Wales-based aerospace and defence technology firm Torquing Group has developed an incredibly intelligent, autonomous flying helicopter drone that is surprisingly so small it can fit into the palm of your hand.

The Zano smartphone app, which lets the user see and adjust what the drone's camera is looking at
The Zano smartphone app, which lets the user see and adjust what the drone's camera is looking at Torquing Group

Zano is a quadcopter nano drone now on Kickstarter that measures just 6.5cm x 6.5cm.

It can be controlled by a smartphone app to hover in the air from a great height to take selfies and capture HD videos, for example if the user wants to capture himself performing extreme sports like diving from a cliff or skiing down a mountain.

The tiny drone is autonomous and runs on a Wi-Fi signal, but it can only travel a maximum distance of 15-25m away from the user, depending on the smartphone, and will land or come back to your last known position if it gets out of range.

Helicopter drones have become quite popular in the last 12 months and there are now a plethora of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that can be purchased off the shelf by enthusiasts from places like Amazon for between £100-£300.

The drones, which come with onboard cameras, GPS and a host of fancy sensors, are usually quite large, measuring at least 43.2cm x 43.2cm, and there are huge debates worldwide about building a proper air traffic control system for commercial UAVS and software to universally control them.

The rise of the nano drones

However, there is now a new trend coming up in nano drones – ie drones that are much smaller, although, at the moment, most of them are toys designed for children or still in development.

Torquing Group says that it is the first company in the world to make nano drones that are autonomous and intelligent, and doesn't feel that drones need to be as big as the typical commercial quadcopter UAVs of today.

"We've spotted a niche in the market, which is nano drones, and we think that the uses for this are exponential," Torquing Group's head of marketing Reece Crowther told IBTimes UK.

"You can fit a whole bunch more technology into something smaller. Our system is scalable. We could make a drone that's 10m x 10m [tall]. The difference is in making the technology small."

Crowther said that the reason that most drones are so big today is that drone makers haven't been able to streamline their software to make all the different sensors work together at the same time.

"The intelligence is in the firmware – we're able to get all the sonar, biometric sensors, infrared camera, GPS to operate in seamless cohesion using data-fusing algorithms," he said.

"Everyone else in the world hasn't been able to streamline their data-fusing algorithms. They're not thinking about it correctly."

Although Zano hasn't yet been launched, Torquing Group says it has already had huge interest from law enforcement agencies and governments globally.

Nano drones for military and law enforcement

In fact, Zano is considered to be a "consumer product", and even more advanced nano drones – such as Swift and Sparrow – are being developed with more sensors to be used by the military, law enforcement and commercial use, for example to monitor agriculture.

The firm also envisions a world where policemen have nano drones attached to their belts that can be activated instantly during situations.

"They want the nano drones for reconnaissance. Prevention is always the best cure. The more information you have from surveillance, the faster you can save lives," said Crowther.

"Even national parks are asking us for these things. You can throw up these drones in an emergency, for example if people were to get lost, and you get immediate situational awareness rather than using a helicopter or going on foot, which can take hours."

Torquing Group launched its Kickstarter campaign on Monday (24 November) and has already had 482 backers pledge £77,155 ($121,794) within 48 hours, out of the £125,000 goal it hopes to achieve.

Zano is expected to retail from £169.95 once it is launched next year, but backers can get the drone at a discount by pledging at least £139.