U.S. military 'robocopter' can see through trees

The word "drone" usually conjures up images of the U.S. military's Predator, or similar unmanned aircraft. But there are helicopter drones, too, and Boeing's A160T Hummingbird just got a big upgrade — the ability to see through dense foliage.

The robocopter was apparently deployed in Belize where it was testing a new type of radar called FORESTER, which can penetrate trees. Designed specifically for the Hummingbird, the super-high resolution system works by using the craft's movement to create an artificially large aperture, letting it detect slow-moving targets, even if they're hiding under a thick tree canopy.

See-through radar aside, the Hummingbird has some impressive stats: It can fly 2,500 nautical miles for 24 hours at an altitude of 30,000 feet. Its speed-adjustable rotor can be made to run "super" quiet, and the craft can carry up to eight Hellfire missiles.

Remember, this is all in an unmanned drone. Since helicopters account for a big chunk of military aviation accidents, it would be great if a lot of those missions could be undertaken by robots, completely risk-free to the controllers. Just as long as they don't turn against us.

Aviation Week, via Danger Room

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