AeroVironment has launched its Quantix Recon unmanned air vehicle (UAV), a military variant of its farm surveying drone, on the market.

The tail-sitting, vertical-take-off-and-landing UAV requires little to no training to operate, the company says on 22 April. AeroVironment had teased the military variant previously, but after the official announcement the company says it is now available for sale.

The drone is based on the company’s Quantix, a civilian UAV designed to help farmers survey crops. As an agricultural device, the UAV is intended to automatically survey land to help show farmers early signs of crop stress, water issues and estimated crop yields.

The Quantix Recon is able to do aerial reconnaissance using automated flight paths and two 18-megapixel cameras that can capture true color and multispectral images, says AeroVironment. For example, the UAV can be tasked to automatically surveil up to 160ha (395 acres) or 10.8nm (20km) linearly underneath its flight path.

Though AeroVironment has a collection of our group one UAVs, such as its hand-launched Raven and Puma drones, the company says the Quantix Recon is built with a different purpose. 

”Quantix Recon addresses high-resolution mapping and image collection in both full color and multispectral bands, whereas our other Group 1 [UAVs] are designed to deliver real-time, full-motion video,” the company says. ”This high-resolution mapping requires flight controls and image processing, [via particular hardware and software], that are tailored to this distinct mission, creating consistent imagery that is georectified in near real-time onboard the aircraft.”

In other words, to stitch together an aerial image of the ground a specially designed UAV is required.  

Users control the Quantic Recon and view images via a ruggedised Android touch-screen tablet. The drone’s flight path and surveillance area are set using waypoints or geofencing on the tablet.

AeroVironment says the drone can fly radio silent by relying on its GPS for navigation, something the commercial variant cannot do. The company is touting that feature as a means to avoid detection and radio frequency jamming. Also, the ability to fly disconnected from a radio controller increases the Quantix Recon’s range out to 10.8nm for out-and-back flights or 21.6nm for one-way flights, compared to the 1.1nm radio-range limit on the commercial type. 

The drone has a battery pack that gives 45min of flight endurance. The UAV weighs 2.26kg (5lb).

The UAV can fly at altitudes ranging from 150ft to 800ft in winds up to 17kt (32km/h). The company says it is nearly inaudible at 360ft above ground level.