It may look like something out of Star Wars, but the 'Spherical Flying Machine' developed by Japan's Ministry of Defence is very much not science fiction.
Reminiscent of the Jedi training ball used to tutor Luke Skywalker's Light Saber skills in the George Lucas epics, the remotely-controlled flying ball - 42cm in diameter and weighing 350 grams - was demonstrated at the DigiInfo Expo Conference in Japan. It uses a combination of propellers and wings to hover and fly in any direction at speeds of up to 60 kilometres an hour.
The prototype was built using off-the-shelf parts for around $1,400, and it equally at home in the air or moving along walls and floors. It includes three gyroscopic sensors to control its motion, and has a camera aboard.
Sources at the Ministry of Defence say that the robot was built in order to crack the problem of vertical take-offs and landings, enabling it to operate in place that were previously inaccessible to flying craft. It's unclear as yet whether there is any plan to turn the prototype into a commercial product.
You can see the Spherical Flying Machine in action in the video below: