Under a contract from DARPA, AeroVironment Unmanned Aircraft Systems has created a hummingbird spy drone, the first two-wing, flapping-wing aircraft that carries its own energy source and can hover as well as move forwards.
The Nano Hummingbird can climb and descend vertically and fly sideways, forwards and backwards, as well as rotating clockwise and counter-clockwise, under remote control and carrying a video camera payload.
During a demonstration, the Nano Hummingbird flew in and out of a building through a normal-size doorway.
The hand-made prototype has a wingspan of 6.5 inches tip-to-tip and weighs less than an AA battery. It can be fitted with a removable body fairing, shaped like a real hummingbird and about the same size.
The Nano Hummingbird met all DARPA's requirements, including the ability to withstand sidewinds of five miles per hour, to fly through normal sized doors and fly at 11 miles per hour.
It can be flown 'heads-down', with the pilot operating the aircraft only looking at the live video image stream from the drone, rather than being able to see it or hear it directly.
"The historic achievement made by the Nano Hummingbird is an example of the leading-edge innovations introduced and deployed almost routinely by the AeroVironment UAS team," says Tom Herring, AV senior vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
"From the battle-proven Raven, Wasp and Puma small UAS to the tiny Nano Hummingbird to Global Observer, the largest, highest and longest flying UAS, AeroVironment continues to define the future of unmanned aircraft systems. Our mission in doing so is to provide our customers with advanced tools that help them succeed."