The Nighthawk Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) is a rugged, fully automated unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made of carbon fiber composite. It uses GPS and autopilot technologies for navigating unfriendly territories to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Its range is over 10 km (6 miles) and flight time is more than 60 minutes. The Nighthawk weighs 1.6 lb (725 gm), has a wingspan of 26 inches (66 cm), and a cruise speed of 18 to 30-plus knots. The MAV is equipped with 8-channel command and control, 4-channel video, and operates on batteries. It has forward and side-looking electro-optical cameras and a side or forward-looking thermal imager. A PC-based user interface provides real-time visual feedback and point-and-click waypoint navigation. The system can also be operated in semi-manual and manual flight modes. MAVs are stored fully assembled and ready to launch in a tube measuring 6 inches (15.2 cm) in diameter and attached to an assault pack. The assault pack's outer pockets hold a rugged laptop computer, the ground control station, and an antenna assembly. The pack's total weight is about 15 lb (6 kg). (Source: Applied Research Associates)
Even in the consumer world the model aircraft electronics seem to double in performance every year. Brushless motors are now common, lithium battries weigh less than the motor and digital radios are about the size of a matchbook. The military deserves some credit for dreaming up the idea of using hobbyist technology.
Nadine and Elizabeth, glad you liked the slideshow. Like Nadine, I think the Nighthawk is kinda cute, too. Looking like an actual (if antique) plane, it's got a bit more personality than the quadrocopters that seem to dominate flying robots right now.
It's quite interesting to see the latest and greatest in robots from the military, which as usual is on the bleeding edge in terms of sophistication and functionality. I'm not sure if these types of robots will ever replace human activity but they certainly make some tasks safer for military personnel and enhance their capability.
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