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Photo of Pointer
  Engineer Paul Trist launches the Pointer surveillance plane.

It's the papparazzi's dream come true - a tiny plane capable of taking pictures from a bird's eye view - portable, remote controlled and able to be launched and flown by amateurs.

In "Eyes in the Sky," Paul MacCready demonstrates two of these remarkable innovations, the nine-pound, nine-foot collapsible Pointer and the tiny two-ounce, six-inch Black Widow.

Photo of black widow
The tiny Black Widow weighs no more than a slice of bread.  

To demonstrate just how little training one needs to operate the Pointer, MacCready lets Alan take the controls of the spy plane. Granted, it's the last flight of the day, but after just a few words of instruction, Alan gets the hang of it.

Naturally, such a stealthy pair of flying eyes sparked the interest of the military, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency began funding the development of spy planes even smaller than the Pointer.

Matt Keennon designed the Black Widow, which fits in one hand and weighs just a few ounces.As Alan learns from Carlos Miralles, battery powered and disposable, planes like the Pointer and the Black Widow have more than just military applications: versions of these eyes in the sky might one day be used to photograph the deep canyons and valleys of Mars.

For more on this topic, see the web feature:
Mars Flyer

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