Combining a patented computer program and GPS with an existing minicopter, an Israeli company has developed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that could be the next homeland security defense tool.
The craft does not have a pilot — not even one who controls it remotely from the ground. All the aspects of flight — takeoff, hovering and landing — are completely autonomous, making this UAV a first.
Currently, the system uses a 5-foot, 18-pound minicopter, but the technology can work with any helicopter, from hobby-sized to a full-sized, rotating-wing aircraft. Before the flight, an operator — who needs no special training — enters flight instructions and routes into a standard PC. The helicopter flies at an altitude of a few hundred feet with an operating range of six miles from ground control for about 90 minutes, and can adjust to winds of up to 25 knots. Changes in direction, flight speed and altitude can be made throughout the flight. The helicopter can be outfitted with cameras that survey areas up to 8.8 miles away, and transmit real time video images.
Steadicopter has both security and civilian uses. Military surveillance, search and rescue, and inspection of damage in hard-to-reach places hit by terror or natural disasters are among its many security options. Civilian uses include high-tension wire inspections, forest fire monitoring, media coverage of live events, and traffic control.