehicle, was developed in the 1970s.

According to the declassified files, Insectothopter, a tiny aerial surveillance device, had a miniature engine to move wings up and down. 


Documents also revealed how flight tests were impressive for a laser-guided flight of 200 meters for 1 minute. But, control in crosswinds was too difficult as the wing was "much too high and the stability, guidance, and control seemed impossible", thus making it susceptible to crosswinds.


The description of Insectothopter said that the vehicle is a fluttering wing, miniature drone, which had limited flight characteristics. The design was intended to be insect-like in appearance when casually observed. 

It was also considered to be handy for audio operations and had a range of up to 200 meters, which could be launched through a roof, window or even a moving vehicle.

The Insectothopter was tested in free-flight and wind tunnel tests and was a success in "controlled-environment" lab tests. Though the ultimate demonstration of controlled powered flight was not achieved.

Even though the project at the end was evaluated as "excellent", Insectothopter never came into use for the CIA due to the lack of support from potential users. The additional research funds required to meet the final intelligence objective was also larger than expected.

Hence, it never made its debut for the coveted Intelligence Agency, CIA.