Intelligence: TowHawk


January 18, 2009: The U.S. Army is being offered a miniature UAV that is launched from a TOW missile launcher. The TowHawk is a 1.6 pound, battery powered UAV that has its carbon fiber wings rolled around the body of the propeller driver UAV so it can fit in the 150mm wide TOW missile launch tube. Once propelled out of the launch tube (by compressed air), the wings unfold and the electric motor starts. The UAV can move at 30-50 kilometers an hour for about 60 minutes. The UAV can carry either two day cameras or one night vision camera. Normally it flies at 500 feet (or as high as 10,000 feet), and sends photos back to the vehicle that launched it. When first launched, the UAV flies to preprogrammed GPS coordinates, at which point the operator can fly it, or it can keep flying to GPS points assigned by the operator.

TOWHawk is another version of a small UAV design that has been around for about five years (as TacMav, for example.). The design has been constantly improved, but the army has not bought it yet. This is due to the success of the larger (5 pound) Raven, whose greater heft makes it easier to use when there are strong winds. Smaller UAVs, like TOWHawk, have control problems whenever there is a strong wind. But the main pitch for the TOWHawk is that it gives a mechanized infantry platoon (usually 3-4 M-2 infantry fighting vehicles, each with a TOW launcher) its own UAV reconnaissance capability. Moreover, the TOWHawk can be launched when the vehicles are under fire (and, because of its small size, is difficult for enemy troops to hit.) Someone does have to get out of the vehicle to get the UAV after it has landed (by simply flying low and stopping its motor). It takes ten minutes to recharge the UAV battery and launch it again.


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