A miniature robotic hovercraft that can navigate in midair and take pictures independently has been built by students and researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. The helicopter-like aircraft can serve in special missions, including surveillance and observation. Its existence was disclosed Monday in the Technion's computer sciences faculty newsletter, Homepage. "The hovercraft can enter a building via the window, do its work and exit," said Prof. Ehud Rivlin, who headed the project and whose students contributed by processing data and performing computerized vision. Using sensors added to the vehicle, the developers were able to help it identify barriers and prevent crashes, preserve altitude and keep its bearings in different environments using a three-dimensional map, Rivlin said. At this stage, the camera is installed on the belly of the hovercraft, but the researchers are working on adding another camera that will make it possible to capture images 360 degrees around. A Pocket PC that fits in the palm of one's hand was also added to boost the craft's ability to process data, said Arel Uziel, a Technion computer graduate who was a member of the development team. "The computer controls the craft using a box on the platform that is responsible for steering. Thus it has wireless communications with the base station to receive flight instructions, broadcast its location and transfer photos while using the computation and communication abilities of the Pocket PC," said Uziel. Other leaders in the project were Prof. Pinhas Gurfil of the aeronautical engineering and space faculty, lab engineer for intelligent systems Ronen Keidar and hardware engineer Sergei Danilean. The project was funded by the Dvora Foundation and the Technion's autonomous systems center.