Nano Bug military drone in hand

Nano drone carries on working through gales

Image credit: BAE Systems

The British Army has been testing drones that can fly in gale-force winds despite being small enough to sit in a soldier’s hand.

BAE Systems, which developed the ‘Bug’ nano drone in collaboration with UAVTEK and has delivered 30 units to the Army, put it through its paces along with competing devices in a recent trial.

The Bug is a four-rotor nano-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) weighing 196g – similar to the weight of a smartphone – with 40-minute battery life and a 2km range. It has a stealthy low visual profile and the ability to fly even in strong winds of more than 50mph, beaming information back to its operators. BAE Systems says it was the only nano-UAV able to cope with the uncompromising weather during the Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) event hosted by the Ministry of Defence’s Future Capability Group.

“We delivered the Bug in partnership with UAVTEK, an SME that designs and builds UAVs from its workshop in the Cotswolds. Our experience in developing large volumes of secure hardware means we were able to help the team turn the excellent design into a real product which our Armed Forces can use. This kind of collaboration is a great way to quickly get the best thinking from small companies into the hands of military users.” said James Gerard, principal technologist at BAE Systems’ Applied Intelligence business.

He added: “In even the toughest weather, the Bug can deliver vital tactical intelligence on what’s around the corner or over the next hill, working autonomously to give troops a visual update. Combined with our other information advantage products, this video feed could be shared multi-domain, enabling commanders on land, sea and air to increase their situational awareness and inform their decisions.”

Nano Bug infographic

Image credit: BAE Systems, UAVTEK

Innovations at the annual AWE event are designed to explore emerging technologies and identify specific capabilities suitable for rapid exploitation, focusing in 2020 on agile command, control and communication. Emphasis is placed on innovations that push the boundaries of technology and military capability, testing a range of prototype systems by putting them in the hands of the user whilst giving invaluable military feedback to suppliers.

Jenna Copley, director at UAVTEK, said: “BAE Systems has been extremely supportive of us as an SME and the team has shared procedural knowledge to improve our engineering processes and practices. BAE Systems has effectively offered us a mentoring partnership and supported us in a variety of activities, whilst still enabling us to remain an agile SME and keep our core offerings and DNA.”

The teams are now working on the next developments on the nano-UAV, exploring sensing equipment and capabilities that could be added, as well as how the Bug could be integrated with other military equipment.

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