Wednesday, August 12, 2009

UAV news round-up

The New York Times (8/12, B1, Drew) reports how US Army soldiers "got some high-tech help in an exercise intended to prove that new devices operated by the soldiers themselves can make...harrowing missions less dangerous." In the mock battles, soldiers used "drones resemble flying lawnmower engines about the size of a beer keg" that officials "say...will help transform basic infantry brigades" by allowing them to spot and take out enemy forces without the need to call for artillery or aircraft support. "Most of the soldiers are enthusiastic about the new capabilities. ... The new drones, made by Honeywell, are designed to hover over a crucial spot on a battlefield like helicopters." The article notes that Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Textron also contributed sensors, weapons, and other systems to the drones.

Boeing Lobbies Congress For A160 Funding. Flight Daily News (8/11, Trimble) reported, "Boeing has launched a 'full-court press' on Congress members to earmark funds in the Fiscal 2010 defense budget to help the A160 Hummingbird program survive a pivotal transition period. Despite strong interest for the A160 from the US special forces, army, marines and navy, Boeing's commitment to continue investing in the program without a production contract will reach a 'pivot point' some time next year, says Vic Sweberg, Boeing's director for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)." According to the article, "the program still lacks a production order, and a recent report by the Senate Armed Services Committee warned that Boeing's production capacity could disappear as early as October."

GE, FAA To Test Trajectory-Based Flight Management System For UAVs. Flight Daily News (8/11, Croft) reported, "As part of a new research arrangement with the US Federal Aviation Administration, GE Aviation this fall will test a trajectory-based flight management system for unmanned aircraft systems in simulations and in flight." GE Aviation's "participation will include adapting its FAA-certificated Boeing 737 flight management system to achieve reliable trajectory-based control of UAS and will include demonstration flights of an AAI Shadow UAS before year's end." Meanwhile, the FAA "says it is using modeling and simulation activities to 'establish a technical and operational UAS performance baseline' and to explore the impacts of UAS on the NAS going forward."

Electro Optical Systems Demonstrate Laser-Sintering Technology. Flight Daily News (8/11, Peaford) reported, "Laser-sintering technology enables companies to build highly integrated and very complex hardware directly from electronic data, eliminating tooling and other secondary operations - and one company leading the way with this technology is at AUVSI to give technical demonstrations." Electro Optical Systems is promoting the method. Jim Williams, president of Paramount PDS said, "Plastics laser-sintering enabled us to manufacture aircraft components for a micro air vehicle as a cost-effective substitute for carbonfiber parts."

JAXA Developing Disaster Monitoring Technology Using UAVs. Flight Daily News (8/11, Coppinger) reported JAXA "is developing key technologies for disaster monitoring unmanned air vehicles that would operate in tandem over an area providing rapid response and persistent surveillance." Innovative aircraft team director Suichi Sasa "says that preliminary, conceptual studies are being undertaken for the UAVs that would operate together, while key technologies for guidance and navigation are being tested in the field." The agency is "also supporting the development of regulations for operating UAVs in civil airspace" since the "UAVs would be operating over civil areas."

Frontline Flies Prototype UAV For First Time. Flight Daily News (8/11, Coppinger) reported, "Frontline Aerospace flew its prototype unmanned air vehicle for the first time in Colorado on 9 August for 1min, with its next test planned for early 2010 when a lift fan will be incorporated." The plane is expected to "compete in the small tactical class, against the likes of the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle. ... The prototype is remote controlled and its autonomous systems are under development. Frontline is also looking to use a proton exchange membrane type fuel cell using liquid hydrogen to increase its endurance." However, Frontline "will only develop the full-scale V-STAR if it can raise funding."

Navy Official Discusses UAV Sensor Advancements. In the "Ares" blog for Aviation Week (8/11), David Fulghum wrote, "US Navy specialists have gathered near Patuxent River, Md. for NavAir's annual UAV demonstrations to look into the future of unmanned sensors, platforms and operations." Rear Adm. (Lower Half) Bill Shannon, program executive officer for the Navy's unmanned aviation and strike weapons, said, "Fire Scout is a good example of progress beyond the initial EO-IR sensors [and communications suite]." Shannon said, "We have already added AIS, the maritime version of IFF [specifically for ship targets]. It helps sort the good guys from those we don't know. It's very important for counter-piracy and counter-drug operations."

L-3 Displays Mobius "Optionally Piloted" Aircraft At AUVSI. Aviation Week and Space Technology (8/11, Warwick) reported, "L-3 Communications is about to find out if a company that makes a wide array of equipment for unmanned aircraft systems, from controls to sensors to data links, can make its mark in the crowded platforms market." The company has displayed its Mobius aircraft at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International show in Washington, DC this week. The Mobius "is L-3's entry in the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) category. It is also an 'optionally piloted' aircraft, which the company believes could open up niche markets not available to UAVs."

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