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"ORGANIC" DRONES TAKE OFF

oav.jpgThe Pentagon wants its soldiers on the ground to have drones of their own flying robots that can spy on enemy hideouts, detect or trigger ambushes, and spot explosives. American Lieutenants and Captains have a few of these unmanned scouts already. But the drones all have their problems: too slow, too cumbersome to launch, too susceptible to the elements, or too reliant on in-flight hand-holding.Enter Organic Aerial Vehicles, or OAVs. ("Organic," in defense lingo, means operated by the smallest of fighting forces.) These are drones designed to take off like a helicopter, fly like a plane, and linger over a battlefield for long stretches -- without orders from a flesh-and-blood master, and without a care for the weather.Prototypes of the OAV look strange, almost like metallic pigs-in-blankets. And they come in three sizes -- hand-held, midget-height, and larger-than-soldier. Recently, Honeywell, which is developing the OAVs for the Pentagon, flight tested the 29-inch-diameter, four-foot-high version at the Soldier Battle Lab in Fort Benning, Ga. And the drone flew well, according to ISR Journal, traveling up to 30 knots in light rain and moderate winds during its 18 minute, fully autonomous flights. Eventually, the OAV is supposed to fly up to 100 knots several times quicker than the current, small unit drones, like the Pointer or Dragon Eye.Now, Pentagon mad scientist division Darpa is looking for companies to build the next phase of OAVs. These 112-pound drones should be able to stay in the air for two hours at a time. They should have a fully-developed collision avoidance system, so the OAVs don't bump into buildings, trees or each other while they're flying. And drones should be able to network together, to form an autonomous swarm of scouts, sitting in the sky.

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