Feeds

DARPA hands out cash for tiny bugbot-thopter

Talk about your drone aircraft

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Famed solar-plane company Aerovironment announced today that it has won further US military funding to carry on its Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) programme, which will develop a tiny "three-inch flapping-wing air vehicle system".

The money comes, of course, from DARPA - the Pentagon bureau which aims to get the bleeding edge to the sharp end. In this case the American war-boffins want tiny spy drones able to fly into buildings undetected, free of dependence on GPS coverage.

Aerovironment concept of the Nano Air Vehicle

Look at the Reynolds number on that baby.

"NAV platforms will be revolutionary in their ability to harness low Reynolds number physics, navigate in complex environments, and communicate over significant distances," according to DARPA's Dr Todd Hylton.

The Reynolds number is the ratio between inertial forces and viscous forces arising where fluids such as air flow over solid surfaces such as aircraft wings. It is generally high for big, fast things like normal aircraft; but flying critters such as bats and insects - whose capabilities DARPA would like to achieve in their NAV - operate in low-Reynolds-number flight regimes.

Aerovironment reckon to make the NAV work by "employing biological mimicry at an extremely small scale". For a total of approximately $2.3m, the company will produce a "rudimentary" miniature ornithopter bot.

“The NAV program represents the early development of a revolutionary new class of UAS that could eventually provide valuable new capabilities to our customers,” according to John Grabowsky, Aerovironment veep for flying droids.

Aerovironment's smallest aerial robot thus far has been the hand-launched, 41-cm Wasp. The Wasp uses relatively ordinary fixed wings and airscrew propulsion. It is small and light, but it needs GPS coverage and it's far from ideal in tight spaces.

By contrast, the company hopes that NAVs will ultimately be able to hover and take off or land vertically, perhaps "perching" for a robofly-on-the-wall view. The robotic insecti-thopters might also drop off more ordinary bugs before flying away.

Aerovironment's concept pic shows some resemblance to the firm's separate "SkyTote" vertical lifter project, one of the few so-called "tail-sitter" aircraft programmes still active. The NAV may be intended to set down on its tail, but tip its tiny fuselage forward when in flight.

Even if they can build the airframe, however, there will still be a need for many other breakthroughs before the NAV becomes much use. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?