The Next Frontier in Modern Warfare: Robotic Hummingbirds

Nano Air Vehicle image

AeroVironment Inc. is the nation’s largest provider of small drones, which are at the forefront of modern war tech. But the drive to make even stealthier vehicles for spy missions has led to the development of the battery-powered Nano Hummingbird.

Specifically designed to look like a bird, the Nano Hummingbird is equipped with a camera and can hover and fly for about eight minutes. It has a full range of motion, and can fly sideways, backward and forward, as well as go clockwise and counterclockwise.

“The historic achievement made by the Nano Hummingbird is an example of the leading-edge innovations introduced and deployed almost routinely by the AeroVironment UAS team,” said Tom Herring, AV senior vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “From the battle-proven Raven, Wasp and Puma small UAS to the tiny Nano Hummingbird to Global Observer, the largest, highest and longest flying UAS, AeroVironment continues to define the future of unmanned aircraft systems. Our mission in doing so is to provide our customers with advanced tools that help them succeed.”

Like the bird it mimics, the Nano Hummingbird uses only its flapping wings for propulsion and control. It’s hand-made and has a wingspan of about 6.5 inches and weighs just 2/3 ounce, which is less than the weight of a common AA battery. This modest weight includes all the systems required for flight; batteries, motors, communications systems and a video camera.

The Nano Hummingbird isn’t ready for missions over the skies of Afghanistan like AeroVironment’s larger UAVs, but it has already achieved numerous technical milestones including:

  • Hovering and fast forward flight with bird-shaped body and bird-shaped wings
  • Demonstrating a continuous hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source
  • Demonstrating controlled, transition flight from hover to 11 miles per hour fast forward flight and back to hover flight

Unlike larger drones, this extremely small, unconventional aircraft could be useful in indoor and outdoor operation. Ultimately, the Nano Hummingbird could provide new reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities in urban environments.

To see the Nano Hummingbird in action, check out some of the flight tests below.

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Written by David Lux

David is a blogger, marketer, and spends copious hours devouring content concerning autos, tech, and then more autos. You can follow him on Twitter: @autocontent

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  • Anonymous

    Wow, I never thought about it like that before.

  • America, still preparing for WWII type battle field, even after getting their asses kicked good and hard, by China on the Economic battle field of the world, the one battlefield that really counts. American Smokestack industries – gone to China! American Manufacturing, gone to China! American Automobile manufacturing, migrating to China as we speak! American Dollar’s position as international currency of exchange: China buys petroleum products with Yuan, as we speak, from Siberia, in Russia!
    If the Chinese proposed gadgets like this for offensive weapons, Americans would never stop laughing, point to A-bombs under fighter plane wings, nuclear subs with full compliment of missiles, even tanks would come into the discussion.