US-designed flying, crawling UAV to be proposed to UK MoD

London
Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com

A morphing micro air and land vehicle (MMLV) that flies and crawls along the ground is to be proposed to the UK Ministry of Defence for a development grant by a US researcher working at the UK's University of Bristol.

The MMLV has already been demonstrated in the UK and the USA. In one set of UK flight trials in Southampton it transmitted a video image over 1.6km (1 mile) to relay stations that sent images to the USA.

Developed from late 2004 until 2007 at Eglin AFB, Florida under a US Air Force Research Laboratory project, the MMLV first flew in 2004. By May 2005 it was crawling and a vehicle with a 279mm (11in) wingspan provided video feed in-flight and on the ground during these early flights.

In May 2006 another version used COTS global positioning system and autopilot electronics to fly autonomously. Funded also by the US Naval Postgraduate School's centre for interdisciplinary remotely piloted aircraft studies, this MMLV while flying in the UK was sent commands from the USA. It sent video back, using a satellite phone terminal link.

"You could have a range of [MMLVs], from [152mm] to 1m [in wingspan] for different missions," Bristol university's robotics laboratory biodynamics lecturer Ravi Vaidyanathan told Flight at the 23rd Bristol international UAV systems conference held in early April.

Vaidyanathan worked on the MMLV at Eglin and is now studying the diving techniques of sea birds for their application to an unmanned air vehicle that would fly and become an unmanned underwater vehicle.

The MMLV's design is based on bats and birds with flexible wings and its ground locomotion is like that of a cockroach. The tractor-propeller and crawling mechanisms are powered by different motors as the gearing for a single motor to power both was found to have a negative mass impact. One concept of operations is a larger UAV that carries up to 50 MMLVs and drops them when needed.

Watch video of the flying, crawling micro air vehicle here