Drone-maker AeroVironment this week unveiled a new miniature four-rotor surveillance helicopter that can be carried in a small pouch and launched from the palm of a hand.
The ‘Snipe’ system is designed to support close-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. AeroVironment delivered 20 Snipe systems to its first U.S. government customer last month.
AeroVironment said that Snipe benefits from advances in technology made during the development of the Nano Hummingbird, the bird-like drone developed for DARPA.
“Snipe enables operators to spring into action quickly,” said Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business unit. “No assembly is required for the five-ounce (140-gram) nano-UAS, which is designed to be worn by its operator so it can be deployed in less than a minute.”
Equipped with electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), low-light-capable and long-wave infrared (LWIR) sensors in an integrated tilt mechanism, Snipe can relay high-resolution images and record real-time video both day and night. In addition, Snipe’s integrated UHF radio provides for excellent non-line-of-sight operation, according to AeroVironment.
A statement from the company notes that: “Due to its quiet electric motors, flight speeds exceeding 20 mph and more than one-kilometer range, Snipe is difficult to detect in operating environments with even minimal ambient noise. Its rechargeable batteries power approximately 15 minutes of flight time.”
The drone is capable of operating under challenging environmental conditions – including winds of over 15 mph with gusts up to 20 mph, the company said.
Snipe is controlled using an app on a standard, ruggedized (MIL-STD 810) touch screen controller. Other critical functions include Snipe’s ability to return to its operator automatically if it loses its radio link.