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Worlds first hummingbird-like unmanned aircraft system takes flight

By Darren Quick 21:17 February 17, 2011 2 Comments 3 Pictures

The pint-sized, lightweight Nano Hummingbird Image Gallery (3 images)

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AeroVironment, the California-based company behind the largest, highest and longest flying unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the Global Observer, has now achieved a remarkable technical milestone with a much smaller aircraft. With its "Nano Hummingbird" the company has for the first time achieved controlled precision hovering and fast-forward flight of a two-wing, flapping wing aircraft that carries its own energy source and relies only on its flapping wings for propulsion and control. The hand-made final concept demonstrator Nano Hummingbird has a wingspan of 16 cm (6.5 in) and weighs just 19 g (2/3 oz), which is less than the weight of a AA battery. Into this tiny and lightweight package the AeroVironment UAS team has managed to cram all the systems required for flight, including batteries, motors, communications systems and even a video camera. The aircraft can climb and descend vertically, fly sideways left and right, fly forward and backward, as well as rotating clockwise and counter-clockwise all under remote control and while carrying a video camera payload. It is even capable of doing a 360-degree loop.

The Nano Hummingbird can be fitted with a removable body fairing, which is shaped to have the appearance of a real hummingbird and, although it is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, the aircraft is actually smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird found in nature.

The achievement was part of the Phase II contract awarded by DARPA to AeroVironment to design and build a flying prototype hummingbird-like aircraft for the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program. To meet the technical goals of the contract AeroVironment needed to:
Demonstrate precision hover flight within a virtual two-meter diameter sphere for one minute. Demonstrate hover stability in a wind gust flight which required the aircraft to hover and

tolerate a two-meter per second (five mph) wind gust from the side, without drifting downwind more than one meter.
Demonstrate a continuous hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source. Fly and demonstrate controlled, transition flight from hover to 11 mph (17.7 km/h) fast

forward flight and back to hover flight.

Demonstrate flying from outdoors to indoors, and back outdoors through a normal-size

Demonstrate flying indoors 'heads-down' where the pilot operates the aircraft only looking at

the live video image stream from the aircraft, without looking at or hearing the aircraft directly.
Fly the aircraft in hover and fast forward flight with bird-shaped body and bird-shaped wings.

AeroVironment says that not only did its Nano Hummingbird meet all of these requirements, but that it also exceeded many of them.


The 70 kg US$39,000 FlyNano Electric Microlight

By Mike Hanlon 01:28 April 15, 2011 28 Comments 6 Pictures

An artist's impression of the FlyNano at play Image Gallery (6 images)

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Finnish aeronautical engineer Aki Suokas launched a remarkable new single-seat aircraft this week at Aero Friedrichshafen. The FlyNano is made entirely of carbon fiber composite, lands and takes off on water, and weighs just 70 kilograms ready to fly. Three variants are available: a 20kW electriconly version, and petrol-engined 24 bhp and 35 bhp models, the latter proposed as a racing version. The Flynano tops out at over 140 km/h, with a service ceiling of 3 km. If you think that's remarkable,

the most expensive of the three variants ex-factory and ex-VAT is just EUR 27,000 (US$39,000) and deliveries begin three months from now.

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The FlyNano's wingspan is nearly five meters, it has a maximum take off weight of 200 kg and it has a speed range of 70 km/h to 140 km/h. FlyNano's true airspeed is about 140 km/h at 75% power with a theoretical operational distance of 70 kilometers. The almost exclusive use of carbon fiber has enabled the Flynano to come in at under the magic 70 kg weight limit which determines how a new plane is legally classified. In this class in most jurisdictions, there's no license required and a minimum of red tape. Of course there's no passenger and no luggage, but it already rates as a breakthrough in aviation cost-performance. Though the electric version has a limited range of 40 kilometers, the low speed torque and minimal vibration of the electric motor enables the low-speed four-blade prop to be whisper quiet, ensuring you'll get no complaints from the neighbors. A transferable buy option will get you a place in the 2011 delivery queue at EUR 900 (US$1300), with 30% payable on delivery confirmation and the remainder prior to delivery. There's also an optional purpose-built trailer and storage box for the Flynano which retails for EUR 5,300 (US$7,700).