It sounds like a James Bond plot: a soldier pulls a cigarette from its packet, throws it in the air, and it flies off on a spying mission.
But that screenplay was written by US defence research agency DARPA, which is paying researchers at Oklahoma State University to make it happen. A number of blogs reported on the research, so I thought I'd get the story straight from Jamey Jacob, the engineer leading the project.
Using plasma to control the airflow over an aircraft's surface is an idea that began with Soviet researchers but has grabbed the attention of engineers the world over, as we've reported before.
Splitting air into a plasma of high-energy ions can divert and even generate flows of air. One possibility this raises is for the aerilons and other control surfaces on an aircraft to be replaced with 'plasma actuators' that don't require moving parts.
How cool is that???