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Someone recently sent me THIS video about "micro air vehicles" (MAVs), essentially bug and bird look-alikes that are really airborne spy drone vehicles for military surveillance. It's just a concept video, but I'm wondering if anyone can confirm/deny that the US Air Force Research Laboratory (credited in the beginning and end) are actually working on this.

I ask because it struck me as odd to have a concept video out on the internet explaining exactly what a military organization is planning in terms of covert surveillance in the future.

Some basic checks pan out; for example:

  • General Dynamics exists and makes defense related products
  • The phone number 937-255-2074 appears to be for the Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Isiah Davenport, credited with the production of the film, does appear to be working in animation/filming

Maybe I'm over thinking this, and thus will put two questions forward:

  • Can the future plan to use bug/bird-like MAVs for surveillance purposes by the US military be confirmed or denied?
  • In general, are these "concept videos" quite a bit more common than I thought, or is intuition correct that the military would be secretive about the future directions of research and development?

Alternatively, are there known instances where a military organization produces something like this in order to deceive others as to its real technology directions (there's no intention of working on MAVs, but it is desirable to make other groups think they are)?

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  • Can the future plan to use bug/bird-like MAVs for surveillance purposes by the US military be confirmed or denied?

Based on pure common sense and logic, it is obvious the military would be working on something like this. Heck, the thing is on the Wiki! What the feasibility status/progress is would be a different story.


As far as specifically AFRL:: A couple of documents straight from the horse's mouth - in this case, Wright Patterson Air Force Base web site which houses AFRL documents:

Mission: 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.

AFRL cuts ribbon on new Micro Air Vehicle research facility: In a ceremony held May 27, 2010, AFRL Executive Director Joe Sciabica cut the ribbon on the Micro Air Vehicle Integration and Application Research Institute (μAVIARI) Indoor Flight Test Laboratory, a new $1.5 million facility dedicated to the advancement of Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) technologies.


Close to the topic at hand, there are published confirmations that AFRL is working on MAVs:

Aviation Week: "AFRL Aims for MAV Lead"

Now the US Air Force Research Laboratory is considering developing an MAV Collaborative Center, where academia, industry, the Air Force and other DoD organizations can work together to build and test prototypes, and has issued a request for information to identify potential collaborators. AFRL's plan is to demonstrate a bird-sized MAV in 2015 and an insect-sized MAV in 2030

Wired: "Air Force Completes Killer Micro-Drone Project" discusses "Prioject Anubis"


As far as non-AFRL projects, the linked-above Wiki states that:

In January 2010, the Tamkang University (TKU) in Taiwan realized autonomous control of the flight altitude of an 8-gram, 20-centimeter wide, flapping-wing MAV. (See link for video download.)

Another example from Wiki:

In early 2008 the United States company Honeywell received FAA approval to operate its MAV in the national airspace on an experimental basis. The gMAV is the fourth MAV to receive such approval. The Honeywell gMAV uses ducted thrust for lift. No performance figures have been released. It was originally developed as part of a DARPA program, and its initial application is expected to be with the police department of Miami-Dade County, Florida. Source: Honeywell Wins FAA Approval for MAV, Flying Magazine, Vol. 135., No. 5, May 2008, p. 24

Here are a couple of actual deployed MAVs:

Wasp: http://www.avinc.com/uas/small_uas/wasp/

Wasp III: http://www2.afsoc.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=9114


  • In general, are these "concept videos" quite a bit more common than I thought, or is intuition correct that the military would be secretive about the future directions of research and development?

Again, this is such an obvious and straightforward idea that keeping the concept secret would make no sense. Whether the video makes specific and accurate claims as to the technical/tactical characteristics of the planned MAVs or current progress is a different story. It was TL;DR - if you post specific claims that the video made we would be able to try to confirm or debunk them.

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