High-tech drone technology

It's nothing short of an electronic miracle: a micro-aircraft – or micro aerial vehicle (MAV) – that flies autonomously, aided by satellite support. Developed in cooperation with the Technical University of Braunschweig and marketed by Bremen-based Rheinmetall Defence Electronics GmbH via the spin-off company Mavionics GmbH of Braunschweig, the re-useable micro-drone Carolo P50 is so compact that fits into a special backpack. During flight trials at Meppen near the German-Dutch border, it has since been successfully demonstrated to representatives of Germany's Bundeswehr and Federal Agency for Defence Technology and Procurement.

Thomas Kordes, Managing Director of the Braunschwieg-based company Mavionics GmbH, with the Carolo micro-aircraft. This unmanned system enables near-real-time reconnaissance and visual monitoring.

Looking like it could have come from a model airplane shop, it is actually designed to carry out unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance operations. The Carola P50 is an invaluable intelligence aide to soldiers in the field, providing them with a bird's eye view of what's happening "on the other side of the hill" – or even behind the next wall. It enables near-real-time reconnaissance and visual monitoring of the area under observation. This portable, unmanned reconnaissance system is based on off-the-shelf components, and can be procured and operated in small numbers.

With a wingspan measuring barely 49 centimetres, this innovative new UAV system consists of three main components: the flight unit itself with exchangeable payload; the ground station; and the transport pack with built-in antenna. The micro-aircraft itself is a monoplane with high-set, kite-like wings and a T-shaped tail unit. Powered by an electrical motor in the nose with a folding propeller, its robust design means that it is ready for action again within minutes of landing, i.e. as soon as the batteries are exchanged.

Energy for the aircraft's on-board systems is supplied by batteries built into the wings. The systems enabling automatic flight control are all contained in the fuselage. Here, miniaturized, commercially available sensors are employed for inertial and GPS navigation. Position accuracy is essentially determined by GPS tolerances.

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