What could be one of the cutest drones in existence is doing a serious job, taking pictures and videos on the International Space Station (ISS.)
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released images and video taken by the JEM Internal Ball Camera (the Int-Ball.) Int-Ball is the first camera drone that can record video while moving in space, controlled remotely from the ground.
The Int-Ball is designed to take over the task of photography and videography from the crew, which JAXA says currently requires about 10% of the crew’s working hours. Controlled by staff at the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, the Int-Ball allows flight controllers and researchers on the ground to follow what the space station crew is doing from the crew’s point of view.
“The camera can move autonomously in space and record still and moving images under remote control by the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center,” says the JAXA release. “..The recorded images and videos can be checked in real time by flight controllers and researchers on the ground, and then be fed back to the onboard crew.”
“The camera adopts existing drone technology and its exterior and inner structures were all manufactured by 3D-printing.”
The Int-Ball team hopes to improve the drone’s functionality and prove it’s worth for use in future exploration missions. The drone makes use of this miniaturization technology to achieve major functionality in a small and lightweight satellite.
The International Space Station is a joint venture between space agencies in the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe space. The three astronauts currently on board are Americans Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, and Russian commander Fyodor Yurchikhin.