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DIU posts specs for rugged short-range recon drone

The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) posted desired performance specs for a newly proposed short-range vertical takeoff and landing reconnaissance drone for which it plans to solicit proposals in the second quarter of 2019.

The organisation wants an unmanned air vehicle that has a maximum volume of 576in3 with total takeoff weight not exceeding 1.36kg (3lb). The UAV should be able to be assembled and disassembled in less than 2min by a single person, according to the 10 September notice from DIU, which was formerly known as the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental.

In the last several years, the US Army, Marine Corps and special operations forces have experimented with several small UAVs that can be carried in a soldier’s backpack, including FLIR Systems’ Black Hornet and AeroVironment’s Snipe. These short-range UAVs are mostly used to provide tactical-level video reconnaissance for squadrons, allowing soldiers to peer around a building or over a hill.

The UAV that DIU is requesting appears to have a similar intended use. The organisation is requesting that it should have a camera to take pictures with a minimum of 16 megapixel resolution, as well as the ability to record high definition full-motion video. The UAV should enable situational awareness of people and vehicles at standoff ranges of 300m and 200m, says the posting.

DIU wants the UAV to have a 30min flight endurance, 1.62nm (3km) operational range, 8,000ft service ceiling and the ability to fly in 15kt winds or greater.

Autonomous abilities are requested with manual and semi-autonomous waypoint flight modes, and programmable mission and loss link procedures. DIU says it also wants the UAV to reduce operator workload through autonomy by using, for example, optical flow, obstacle avoidance, image stabilisation and self-diagnostic features.

The UAV should also be rugged with some protection from ingesting dust or water, have the capability to complete 25 missions with minimal operator level maintenance and the ability to fly in temperatures ranging from -35.5C (-32F) to 43.3C (110F).

The UAV and ground control station should be encrypted at AES-256.

The desired price point for the airframe is $2,000 and $2,000 for the optical sensor package, says DIU.

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