Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 2: Modern UAVs
Copyright © 2007-2024 Andreas Parsch

AeroVironment RQ-12 Wasp AE

The Wasp Micro-UAV (MAV) has been in development by AeroVironment Inc. under a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) contract since about 1998, using experience gained during the preceding Black Widow MAV project. In August 2002, a Wasp established a record for MAVs when it flew for 1 hour 47 minutes. The developmental vehicles (a.k.a. Wasp Block I) were about 13 cm (5 in) long, had a span of 33 cm (13 in) and weighed 170 g (0.37 lb). The design has since been developed into the slightly larger and heavier Block II version for operational use.

Photos: AeroVironment Inc.
Wasp (early configuration)Wasp Block II

Wasp is a hand-launched, recoverable flying-wing UAV, which uses synthetic materials that act both as a battery and as main wing structure. It is waterproof, and is recovered automatically by a horizontal landing on land or water. The UAV can fly for up to an hour, and is equipped with a GPS-based navigation system for fully autonomous missions. However, it can also be manually flown via the same remote control equipment, which is also used by other AeroVironment mini-UAVs, e.g. the FQM-151 Pointer, RQ-11 Raven, RQ-20 Puma and RQ-14 Swift. The Wasp's payload consists of forward and side-looking miniature EO (Electro-Optical) video cameras. Its typical mission altitude is 15-300 m (50-1000 ft) above ground, where it is very hard to detect because of its small size and very low noise level.

The next development step of Wasp was the Block III version. It is further optimized for cost-effective mass production, and includes night vision (IR) capability. Externally, it is significantly different from previous Wasp variants, with extra wing panels and modified fuselage.

Photo: AeroVironment Inc.
Wasp Block III

In April 2006, the U.S. Air Force issued the BATMAV (Battlefield Air Targeting Micro Air Vehicle) requirement for real-time RSTA (Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition) and BDA (Battle Damage Assessment) by small units. In December that year, AeroVironment's Wasp III was selected as winner of the BATMAV competition, and by 2007, the USAF was receiving the first production Wasp III systems. In the same time frame, the Wasp III was also evaluated and put into service by the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army.

The final variant of the Wasp is the Wasp AE (AE = All Environment), introduced in 2012. It is again larger as the earlier Wasp III, and is equipped with a gimballed EO/IR camera system for autonomous ISR and targeting data acquisition. Wasp AE was ordered by the USAF and the USMC in 2012/2013, and was designated as RQ-12A. By the end of 2023, the Marines are about the replace the RQ-12A with VTOL Small UAVs, like the Skydio RQ-28A.

Photo: AeroVironment Inc.

Designation Note: In 2006, the designation YMQ-12A had been requested by the U.S. Army for the prototypes of the Warrior ERMP (Extended Range Multi-Purpose) Unmanned Aerial System, but the request was turned down by DOD, and the vehicle was designated as YMQ-1C instead. The Q-12 slot remained unassigned for several years, until it was used for the RQ-12A Wasp AE in 2013.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for Wasp Block II and Block III, and RQ-12A:

 Wasp Block IIWasp Block IIIRQ-12A
Length15 cm (6 in)38 cm (15 in)76 cm (30 in)
Wingspan41 cm (16.1 in)72 cm (28.5 in)102 cm (40 in)
Weight275 g (0.61 lb)430 g (0.95 lb)1.3 kg (0.95 lb)
Speed40-60 km/h (25-37 mph)40-65 km/h (25-40 mph)37-83 km/h (23-52 mph)
Range4 km (2.5 miles)5 km (3.1 miles)5 km (3.1 miles)
Endurance40-60 min.45 min.50 min.
PropulsionElectric motor; 10 WElectric motor

Main Sources

[1] AeroVironment Website
[2] Wikipedia: AeroVironment Wasp III

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 2

Last Updated: 10 January 2024