August 20, 2008 Unmanned Aerial Systems specialist AeroVironment has been awarded $4.6 million in funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a new generation small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) with "perch-and-stare" surveillance capabilities. The micro-air vehicle will be based on the company's smallest existing UAS platform - Wasp.
The aim of the “hover/perch and stare” program is to enable a micro air vehicle to reach difficult targets, then land and fix on a perch from which sustained surveillance can be conducted before re-launching and returning to home base.
The hand-launched, battery-powered Wasp UAS weighs just under one-pound (430 grams) and has a wingspan of 29 inches (72 cm). It can operate at up to 100 feet in altitude at speeds up to 65kmh, has a 5km range and can be be manually operated or programmed for GPS-based autonomous navigation. It is one of three small scale UAS currently being produced by the company (alongside Raven and Puma AE).
“A UAS that performs hover/perch and stare missions is viewed as an important capability for our armed forces,” said John Grabowsky, AV executive vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “Our production Wasp incorporates the latest technologies to provide a day and night capable, hand-launched UAS that fits into a standard backpack while still providing room for other important supplies. We believe that the Wasp-based SP2S, operated with our joint, common ground control unit, is on track to develop into a portable, practical and affordable perch-and-stare micro air vehicle,” he added.