Procurement: December 27, 2004


A major reason for the success of UAVs has been the rapid emergence of small, cheap, reliable and capable video cameras. Take thermal imaging cameras for example. This was long an expensive and bulky technology. Now you can get a thermal imaging (which detects heat) camera (the A10), thats less than 2x2x2 inches in size, weighs a quarter of a pound and cost $7,500 each. The A10 has a 170x120 pixel display and adjusts for bright spots. Naturally, you need government permission to export this item. In the same series of thermal imagers, theres the larger (roughly 8x4x4 inches) and heavier (three pounds) A40. Many more bells and whistles, and a 320x240 pixel image. This one will set you back $25,000 each. Lightweight, small, monochrome and color, high definition (1,000x1000 pixels) video cameras cost $4-5,000. These are made outside the United States. Prices for lightweight video cameras go down to under $1,000, if you will settle for fewer features. With equipment like this, its easy to stuff a large, radio-controlled model aircraft with all sorts of cameras and communications equipment to make a UAV. Hobbyists are doing it, as are many nations. UAVs are no longer high tech. 


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