AeroVironment will upgrade the 0.5kg (1lb) Wasp unmanned aircraft system to perform "hover/perch and stare" missions under a $4.6 million contract newly awarded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The agency's stealthy, persistent, perch and stare (SP2S) programme seeks to introduce "an entirely new generation of perch-and-stare micro air vehicles capable of flying to difficult targets, landing on and securing to a perch position", according to a DARPA fact sheet.
Key challenges in the SP2S contract include integrating multifunctional materials that blend airframe structure with the power supply and antennas, and developing new technologies such as a perch-and-grip system and "microminiature" pan/tilt/zoom electro-optical cameras.
"We believe the Wasp-based SP2S is on track to develop into a portable, practical and affordable perch-and-stare micro air vehicle," says John Grabowsky, AeroVironment's UAS executive vice-president and general manager.
AeroVironment declines to provide details on the timeline for the SP2S technology. The Wasp is already operated by the US Air Force and US Marine Corps.