The Japan Aerospace Exploring Agency or JAXA designed and sent aboard the International Space Station or ISS its latest camera drone, which it calls the Int-Ball. This new device became quite famous, quite fast, as, besides its utility, it is also quite adorable.
— JAXA Web (@JAXA_en) July 15, 2017
Int-Ball is now serving as a floating companion to the ISS astronauts. Besides making their day with its cuteness, it will also be considerably freeing up their time, as it will be recording videos and taking photos in their place.
Int-Ball, the little camera drone, reached the ISS last month, aboard a SpaceX cargo shipment. This was the company’s first delivery conducted by using a reused Dragon cargo capsule.
JAXA’s Camera Drone is Still in the Testing Phase
The little drone is presently operational but still undergoing its initial testing. Still, the process seems to be going well, as JAXA just published its first test footage.
The little flying bot’s full name is the JEM Internal Ball Camera. It is only 6 inches in diameter and weighs some 2.2 limbs. According to reports, it mostly manufactured using 3D printing techniques.
JAXA reports that the Int-Ball can move autonomously in the ISS. However, it can also be remotely controlled by researchers on the ground or flight controllers back on Earth. These can also relay the camera drone’s footage in real-time for the ISS astronauts. They can use it for review or follow-up.
Int-Ball can move around thanks to 12 fans with some help from some “3D Target Markers”, which were placed on the internal walls of the ISS. According to JAXA, some 10 percent of the astronauts’ working hours is spent filming or photographing.
So Int-Ball should come and offload this camera work and videography and free up their time. The little camera drone is also a test so that JAXA researchers can determine how efficient and effective floating drones can be in microgravity environments such as the ISS.
Taking care of the media footage could be just Int-Ball first tasks, as the autonomous drone may start performing other sorts of jobs. It may start operating and fetching equipment, for example. It may even go outside of the ISS. But this still remains to be determined, as the adorable bot is just in its testing phase.
JAXA is “Striving to further improve Int-Ball’s performance, enhance its functions, and promote the automation and autonomy of extra- and intra-vehicular experiments, while seeking to acquire the robotics technology available for future exploration missions.”
Image Credits: NASA JPL/JAXA