In this case, “Cicada” is short for Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft. They’re small yellow devices that can fit in the palm of one’s hand and are made of only ten parts. They can fly up to 46 miles per hour almost silently.
The military described the drones as “robotic carrier pigeons,” though unlike the birds historically used to send messages, these drones have an array of sensors that monitor things like weather and location data, as well as microphones that or eavesdropping on anyone in the vicinity.
The Cicada drones are meant to be deployed in swarms; they will reportedly be used behind enemy lines to determine things like troop positions, whether or not a car is on a road, and where military forces should be deployed.
For now, the tiny devices cost $1,000, but the government plans to manufacturing them more cheaply: about $250 per drone. The future of surveillance drones is, apparently, a relatively inexpensive one.