Feeds

DARPA orders VTOL robots for 'covert payload placement'

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

Seven Steps to Software Security

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. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Vote now for LOHAN's stirring mission patch motto
Does the shed actually know no bounds, or what?
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.