Flying the black pizza box: a new flavor of small UAV

By John Keller

FARNBOROUGH, England–Think of an extra-large black pizza box. Now put twin tails on it, a couple of magnetic-detachable electric-powered tiltrotor propellers, and a six-inch hollow nose for half a pound of cameras and other sensor payloads. Give it a remote control and digital downlink that connects to a Windows or Linux PC, and you have the Skate small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, Va.

The Skate unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was among the unmanned aircraft being shown in the special UAV pavilion in July at the UAV pavilion at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, England.

Yes, they flew UAVs indoors.

It's safe though. Think of a basketball court–no make that a half-court–enclosed on four sides by white netting to keep spectators safe. That was the demonstration area in Farnborough's UAV pavilion. Now imagine the black flying pizza box buzzing around the enclosed half court, and you have it. One person flew the Skate UAV by remote control, and another was on a microphone headset doing narration.

The Skate UAV is made from a special material like Styrofoam that is popular with model airplanes today. It offers the simplicity and endurance of a fixed-wing aircraft, yet with vertical takeoff and landing with independently articulating motor pods, which enable the Skate to switch quickly between vertical and horizontal flight.

But you should have seen that Skate buzzing around the display hall at Farnborough. The controller can make that little thing go into a steep dive, come to stop like an insect, then zip almost straight up, and all within the confines of the basketball half-court. Imagine what it could do in applications like border and perimeter security.

It's kind of an ungainly thing when it lands, but it turns out to be no big deal; Aurora engineers have designed it to thump down, popping off both of its propellers, and sometimes one of its vertical stabilizer fins pops off, too. As it turns out, the operator just fits them back on for another flight, or takes it apart in a few seconds and stows it in a backpack.

The radio control unit is small, and links imagery and other sensor data from the Skate UAV to a ruggedized PC that is already part of the soldier's standard gear.

For more information, visit Aurora Flight Sciences online at

More Military & Aerospace Electronics Current Issue Articles
More Military & Aerospace Electronics Archives Issue Articles

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

Custom and OEM Camera Design

We provide custom designs for both modifications to existing systems and development of new produ...

Micro-D Connectors

Highly rugged and compact designs in shell styles from 9 to 51 contacts. The Micro-D connectors i...

Omnetics Nano-D Bi-Lobe® Latching Connectors

Bi-Lobe® connectors utilize rugged and reliable flex pin contact system. Spaced on 25 mil (.64mm)...

Nano-D Bi-Lobes® Connectors Dual Row Horizontal SMT (Type AA)

Horizontal SMT Bi-Lobe® nanos offer an extremely low profile package that is well suited to pick ...

Latching Micro-D Connectors

Omnetics high reliability Micro-D connectors are available with Quick Latch System. For applicati...

Nano-D BiLobe® Connectors -(COTS)

Sizes are 9, 15, 21, 25, 31, 37 , 51 & 65 pin, at .025 Mil. Pitch(Currently Available), mating pi...

Hybrid Micro-D Connectors

Omnetics high reliability Micro-D connectors are available withmixed power/signal contact layouts...

XPedite7575 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module

The XPedite7575 is a high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the 5th genera...

XTend7103 | COM Express® Carrier for COM Express® Type 10 Mezzanine Modules

The XTend7103 is a COM Express® carrier card designed to provide a low-cost and compact platform ...

XPort6173 | 3U VPX Carrier for Two 2.5 in. Solid-State Drives (SSDs)

The XPort6173 supports two, standard, 2.5 in. Solid-State Drives (SSDs) in a single 0.8 in. or 1....

Related Companies

Southwest Antennas

Designs and manufactures high-performance RF and Microwave antennas and accessories designed for today’s communicatio...

Interface Displays & Controls Inc

Certified ISO-9001/AS9100, veteran-owned, small business. Interface specializes in designing, reverse-engineering and...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...

United Electronic Industries Inc

UEI is a leader in the PC/Ethernet data acquisition and control, Data Logger/Recorder and Programmable Automation Con...

GE Aviation Systems

Designs and manufactures high reliability microelectronics for aerospace and military applications. Thick film hybrid...

Astronics Ballard Technology

Manufactures avionics databus interfaces, embedded computers, and software for aerospace, military and commercial use...


Manufactures a large range of underwater electrical and fiber optic connectors. In business for 45 years.

Henniker Plasma

Plasma Treatment Equipment - Plasma Cleaners, Plasma Etchers, Plasma Coating & Plasma Surface ModificationWe are the ...

Fabritech Inc

Fabritech was established in 1986 and specializes in the fabrication of EMI, RFI, and thermal shielded products made ...

SHENMAO America Inc

Provides quality performance solder materials including: SMT assembly, lead free and tin lead solder paste, cored sol...


Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

Press Releases


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles