The FQM-151 Pointer is a small UAV used by the United States Army and Marine Corps for battlefield surveillance. It was designed by AeroVironment Incorporated. The Pointer was developed with company funds in 1986, with the US Army and Marine Corps obtaining a total of about 50 units starting in 1990.
Pointer is a man-portable system that provides the capability for troops to see over the next hill with a hand-launched UAV. The System provides color or IR video, from either front or side views, operates using GPS-based AutoNavigation or man-in-the-loop control, and can be recovered in very tight areas using a unique vertical descent AutoLand. Since its initial deployment, Pointer has been used for light infantry Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) and dismounted warfare and Special Operations.
The radio-controlled Pointer was built mostly of high-impact Kevlar. It resembled a hobbyist’s RC sailplane with a small engine added, with the wing standing up above the fuselage on a pylon and a pusher propeller on the wing behind the pylon. A lithium battery pack powered the UAV’s compact electric motor to drive the propeller. The little Pointer was hand-launched. It was recovered simply by putting it into a flat spin, allowing it to flutter down to the ground.
The Pointer carried a CCD camera fixed in its nose, meaning it had to be directly pointed at its target to see it, which is how the machine got its name. The CCD camera had a resolution of 360 x 380 pixels and a viewing aperture of 22 x 30 degrees. Video could be fed back to the ground station by radio link.
The ground station recorded flight imagery on an 8mm video cassette recorder. Digital compass headings were superimposed on the imagery and the controller could add verbal comments. The imagery could be inspected with normal, freeze-frame, fast, or slow-motion replay. The aircraft system and the ground control station were carried in separate backpacks. It required a pilot and an observer.
The Pointers in US military service have now been upgraded with a GPS/INS capability, and it has led to a number of derivatives. The Pointer itself remains in use, having seen action during the war in Afghanistan in 2001-2002 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
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