In the past year, drones have crashed onto the White House lawn, hauled radioactive cesium to the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s Tokyo office, and swooped above battlefields in Iraq and Ukraine. The future of drone design is an area with huge importance for companies and for the military. At the recent Unmanned Systems 2015 show in Atlanta, Georgia, that future was on display.
Hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the show brought together drone makers, military types, and business leaders from around the globe. (Google founder Larry Page was spotted briefly on the showroom floor.) All were looking for the next thing in UAV design. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting, innovative and outlandish drones Defense One ran across.
1. The SnowGoose BRAVO from Canada-based Mist Mobility Integrated Systems Technology, or MMIST, is an update to the company’s SnowGoose CQ-10A cargo drone. The original played a role in U.S. Special Operations Command missions for years. The Bravo may look like a helicopter with that big rotor up top, but notice the large back propellor? The SnowGoose is an autogyro, an aircraft whose rotor serves as a stabilizer while motive power is delivered to the propellor. Unlike a helicopter the main rotor of the BRAVO does not need mechanical power once the drone is flying. Before takeoff, shaft power is applied to the main rotor to get it spinning then the system hops into the air like a helicopter. The pusher propeller gets it moving forward to maintain rotor flying speed. MMIST president and SnowGoose creator Sean McCann said the SnowGoose BRAVO can carry 600 pounds of cargo, reach 18,000 feet, and accelerate past 70 mph. And it uses less energy than would a conventional helicopter design, he said.
2. There are two types of Hummingbird drones. First, the famous nature-mimicking AeroVironment Nano Hummingbird, developed under a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Then there’s this one, which looks more like an enormous, six-propelled pressure cooker. Reference Technologies is marketing this Hummingbird II for airborne delivery and situational awareness. It has a ceiling of 14,000 feet and a top speed of 60 mph.