Museum of Media History
Micro Air Vehicle
US Air Force Research Laboratory video animation of a flapping-wing micro air vehicle (MAV). AFRL's goal is to develop a bird-sized MAV by 2015 and an insect-sized MAV by 2030. The bird-sized MAV would be air-deployed from a larger UAV so search for weapons of mass destruction, operating semi-autonomously for up to a week.
Micro air vehicle
A micro air vehicle (MAV), or micro aerial vehicle, is a class of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that has a size restriction and may be autonomous. Modern craft can be as small as 15 centimetres. Development is driven by commercial, research, government, and military purposes; with insect-sized aircraft reportedly expected in the future. The small craft allows remote observation of hazardous environments inaccessible to ground vehicles. MAVs have been built for hobby purposes, such as aerial robotics contests and aerial photography.
MICRO AIR VEHICLE INTEGRATION & APPLICATION RESEARCH INSTITUTE
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Air Vehicles Directorate Micro Air Vehicle Integration & Application Research Institute (µAVIARI) is dedicated to the development and testing of Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) technology. A MAV is a flight vehicle about two feet in length or less, capable of operating below rooftop level in an urban environment. It may have a fixed wing, rotary wing (helicopter), flapping wing, or possibly no wings. One of the primary missions driving MAV development is the need to fill the covert close-in sensing requirement. This requirement demands that MAVs be able to covertly find, track, and target adversaries while operating in complex urban environments. The µAVIARI brings together scientists and engineers, along with world-class experimental facilities, for the research, design, fabrication, and testing of MAVs. The lab's Indoor Flight Test Laboratory, the showcase of the µAVIARI, allows researchers to simulate an urban environment by removing or controlling environmental effects such as temperature and wind. It also provides a contained test volume that can be highly instrumented, while minimizing interference and risk to people and property.
The µAVIARI is composed of four separate MAV experimental laboratories that provide a collaborative work environment for partners throughout AFRL as well as across industry and academia. The µAVIARI firmly establishes AFRL's vision as the premier organization for leading the development of MAV technology.
Unsteady Aerodynamics Laboratory. This facility consists of a large water tank with an impeller that guides water over and around a submerged test article at various rates of flow. The water tunnel allows scientists to use methods such as flow visualization and particle image velocimetry to study the aerodynamic flow around a MAV.
MAV Fabrication Laboratory. This lab houses a wide range of tools and equipment that allow researchers to quickly build and modify MAVs. The lab includes such tools as a laser engraver that provides the ability to cut and etch materials, and a 3-D printer that allows researchers to fabricate models quickly, easily, and inexpensively.
Flapping Wing Bench Test Laboratory. This laboratory allows scientists to record MAVs in motion, using high-speed cameras and other instrumentation to capture their smallest movements. By intricately studying the motion of MAVs, the forces produced, and the structural deformations measured, researchers can obtain insights into the physics behind flapping wing flight to help them better understand the overall nature of MAV flight.
MAV Indoor Flight Test Laboratory. This lab is the cornerstone of the µAVIARI. The Indoor Flight Lab allows for the separation of airframe development from sensor, communication, and payload development, meaning these technologies can be developed independently and simultaneously. The lab is composed of a test chamber and a control room. The test chamber is a large, instrumented room where MAVs can be flown. Instrumentation consists of a VICON motion capture system with 60 motion capture cameras. By adding small retro-reflective markers to a vehicle, the VICON system can track position and orientation of the vehicle with an accuracy of ~1.0 mm. The test chamber can simulate an urban environment, complete with winds, to test MAVs in a controlled, operationally realistic environment where test conditions can be easily repeated. The control room is used to simultaneously command multiple test vehicles as well as to process and record test data such as: vehicle position/orientation, velocity, acceleration, commands, sensor telemetry, and video-stream and audio data.
In the 1960s, Building 461 was constructed to house the AFRL vibration acoustic test facility, which was used to perform vital acoustic and fatigue testing for such programs as the F-15, F-16, B-1, AMRAAM, X-33, NASP, and F-22. When this facility was moved to a new location in 2003, several outstanding features made Building 461 an ideal candidate for the new Indoor Flight Test Lab. The lab's test chamber is a building within a building. This large, open space allows for the placement of instrumentation and cameras necessary to track and record data on MAV flights. The facility's control room provides an excellent place for MAV operators to command vehicles and monitor flights. This configuration, combined with the fact that the building is conveniently located close to other MAV laboratories, makes Building 461 an ideal setting for indoor flight research.
Indoor Flight Lab General Characteristics:
Primary function: Flight test of micro air vehicles and related technologies
Approximate Test Chamber Dimensions: 70'(W) x 55'(D) x 35'(H)
Equipment & Building Renovation Cost: $1.55M
Length of Construction: 9 months