May 9 Drone-maker AeroVironment Inc unveiled a
small four-rotor surveillance helicopter on Tuesday that can be
carried in a small pouch and launched from the palm of a hand.
The smaller size and simplicity of operation means it can
used by ordinary soldiers, offering squads and other small
military units the kind of surveillance capacity previously
reserved for larger military units, where drones are operated by
AeroVironment said it delivered 20 of the 5-ounce
(140-gram) Snipe unmanned aircraft to its first U.S. government
client in April. The company declined to identify the government
agency that purchased the drones, but Aviation Week reported
last year that AeroVironment was developing prototypes for the
AeroVironment said the drone benefited from advances in
technology achieved in the development of its Nano Hummingbird
drone for DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
which has been responsible for many technological and scientific
breakthroughs used by the military.
Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment's vice president in charge of
unmanned aircraft systems, said in a statement the Snipe copter
drone is "designed to be worn by its operator so it can be
deployed in less than a minute."
The aircraft, which is intended intelligence and
reconnaissance missions, can relay high-resolution images and
record video both day and night. It can fly at speeds of 20 mph
(35 kph), has a range of more than a kilometer (half-mile), and
can fly for about 15 minutes on batteries, the statement said.
AeroVironment's hand-launched Raven unmanned aircraft, which
weighs 4.2 pounds (2 kg) and has a wingspan of 4.5 feet (1.4
meters), is one of the most widely used military surveillance
drones, with more than 19,000 built.
Shares of AeroVironment dropped 0.2 percent to $29.13 within
its 52-week range of $22.16 to $32.44.
(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)