February 27, 2011

Company Develops Miniature Hummingbird Spy Plane

Matt Keennon, a project manager for AeroVironment, demonstrated a tiny spy plane with flapping wings like a hummingbird on Friday at the company's Simi Valley headquarters.

According to a recent press release, "The hand-made prototype aircraft has a wingspan of 16 centimeters (6.5 inches) tip-to-tip and has a total flying weight of 19 grams (2/3 ounce), which is less than the weight of a common AA battery. This includes all the systems required for flight; batteries, motors, communications systems and video camera. The aircraft can be fitted with a removable body fairing, which is shaped to have the appearance of a real hummingbird. The aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature."

Developers told journalists on Friday that it can perch on a window ledge and gather intelligence unbeknownst to an enemy.

The craft, dubbed 'Nano Hummingbird', is able to hover and move quickly in almost any direction, which is a capability defense officials want in a small aircraft for intelligence and reconnaissance.

The new device was developed for a U.S. defense agency, but it is not clear if it will ever leave the lab.

The aircraft buzzed by Keennon's head before landing on his hand during the demonstration, reports the Associated Press.


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