The U.S. Air Force has gone all-in by authorizing full production of the AeroVironment backpack-sized Wasp III micro air vehicle, which will soon to be standard issue for combat controllers and USAF special ops, according to the Pentagon. This follows the U.S. Marine Corps' purchase of a Wasp III system, which it plans to deploy at the platoon level as a complement to the Raven (PDF).
Weighing in at a mere 1 pound, the plane's diminutive 29-inch wingspan can still loft a variety of hefty payloads in addition to its infrared cameras that stream video directly to ground control. The Wasp is launched by hand and can be operated either manually or programmed for auto-pilot with autonomous GPS navigation, according to AeroVironment. The Wasp III is part of Air Force's Battlefield Air Targeting Micro Air Vehicle program (BATMAV), which will allow troops to scan enemy targets from 5 kilometers away for up to 45 minutes at a time, according to the company.