The astronauts aboard the International Space Station have a lot to do 400 kilometers above our heads, whether it’s growing flowers, playing pong with water, or doing more serious genetics research and experiments. They’ve got plenty of high-tech tools to do their science, and now they’ve added another impressive (and super cute) one to their arsenal: a spherical camera drone known as the “Int-Ball” (via Engadget).Created by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Int-Ball is 15 centimeters in diameter and transfers images back to Earth in (almost) real-time, so JAXA staff can respond to problems quickly. Int-Ball can also move either autonomously or under the control of operators back on Earth, which could end up being a big time-saver for astronauts aboard the ISS. JAXA says that astronauts spend about ten percent of their time up there with a camera in their hand, so having a floating camera around that can do a lot of that work by itself could be huge.
Int-Ball moves around in zero gravity thanks to its three-axis control unit, which works with 12 fans on the robot’s surface to adjust its position as necessary. It has a navigation camera that looks for pink “3D target makers” reference points on the ship, and the recording camera is between its big, adorable “eyes” so it’s easy to tell what Int-Ball is actually looking at.
Int-Ball has been on the ISS since June 4, and while JAXA is working on making the ball more effective as an autonomous unit, it seems like it’s off to a pretty solid start. Check out the videos throughout this post, and let us know in the comments below what other potential benefits Int-Ball could provide.
Featured image: NASA/JAXA