Yesterday, Amazon announced that in the coming years it would like to offer 30-minute delivery service. In showing off the concept, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos stood in front of a demo video in which an octocopter grabbed and flew off with a yellow plastic box containing a shipment. It tilted, hovered, and hummed. In other words, there was no mistaking that it was a drone.
Such recognizability doesn’t fly with the military. Small drones are increasingly used on the battlefield to quickly reconnoiter an area for enemy positions. Launched by individual soldiers, they must be small enough to be carried on foot. Multi-rotor copters could fill that niche, but their radar profile makes them anything but stealthy, negating any advantage they might provide.
That has the U.S. Army looking for alternatives. Rather than try to cram stealth technology into a small drone, they’re want flying machines that look less like drones. One, called Maveric, is shaped like a bird. It even has wings that can flex to compensate for wind gusts and allow the craft to be folded up and stuffed in a six-inch tube.
Allen McDuffee, writing for Wired:
Maveric weighs just 2.5 pounds and can be contained within a 6-inch tube. There’s no assembly required to prepare it for use, and it can be launched in less than 5 minutes by a single soldier. Once it reaches 100 meters, it’s silent to those on the ground. The battery’s only good for about an hour, but it takes just 30 seconds to swap a dead pack for a fresh one and have it ready to fly again. The drone is retrieved with a net.
Maveric can fly at 20 to 65 miles per hour at altitudes as high as 25,000 feet. The drone’s shape and flexible wings make it look like a bird-of-prey soaring on thermal drafts, meaning that while it may be picked up by enemy radar, it won’t be immediately recognizable as a drone, giving soldiers a distinct advantage.