We may be closer to the day when United States Marines will, within a matter of minutes, use a handheld app to summon robotic helicopters to deliver battlefield supplies. On Tuesday, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced its five-year, US$98 million Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program, with the specific aim of developing "sensors and control technologies for robotic vertical take-off and landing aircraft."
The unmanned Kaman K-MAX helicopter has made its first combat resupply mission in Afghanistan. Designed to reduce the reliance on truck convoys that are often targeted by IED (improvised explosive device) strikes when resupplying front-line troops in remote areas and manned aircraft that place their crews in danger, the unmanned aircraft is a modified K-MAX intermeshing rotor helicopter with the ability to lift a payload of over 6,000 pounds (2,721 kg).
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.
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 .
Northrop Grumman's Block 40 Global Hawk
has new eyes. The unmanned aircraft completed its first full system flight carrying the production version of the next-gen Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) sensor at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on July 21.
Quadrocopters like the AR.Drone
and Datron Scout
may have been hogging the UAS limelight lately but Dutch unmanned rotorcraft system manufacturer Geocopter has shown there’s still life in the traditional helicopter design yet with the official delivery of its first light unmanned helicopter called the GC-201. Designed and built just like a normal helicopter, the GC-201 features a twin gas turbine engine propulsion system, lightweight carbon fiber fuselage and full automatic takeoff, mission and landing capabilities.
Israeli defense technology company Elbit has successfully tested an interesting new Forward Ground Control Station (FGCS) for its Skylark I LE man-packable Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The lightweight FCGS is 15 kg (33 lbs) lighter than the existing Skylark ground control system and is designed to enable dismounted soldiers to carry minimum gear for optimal operational efficiency, as the UAS can be launched by Dispatcher Units well to the rear, transferring control of the operation to the FGCS-equipped Forward Units when the UAS reaches their range.
Boeing has successfully kicked-off its test flight program for the Phantom Ray
unmanned airborne system (UAS). The fighter-sized technology demonstrator reached an altitude of 7,500 feet and a speed of 178 knots in its first flight on April 27 in the skies above NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California. A second successful test flight followed on May 5.
Although the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs
) such as Global Hawk
for military information gathering has increased sharply in the last decade
due to the maturation and miniaturization of enabling technologies, conventional piloted aircraft can still be a better option depending on the mission at hand. Northrop Grumman has unveiled a new intelligence gathering aircraft called the Firebird that falls into the category of an Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) with its ability to be flown robotically or with a human pilot on board.
In a setback for AeroVironment
's four-year demonstrator program, the first Global Observer unmanned aircraft system
has crashed during flight-testing. AeroVironment has confirmed the "mishap" occurred at 2:30 am PDT on April 1st, approximately 18 hours into its ninth test flight at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) in California.