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AeroVironment demonstrates hummingbird-like aircraft

AeroVironment (AV) has achieved controlled precision hovering and flight of a flapping-wing aircraft that carries its own energy source and uses only the wings for propulsion and control.

The milestone was part of the Phase II contract awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to AV to design and build a flying prototype hummingbird-like aircraft for the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) programme.

Dr Todd Hylton, NAV programme manager at DARPA, said: ‘The success of the NAV programme paves the way for a new generation of aircraft with the agility and appearance of small birds.’

The final concept demonstrator is called the Nano Hummingbird and is said to be capable of climbing and descending vertically, flying sideways left and right, flying forward and backward, as well as rotating clockwise and counter-clockwise, under remote control and carrying a video camera.

During demonstration, the Nano Hummingbird flew in and out of a building through a normal-size doorway.

The hand-made prototype aircraft has a wingspan of 16cm and a total flying weight of 19g. This includes all the systems required for flight, batteries, motors, communications systems and video camera.

AeroVironment said 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.

The way birds change the shape of their wings during flight is inspiring smaller aircraft that are more agile, efficient and stealthy. Click here to read more.


Aerovironment's Nano Hummingbird

Readers' comments (6)

  • Wow!, Now if we could only make it as quiet as the real thing, then we would be amazed! But! Keep up the Great work.

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  • Oh dear, more technology with Big Brother type applications.

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  • I guess the originals weren't silent - hence the name...
    At least when it's noisy it reminds Little Brother that he is being watched, and not to do naughty things...
    As long as we have as many "Big Brother" applications as there are IED factories, it might be perceived as a level-ish playing field...

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  • Aerodynamic analysis of the crafts revealed that this invention may be applicable for smal weight and size of aircrafts. However, the ratio of the length of the wings is proportional to the body volume of the birds. In case aircraft weighing 10 tons gross weight, a wing length as much as 1 km may be required.

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  • In respose to David Meyer's comment. Perhaps, David, we have little to worry about, certainly in UK. Since Brown et al bankrupted the country and had their failure exposed by the banking crisis, the Government will have no money for such activities for a long time. It's probably only Google and Microsoft who'll have the resources to buy and deploy such things. Lord knows what we'll see on Street View next !

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  • What a waste of DARPAs money. Personally I'm going for the mini-chinook...way cooler. This is horrendously loud btw. I hope they're not envisaging this being used for surveillance, because that would be a ridiculous idea!

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