Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A new option for remote sensing

The Economist last week had an article about a new areal vehicle for remote sensing, the Raven.
(T)he RQ-11B Raven, made by AeroVironment of Monrovia, California, and widely used by America’s armed forces. It looks like a model aircraft. When disassembled it fits into a backpack. Launching it is a matter of snapping the parts together and throwing it into the air, whence it is carried aloft by an electric propeller. It weighs two kilograms..... 
At its simplest, a Raven acts as a flying pair of binoculars that can look over the next hill, or escort a convoy from above. 
At the moment, Ravens cost around $56,000 each, and economies of scale should bring this down.
I think small areal vehicles for remote sensing might offer considerable benefits to developing nations. Think about their potential role in disaster relief, where an NGO could do a fast surveillance of a village hit by an earthquake or hurricane. Think about the possibility of using them for crop surveillance or environmental monitoring. When the prices come down, I would hope a lot of these go out to developing countries. Indeed, it would be great if USAID would send a few out now with good NGOs to explore potential uses and their value. 

No comments: