Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2011

Wasp Drone

The Wasp is the tiniest drone in the Army's current family of "smalls" — drones weighing less than 20 pounds that also include the RQ-11 Raven and Puma AE. In the Wasp's case, it much less — it weighs in at 1 pound (454 grams) with a Lilliputian wingspan of 29 inches (.74 meters). It flies for up to 45 minutes at heights up to 550 feet (170 meters) up to three miles (5 km) from its ground-based operator. It is built by AeroVironment of Simi Valley, Calif.

Because Army troops carry these tiny aircraft with them on patrol, size and weight are important considerations. But it does sacrifice complexity and sophistication in exchange for its small size. Neither the Wasp nor Raven has a gimbaled camera mount yet, which means it is difficult for them to stay focused on a single site even with forward and sideward-looking sensors. And there's a bigger foe in the sky for these featherweight drones than the Taliban: a stiff breeze can cut their time over target dramatically.

For the inside story on America's military operations around the world, check out Mark Thompson's blog, Battleland: Where military intelligence is not a contradiction in terms.