This Japanese space drone is taking pictures of the International Space Station

On Earth, drones are becoming quite a nuisance. They make loud, shrill noises, they’re a threat to planes, and in some cases they’ve even been used for highly illegal activities. Drones are everywhere – but now they’re in space, too.

Japan’s space agency (JSA) has just released some candid videos and shots from the ISS, but they haven’t been taken by an astronaut photographer. Instead, they’ve been taken by this charming space drone.

The official name for the rather cute looking robot is the “Internal Ball Camera” drone, and it was sent specifically to document missions in zero G. The Int Ball can fly autonomously around the spaceship and, as you’d expect, it’s almost entirely made using 3D printing.

It may look cute, and it might take pictures, but the Int Ball is actually playing a huge role in the mission, and is probably a glimpse into the future of space travel, too. The JSA says the presence of ball camera means the crew doesn’t need to conduct mission photography anymore – something that usually takes up a massive 10% of their time.

What’s more, the Int Ball also allows people on the ground to check and review the crew’s work – essentially giving the mission an extra pair of eyes and ears.

The Int Ball might be quite primitive right now, but it’s likely to be the first of many robots sent to space. The JSA says it’s looking to further improve the the Int Ball “while seeking to acquire the robotics technology available for future exploration missions.” 

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