US shells out $10M for unmanned aircraft that can perch like a bird

Unmanned aircraft maker AeroVironment got an additional $5.4 million to further develop the diminutive aircraft that can fly into tight spaces undetected, perch and send live surveillance information to its handlers.

Last Fall, AeroVironment, got $4.6 million initial funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop the Stealthy, Persistent, Perch and Stare Air Vehicle System (SP2S), which is being built on the company’s one-pound, 29-inch wingspan battery-powered Wasp unmanned system.

According to DARPA, the key technical challenges of the new aircraft include: multifunctional materials that integrate the SP2S airframe structure with the power supply and transmit/receive antennas; advanced aerodynamics and control systems, including the ability to land and return home automatically; perch-and-grip technology; micro miniature pan/tilt/zoom EO cameras; (5) autonomous image capture; and data link communications relay capability with multiple digital channels that enables beyond-line-of-sight communications, with data/video encryption.

Experts say the ability to actually fly in and perch like a bird will be one the more technically challenging aspects of the system.

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