A micro-UAV that uses a unique method of launch and flight is being marketed by a British startup company, FlareBright. The "quiet and stealthy" device has applications in law enforcement, emergency services, site security, and industrial inspection, the company says.
The drone is named SnapShot and can be "fired" from a variety of hand-held devices. It has a 12-cm wingspan and weighs only 85 grams. It follows a parabolic flight path to a height of 100 meters, from where it can capture high-definition video images up to 300 meters away. It then automatically returns to the user by means of pre-programmed software using re-adjustment by accelerometer sensors. The total flight time is 10 seconds, and after recovery the drone can be plugged into a tablet or smartphone’s USB port for instant viewing of the imagery. The drone can be recharged over the same connection in 20 seconds.
FlareBright said that 500 test flights over 18 months have proved SnapShot’s performance culminating in a highly predictable flight path in most weather conditions. “We’re looking forward to customer demonstrations by the end of the year,” said CEO Kelvin Hamilton.
Compared with a quadcopter mini-drone, the company claims that the SnapShot needs no pilot or training, can operate in stronger wind conditions and in GPS- or radio-denied environments. It returns imagery in 30 seconds, compared with 10 to 20 minutes for a "conventional" mini-drone.
FlareBright has not yet talked to regulators about whether SnapShot would be subject to present or planned future control measures for drones. “It’s like throwing a high-velocity ball into the air,” a spokesman said. The company is exploring a counter-drone application where the operator would be cued by radar to fire the micro-drone, which would be fitted with sensors enabling it to home in on the errant UAV before firing a net to capture it. FlareBright also envisions military applications such as reconnaissance by special forces, and even a "smart mortar" version with a warhead that would descend vertically onto the target.
The company is seeking innovation funding and equity investors.