The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has begun testing a spherical drone about the size of a grapefruit in Japan’s Kibo science module at the International Space Station.
Aboard the ISS, astronauts take videos of their work and experiments and send them back to Earth. Preparing for and making the recordings is said take up 10 percent of the astronauts’ working hours.
The Int-Ball drone is designed to take over the video-making duties.
With a diameter of 15 cm and 12 small propellers, the Int-Ball can move in any direction and take both still and moving images with a high-resolution camera. The 1-kg drone also employs ultrasonic sensors, an image-based navigation camera and inertial sensors to make accurate movements, JAXA said.
After testing is complete, JAXA plans to deliver an improved drone next year with an automatic power-charging function that it hopes will completely free the ISS crew from its recording duties.
In the future, the drone will be upgraded so it can check on the space station’s supplies and help diagnose onboard problems, JAXA added.