AeroVironment (AV), of Monrovia, Calif., completed a controlled, precision hovering and fast-forward flight of a two-wing, flapping wing, "hummingbird-like" aircraft it is developing for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) Program. The aircraft carries its own energy source, and uses only the flapping wings for propulsion and control, according to the company.
"The success of the NAV program paves the way for a new generation of aircraft with the agility and appearance of small birds," said DARPA NAV Program Manager Todd Hylton.
The final concept demonstrator, called the "Nano Hummingbird," is 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 payload. During the 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 6.5 inches tip-to-tip and has a total flying weight of 2/3 ounce, which is less than the weight of a common AA battery. This includes all the systems required for flight –– batteries, motors, communications systems and video camera. The aircraft can be fitted with a removable body fairing, which is shaped to have the appearance of a real hummingbird.
“The historic achievement made by the Nano Hummingbird is an example of the leading-edge innovations introduced and deployed almost routinely by the AeroVironment UAS team,” said Tom Herring, AV senior vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.