Role Miniature UAV
National origin United States
Manufacturer AeroVironment Inc.
Introduction 2007
Status In service
Primary user United States Air Force

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.[1] 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,[2] and the U.S. Marine Corps revealed in January 2013 that they had ordered the Wasp AE.[3] The Wasp AE is designated as the RQ-12A.[4]

Design and development

A US Army Staff Sergeant throwing a Wasp III.

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.[5][6]

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.[7]

In January 2023, the U.S. Marine Corps revealed they had retired the RQ-12A Wasp IV SUAS in favor of the SkyDio X2D, a VTOL UAV that is easier to launch and recover and can provide a hover-and-stare surveillance capability.[8]


 Czech Republic
 United States

Former operators

 United States
 United Kingdom


General characteristics


High resolution, day/night cameras with digital image stabilization and digital pan/tilt/zoom

See also

Related lists


  1. ^ US Air Force Wasp III Fact Sheet Archived 2012-07-23 at
  2. ^ Air Force accepts Wasp AE Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine -
  3. ^ AeroVironment Awarded $12 million Wasp AE Contract Archived 2013-01-28 at the Wayback Machine -, January 23, 2013
  4. ^ AeroVironment will provide US Marine Corps with new RQ-12 Wasp AE UAS Archived September 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine -, 24 September 2014
  5. ^ U.S. Air Force approves full-scale production of Wasp III[dead link] -, 3 January 2008
  6. ^ BATMAV System with AeroVironment's Wasp III Micro Air Vehicle achieves full rate production -, 8 January 2008
  7. ^ Marines Buy Tiny Wasp UAVs -, 23 January 2013
  8. ^ "Marine Corps Replacing Fixed-Wing Small UAS with VTOL Types". Seapower Magazine. 19 January 2023. Archived from the original on 21 January 2023.
  9. ^ Coyne, Allie (3 July 2015). "Australian Army tests out drones for surveillance". IT News. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  10. ^ Grohmann, Jan. "Robotické a autonomní systémy v Armádě ČR" [Robotic and autonomous systems of the Czech Army]. Armádní noviny (in Czech). Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Dos mini UAV de última tecnología para la unidad de élite del Ejército del Aire". 26 December 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.