Flying Beer Keg UAV Deploying to Iraq

Troops from the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania National Guard will take a small gasoline-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Iraq when they deploy in January. Nicknamed the “Flying Beer Keg,” the XM156 Class I UAV can hover over areas traditional surveillance methods cannot adequately cover, providing an instant uplink to units on the ground nearby. The initial deployment of troops will then train other units in the use and maintenance of the new drones as they achieve wider adoption.
Soldier operating the Flying Beer Keg (US Army Future Combat Systems)
Soldier operating the Flying Beer Keg
(Credit: US Army Future Combat Systems)

The gasoline powered vehicle is small enough to fit in a soldier’s backpack and weighs less than 50 pounds when fully fueled. It fact, it’s so small that it’s called a Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) instead of the more well known UAV designation. The MAV can be in the air in less than five minutes from its removal from a backpack and requires minimal training, enabling the planned “viral” training program.

The MAV is a ducted fan air vehicle and flies like a helicopter (it has a propeller that draws in air through a duct to provide lift). The MAV’s propeller is enclosed in the duct and is driven by a gasoline engine. Like a helicopter, the MAV is capable of vertical takeoff and landing, allowing it to be deployed from nearly anywhere. It can effectively monitor an approximately 10 km area, can stay in the air for around 40 minutes, hovers between 100 and 500 feet in the air, and is effective even in poor weather conditions including rain and wind up to about 20 miles per hour. The sensors (cameras) are gimbal-mounted to allow for a wide range of movement without rotating the vehicle itself and can take either video or still pictures including night video.
The Flying Beer Keg next to the backpacks designed to carry it (Credit: US Army Future Combat Systems)
The Flying Beer Keg next to
the backpacks designed to carry it
(Credit: US Army Future Combat Systems)

Designed by Honeywell with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the new vehicle represents a partial rollout of the full complement of robotic vehicles planned under the Future Combat Systems (FCS) modernization program. Its deployment will add surveillance capabilities to smaller units and the ability to “hover and stare,” or remain hovering in a specific location capable of spying on a spot of interest.

TFOT has previously reported on the MAV project in early 2007 as well as other military UAVs including the Coast Guard adoption of Fire Scout robotic helicopters and model-B predators, the armed Excalibur tactical unmanned aerial vehicle designed for use by the United States Army, the Voyeur surveillance UAV, and the canister-launched MONGURD UAV capable of carrying either surveillance equipment or weapons.
You can read the US Army Future Combat Systems page on the XM156 Class I UAV here and watch a video of the flying beer keg in action provided by Honeywell here (requires Flash).

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