The U.S. Army sent several dozen of its new MAVs (Micro Air Vehicles) to
Iraq for testing, by troops, in a combat zone. MAV is a 13 pound helicopter,
that is 13 inches in diameter. It can take off in winds of up to 27 kilometers
an hour. It can operate when the winds are moving at up to 36 kilometers an
hour. For an item that small and light, that's pretty good.
MAV operates at between 10 and 500 feet altitude, but it can go as high as
10,000 feet. What makes the MAV
particularly useful is not just its ability to "hover and stare", but
also to set down anywhere, and "perch and stare" (thus saving battery
power). The ducted fan propulsion system
eliminates any rotors spinning around where they could hit anything. With an
endurance of 40 minutes and a top speed of 80 kilometers an hour, the MAV can
easily cover company or platoon level operations. For operations in an urban
area, MAV is particularly effective. The MAV can't be heard by anyone 100
meters away, or less if buildings are in the way. The cameras show video that
allows the operator (using a handheld controller/display) to identify people at
250 meters (during the day, 125 meters at night).
A MAV system
consist of two MAV vehicles, one controller, and spares (vidcams, batteries,
etc). Takes a few hours of instruction to learn how to use. That includes how
to program a predetermined flight path, using way points.