Air Force researchers at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, are developing tiny unmanned aircraft that mimic the flight characteristics of small birds and insects. “We take the technology that we have and we try to design something that does the same thing as a hummingbird or dragonfly does,” explains Ryan Carr, an Air Force Research Lab aeronautical engineer. Such micro air vehicles, carrying cameras and other sensors, would be a valuable tool for inconspicuously gathering intelligence on persons or objects for extended periods. The hummingbird is capable of feats that Carr and his colleagues hope to be able to replicate in a MAV: the endurance to travel long distances, ability to stop quickly and hover, and wherewithal to navigate through tight spaces. AFRL’s Micro Air Vehicle Integration and Application Research Institute is the hub for this work. (DOD Web page highlighting AFRL’s micro air vehicle activities)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.