Aerovironment is developing a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) version of its Wasp III micro air vehicle to improve its utility in combat operations. Deployment of small UAVs in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown there is a risk of operators being exposed to hostile gunfire during launch and recovery operations.
Apart from ease of launch and recovery, introducing a VTOL capability would allow the UAV to be used in a variety of scenarios, including maritime operations. It would also facilitate 'perch and stare' operations.
VTOL concepts presently under consideration include a tail-sitter configuration wing-embedded ducted fans, twin tilt rotors fitted to the air vehicle wing tips and a combination of ducted fans and replacement of the main engine with a tilt rotor drive, as well as a tilt rotor main drive with twin upper wing pylon mounted lift rotors.