NASA’s collection of space telescopes just got a bit bigger thanks to an extraordinary gift from America's National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) intelligence agency. The space agency announced on Monday that the NRO has given it two surplus spy satellites that are more advanced than the Hubble Space Telescope. If the money can be found for a mission for the spy “birds” then NASA will not only have two possible replacements for the retiring Hubble, but also an added ability to scan the skies for supernovae, locate new exoplanets and even seek the answer to the fate of the universe.
After four years of development, Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye
unmanned autonomous aircraft made its first flight last Friday. It took place at Edwards Air Force Base in California, with the dual-propeller-driven aircraft lifting off of its launch cart at 6:22am PST.
Next-generation airships are notorious
for always being just around the corner, almost but not-quite ready to take to the skies. According to a report in Wired
, however, Northrop Grumman’s military Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle
(LEMV) has been scheduled to make its maiden flight early next month.
Lockheed Martin's new Shadow Hawk weapon is deceptively small considering the influence it will likely have on warfare from this point forward. The era of unmanned warfare is about to go to a whole new level. The Shadow Hawk is an 11-pound class, 2.75-inch (7 cm) diameter, 27-inch (68 cm) long drop-glide munition released a mile or more above the target by the equally diminutive unmanned RQ-7B. It may not seem like a major leap forward in weapons technology but it most certainly is, because the Shadow Hawk munition now arms an entire fleet of RQ-7s for the US Marines and Army that could previously only be used for reconnaissance, and it does so with a much smaller and cheaper weapon.
iRobot, the company behind household helpers, such as the Roomba
, and military and police robots, such as the PackBot
, has released an updated version of its Warrior 700
robot. Like its predecessor, the newly launched 710 Warrior is designed for EOD (explosive ordnance disposal), reconnaissance and surveillance missions and can lift loads of up to 220 lbs (100 kg) and carry payloads of more than 150 pounds (68 kg) over rough terrain.
After 15 months of development, privately-owned Swiss company Novatiq is set to enter the robotics market with its first offering, SCORP. Designed for scouting and surveillance applications, SCORP is a Micro Unmanned Ground Vehicle (MUGV) that joins the growing ranks of throwable robots. As such, it is small, rugged and lightweight enough to be carried in a backpack and thrown into buildings or over rough terrain.
When soldiers want to gather intelligence in enemy territory, they often have to travel into that territory themselves, depositing acoustic, magnetic, chemical/biological or signals intelligence sensors by hand. Not only does this place the soldiers in harm's way, but the logistics of such missions can also end up being quite costly. That's why the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Vehicle Research Section created the CICADA unmanned air vehicle (UAV
). The tiny sensor-equipped glider was successfully tested at Arizona's Yuma Proving Grounds on September 1st.
The Switchblade is a new form of miniature unmanned aerial system (UAS) which is man-packable and offers a loitering, silent, almost invisible, over-the-horizon aerial presence for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance duties. It also carries a warhead, so if a target of opportunity presents itself, the Switchblade has imaging sensors capable of identifying, tracking and guiding itself right to that person before exploding - with the aim of causing minimal collateral damage. The UAS is currently being readied for initial deployment by U.S.Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
fans (like me) will get a vague sense of deja vu
when they see this flying sphere in action. Weighing in at about 12 ounces (350 g), the 16-inch (42 mm) diameter flying ball can launch and return vertically, maintain a stationary hover and zip along at up to 37 mph (60 km/h). Coupled with the ball camera
we reported on earlier this month, it could become a valuable reconnaissance platform. Who knows? In time, more advanced autonomous versions might actually be used to train would-be Jedi knights. Once again, life imitates art.
Robots are a perfect tool to provide soldiers in the field with “eyes” on a potentially hazardous situation without placing themselves in harm’s way. With soldiers often operating in difficult terrain or entering buildings, the easiest way to get such robots into place is to throw them. Currently, many units use a small tactical robot called the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle 320 that is equipped with video reconnaissance technology. However, this robot weighs 32 pounds (14.5 kg) so the call has been put out for a lighter robot that is more easily transportable by dismounted units on the move and is able to be thrown into forward locations such as buildings and caves. To this end, the U.S. military is set to put three different types of lightweight, “throwable” robots through a series of combat assessments in Afghanistan.