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Hovering drones could act as stealthy spies in cities or buildings — if only they didn't sound like flying lawnmowers. A newly-funded U.S. project aims to fix that flaw by creating quiet drones that can take off or land vertically.

The Great Horned Owl program under the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) takes its inspiration from the predator's ability to fly and hunt silently by night. It awarded a $4.8 million contract to the firm D-Star Engineering to begin making that vision a reality, according to Aviation Week 's Ares defense blog.

Success depends on developing the right power source — batteries make for quiet drones, but don't have enough juice to get military reconnaissance or intelligence-gathering jobs done. The IARPA project aims to bypass that problem by making hybrid electric systems that can run on gas or diesel without noisy gearboxes.

Source: Aviation Week via Wired

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