Front-line troops have a growing appetite for small drones that they can launch by hand. Now, a new aircraft has been thrown into the field to compete with the Ravens and Pumas already being used by the military.
The Four Delta small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) has a wingspan of 5.8 feet and weighs less than 3 pounds. It can carry a variety of payloads, from daylight cameras and thermal infrared sensors to chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear detectors.
“Most all SUAS are built around a specific payload and are mono-mission,” said Jeff Imel, founder of Air Robotics, which is based in Charleston, W.Va. That single mission generally is intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, but Air Robotics has developed a special pod that allows customers to switch out existing payloads for whatever the situation requires.
“The Four Delta can be daylight ISR one mission, then land, swap payload pods to a CBRN payload and conduct a remote-sensing operation,” Imel said. “This saves customers money and time by not needing to purchase a different SUAS for each specific payload they wish to carry.”
The Four Delta can fly for up to two hours at a time over a range of six miles. It operates at an average altitude of 1,000 feet and can reach speeds of up to 60 knots. It is built to withstand the hard landings and crashes common to smaller drones. The payload pod and wings are designed to detach when jarred by a wreck.
A video shows Imel purposely sending the Four Delta nose-diving into the ground to test the airframe’s durability. After more than a dozen crash tests, Imel is seen re-attaching a wing without any tools and launching the Four Delta up into the air for another flight.
“Most SUAS are only one incident away from never flying again,” Imel said.Photo Credit: Air Robotics