The Nano Snipe drone in flight

Pocket-sized surveillance drones to be deployed by US military

Image credit: AeroVironment

A four-rotor surveillance helicopter small enough to be carried in a pouch and launched from the palm of the hand was revealed yesterday by drone manufacturer AeroVironment.

The drone was announced yesterday at the AUVSI 2017 (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) convention in Dallas, TX.

Named Snipe Nano, it weighs just 140g, reaches speeds up to 20mph, can fly for 15 minutes on battery power and has a range of half a kilometre.

The Snipe Nano is “designed to be worn by its operator so it can be deployed in less than a minute,” said Kirk Flittie, vice president for unmanned aircraft systems at AeroVironment.

It can be launched with a throw and operated manually with a touch-screen tablet or programmed for GPS-based autonomous navigation. The aircraft is equipped with electro-optical and infrared cameras to transmit video and high-resolution images during close-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

The drone’s size and simplicity, AeroVironment say, makes Snipe Nano ideal for use by ordinary soldiers. This could offer small military units the surveillance capabilities previously only available to large units with specialist drone operators. AeroVironment claim that training to use the Snipe Nano takes just four hours.

It is the “perfect system for short-range covert missions where the intelligence gathered directly affects the safety of the soldiers operating it”, AeroVironment’s website claims.

It was revealed last year that AeroVironment was developing prototypes for the US Army and the company reported that they have now delivered 20 of the aircraft to its first US government client. The new unmanned helicopter will become commercially available later this year for police and other emergency responders.

The Snipe Nano was inspired by technological advances made as AeroVironment developed the Nano Hummingbird drone for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Nano Hummingbird, revealed to the public in 2011, resembles and flies like a hummingbird, weighs less than 19g and is equipped with a small video camera.

AeroVironment are also responsible for the development of the Raven drone, a 2kg unmanned aircraft which has become the most widely adopted unmanned aircraft system in the world. Nearly 20,000 have been manufactured so far.

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