A Closer Look at the CIA’s Secret Insectohopter, A 1970s Robot Dragonfly Spy

The CIA is known for their secretive spy gear, not quite as sexy as James Bond, but definitely full of listening devices and other sleuthful technology. Some of it is overblown Hollywood nonsense, but some is actually even more impressive than we could have imagined.

Take this ‘Insectohopter’ from the Cold War era, meant to look like a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) dragonfly. It takes an exceptionally close look to realize this was a flying robot and not an insect. It’s a highly advanced design for the era, capable of flying close to a target’s window, using retroreflector beads to transmit vibrations into sound.


The miniaturization may seem commonplace today, but fifty years ago, it was cutting-edge to create a mechanical flier so small and light, equipping it with sophisticated listening technology that we barely even understand.

Popular Mechanics takes a deeper look at these unclassified documents, showcasing just how clever and creative the team who built the dragonfly were.