Posts Tagged ‘birds of war’

Hummingbirds and War

August 9, 2011

Rufous Hummingbird -Photo by Tom Spross. Used with Permission(we hope).

Throughout human history animals have been unwittingly – and probably unwillingly – used as weapons of war. Hannibal crossed the Alps on elephants to attack the Roman Empire; pigs were used to frighten the elephants; mules were used as recently as WWII as military transport; camels are still used in desert regions to this day; since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, dogs have been used to kill opponents, sniff out hidden threats, blow up tanks, and carry messages; monkeys have blown themselves up in the service of mankind’s wars; and, of course, horses have carried people into combat since the invention of stirrups. Nor have sea-dwelling animals escaped warfare duties. Dolphins and sea lions are used as sentries and mine-detectors and the U.S. Navy and probably others research dolphins and whales to improve submarine propulsion and sonar.

Flying animals have not escaped either. In the Spanish Civil War pilots used turkeys to fly fragile supplies to gentle landings; bats have carried small incendiary bombs; and pigeons have carried military messages for centuries.

Hummingbirds had, until now, escaped military service.

But in what is a major feat of engineering, a hummingbird robotic spy-drone exists. It’s a fake hummingbird with a video camera in its throat. Apparently it can stay aloft for as long as ten minutes, allowing it to fly to a target and send video back to troops. It flies, hovers, and lands pretty much like the real thing.

And, based on the YouTube segments, the thing even resembles real hummingbirds.

(Better video is here but you have to sit through a commercial first.)

So, we have a question. The Pentagon has spent $4,000,000 dollars on this bird but the United States is not currently at war with any Western Hemisphere nation which is the only place hummingbirds live. Don’t you suppose a Taliban terrorist in Afghanistan might be suspicious when a bird he’s never seen shows up in his back yard and stares at him?

Perhaps the Pentagon relies on terrorists not being birders?

Aztecs would see this development as perfectly natural: They believed that hummingbirds were the souls of departed Aztec warriors. But we suggest you flee if you ever see a hummingbird drone in your backyard.


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