Nano Air Vehicle takes flight

The Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) is a small bird-sized aircraft that uses flapping wings to fly and hover. It was developed by UAV-pioneers Aeronvironment with funding from (you guessed it) the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA). Aeronvionment is now working to improve the robot so it can fly in outside winds. From New Scientist:
Aeronvironment's flapper appears to achieve propulsion, stabilisation and control all at once using its paired wings. Details of the technology are confidential, however, under the US ITAR arms control export restrictions...

DARPA has said it wants a 10-gram aircraft with a 7.5-centimetre wingspanMovie Camera that can explore caves and other hiding places, relaying GPS data and images to base. It will need to fly at 10 metres per second and withstand 2.5-metre-per-second gusts of wind.

That goal is a long way off, but DARPA programme manager Todd Hylton says Aeronvironment is on the right track. "Progress to date puts us on the path to such a vehicle," he says.
"Hover no bother for flapping 'nano' aircraft"


  1. There are more efficient machines at Toys R Us. I have a helicopter thats smaller than this, and has minutes of flying time.

  2. Yeah, first thing I thought was that toy helicopters have them beat already. I can’t imagine the flapping wings are more efficient than a rotary blade.

  3. What exactly is this a nano of?

    Is there something out there that is 10^9 larger that this is a smaller version of? That would be a pretty damn big flappy helicoptor thing (~75,000 km)

    now let’s work in biotech, superconducting, buckyballs in the title and the grant will just write itself.

  4. I am not so sure about the “Nano”. What is nano with a thing that looks like it is a good 3-5 inches tall?

  5. It’s nice that we live in a world where even people with speech impediments can do voice over work.

  6. Oh goody, a highly advanced reconnaissance robot that has 20 seconds of operational time and can be undone by a sneeze.

  7. a silent, tiny spy that advances in hops and sits and watches and reports? That recharges on light and is cheap enough to deploy en masse? Be wary.

  8. Yeah, Toys R Us has a mini helicopter with a built in video camera. But if you buy that, you can’t get your mitts on that sweet government research grant moolah.

  9. Say all you want about the helicopters, you can’t dress the helicopter up as a bird and fool anyone.

  10. #13 is dead on. These probably make little to no noise and are embedded with a variety of micro-sensors. It would be interesting to know what kind of applications DARPA has in mind.

  11. Wow, is DARPA getting played. Flytech has half a dozen r/c flyers for under $50 that make this look like, well, a toy. A really crap toy.

  12. I don’t give the military or the police credit for doing intelligent things. If I were (hahaha!) seriously threatened by these things, why, I would just set up a sprinkler system. Can’t hear, can’t through through that shit either.

  13. @ #13 & #16:

    I’ll be wary when they get close to building something remotely practical. I might feel more threatened if I didn’t know that they’ve been working on this idea for decades and still haven’t been able to create a version that can outperform a $50 toy.

  14. Autogyros(gyrocopters] are even simpler in design than a helicopter and they are stable in strong winds.

    There are many clips of RC ones on youtube. This one seems particularly small, simple, maneuverable and inexpensive.

    So easy to fly that a child can do it.

    The same can not be said for most helecopters, and i’m sure this new ornithopter design requires computers to fly it.

    But you can’t get a grant for thechnology that was invented in 1921!

  15. Sounded good until I heard “The US Army….”


    I guess I was a fool to think that it wouldn’t be used for it’s military applications.

  16. @Tharklord

    Wow Wee have lost their vision. Get back to making cool bipedal robots. Fuck Tinkerbell.

  17. I’m fully convinced that the Singularity is going to emerge from defense research, and DARPA will probably have a big hand in it….

  18. There are actually more interesting applications for low-cost solar-powered miniature hovering fliers then spying. For instance, suppose you equipped them with small (maybe 16×16) arrays of fairly high-powered red, green, and blue lasers, a 3d representation of a part of a city, and some way of finding their exact position in real-time. You could send up 20 or so to a high altitude, and have them each project a small section of an image or video on a building. If they moved around quickly and randomly at a high enough altitude, they’d probably be very difficult to shoot down, and even if you got half of them, you’d only reduce the image or video quality by half.

    Imagine you deployed a bunch of these around North Korea with a video of a respected South Korean professor explaining (in subtitles) the techniques commonly used by cults to brainwash devotees. Or, in rural Iran, videos of dissidents explaining how they were tortured into the confessions broadcast on the state TV stations. After all, wasn’t it glasnost that brought down the USSR?

  19. Takuan called it.

    The rest of you who think this is some kind of joke, it is not. A lot of time and $ are being spent to get this technology where it needs to go.

    And not just in the USA- not by a long shot.

    Aviation Week has articles on new UAV programs in just about every issue these days. One recently-awarded contract was for development of software to allow a small flying UAV to find its way around- indoors.

  20. Well I think we have a LONG ways to go, and that DARPA goal is extremely lofty, but progress is being made.

    In my mind the end goal is not what the scientists/engineers/designers are after. It’s the development of the technology along the way. Similar to NASA and how we use spin offs of their tech creations everyday.

    The rational side of me just looks at these things and goes meh. I guess I still think “war” should be about destruction and force.

  21. ackpht #32:

    The rest of you who think this is some kind of joke, it is not. A lot of time and $ are being spent to get this technology where it needs to go.

    A lot of time and money has been spent on lots of things that never showed any efficacy. This hover-doohickey may be a technological marvel, but as a functional object it is a joke that can’t compete with a toy helicopter. My guess is that some engineers really wanted to see if they could build a drone that could fly with flapping wings, and the best way they could find funding was to sell the idea to DARPA.

    If advanced technology was what won wars or subdued populations then we would have breezed through Vietnam and Afghanistan without missing a beat. It doesn’t matter if you have advanced jet fighter technology if your adversary is using improvised explosives, and your hover-drones don’t mean shit if the other guy has a screen door or a flyswatter.

  22. >What exactly is this a nano of?
    >Is there something out there that is 10^9 larger >that this is a smaller version of? That would be a >pretty damn big flappy helicoptor thing (~75,000 >km)
    >now let’s work in biotech, superconducting, >buckyballs in the title and the grant will just >write itself.


  23. Why are they using flapping wings? I understand researching that alone, but if you just want a small remote air vehicle that can hover, a helicopter is better. Or is there something I’ve overlooked? It’s not like an animal, where evolving continually rotating parts would seem pretty hard. And before someone mentions the complexity of helicopter cyclic controls, piezoelectric blades seem like a good area to research.

    @21: Autogyros aren’t capable of sustained hover.

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