Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

DARPA

A rendering of DARPA's proposed tender satellite, in the process of removing the antenna f...

Satellites are very expensive to put into orbit. This is because the parts that they're built from are costly to make, but also because it requires so much energy to lift their considerable weight off the Earth's surface. It would then follow that satellites would cost less if they could use salvaged parts, and if they were lighter when lifting off from the launch pad. That's where DARPA's proposed Phoenix program comes into play. It would see a purpose-built spacecraft removing usable parts from the plethora of "dead" satellites currently in orbit, then leaving those parts for attachment to newly-arriving satellites.  Read More

DARPA researchers have ruggedized a compact solid oxide fuel cell fueled by propane and in...

Small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have become an increasingly important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tool for the military and their use will only continue to expand. While vehicles that are small enough to be carried provide soldiers in the field with capabilities such as over-the-next-hill imagery or the short-term monitoring of convoys, much research is going into finding ways to extend mission duration through better battery systems. DARPA researchers say they have overcome this limitation with the development of a compact solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) fueled by propane that quadruples the endurance of small unmanned aircraft systems .  Read More

AeroVironment has unveiled its latest Unmanned Aircraft System, the 'perch-and-stare' Shri...

California-based aerospace company AeroVironment has developed some fascinating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) over the years, including the High Altitude Long Endurance Global Observer, a hummingbird-like nano air vehicle, and the hand-launched Wasp III reconnaissance platform. In 2008, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded the company US$4.6 million in funding to develop a “perch-and-stare” aircraft, for use in military surveillance. Today, AeroVironment unveiled the result – the Shrike Vertical Take-off And Landing (VTOL) UAS.  Read More

DARPA's HTV-2 hypersonic vehicle, which prematurely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on ...

The first – and perhaps only – video footage of the ill-fated second test-flight of DARPA’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) has been released. Shot with a handheld camera by a crewmember aboard the Pacific Tracker, the first monitoring vessel able to visually track the HTV’s initial entry into the atmosphere, the video shows the HTV-2 hurtling across the sky on August 11 at Mach 20 before its “controlled descent” into the Pacific Ocean.  Read More

DARPA's HTV-2 hypersonic vehicle, which splashed down in the Pacific Ocean during its seco...

DARPA has confirmed the splash down of its unmanned Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2) following the hypersonic vehicle’s second test flight on August 11. While a “controlled descent” generally refers to a human directing and guiding an aircraft to an unscheduled landing, safety systems onboard the HTV-2 kicked in after an anomaly was detected a little over nine minutes into the test flight and autonomously directed it into the ocean.  Read More

Lockheed Martin's Samarai Flyer monocopter micro air vehicle, alongside a maple seed

If you’ve ever watched a maple seed spiraling down from a branch, you may have marveled at how it looked like a tiny one-rotor-bladed helicopter. If you did, well, you weren’t the only one. In 2009, students from the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering unveiled their remarkable samara (maple seed)-inspired micro air vehicle, which was billed as “the world’s first controllable robotic samara monocopter.” Flash forward to this Tuesday, and Lockheed Martin performed the first public flight of its similar Samarai Flyer, at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington, D.C.  Read More

The HTV-2 is designed to travel at speeds of Mach 20

On Thursday, DARPA's unmanned Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard an Air Force Minotaur IV rocket, which inserted the aircraft into the desired trajectory. After separation from the rocket, the vehicle transitioned to Mach 20 (approximately 13,000 mph/21,000 km/h) aerodynamic flight but a little after nine minutes of monitored flight the signal from the vehicle was lost with initial indications that the second test flight has ended in the same way as the first - with a crash into the Pacific Ocean.  Read More

Test firing of an LCITS rocket from an AH-1 Cobra helicopter

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has unveiled a new weapons technology designed to give helicopters, such as the MH-60 and the AH-1 Cobra, the ability to combat the threat of a small boat swarm. The Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS) system equips existing unguided Hydra-70, 2.75-inch rockets with a low-cost guidance capability that allows pilots to essentially "fire-and-forget," thereby allowing them to engage multiple, fast attack seaborne targets in a shorter period.  Read More

The Chip Scale Atomic Clock is a matchbox-sized atomic clock, that uses one one-hundredth ...

Atomic clocks are one of those things that most of us have probably always thought of as being big, ultra-expensive, and therefore only obtainable by well-funded research institutes. While that may have been the case at one time, a team of researchers have recently developed an atomic clock that they say is one one-hundredth the size – and that uses one one-hundredth the power – of previous commercially-available products. It’s called the Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC), and it can be yours for about US$1,500 ... a little more than what you might pay for a regular clock, but not bad for one that varies by less than a millionth of a second per day.  Read More

Robotics company Boston Dynamics has been awarded a contract to develop a military quadrup...

It would be scary to be chased by a military robot. It would also be scary to be chased by a cheetah. So, imagine what it would be like to have a military robotic cheetah sprinting after you. Such a scenario could one day be possible, as robotics company Boston Dynamics recently announced that America’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded it a contract to design and build such a ... critter. The contract also includes the creation of an agile, bipedal humanoid robot. It’s hard to say which one might ultimately be creepier.  Read More

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