The AeroVironment Wasp III Small Unmanned Aircraft System is a miniature UAV developed for United States Air Force special operations to provide a small, light-weight vehicle to provide beyond-line-of-sight situation awareness. The aircraft is equipped with two on-board cameras to provide real-time intelligence to its operators. It is also equipped with GPS and an Inertial Navigation System enabling it to operate autonomously from takeoff to recovery. It was designed by AeroVironment Inc., and was first added to the Air Force inventory in 2007. There are two Wasp variants: the traditional version that lands on land (“Terra Wasp”), and a version that lands into the sea or fresh water (“Aqua Wasp”). The Air Force accepted the Wasp AE in late May 2012, and the U.S. Marine Corps revealed in January 2013 that they had ordered the Wasp AE. The Wasp AE is designated as the RQ-12A.

Design and development

The Wasp III is the result of a multi-year joint development effort between AeroVironment and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create a small, portable, reliable, and rugged unmanned aerial platform designed for front-line day or night reconnaissance and surveillance. The Wasp weighs only 430 g (0.95 lb), is 16 in (38 cm) long, and has a wingspan of 29 in (72 cm); it can be broken down and re-assembled to fit in a backpack. It can be controlled manually or programmed for GPS-based autonomous navigation and can carry interchangeable targeting payload modules, including forward and side-looking infrared and color cameras that transmit streaming video directly to the hand-held ground controller, the same controller used for the larger RQ-11B Raven and RQ-20 Puma. The aircraft can fly for 45 minutes out to 5 km (3.1 mi) at an altitude of 1,000 ft (300 m) with a top speed of 40–65 km/h (25–40 mph). The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) selected the Wasp III for the Battlefield Air Targeting Micro Air Vehicle (BATMAV) program in December 2006 to allow battlefield airmen to look for enemy targets beyond their line of sight; AFSOC began testing the tiny UAV in October 2007 and approved full-rate production in January 2008. In November 2007, the U.S. Marine Corps also awarded AeroVironment a $19.3 million contract to deliver Wasp III systems under the Air Force BATMAV contract to equip Marines at platoon level, complementing Raven UAVs deployed at company and battalion levels.

In May 2012, AeroVironment introduced the Wasp AE, an improved version of the Wasp air vehicle that can land on ground or water. Although it is heavier at 2.8 lb (1.3 kg), it has 20 percent greater endurance and incorporates a miniature gimbal that gives operators both color and infrared video imagery from a single sensor package. Following the Air Force, the Marine Corps ordered the Wasp AE in September 2012.


Crew 0
2 ft 5 in (0.76 m)
Wigspan 3 ft 4 in (1.00 m)
Empty weight 2.8 lb (1.3 kg)
Maximum weight
Maximum speed
Cruising speed at sea level
Endurance 50 min
Ceiling in service


Related Armament

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