CA-based AeroVironment, a global name in drones, tactical missile systems and electric vehicle charging and test systems announced a new product at AUVSI’s Xponential conference this week.
The Snipe Nano Quad is a miniature (“Class 0”) drone designed to support close-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The first U.S. government customer delivery of 20 Snipe systems took place in April, but AeroVironment can’t be pigeon-holed as a military provider.
Steve Gitlin, AeroVironment’s VP Corporate Strategy, Communications and Investor Relations says that the company is a technology company. “When we first developed the hand-launched UAV for reconnaissance in 1986, we knew that this could be used across a broad range of industries,” says Gitlin. “We also knew that the government would be the most likely early adopter.”
The new Snipe is an example of innovative new drone technology – the tiny drone is equipped with electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), low-light-capable and long-wave infrared (LWIR) sensors in an integrated tilt mechanism. “Snipe can relay high-resolution images and record real-time video both day and night,” says AeroVironment. “In addition, Snipe’s integrated UHF radio provides for excellent non-line-of-sight operation. The software-defined radio (SDR) allows Snipe to be sold commercially.”
“While Snipe’s stealthiness makes it ideally suited for military applications, it’s an invaluable asset for anyone needing a ‘Class 0’ UAS to support their missions,” says Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment. The tiny size could make Snipe a perfect low-risk tool for a number of commercial applications that might require flight over people or BVLOS flight; rugged construction means that it can be used outdoors in a variety of environments, flying in winds of over 15mph.
While government customers may be the first to use new tools, AeroVironment says that their products – tested on the military field – offer great benefits for the enterprise. “We’ve been serving the innovators in the industry – and military customers are the early adopters,” says Gitlin. “They’re the customers who have formed that value chain that allow us to bring the technology to the commercial market as regulations allow.”
“The commercial market uses the technologies in a different way,” he comments, but says that the same precision and quality AeroVironment offers on the military field transfers easily to enterprise, providing the same high level of benefit. “We don’t want to give customers data, we want to give them actionable intelligence,” he says. “It may be that the threat on the battlefield is an attack while the threat on the field is an insect infestation – but both require an accurate response.”