TIME the backstory

Behind the Cover: Jamie Chung on Photographing the Hummingbird Drone

TIME's new issue looks at the 50 best inventions of 2011.

Don’t be fooled by its colorful exterior. This tiny Hummingbird is actually a surveillance prototype for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, developed by the California based AeroVironment. The Hummingbird—officially called the Nano Air Vehicle—is among 50 new inventions, which appear in the new issue of TIME.

New York photographer Jamie Chung spent two and a half weeks shooting the Hummingbird—among a handful of other inventions, including the artificial leaf and a $100,000 razor—for the annual Invention Issue. “It was inspirational,” Chung says of the project. “Meeting the inventors was the best part. They’re totally comfortable with their nerddom, but so am I, so we had a lot of fun together.”

AeroVironment lead engineer Matt Keennon brought the Hummingbird to Chung’s studio, where the photographer shot it in several positions. The remote-controlled device weighs just 0.66 ounces, allowing it to go where humans can’t, be it spying or scouting out safe spots in combat zones. “It’s crazy to think something so pretty is used for something so dangerous,” Chung said. Indeed, who knew the canary in the coal mine would turn out to be a Hummingbird?

Jamie Chung is a New York based photographer. See more of his work here.

Feifei Sun is a reporter at TIME. Follow her on Twitter at @feifei_sun.

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