AeroVironment, the California-based company behind the largest, highest and longest flying unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the Global Observer, has now achieved a remarkable technical milestone with a much smaller aircraft.
With its “Nano Hummingbird” the company has for the first time achieved controlled precision hovering and fast-forward flight of a two-wing, flapping wing aircraft that carries its own energy source and relies only on its flapping wings for propulsion and control.
The hand-made final concept demonstrator Nano Hummingbird has a wingspan of 16 cm (6.5 in) and weighs just 19 g (2/3 oz), which is less than the weight of a AA battery. Into this tiny and lightweight package the AeroVironment UAS team has managed to cram all the systems required for flight, including batteries, motors, communications systems and even a video camera.
The aircraft can climb and descend vertically, fly sideways left and right, fly forward and backward, as well as rotating clockwise and counter-clockwise – all under remote control and while carrying a video camera payload. It is even capable of doing a 360-degree loop.
The Nano Hummingbird can be fitted with a removable body fairing, which is shaped to have the appearance of a real hummingbird and, although it is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, the aircraft is actually smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird found in nature.