July 13, 2012:
One of the more popular types of sensors for small aircraft is the stabilized reconnaissance turret. These are usually fully articulate ("dual axis gyro-stabilized") when mounted underneath the aircraft and can rotate 360 degrees and move to see in any direction. The turret housing is designed so that it can have a new sensor plugged in within minutes. That's a big improvement because until recently it could take an hour or more to mount a new sensor (thermal imager, night vision camera, laser rangefinder, and so on). The latest models are small enough (under 10 kg/22 pounds) to be used on many UAVs. While larger turrets weigh 45 kg (100 pound) and can spot and identify ships or vehicles 20 kilometers away, the smaller ones sacrifice range for weight. But the smaller turrets retain their zoom feature which enables the operator to see if men down there are armed with weapons (like AK-47s and RPGs).