Feeds

DARPA orders VTOL robots for 'covert payload placement'

Tailsitter two-stroke 'V-Bats' drop off surprise packages

Security for virtualized datacentres

DARPA, the US military research bureau occasionally prone to embarrassing tumbles from the teetering kitchen stool of unreasonable risk while groping wildly for the inaccessible biscuit tin of technological dominance secreted atop the unscalable refrigerator of unfeasibility, has done it again.

The maverick Pentagon deathnerds, according to federal documentation issued just this afternoon, have handed out $369,677 for the purpose of "Covert Precision Emplacement of Small Payloads" from the "V-Bat Aircraft".

The V-Bat, as one really might have guessed, is the vertical-takeoff version of the Bat - a series of small unmanned aircraft produced by MLB Co (www.spyplanes.com). A V-Bat assembled for flight has a wingspan of 10 feet, weighs 70lb and can fly for up to 5 hours on a fill of two-stroke juice. According to the company brochure (pdf) it takes off and lands in tailsitter mode, and can tip over into winged flight to travel at up to 110 knots - almost 140 mph.

The V-Bat can be fitted with a variety of spyeye-type payloads and will lift off, fly about and land again all autonomously - you don't need to control it in flight, just tell it where to go on a GUI map control system.

So far, so ordinary: there are plenty of other UAV/UASs of similar capability out there if you have the best part of $100k to spare.

Where DARPA come in is the covert placement of small payloads bit, which is a little more interesting. A V-Bat might drop down out of the sky to plant such things as remote cameras/bugs, communications relays, marker beacons, small battery powered groundcrawler or inside-buildings flybots etc etc. The V-Bat's payload is listed as 5lb, but presumably might might squeeze in a pound or two more by sacrificing fuel.

One might have thought this sort of thing to be in service with the US military already, but evidently it isn't or DARPA wouldn't be looking into it. The lack of such capability is probably accounted for by the fact that as yet VTOL UAV/UASs are still quite rare.

There's nothing terribly "DARPA hard" (ie so hard it probably can't be done) about this, though: similar feats have already been demonstrated by full-sized unmanned or optionally manned supply helicopters. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
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?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.