Army's New Bird-Like Surveillance UAV

The Army's new Maveric drone is unlike many military UAVs in that it has a convincingly bird-like appearance.

(Army Maveric UAV)

Maveric has a bird-like profile with flexible wings, giving it the appearance of a raptor in flight. The drone, made of composite material, can fly as high as 25,000 feet and zip along at between 20 and 65 mph, making it just the thing for reconnaissance missions. And those super-stealthy guys in Special Operations.

“There was a Special Operations requirement for a plane that had a natural, biological look — it wasn’t supposed to look DoD-ish,” Derek Lyons, vice president of sales and business development at Prioria Robotics, told Flightglobal.

Earlier this fall, the Florida robotics company won a $4.5 million contract from the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force to produce 36 Maverics for an urgent, but undisclosed, need. Training the Joint Special Operations Task Force to use Maveric started earlier this month, according to Prioria, and fully-equipped delivery is expected in December.

Maveric weighs just 2.5 pounds and can be contained within a 6-inch tube. There’s no assembly required to prepare it for use, and it can be launched in less than 5 minutes by a single soldier. Once it reaches 100 meters, it’s silent to those on the ground. The battery’s only good for about an hour, but it takes just 30 seconds to swap a dead pack for a fresh one and have it ready to fly again. The drone is retrieved with a net.

Science fiction writer Roger Zelazny wrote about robotic birds in his 1980 novel Changeling:

The prototype blue-bellied, gray-backed tracer-bird with the wide-angle eye and the parabola ear followed the dragon-riders north. A series of the larger fliers followed it at well-spaced intervals, to serve as relay points for the spy broadcasts...
(Read more about Zelazny's tracer-bird)

The tracer-bird was used for surveillance.

He saw the blue-bellied, gray-backed thing upon the sill overhead. It was turned as if watching them. A portion of its front end caught the sunlight and cast it down toward them... The tracer-bird followed their every step, hung upon their words...

The Army's Maveric UAV also serves as an eye in the sky, broadcasting high quality video to troops on the ground:

The drone’s retractable gimbaled camera is flexible enough to capture footage from almost any angle, and it is said to be so good it can work in the most inclement weather.

Zelazny has you covered on that feature - and adds something that the Army needs - a wristband viewer:

Mark brushed back the soft green sleeve of his upper garment and pressed several buttons on the wide bracelet he wore upon his left wrist. The bird took flight again, climbing steadily. He controlled its passage with the wristband and saw through its eyes upon the tiny screen in the bracelet's center.

Via Wired; thanks to our friends at Frolix_8 for the tip on this story. (Note also that, even though they were not bird-like, Philip K. Dick wrote about robot tracking devices that were used for optical surveillance in his 1960 book Vulcan's Hammer.)

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