Tech | July 18, 2017 5:00 am

Japanese Camera Drone Helps Space Station Astronauts

Flight controllers on Earth receive a real-time video feed from the robot.

camera drone on the ISS
Int-Ball is the Japanese camera drone helping astronauts on the ISS. (JAXA)

Japan is giving the world a first look at the grapefruit-sized robot assisting scientists on the International Space Station. Internal Ball Camera, or Int-Ball, provides scientists on the ground updates in real-time, which can be fed back to the ISS crew.

The camera drone helps with experiments by letting flight controllers at Japan’s space agency JAXA see inside the space station from their astronaut’s point of view. According to TIME, Int-Ball can cut down the time spent by as much as ten percent.

Made with 3D-printed parts, the Japanese bot weighs 2.2 pounds. Using its 12 propellers, it can fly in any direction. Int-Ball’s camera allows it to record from all angles as well.

With its glowing blue eyes, it resembles a Pixar character more than a handy robot. It’s been assisting astronauts with their mission since it was delivered to the ISS in June. JAXA says it’s planning to develop a software update that allows the Int-Ball to check supplies diagnose problems onboard the ISS.