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DARPA test-flies an arm-equipped UAV


December 11, 2012

The arm-equipped UAV placing its payload on the ladder target

The arm-equipped UAV placing its payload on the ladder target

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For some time now, engineers have been researching the possibility of equipping UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) with robotic arms. This week, DARPA announced that a successful test of just such an “armed” UAV has been performed.

DARPA utilized an existing V-Bat UAV, made by California-based MLB Company. The stock V-Bat can fly horizontally to quickly reach its destination, then hover in a tail-down orientation once it gets there.

The DARPA team added a folding robotic arm to the UAV, along with an inexpensive stereoscopic computer vision system – this incorporated one camera on the end of the arm, and another on the aircraft itself.

For the test, a 1-pound (454-gram) payload was attached to a hook on the end of the arm. Using its vision and GPS systems, the V-Bat then autonomously identified a step ladder, which was the object on which it had to place its payload. It proceeded to maneuver itself up alongside the ladder, extended its arm by six feet (1.8 meters), and placed the payload on the ladder.

“Our goal with the UAV payload emplacement demonstration was to show we could quickly develop and integrate the right technology to make this work,” said DARPA program manager Dan Pratt. “The success of the demonstration further enables the capabilities of future autonomous aerial vehicles.”

A video of the test (which apparently took place last September) can be seen below.

Source: DARPA via IEEE Spectrum

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Wind and rain are not a issue looks like it would be fun to fly in the winter, does it make any noise like 4 leaf blowers ?


Upscale to carry cargoes or mini supply modules. Search Rescue, Power Line servicing, firefighting in the wilderness.

Stephen Russell

LOL - they forgot to pre-compensate for the change in balance when the arm (or probably more likely weight of arms payload) moves :-)


this is a great concept,but a multi engined platform may be better for control when using the arm.

Thomas Lewis
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