US Navy offers drone-in-a-tube tech to the public
If you're trying to confuse an incoming missile, one way of doing it would be to place a swarm of radio frequency-emitting drones in its path. That's what the US Navy's tube-launched Nomad was designed to do, although commercial partners are now being invited to adapt the drone for their own needs.
The Nomad (Netted Offboard Miniature Active Decoy) is three feet long (0.9 m), and sits in a tube with its pair of spring-loaded rotors folded into its sides when not in use. Once it's time to take to the air, a blast of compressed carbon dioxide shoots it out of that tube, at which point the rotors pop out and start spinning in opposite directions.
The UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) can then fly in any direction or hover on the spot, landing vertically on a set of four legs when its mission is completed.
While there are other tube-launched rotary-wing drones, the Nomad reportedly has a larger and thus more efficient rotary diameter, plus it can be launched in higher wind speeds. We've also seen tube-launched fixed-wing drones – such as the Blackwing and the Locust – although those can't hover or track alongside slow-moving targets, plus they have a smaller payload capacity, and they can't face sideways relative to the direction in which they're travelling.
Given that the Nomad's patent was made public on Oct. 4th, the Department of Defense's TechLink office is now looking for businesses that may be interested in licensing the technology, perhaps even with an eye towards manufacturing a civilian version of the drone that could be equipped with sensors and/or a top-mounted camera.
"Nomad is a low-cost rotary wing vehicle in which researchers can test remote control, autonomous flight control, station keeping, and safe coordinated flight supporting any number of possible future payloads," says Nomad inventor Steven Tayman, a senior aerospace engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory. "The unique form factor provides compact, lightweight storage in an integrated launch tube, and allows for storage in a ready-to-use condition for quick reaction deployment."
Unfortunately there are currently no publicly-posted videos of the Nomad in flight.