By David Crane ;
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
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June 2, 2012
Last updated on 11/12/12.
This one's right out of "Minority Report" (2002), and would have fit right in with the Daddy Longlegs-type S&R "spider robots" and "Pre-Crime Unit" jet-packs (also written "jetpacks"). The BCB/AAI SQ-4 RECON Nano Quad-Rotor MAV/UAS/UAV (Micro Air Vehicle/Unmanned Aircraft System/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), which DefenseReview (DR) ran across at the Textron / AAI booth at NDIA SOFIC 2012 (Special Operations Forces Industry Conference 2012), was one of the smallest UAS/UAVs (if not THE smallest) at the show, but also one of the most interesting.
The 7-ounce (7-oz) SQ-4 RECON is essentially a backpackable/manpackable single-operator-launched and operated mini-quad-rotor/quad-copter-type MAV/UAS/UAV that "flies uniquely, using a mesh network". The SQ-4 is designed specifically to be able to penetrate and search buildings and "narrow places" during daylight/daytime and low-light/no-light/nigttime reconnaissance missions/operations, covert operations and perimeter security checks. You can also perch it on the ledge of a building and just let it watch and listen for enemy activity ("perch and stare mode"). As a quad-copter, it obviously enjoys vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability–but that's not all it's got going for it. It's also got:
- thermal/IR (infrared) "search lights" (IR illuminators)
- 5-megapixel day/night digital camera (video/still camera?) that can operate up to 8 hours
- 6 sets of bat-like "ultrasonics", which are sonar-like ultrasonic sensors for obstacle avoidance and avoiding hostiles (hostile human beings)
- a high-gain "acoustic infiltrator" microphone for surveillance, reconnaissance and tactical communications
- a speaker for tactical communications
- visible white light landing lights and infrared (IR) lights for "stealth landings"
The BCB/AAI SQ-4 RECON NUAS can also penetrate heavy RF jamming while being "controlled or observed from literally anywhere in the world" via internet or satellite. Tactical comms (communications) are accomplished over Skype-type VoIP (Voice over IP). The SQ-4 Recon can fly for up to 25-30 minutes on its purpose-designed batteries/on-board power supply. The company literature Defense Review received states that the SQ-4 can cover a range of up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) in "just a few minutes".
The SQ-4 RECON mini-UAS/MAV drone aircraft can tolerate winds of 8-9 m/sec and is self-stabilizing. It can be put in "safe hover" mode when required, and will automatically return home when the batteries get down to 30% power, thanks to its "auto-home" feature.
Oh, and by the way, the SQ-4 Recon spy-copter will eventually be capable of "swarming" in groups of up to 50 aircraft under the control of a single operator from one GCS (Ground Control System) station, which in the SQ-4 Recon's case is an iPad-type tablet computer.
The following quoted technical information comes from a BCB SQ4 RECON data sheet (edited for grammar):
"The SQ-4 RECON communications uses a 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 standard transceiver. The RF engine has a high-powered on-board processor which allows the creation of a peer-to-peer network through automatic packet switching and forwarding to modules outside of range. With a maximum data rate of 1Mbps at 16,000ft line of sight, the system allows deployment of a number of drones interconnected, communicating with each other as well as with a FOB [Forward Operating Base]. All video/still image data is transmitted over the same high-powered secure network. The RF system is encrypted using AES128 bit. The system also supports an internet bridge allowing communications to the drones remotely over the internet with little effort. The internet bridge supports 128-bit SSL communications as well as strong authentication and, as such, can plug into any secure civilian or military Ethernet network."
Let's just hope the SQ-4's RF control/comms system is more secure than the "stealth drone" (low-observable UAS) that Iran allegedly hacked and captured late last year (2011).
DR is curious as to whether or not a powerful-enough IR laser designator can be added to the SQ-4 RECON to lase targets for long-range precision laser-guided weapon strikes, i.e. bomb and missile strikes. We'd also recommend packing the SQ-4 with C4 plastic explosive for target neutralization capability. A larger-version SQ-4 with greater payload capacity may have to be developed to be able to haul around the extra weight of a laser designator and explosive charge large and powerful enough to get the job done.
During the booth demo, DR did observe that the SQ-4's four (4) lift propellers were fairly loud, even at low, non-lifting power, so we're guessing the craft won't be all that hard to hear coming and/or locate on a quiet night when ambient noise is at a minimum. However, locating a moving SQ-4 visually should still be relatively difficult to accomplish in low-light/no-light conditions, given the craft's small size and ability to quickly perch and stare somewhere. If it's possible to make the propeller blades quieter in operation to make the SQ-4 sonically stealthier, that should of course be explored.
DefenseReview would like to thank the nice British gentlemen from BCB International who assisted us at the Textron/AAI booth at SOFIC. They were both friendly and informative.
"Weight: 6.9 ounces (198 grams) (Drone + GCS in pack 968 grams)
Dimensions: 9.45" x 9.45"x 4.33"
Flight Duration: 25 minutes
Flight Speed: 14.5 mph (6.5 meters per second)
Max Operating Height: 1,312 feet/400 meters
Range: 2.5 Kilometers (more than 10,000 feet)
Data Link: 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 – 128 Bit Encryption.
Video: Day / Night 5 megapixel camera
Operating Temperature: 14-122 degrees Fahrenheit (-10c to + 50c) (low thermal signature)
BCB/AAI SQ-4 RECON NUAS Key Features:
- Computerised Touch Button Flight System
- Day / Night Digital Camera
- On Screen Display (OSD)
- Emergency Position Hold
- Emergency Recovery
- Return To Operator
Company Contact Info:
AAI Corporation (Textron Subsidiary)
124 Industry Lane
Hunt Valley, MD 21030-0126
Toll Free: 800-655-2616
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