Australian Army to Spend $100 million for Hand-launched Wasp AE drones

By | Jun 01, 2017 09:42 AM EDT
Small spy

Wasp AE drone.(Photo : AeroVironment)

The Australian Army continues its belated embrace of small tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with a $100 million outlay to purchase a backpack portable reconnaissance drone made in the USA.

The huge amount, one of the largest for any UAV acquisition, will go to purchasing "WASP AE (All Environment) Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs)" made by the American firm, AeroVironment, Inc. based in California. AeroVironment is the leading supplier of small UAVs to the U.S. Army.

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The Australian government hasn't revealed how many Wasps were being purchased, but military analysts surmise the total might be about 200 drones. The drones will be deployed to army units starting in the second half of 2018.

The Australian Army's WASP AE drones will be customized to meet its unique needs using technology provided by tech firms in Melbourne and Canberra.

Defense Minister Marise Payne said the drones will allow soldiers to "see over the hill, around the corner and down the road," which is an accurate assessment of what the Wasp AE does.

"They provide our military with a faster and better understanding of the battlefield than our adversaries," she said.

Weighing a scant 1.3 kg, a Wasp AE sends back color and infrared images of terrain in the path of an advancing army unit. It can easily be disassembled and fits snugly inside a soldier's backpack.

The MAV has a wingspan of 102 cm and a length of 76 cm. Its key payload is a gimbaled camera with pan and tilt stabilized high-resolution electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) capability. Because of its small size, Wasp can operate virtually undetected up to a range of 5 km.

The mechanically stabilized EO/IR gimbaled camera transmits advanced imagery in high wind conditions. Wasp AE also features hand-launch capabilities, with a deep-stall landing in land or water.

Wasp AE can be operated manually or programmed for autonomous operation, utilizing the system's advanced avionics and precise GPS navigation.

AeroVironment says Wasp AE delivers "exceptional features of superior imagery, increased endurance, encrypted video, and ease of use."

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