Warplanes: August 23, 2005

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American troops in Iraq have demanding smaller and more dependable micro-UAVs. The latest one developed for that purpose is the TACMAV. This is a 12 ounce UAV, which carries two color cameras for battery powered flights lasting 30-40 minutes. 

A complete system weighs 12.4 pounds and include two UAVs, stored (with their bended plastic wings) in a 5x22 inch tube. A TACMAV can be launched within minutes. The operators pulls a UAV out of its tube, turns it on, fires up the five pound laptop computer used to control the UAV, sets up the antenna, makes sure that the control equipment is talking to the UAV, turns on the battery powered UAV engine and launches the UAV by throwing it into the air. Normally, the UAV goes to a series of way points selected by the operator. Onboard software handles the usual flying duties, although the operator can take over and maneuver the UAV via a joystick. Each system kit includes spare parts and repair tools. Theres a third UAV, in a tube, that is used as a spare and not carried in the 12.4 pound case containing all the other gear (two UAV tubes, laptop computer, Etc.). Each such system costs about $39,000. The manufacturer (Applied Research Associates) is producing these as fast as they can, but the Department of Defense wont release numbers. TACMAV is basically an off-the-shelf item, configured for military use. The target user for TACMAV is the infantry platoon, or squad level patrol. 

 


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