Home > Aviation, News, UAV > The limits of small

The limits of small

It is fairly clear that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are the wave of the present and are going to be well into the future. The size of UAVs spans an entire spectrum ranging from the really small (Micro Air Vehicles / MAVs like these) or the really large (High Altitude Long Endurance / HALE vehicles like these). Improving the capabilities of such vehicles, in terms of flight time, range and useful payload is an active area of research at both ends of the size scale.

However, as we progress to the extremes (especially the lower end),  it becomes clear that there is much we can learn from nature. Hummingbirds are fabulous examples of extreme flight demonstrating incredible stability, agility and maneuverability at small scales. Recently, AeroVironment, on a DARPA contract, demonstrated autonomous flight of a so-called Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) – the ‘Hummingbird’ . The vehicle is a replica of the hummingbird and looks so real that it would difficult to distinguish it from a real one if they were to appear together.

(Credit : Guy Norris, Aviation Week & Space Technology)

The demonstration is amazing for a couple of reasons :

– Ability to successfully demonstrate flapping flight as such small scales.

– Ability to maintain control in flapping flight at such small scales.

Presumably, aircraft like AeroVironment’s  ‘Hummingbird’ are to be used for surveillance purposes and this is bound to throw up a question the next time you see a hummingbird – is it looking for nectar in the flowers or is it pretending to look for nectar but actually spying on you?

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Categories: Aviation, News, UAV
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