Backpack-Sized Miniature Air Vehicle

The American giant Honeywell is developing a new Miniature Air Vehicle (MAV) for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The new drone has vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities which allows it to operate virtually anywhere, even in semi confined spaces.

The MAV is equipped with day/night (IR) cameras, sensors, GPS and is small enough to fit into a soldier’s backpack (weights less than 40lbs). Its primary objective is to provide what is known as situational awareness to operating ground forces within a maximum range of about 10km. The MAV can stay in the air for about 40 minutes, has a climb rate of about 25 feet/second and a maximum airspeed of 50 knot (57 mph). The MAV can even operate when there is rain, dust and sand as well as wind up to about 20 knot (23 mph).

Honeywell and DARPA are developing the MAV for the US Army Future Combat Systems program. Once in operation the MAV will become the smallest unmanned aerial element of the U.S. Army, allowing for simple and effective reconnaissance at the platoon level. The ability of the MAV to hover above enemy territory and maneuver even in dense urban environments, together with its compact size and light weight is what gives the MAV its unique advantage over existing unmanned drones.

One drawback of slow, low flaying drones is there vulnerability to detection and destruction by enemy fire. One of the main advantages of the MAV is its low acoustic signature – 60dBA from a range of about 100 meters according to Honeywell. This gives the MAV advanced stealth capability especially at night when visual recognition is poor (no information was given by Honeywell regarding the thermal signature of the MAV).

Apparently the U.S. military is not the only group that is interested in the MAV. U.S. law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are also looking into the technology making Minority Report-like drones a step closer to reality.

A video of the MAV in action could be seen on the Honeywell website.