Doing It Nature’s Way

The Air Force Research Lab has created a team of scientists tasked with creating and then demonstrating a bird-sized, wing-flapping unmanned aerial vehicle by 2015 and a smaller, insect-sized UAV by 2020. The Dayton Daily News reported yesterday that AFRL’s air vehicles directorate at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, already has an indoor test flight facility to support these efforts and anticipates having more facilities operating by the end of 2009. Air Force officials—like US military planners overall—have said that future information-gathering and attack UAVs of various sizes and capability will play a significant role in denying an enemy sanctuary anywhere since they will be able to help locate an adversary under foliage or in the face of other camouflage and concealment attempts, or even in crowded urban areas or indoors. Bird- and bug-sized UAVs would have the advantage of being able to get into more confined spaces and do so more inconspicuously than a more traditional looking UAV. And, flapping wings and insect- and bird-like designs would have performance advantages such as stability in cross winds, the newspaper said, citing AFLR officials.