Aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is a passenger you’d least expect: a camera drone. Japan’s space agency has, for the first time, revealed images and videos taken from its JEM Internal Ball Camera or “Int-Ball”. The cute camera drone floats inside the space station, snapping photos and recording videos all while being remotely controlled from Earth.
Int-Ball was manufactured by 3D-printing and utilizes current drone technologies. It was delivered to the ISS on June 4th by a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. Int-Ball now resides in the “Kibo” module of the space station.
Currently, Int-Ball serves as an automatic camera to alleviate the crew’s photography work load (which amounts to 10% of their working hours). It floats inside the hull of the space station, taking and feeding photos to researchers on Earth in real-time. These photos are then sent back to the space crew for whatever use possible. At the heart of Int-Ball is a cube-like control unit which communicates with 12 positioning fans. These fans adjust the robot’s pitch, roll, and yaw motion, as well as move forward and backward. Pink rectangular markers are placed inside the space station and act as reference points for Int-Ball. The drone moves incredibly slow but can capture footage at any angle using its built-in camera.
According to The Japan Times, JAXA hopes to someday use Int-Ball for checking supplies and diagnosing problems onboard.