I have a piece in Popular Mechanics giving more details of the Air Force’s Perching Micro Air Weapon program: small drones with a lethal payload that can extend their mission time to days or weeks by perching. These drones are designed to operate in urban environments, recharging by perching on power lines or by drawing power from solar cells. They are disguised; some look like birds, others like bits of machinery.

“The other prototype appears to have progressed further. The 3-lb. drone made by Aethermachines Inc is a more radical design that the company describes as “insect-like“.  The 3D-printed drone has two shrouded rotors and takes off and lands vertically. The rotors act as wheels on the ground so the insect drone can scuttle along inside buildings and other closed spaces. It has a tiny ultrasonic sensor which, along with a set of accelerometers, allows it to perch.

Flight time is only 10 minutes per charge, but the insect can recharge itself in 40 minutes by perching on a power line and scavenging energy.  This is its camouflage. Rather than pretending to be a monster insect, the drone is disguised to like any of the other anonymous black boxes hanging out near power equipment that nobody ever notices. Aethermachines’s insect is a bomber rather than a kamikaze, with “the ability to aim and discharge the payload, allowing the MAV [Micro Air Vehicle] to return for reuse unless expendability is required by the mission.” The payload can be either an explosive warhead or marking dye.”

Full story here