Flying camera lets soldiers spot hidden dangers in real time

A lightweight and inexpensive flying video camera capable of reaching heights of up to 400ft has been designed to help soldiers spot hidden dangers on the battlefield.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), dubbed SQ-4, can be controlled by a handheld remote control and goggles, which provide the wearer with information like the latitude and longitude of a vehicle, the distance between their location and the home point and the direction to home point, ensuring the soldier remains orientated at all times.

The intelligent system also allows the SQ-4 to autonomously fly from its last position to its launch point. Unlike the heavy and often expensive equipment currently available to soldiers, the SQ-4 is about the same diameter of a frisbee, weighs a mere 230g and is operational in less than a minute. It is so small that it can even fit into a soldiers backpack.

"It's vital that soldiers surveillance work goes unnoticed and SQ-4 is far smaller than current devices which look very much like large model aircraft and are over a metre in size," noted Middlesex University robotics specialist, Dr Stephen Prior. "We're providing a bird's eye view with a vehicle that's literally the size of a bird."

According to Prior, the camera can quietly hover or even perch on objects as it zooms in on suspicious activity or devices. Its miniature cameras also have a night lens for surveillance operations in the dark.

The SQ-4 is due to be unveiled at the world's largest defence and security exhibition, DSEi, at the ExCel London from 13-16 September.

Laura Hopperton

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