By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
All photos contained in this article were shot by DefenseReview.com (DR), and are copyrighted. DefenseReview.com owns the copyright on these materials. The photos were shot with a Canon PowerShot S90 10-megapixel digital camera (still camera with video capability).
May 23, 2011
Last updated on 5/25/11.
A company called Prioria Robotics out of Gainesville, Florida is manufacturing and marketing a very cool (and pretty badass) little SUAV (Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) system called the Maveric UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System), and it's probably the most interesting SUAV DefenseReview (DR) has ever seen. It's definitely one of the most interesting pieces of hardware DR saw last week at SOFIC 2011 (2011 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference). The Maveric UAS is unique in that it sports a flexible/bendable wing (monolithic wing) made from carbon fiber and ripstop nylon, allowing the wing to be bent/folded completely around Maveric's "fuselage", which in turn allows the whole (umanned aircraft) to be stored inside and deployed in less than two minutes from a 6-inch (6")-diameter tube that resembles a jumbo poster canister/container (see embedded photos and video clip). Ripstop nylon is only used on part of the the wing (behind the leading edge), by the way. The rest of th aircraft's body (including part of the wing) is made from carbon fiber.
According to a Prioria Robotics representative at SOFIC 2011, the Maveric UAS project actually started at the University of Florida (UF) sometime around 2003. It would seem logical that it was started by the Aerial Systems Research Group at the UF Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering's Micro Air Vehicles Laboratory, but we don't have confirmation on that, yet.
What we do know is that Maveric is a lightweight, throwable SUAV, and that it comes in several models. Since Maveric is customizable, Defense Review would opt for the thermal/IR (infrared) gimbal camera version for the greatest versatility and all-weather visual analysis/assessment of one's immediate battlespace and most thorough assessment of the tactical situation on the ground. It's DR's understanding that all Maveric cameras feature image stabiliation. This, combined with Maveric's flexible wing tech, should make for a pretty stable video image. Image processing is accomplished via Prioria's proprietary processing platform, called Merlin, which enables " image processing and vision-based control to be performed on-board and, in general, aims to reduce reliance on ground station communication."
The Maveric UAS/SUAV can operate in autonomous or semi-autonomous modes, or the operator/controller can switch over to manual control and remotely control Maveric via the RC controller with joystick that comes with the package.
From what DR has seen, Maveric would appear to be an effective infantry squad-level component of U.S. military Special Operations Forces' overall C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) package for net-centric warfare, provided Maveric works as advertised, and is reliable and durable. If so, the only thing left to do is weaponize it by packing it with some C4 and a detonator, so you can fly it right into any enemy target you identify with it, and blow that target to kingdom come. Think of it as your very own little remote-controlled unmanned kamikaze aircraft. Of course, you might need to scale Maveric up in size a bit for going high order on the bad guys. Fortunately, Maveric is indeed scalable, according to one of the Prioria reps at the booth.
The following information on the Maveric UAS comes directly from the Prioria Robotics website:
"Maveric can be deployed immediately with no assembly, and with a dash speed of 55 knots, it delivers a rapid, “eyes on-target and tracking” performance. Cursor on target (CoT) compliant capabilities provide a point and click feature for operators to acquire and follow a target, while the unique power distribution board allows Maveric to also fly “stealthy” by not emitting camera RF until the operator decides. Designed as the first smart, customizable SUAS, Maveric utilizes Prioria’s proprietary processing platform, Merlin to enable image processing and vision-based control to be performed on-board and aims to reduce reliance on ground station communication. This unique airframe design combined with the Merlin® “brain” gives Maveric the ability to operate and execute missions more effectively and surgically in more complex environments.
- Rugged / Ultra-light Carbon fiber
- Control surfaces: Stabilators and Rudders
- Modular nose, tail, fuselage, wing, and payload
- Hatches for battery and electronics bay access
- Hatches use captured thumbscrews for use with gloves
- Low-profile GPS and wireless antennas
- Water resistant in light precipitation
- Merlin on-board computer vision platform: The platform for the next generation of Smart UAVs. Enables image processing and vision-based control to be performed on-board.
- On-board video stabilization: Remove shaky motions from video imagery on-board the aircraft. Reduces ground station CPU resources and produces clearer video because it is stabilized before it is transmitted. Also, non-operators can receive stabilized video on remote view terminals (RVT).
- On-board digital zoom: Zooming allows more details of a potential target to be seen. When paired with the gimbal camera payload and on-board image stabilization capabilities, Maveric is the most capable SUAS for ISR.
- On-board image capture: Storing images of an area or target on-board, allows for the reconstruction of maps and for the identification of targets post-mission. The ability to store images on-board also enables Maveric to perform ISR tasks out of range of its GCS.
- On-board collision avoidance: Autonomous detection and avoidance of cluttered scenarios along the flight path.
- Patented bendable-wing design: Collapsible in one direction so that the wing can be stored, while maintaining rigidity when flexed in the opposite direction.
- Clickable target tracking: Targeting application, which enables precision target tracking, target localization, and automatic gimbal steering.
- Retractable gimbal camera: The only small UAV with the capability of deploying with a gimbal camera. This camera provides a 360 degree surveillance ability.
- Ublox-5 GPS with helix antenna: State-of-the-art GPS chipset available paired with the most advanced miniature filtering antenna.
- Single-person portable / operable
- On-board vision processing
- Retractable gimbal camera
- Advanced composite materials
- Bendable wing folds around fuselage
- Stored in a 6 inch tube, no assembly required
- Immediate launch capability
- Hand launched
- Fully autonomous operation – takeoff, navigation, and landing
- Camouflaged bird-like profile, silent beyond 100 m
- 45-90 min endurance depending on configuration
- Switch between on-board cameras
- Stall speed: 18 kts (21 mph, 9 m/s)
- Cruise speed: 26 kts (30 mph, 13 m/s)
- Dash speed: 55 kts 63 mph, 28 m/s)
- Maximum altitude: 25,000 ft (7620 m)
- Tested altitude: 16,000 ft (4875 m)
- Launch in wind up to 20 kts sustained, 30 kts gusting
- Operate in wind up to 20 kts sustained, 30 kts gusting
- Deployment time: < 2 min
- Payload change time: < 5 min
- Launch method: Hand launched
- Recovery method: Autonomous Skid / Deep-stall Vertical
- Deep-stall Vertical Fall Rate: 10 ft/s
- Battery change time: < 30 sec
- Propeller change time: < 30 sec
- Mission data video overlay
- Fail safes: Loss of comm, Loss of GPS and Low battery"
Company Contact Info:
Prioria Robotics, Inc.
104 N. Main Street, Ste 300
Gainesville, FL 32601
Office Phone: 352.505.2188
Email: [email protected]
Federal Tax ID: 03-0511012
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