That Cute Hummingbird Could Be A Spy-The Next Small Thing In Micro UAVs

  • 12:00 AM, January 28, 2012
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A new era in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles has arrived with the launch of AeroVironment's Hummingbird NAV (nano air vehicle). The Hummingbird, roughly the size of a fist, is the latest addition to a growing list of UAVs that are going nano. The wing-flapping NAV looks so life-like in flight that it cannot be distinguished from a real Hummingbird. The nano bird weighs in at just two-thirds of an ounce and has a wing span of 6.5 inches and can hover up to eight minutes. Thus, making it the smallest of AeroVironment’s drones. The Hummingbird is preceded by the Wasp III, another AeroVironment concept, weighing only one pound and a wing span of 2.375 ft. Equipped with forward and side looking color video cameras and a modular forward or side looking electro-optical infrared payload, the Wasp III is a micro unmanned aircraft system that was developed under the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Micro-UAV program. The Raven, another AeroVironment brainchild, is a small hand-launched small unmanned aerial vehicle (or SUAV) that weighs about 1.9 kg, has a flight endurance of 60–90 minutes and an operational radius of approximately 10 km. Built to land itself on auto-pilot to a pre-defined landing point and then performing a 45° slope, the Raven can provide day or night aerial intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance. Left behind in the UAV business, the Russians are trying to get ahead in the Nano UAV race. Their ZALA 421-08 is a micro UAV developed by the Izhevsk-based ZALA Aero company. Built for front-line reconnaissance, over-ground and oversea surveillance, the portable UAV weighs only 2 Pounds and takes 3 minutes to prepare for launching. The Israeli Aerospace Industries have their own set of SUAVs in the BirdEye family. The BirdEye 100 weighs just 1.1 Pound (Approx 500 gram), is backpack able and can be operated by a single soldier. The BirdEye can fly for about 1 hour, transmit live video and maintain datalink for about 5km. Canada based Aeryon Labs developed the Scout in 2009 after years of testing. Weighing in at just 1.3 kg (Approx 2.9 Pounds), the Scout uses map-based control systems that can be easily controlled beyond line-of-sight and at night, a unique feature of this system. It has an endurance of approximately 20 minutes and its arms and legs are changeable in the field, with no tools. The U.K Ministry of Defense in 2011 put out a tender notice worth 20 Million Pounds calling for the supply of 100 miniature drones weighing as little as 200gm each. By Bindiya Thomas