A real eagle in Spain. The drones are intended to pass as birds from about 100 metres away. Photograph: Alamy
A new generation of drones designed to look like birds of prey is being marketed at armies across the world.
Sofía Alfaro Marco, branding manager of the Spanish company Expal, says its Shepherd-Mil unmanned forward observer (UAV) is so well camouflaged it can fly at just 100 metres (33ft) above the enemy without detection, compared with 1,000 metres for standard UAVs.
“Nobody can tell it’s a spy because it’s designed to the exact body shape and feather pattern of a eagle,” he said. “We can design it to look like any large bird, depending on the location of the client.”
The remote-controlled aircraft, which is fitted with state-of-the-art cameras, can automatically provide target location data to nearby mortars.
The drone, which costs about £1,000 and fits inside two briefcases, is being tested by the Spanish military, and Expal is in talks to sell it to several other countries’ armed forces.
A pair of super-lightweight miniature spectrometers from Ocean Optics (Netherlands) is helping researchers investigate plant parameters in a verdant patch of New Zealand grassland. The compact STS model spectrometers, one deployed as a ground unit and the other aboard an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), are making synchronised hyperspectral measurements of barley and sugar beet crops to assess plant characteristics for more effective crop management. A multinational team of researchers from Germany, Italy, Spain and New Zealand developed the UAV-based system and conducted the initial experiments, gathering high-resolution reflectance spectra from the UAV at altitudes of up to 200 meters and irradiance spectra from the ground-based spectrometer. According to team leader Andreas Burkart of the Research Center Jülich IBG-2 Plant Sciences, Germany, collection of hyperspectral data by field spectroscopy is a time-consuming task and often is restricted to easily accessible areas. The small size and weight of the STS spectrometer is ideal for use on the UAV, which allows a series of fast and reproducible measurements over any terrain, even forest or marsh. By measuring various segments across a section of the New Zealand pastureland, the system was able to assess information such as specific plots that contained live vegetation. The STS is a remarkably small CMOS detector-based spectrometer that is less than 2 inches square (40 mm x 42 mm) and weighs a little over 2 ounces (68 g). It performs comparably to larger systems, providing full spectral analysis with low stray light, high signal to noise (>1500:1) and excellent optical resolution. For the application described here, the researchers were able to match the performance of the STS to that of a larger, more expensive commercially available field portable spectrometer, with optical resolution of ~2.5 nm (FWHM). – See more at: http://www.envirotech-online.com/news/portable-field-testing/43/ocean_optics/spectrometers_enable_field_application/26717/#sthash.sPN6GSGD.dpuf