Emerging Technologies

NASA is testing a ‘hive’ of drones to monitor the weather

Drones fly and spray water during an operation to reduce air pollution near the Giant Swing and Wat Suthat in Bangkok, Thailand, January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha - RC1221E23520

The 'hive' releases 25 mini drones. Image: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Dan Robitzski
Journalist, Futurism
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Emerging Technologies?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Drones is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:


NASA just tested an insect-inspired swarm of drones — a host “hive” drone, each carrying 25 little “CICADAS” that detach from its underbelly to fly around and learn about the weather and atmospheric conditions.

Each little CICADA, per a video of a test flight shared by NASA on Thursday, is equipped with air pressure, wind speed, and temperature sensors, which activate as the tiny drones glide to the ground like confetti, steering themselves in circles as they catch drafts of wind — and heralding progress toward ubiquitous drone swarms that collect data as they fill the skies.


Benign applications

The CICADA, which stands for “Close-in Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft,” was built by the U.S. Navy for purposes slightly more aggressive purposes than monitoring the weather, according to CNET.

“Cicada is a concept for a low-cost, GPS-guided, micro disposable air vehicle that can be deployed in large numbers to ‘seed’ an area with miniature electronic payload,” reads the Navy’s description of the CICADA, which goes on to describe them as tactical, flying circuit boards.

For now, we’ll settle for the little bugbots telling us how windy it is outside.

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How to develop creative talent for a sustainable and AI-driven future

Chun Yin Mak

June 18, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum