The insectothopter was never actually used in the field, but it is just so interesting and ingenious, it is worth having a closer look. While the naming of it sounds a bit hokey, this is its official designation by the CIA. The agency says that it developed the insectothopter in the ’70s as a way of transporting a listening device covertly disguised as a dragonfly. The initial plan was for a bumblebee, but the agency found that bee flight patterns were too erratic, so the dragonfly replaced it. It was driven by a tiny fluidic oscillator, and gained additional thrust from the expulsion of the gas from the motor. It relied on a laser in the rear for guidance, as well as relaying the listening device data. The agency has a video of it in action on its website and, while it did work, crosswinds could too easily throw it off course, and it was shelved.
While the CIA did create this tiny UAV, it never saw service. Interestingly, in the ’90s, Russian intelligence attempted to make a copy. The Spy Museum’s website shows several pictures of it. Clearly, the Russians copied the idea, but were less successful in its camouflage, as its look is distinctly mechanical, and constructed of clear acrylic and metal.