Small UAVs have become common features on modern battlefields. A side effect of that is those on the ground have become more aware of what’s up there monitoring their movements. In some cases, like border patrol or safeguarding wild game from poachers, it is essential for UAVs to remain unobserved if they are to be successful. One novel solution to all this is UAVs in the form of large birds that glide most of the time rather that constantly flapping their wings. Responding to that need, the new Aves UAV is now available. The manufacturer will build a shell for each Aves UAV to look a large bird commonly seen in the area where it will operate.
The Aves takes advantage of the aerodynamic shape of these large birds to create a life-size UAV with a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters (eight feet). Aves is battery powered and stays in the air up to 90 minutes per flight. It is launched by a slingshot type device and lands by simply coasting down to the ground. Propulsion is provided a small, silent propeller at the end of the tail, which is invisible to a casual viewer on the ground. Aves can fly as high as 3,100 meters (10,000 feet) and as low as 50 meters (160 feet). Max speed is 43 kilometers an hour and max range from the ground operator is 15 kilometers. Aves can fly a preprogrammed route and return for an automatic landing or its route can be controlled by the ground operator. Payload is only half a kilogram (1.1 pounds) but that is enough for a day/night camera.
Two nations have already purchased some Aves UAVs, one for border patrol and one African nation has obtained them to search for poachers. The buyers were not named, just to keep well-read smugglers and poachers guessing. The poachers are armed with powerful long-range rifles and scopes so Aves used for anti-poacher patrol will probably have to stay at max altitude to avoid gunfire. Meanwhile, if you read of a many large birds being shot down over African game parks, this may be the reason. The birds will gain some protection from the fact that these guns are loud and poachers may find it preferable to take their chances rather than providing suspicious gunfire in areas where there is not supposed be any.
Aves could also be useful for surveillance of Islamic terrorists in remote areas that are alert to UAV surveillance and adjust their movements accordingly. Aves would give them more to worry about. Aves may turn out to be a failure, but the concept has reached the point where prototypes operate as promised and people who have seen them are surprised when told that what they are looking at is not a bird.