The big problem with drones is they look like, well, drones. It makes them easy to spot, and easy to target. The Army has a solution to this problem: make them look like birds.
A microdrone that resembles a bird would be harder to spot, the thinking goes, rendering them almost as invisible to the enemy as the soldiers controlling them.
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.
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.
Going from contract to delivery in less than six months is remarkable, and The Army considers its prompt acquisition of Maveric a very big deal, given some acquisition efforts take years to achieve.
“As the REF procures emerging capabilities to meet urgent Soldier requirements, we are often inserting technologies for the first time and assessing operational performance,” said REF project manager Tami Johnson, in a statement. “It demonstrates our ability to validate a unique requirement, canvass emerging commercial-off-the-shelf and government-off-the-shelf technologies, and partner with other Army organizations to quickly place capabilities into the hands of Soldiers.”