(image source: Aerovironment)
“AeroVironment is designing and building a prototype flapping-wing unmanned aircraft under the second phase of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program.
The $2.1 million Phase 2 contract was awarded after the company accomplished controlled hovering flight of an air vehicle using a pair of flapping wings for both propulsion and control. The milestone was achieved in December 2008 with the 20-second flight of the Mercury interim test vehicle, says the company.
Under remote control, the battery-powered vehicle climbed and descended, flew sideways, and forward and backward.
The NAV program is aimed at developing a tiny bio-inspired UAV that can operate both indoors and outdoors. The objective is a 10-gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second (m/s), and withstand wind gusts up to 2.5 m/s.
Given the flapping-wing vehicle’s complexity and small scale, both the propulsion and control systems “were extremely difficult to conceive”, says AeroVironment project manager and principal investigator Matt Keennon.
Phase 2 of the program, which will continue through the summer of 2010, will focus on extending endurance, transitioning from vertical to forward flight and back, and reducing the size, weight and acoustic signature of the vehicle.
According to information provided by the company, the flying prototype to be built under Phase 2 will closely resemble a hummingbird and be small enough to sit in the operator’s hand.”
Source: Graham Warwick –