Dr. Gill Pratt, Matt Keennon - Darpa Hummingbird


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Hummingbird is developed by DARPA’s Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program, Dr. Gill Pratt, DARPA Program Manager and AeroVironment, and Matt Keennon, Project Manager. The latest in nano-drone technology, the Hummingbird brings strategic surprise to a new level of realism. The life-size prototype uses flapping wings for propulsion and control. Carrying a video camera and downlink, it has a wingspan of 16 cm (9.5 in) and weighs just 19 grams (0.66 oz). It can hover for 8 minutes, remaining stable in gusts up to 5 mph, and reach up to 11 mph in forward flight.

Employing biological mimicry at an extremely small scale, this unconventional aircraft could someday provide new reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities in urban environments. The Nano Hummingbird met all, and exceeded many, of the Phase II technical milestones set out by DARPA:

  • Demonstrate precision hover flight.
     
  • Demonstrate hover stability in a wind gust flight which required the aircraft to hover and tolerate a two-meter per second (five miles per hour) wind gust from the side, without drifting downwind more than one meter.
     
  • Demonstrate a continuous hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source.
     
  • Fly and demonstrate controlled, transition flight from hover to 11 miles per hour fast forward flight and back to hover flight.
  • Demonstrate flying from outdoors to indoors, and back outdoors through a normal-size doorway.
     
  • Demonstrate flying indoors ‘heads-down’ where the pilot operates the aircraft only looking at the live video image stream from the aircraft, without looking at or hearing the aircraft directly.
     
  • Fly the aircraft in hover and fast forward flight with bird-shaped body and bird-shaped wings.
Angela Brugioni