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Old 08-29-2010, 11:55 AM
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Arrow Boeing A160T Hummingbird

Special Operations’ Robocopter Spotted in Belize (Corrected)


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Watch out, humans, the U.S. military has released an all-seeing, unmanned helicopter-like aircraft into the wild, according to Aviation Week. The Boeing A160T Hummingbird was photographed in Belize, where it was test flying a tree-penetrating Darpa radar called FORESTER. Locals were given a heads-up thanks to a press release from the U.S. Embassy. There’s no sign of the document on the website, but local reports say that the the Belize government invited the U.S. to test the Hummingbird in a mountain range 25 miles from the Guatemalan border. A few dozen military personnel – both Belizean and American – are involved in the testing, which will last until September.
U.S. Special Operations Command got its new gear in November of 2008, but at the time the unmanned hovering aircraft couldn’t see through trees. The synthetic-aperture radar now onboard is designed to detect slow moving people and vehicles – even if they’re hiding in dense foliage. It enables super high resolution imaging by using the motion of the helicopter to create an artificially large aperture. As if the unmanned A160T platform, which can fly 2,500 nautical miles for 24 hours at up to 30,000 feet, wasn’t high tech enough. The Hummingbird represents a completely new approach to helicopter design, with a special adjustable-speed rotor enabling it to be super quiet.
This particular model is unarmed. But the aircraft – officially dubbed the YMQ-18A by Special Ops – could also prove useful in urban areas or in Afghanistan, where its radar could help it surveil forested mountains and bring supplies to special forces teams at night.

It’s not the only robotic helicopter-esque aircraft used by the military. This spring, a prototype of Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8B Fire Scout, operating off of the frigate USS McInenry, helped bust up a drug deal at sea. 60 kilograms of cocaine were seized, and another 200 kilos were thrown overboard, according to the Navy.
Of course, neither robotic machine truly flies itself. They either have a pilot controlling them remotely, or a pre-determined computer program. The only true self-flying full-size helicopter is the Unmanned Little Bird, which had its inaugural no-humans-involved flight in June.
Photo: Boeing


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