Today’s video shows how scientists and inventors are getting increasingly clever at incorporating mechanics of the natural world into unmanned aircraft designs.
But forget my fascination with the innovative technology. More importantly, it turns out the companies behind these inventions also represent compelling investments. Why?
Because spending on these technologies is expected to keep rising through 2018, according to IHS Industry Research and Analysis and the Teal Group. Even in the face of sweeping cuts to the U.S. defense budget.
So check out this video.
It reveals the latest work from engineers at Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT). And then consider adding shares of Lockheed Martin or my favorite defense stock to your portfolio.
Lightweight and versatile, the Samarai is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) inspired by nature.
Modeled after the spinning maple seed, it’s designed for surveillance in war zones with cameras capable of transmitting a 360-degree view in real time. Team leader, Bill Borgia, says the UAV is particularly well suited for operating in confined spaces.
“The soldier could carry this around in his backpack. He could launch it like he launches a boomerang. The aircraft can hover between buildings… it can see over buildings that the solider can’t see past. It can hover outside of a window if the insurgent is hiding inside a building. You can pause outside and see if the insurgent is inside that building and he can move very quickly between buildings and take advantage of the fact that you can fly vertically and hover.”
Like the maple seed, the Samarai hovers with a single wing. And unlike conventional aircraft, it’s comprised of just two moving parts – a motorized propeller for thrust and a flap in the back for control.
It can take off vertically and sense its surroundings with technology embedded in the spinning platform. An on-board camera synchronized with the rotation of the vehicle is mounted on the central panel and video is transmitted by a small antenna. To control the aircraft, the operator uses a computer tablet that runs on Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system.
Lockheed Martin engineer, Craig Stoneking, says they wanted to develop an interface so simple, that an operator could learn to fly the Samarai in just a few hours.
“The idea here is that if you can read a label and press a button you can fly this aircraft. We’ve got simple buttons on the interface to make it go up, go down, make it go right, go left. Here is a display of the vehicle: down here we have a moving map display so that we can see as if flying above surface of the Earth.”
Borgia says the Samarai’s mechanics are uncomplicated, but the operating software is exceptional.
“One of the technical hurdles was how do we electronically turn spinning imagery into still images for the operator and we spent quite a bit of time developing algorithms that turn spinning imagery into useful video just like you would see on television. We do that all with a very inexpensive camera similar to the one you’d have embedded inside your cellphone.”
The drones are being produced by 3-D printers, and can be scaled to size depending on a mission’s needs. And while it’s still being refined, the engineers say it won’t be too long before the Samarai is ready to spin into action.
Bottom line: Engineers at Lockheed Martin have developed a new drone inspired by the maple seed that can be launched like a boomerang to give a 360-degree view to an operator in real time. Called the Samarai drone, the UAV is designed for military stealth missions in confined areas. And it’s the latest example of why companies making UAV’s are my favorite defense stocks to buy in today’s market.
Ahead of the tape,