DARPA’s Hummingbird Nano Air Vehicle
In 2005, DARPA announced the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program and its goal to develop agile and flyers system that could fit in one hand. This video chronicles the development of a “hummingbird” flyer by Aerovironment from concept to prototype demonstration and introduction to the public. A number of difficult design and engineering challenges were overcome in the course of the program, particularly in the wing structure, propulsion and control actuators. Numerous complete prototypes were built and tested to assess and improve the performance of the systems shown in the video. The final prototype achieves the noteworthy milestone of 2-wing flapping hovering and fast forward flight with all power sources on the aircraft and all controls implemented through modulation of the wing strokes in a shape that resembles a real hummingbird and carries and on-board camera that relays video to the pilot in real time. The Miniature flying robot is among TIME’s 2011 best 50 inventions.
NAV will push the limits of aerodynamics, power conversion efficiency, endurance and maneuverability for very small air vehicle systems. These platforms will be revolutionary in their ability to harness low Reynolds number physics, navigate in complex environments, and communicate over significant distances. Flight-enabling nano air technologies include aerodynamic design tools to achieve high lift-to-drag airfoils; lightweight, efficient propulsion and power systems; guidance, navigations and communication subsystems; and advanced manufacturing and innovative subsystem packaging and configurations layouts.