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AeroVironment RQ-12A Wasp III

Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS)


Introduced in 2007, the compact and portable AeroEnvironment Wasp III has served American special forces operatives well.

Detailing the development and operational history of the AeroVironment RQ-12A Wasp III Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS).  Entry last updated on 8/5/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
Today's battlefield requirements push a massive - and growing - unmanned aircraft market. AeroVironment is a leader in design, development and production of Unmanned Air Systems (UASs) and their stable of competent aircraft added the "Wasp III" product in 2007. This miniature UAS was developed against a requirement by the United States Air Force special operations section. The project goal was to supply in-the-field operatives with a lightweight, portable, remote-controlled UAS unit for overhead scouting work and target designation. In this way the Wasp III has proved a success and its adoption has gone beyond the USAF - the governments of Australia (Army), France (Navy), Sweden (Air Force, Army, Navy), and Spain (Air Force) have all taken on the Wasp III into their various services.

The Wasp III system features a length of 1.25 feet and a wingspan of 2.4 feet. It weighs less than 1lb without its mission payload - which centers on stabilized cameras offering high-resolution, real-time video in both day and night operations. Full tilt, pan and zoom functionality is built into these units. The camera module is installed in the belly of the aircraft. Power for the aircraft is through a single electric motor powered by rechargeable batteries and this system drives a tw0-bladed propeller unit mounted to the nose. Maximum range is out to 5 kilometers with cruising speeds reaching 65 kmh.

Structurally, the Wasp III showcases a broad wingspan, slim nose section and single-finned tail unit. For transport, the Wasp III handily breaks down into major components and can fit in its travel bag. Set-up and take-down is relatively quick. Beyond its manual control scheme (operated through a basic hand-held controller), the aircraft can also be programmed and launched for autonomous service relying on GPS navigation.

The Wasp AE is an improved product form of the Wasp III series, introduced in mid-2012. Along with increased operational ranges and a built-in Infra-Red (IR) viewing capability, this mark brings about an amphibious capability that allows the unit to land on water surfaces for recovery. Because of this useful feature, various world navies have taken an interest in the variant.

The United Air Force and Marine Corps have both selected the Wasp III family for various over-battlefield roles. The U.S. military inventory designates the Wasp III as the "RQ-12A".


YEAR: 2007
STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): AeroEnvironment, Incorporated - USA
LENGTH: 1.25 ft (0.38 m)
WIDTH: 2.36 ft (0.72 m)
POWER: 1 x Electric motor with rechargeable ion battery pack driving a two-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
SPEED: 40 mph (65 kph; 35 kts)
RANGE: 3 miles (5 km; 3 nm)
OPERATORS: Australia; France; Spain; Sweden; United States

None. Mission payload consists of day/night high-resolution camera equipment.
Variants / Models

• RQ-12A "Wasp III" - Base Series Designation

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 50mph
Lo: 25mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (40mph).

Graph average of 37.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the AeroVironment RQ-12A Wasp III's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (550)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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