Japan’s space agency has an adorable ball-shaped camera that looks like something from Wall-E, and it is live on the International Space Station right now. The camera, which is called Int-Ball, comes from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and it qualifies as a camera drone of sorts. Despite its location in space, operators can control this camera drone from Earth.
The robotic camera drone is controlled by Japan’s Tsukuba Space Center; it is capable of operating autonomously, as well, while recording video and snapping still photos. Both researchers and flight controllers have real-time access to the videos and images, and they can also be shuttled to the crew currently onboard the International Space Station.
The name Int-Ball is short for Internal Ball Camera, and for the first time its content has been made available for anyone to watch. The video above shows video taken with the spherical camera drone, as well as imagery of it in action aboard the space station. JAXA has many goals related to this drone, one of which is totally freeing crew members from photographic duties, the end goal there being the reclamation of about 10-percent of the team’s working hours.
Another Int-Ball objective is enabling researchers and flight controllers on the ground to visually assess the crew’s work in space from the same viewpoint, allowing for better cooperation between space and ground teams in what JAXA calls an ‘effective cooperative’ effort. This will, in particular, help increase the results gathered from the agency’s Kibo utilization experiments.
Though the camera drone is quite capable at the moment, JAXA wants to see improvements to the ball’s performance, as well as the addition of more functions. Int-Ball can help meet the objective of adding automation to both intra-and-extra vehicular experiments, too. Future exploration missions, whatever they may be, could also benefit from this technology.