AeroVironment Develops World's First Fully Operational Life-Size Hummingbird-Like Unmanned Aircraft for DARPA
- Two-wing, Flapping Aircraft Hovers and Flies in Any Direction
- Total Weight of Two-thirds of an Ounce Includes Batteries and Video Camera
The milestone was part of the Phase II contract awarded by the
"The success of the NAV program paves the way for a new generation of
aircraft with the agility and appearance of small birds," said DARPA NAV
program manager, Dr.
The final concept demonstrator is called the 'Nano Hummingbird' and is capable of climbing and descending vertically, flying sideways left and right, flying forward and backward, as well as rotating clockwise and counter-clockwise, under remote control and carrying a video camera payload. During the demonstration the Nano Hummingbird flew in and out of a building through a normal-size doorway.
"The historic achievement made by the Nano Hummingbird is an example of
the leading-edge innovations introduced and deployed almost routinely by
the AeroVironment UAS team," said
The hand-made prototype aircraft has a wingspan of 16 centimeters (6.5 inches) tip-to-tip and has a total flying weight of 19 grams (2/3 ounce), which is less than the weight of a common AA battery. This includes all the systems required for flight; batteries, motors, communications systems and video camera. The aircraft can be fitted with a removable body fairing, which is shaped to have the appearance of a real hummingbird. The aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature.
"The success of the Nano Hummingbird was highly dependent on the intense
combination of creative, scientific, and artistic problem-solving skills
from the many AV team members, aided by a philosophy of continuous
learning, which we feel was only possible due to the unique R&D
environment here at AV," said
The technical goals for the Phase II effort were set out by
- Demonstrate precision hover flight within a virtual two-meter diameter sphere for one minute.
- Demonstrate hover stability in a wind gust flight which required the aircraft to hover and tolerate a two-meter per second (five miles per hour) wind gust from the side, without drifting downwind more than one meter.
- Demonstrate a continuous hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source.
- Fly and demonstrate controlled, transition flight from hover to 11 miles per hour fast forward flight and back to hover flight.
- Demonstrate flying from outdoors to indoors, and back outdoors through a normal-size doorway.
- Demonstrate flying indoors 'heads-down' where the pilot operates the aircraft only looking at the live video image stream from the aircraft, without looking at or hearing the aircraft directly.
- Fly the aircraft in hover and fast forward flight with bird-shaped body and bird-shaped wings.
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and supports an advanced portfolio of Unmanned
Aircraft Systems (UAS) and electric transportation solutions.
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