According to the announcement, the Hummingbird significantly differs from its predecessors, as it is designed much like a helicopter and can perform vertical takeoffs/landings, and possesses hovering capabilities.
The drones will also be equipped with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency‘s Argus-IS sensor system, which is based off of a 1.8-gigapixel camera.
The Army said the camera is the largest video sensor ever used in tactical missions. While on the Hummingbird, it can reportedly track both people and vehicles from 20,000 feet above ground within a 65 square mile radius.
In addition, it also offers up to 65 “steerable windows,” which allows users to track multiple targets moving in various directions, while producing real-time video streams at 10 frames per second.
The Hummingbird trio is expected to deploy to Afghanistan in May or June of 2012.
“These aircraft will deploy for up to one full year as a way to harness lessons learned and funnel them into a program of record,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Munster, product manager, UAS Modernization.
According to the Army, after the yearlong trial is complete, it will be taking bids from contracting companies interested in building the second generation of vertical-take-off drones.