The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released images and footage taken by the new JEM Internal Ball Camera (Int-Ball), a camera drone that can be used in space and controlled from the ground. The interior and exterior structures were all 3D printed.
Looking like a cross between Star Wars droid BB-8 and one of those deadly flying spheres from the Phantasm movies, the Int-Ball arrived at the International Space Station via the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft in June.
The camera can move autonomously in the space station, while staff at the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center also remote control it. The images/video can be checked by flight controllers and researchers on the ground and then sent back to the crew of the space station.
The camera is meant to help eliminate the need for the crew of the space station to record their own video and pictures. (According to JAXA, photography takes up about 10 percent of the crew’s time.) The creators hope it will be able to move anywhere autonomously and record images from any angle.
Staff on Earth can then check the crew’s work via images taken from the viewpoint of the people on the space station. The tests conducted on the ISS will help further improve the Int-Ball’s performance and promote more automation of the experiments conducted in the Japanese Kibo module.
The 1kg device was built with existing drone technology and features 12 propulsion fans to help push it in any direction. It includes inertial and ultrasonic sensors, image-based navigation, and a high-resolution camera.
Once the tests are complete, an updated camera drone will arrive at the ISS in 2018.
You can see the camera (which the Internet seems to universally agree is either “cute” or “adorable”) in action in the video below.