Auto-follow chopsticks grab flying UAVs from the back of a vehicle
Mesmerizing video shows Teledyne FLIR's new autonomous drone-catching cradle matching the movements of a model helicopter and grabbing it the instant it's within reach. It'll allow soldiers to launch and recover drones from inside their vehicles.
The Ukraine conflict has made it clear: drones will play a huge part in any modern warfare scenario, providing instant next-gen surveillance and recon capabilities as well as direct lethal interventions.
One concept Teledyne FLIR is working on is a "Black Recon" system that sits on the back of a military vehicle, and can autonomously launch and recover up to three small helicopter UAVs during a mission, without anyone needing to stop in a dangerous area, get out of the car and fiddle about with the drones.
The UAVs will fly ahead of an advancing vehicle or convoy, equipped with cameras and infrared imaging payloads, sending back advance warning about impassable terrain, mines, enemy combatants and IEDs – as well as being able to fly under bridges and look for potential bombs and traps.
When they return to charge their batteries, the Black Recon system will pluck them out of the air and stow them back inside its hardened launch box. It does so via a remarkable moving cradle mounted on six robotic arms, which tracks the position and orientation of an incoming drone and instantly moves to match it. As soon as it's close enough, chopstick arms spring up and grab the drone's fuselage, bringing it safely in.
Teledyne FLIR showed the above demo version of this auto-follow cradle at the DSEI expo in London last year, functional and able to follow and grab hand-held models of the mini-helicopters.
The speed and accuracy with which it tracks and mimics the drone's movements is impressive, giving a sense of how effective the system might be on a moving vehicle. The company says it works day or night, in all weather conditions, and the drones are capable of operating in GPS-denied areas.
The company is also working on a new version of its Black Hornet "nano UAV" – which gives similar situational awareness advantages to infantry troops, and deploys from a smallish belt-mounted box, as shown in the video below.
Source: Teledyne FLIR