SSD would like to thank Weapon Outfitters LLC for sharing this report on the Nighthawk UAV with us from the recent NTOA conference in Seattle.
In the last ten years, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology has grown exponentially as technology has taken a leap forward to meet the needs of service men and women in the war on terror.
Information lag used to span days and minutes, as well as down organizational hierarchies… but modern technology has increasingly shortened the lag of gathering of information to delivering that information to the folks on the ground.
The ARA Robotics Solutions Nighthawk is an extremely intuitive and user friendly mini UAV that can support operations at the lowest levels: no need to call up to command to ask for assistance to see what’s right beyond the hill with the Nighthawk.
One of the first things you notice about the the Nighthawk Mini UAV is its impressive, all carbon fiber construction. The fuselage, wings, and “cargo bay” which stores the optical and optional thermal camera are all made of carbon fiber. Known for its lightweight and durability, carbon fiber is an ideal material for this application, and handling the demo Nighthawk, it was clear ARA was quite skilled with this sometimes finicky medium. Impressively, the carbon fiber wings of the Nighthawk are easily wrapped around the fuselage for storage and quick deployment, and can also be easily installed or removed with just two pins, and the payload selection.
A complete system with two Nighthawks, control units, support materials, carry pack for field use, and hard case for transport is estimated to be around $125K. Each Nighthawk is estimated to cost around $25 to $35K depending on imaging payload, as the thermal imaging unit is worth $12K by itself! Adding to the cost are the live video and data transmission hardware, as well as the $6K for a COTS autopilot system. Though a $6K autopilot may seem expensive, as anyone with RC airplane experience will tell you, crashing is very, very easy and can be very expensive considering the electronic payloads the Nighthawk is designed to carry.
Designed with user friendliness in mind, the Nighthawk’s COTS autopilot system that eliminates the need for users to have anything other than a basic understanding of flight. Users just have to launch the unit, and can then control the unit by plotting coordinates on a map, or controlling the Nighthawk with a video game-like interface. With programmed automatic landing, map based “point and click” navigation, failsafe responses to loss of communication or GPS, and other traditionally vexing problems for novice pilots, the autopilot system truly takes out all the hard work from controlling what amounts to a miniature aircraft.
For a guy in the field who jobs and hobbies have nothing to do with RC aircraft piloting, the well designed and complete system offered by ARA Systems looks to be a useful tool for safe reconnaissance.
The Nighthawk has been purchased and fielded extensively by the military, but suffers from FAA regulation in domestic operations by police departments. Though rules have loosened somewhat in the last few weeks, there is still a byzantine layer of red tape which must be navigated by law enforcement agencies to use this unit stateside. Some larger departments are using this system though, so don’t hesitate to give it a shot!
-Each Nighthawk UAV weighs roughly 2 pounds
-Extensive carbon fiber use for strength and weight
-Modular design allowing for easy reconfiguration, repair, and storage
-10 KM range
-60 minute run time in Lithium Polymer Batteries
-18-30 knots cruise speed
-Built in autopilot system for easy navigation and/or piloting
-Live relay of day time and/or thermal optic capability
Weapon Outfitters LLC