In the middle of June 2015, a U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter took off from an air base in Alaska and flew over a military training range at 430 miles per hour. On command, something burst from the fighter’s flare dispenser — a drone roughly the size of a soda can and weighing just one pound.
The tiny, orange- and black-colored robot fluttered toward the ground trailing a parachute. After a few seconds, the ‘chute separated from the drone, the robot’s wings — which had folded into the body for compactness — extended outward. An inch-wide propeller began spinning, propelling the diminutive machine forward.