A US-made drone the company describes as “military-grade” is now available for direct purchase by companies or the public. It’s the Vantage Robotics Vesper, and it’s one of five UAS that have been selected as a Blue sUAS, meaning it’s considered a favored choice for US government departments.
We’ll admit it: The Vesper caught our eye when we were writing about the Blue sUAS list. Its unusual design, rapid deployment, and extended flight time really made it kind of stand out from the pack. Plus, it contained a thermal sensor and a zoom, all wrapped up in its 690-gram package. Interesting, we thought. Wonder how much it is?
Well, now we know.
Some details about Vesper
This is not a drone you would buy for casual consumer use. It’s intended more as a reconnaissance device that would be used by police, military, Search and Rescue etc. In fact, the company says the design of the drone itself was based on feedback it was given by the military, including “elite special forces.” Here’s how the company describes the product.
Vesper is a complete aerial reconnaissance system built upon user-centered design criteria obtained from military leaders, experienced operators, elite special forces, industry veterans, and DoD security experts. These respected leaders helped the Vantage team thoughtfully develop Vesper and Vision Ground Control Station and informed the foundations of the design.Vantage Robotics news release
What are those design foundations?
Glad you asked. Let’s start with ruggedness. The case can withstand a force of 200 pounds, or 90 kilograms. Temperature? From -4 F (-20 C) through to 113 F (45 C). Vesper can fly in extreme weather, including heavy rain. Its “Vision Ground Control Station” includes an integrated, 2500-nit screen that can be viewed clearly in broad daylight, and the GCS also has an IP56 Ingress Protection factor, meaning it’s also fairly impervious to rain. The drone is capable of flying in GPS denied locations, as well as in adverse RF conditions.
Let’s have a look at the Vantage Robotics video:
Little light? No problem…
Running an operation at night? No problem:
Vesper’s payload includes two night vision 4K color cameras and an industrial grade thermal camera for superior performance. Vesper’s Greenseer Gimbal has a 4K EO camera with F1.0 optics and high sensitivity large pixels, exceptional stability for long exposure times / low frame rates, multi-frame noise compensation in the Snapdragon 845 image processing chip, and custom image tuning for optimal performance in low light. The combination of these features enables effective images down to 0.01 lux (the equivalent of a quarter moon at midnight), and the 320×240 custom-tuned thermal camera augments nighttime capabilities.Vantage Robotics news release
Vesper’s extended range
Vesper has been designed to maximize airtime and minimize downtime. It can fly for 50 minutes on a single battery with speeds up to 45 mph (72 kph), with a total flight range of 25 miles (45 km) – although the actual operational distance from the controller is three miles (maximum). The Vision Ground Control Station has a four-hour battery life and 500 GB of storage.
What’s more, you can have the system ready to fly, including unpacking, in less than 90 seconds. Need to swap out the battery or propellors? Each can be replaced in less than five seconds.
The Vesper has been designed with a reduced noise signature in mind. At 55 yards (50 m), the company says it’s neither visible nor audible. Even at 28 yards (25 m), the machine’s 37 dBa noise level is considered “below detection thresholds for most environments.” With its 18x zoom, the company says faces can be recognized more than 65 yards (60 m) away. In other words, this drone can be operated fairly stealthily.
There are a few reasons why the Vesper is on that Blue sUAS list. One criteria is that the product must be US-made – and the Vesper is designed and built in Silicon Valley. But there are also security parameters that must be met. Here, Vantage Robotics says it has the bases covered:
Vesper and Vision GCS meet the demanding security requirements of the US Army and Air Force, including secure user authentication, AES-256 encryption on all communications and stored data, NDAA compliant secure sourcing of all parts and assembly, and bonded construction to prevent tampering. Following months of cyber penetration testing and supply chain analysis, the US. Air Force granted Vesper and Vision GCS an ATO (Authority to Operate), further supported by redundant testing conducted by the Department of Defense’s Digital Defense Service.Vantage Robotics news release
There are a variety of bundles available. But a full kit, including Ground Control Station and some extras, starts at $7,700 US.
If the design somehow twigs your memory, that shouldn’t be a surprise. A few years back, Vantage Robotics was selling a drone called SNAP. You can see several of the design features in this video:
Want more info? Check it out on the Vantage Robotics website.