Computational creativity and the future of AI


UK's VTOL Harrier Jets upgraded

October 11, 2006 An upgraded version of the iconic Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Harrier GR9 aircraft has entered service with the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force after a GBP500 million improvement package. The GR9 programme provides updated digital systems and enhanced operational capability that will allow the RAF to hit a wider range of targets harder, at longer range, with greater precision and with less risk to aircrew. A number of new systems have been or will be integrated onto the GR9, linked by a new on-board computer. These include the Precision Guided Bomb and infra red & television variants of the Maverick missile. Also included is the Successor Identification Friend or Foe (SIFF) system, which will make the aircraft less vulnerable in an operational environment. The GR9 will also carry the Brimstone missile which will enable it to attack up to 12 ground targets simultaneously compared with just two with the GR7.  Read More

Hybrid Manned/Unmanned Light Helicopter Makes First Flight

October 10, 2006 This photo shows the first of two newly designed A/MH-6X light-turbine helicopters lifting off for the first time late last month at Boeing’s Rotorcraft Systems facility in Mesa, Arizona. The flight was a significant milestone in the continuing development of the versatile hybrid manned/unmanned military aircraft which combines the proven performance of the A/MH-6M Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) with the unmanned aerial vehicle technologies of the Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) Demonstrator, a modified MD 530F civil helicopter that has been in development since 2004. Aircraft performance will be similar to the ULB Demonstrator with an additional 1,000 pounds of payload that can be used for increased range, endurance or mission hardware. Total payload for the ULB Demonstrator is greater than 2,400 pounds.  Read More

Obstacle Cable and Terrain Avoidance System (OCTAS) showcased for rotorcraft

July 22, 2006 BAE Systems has developed a day/night, all-weather, all-obscurant capability that enables helicopter pilots to fly safely and avoid obstacles, including cables, in darkness, bad weather, and brown-out conditions. The Obstacle Cable and Terrain Avoidance System (OCTAS), being demonstrated this week at the Farnborough International Airshow, combines a Radar Cable Detection (RCD) system with BAE Systems’ TERPROM terrain avoidance system and a pilot display. It offers a low-cost way to significantly improve pilot situational awareness and can be expanded through addition of other sensors and capabilities to suit specific missions.  Read More

Little Bird - helicopter without a pilot

July 13, 2006 Just three months ago we wrote about the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter demonstrating the ability to control an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) weapon payload using the Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) UAV technology demonstrator as the remote vehicle. Now the Little Bird has achieved a major milestone in its development by flying unmanned for the first time. The payload for the first unmanned flight weighed 740 pounds, but could have carried an additional 550 pounds of payload. A more advanced configuration, which is expected to make its first flight later this summer, adds an additional 800 pounds of payload. Add all that up and the weapon payload could be as great as 2000 pounds, flown autonomously while its payload or sensor is guided from a remote site or another platform. We suddenly see a future of battlefields with flocks of warbirds, all networked, armed and very, very dangerous ... and not a pilot in sight!  Read More

Eurocopter UH145 wins US$3 billion contract

July 2, 2006 EADS has landed the hotly contested contract to supply the U.S. Army’s next-generation Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) in a deal worth up to US$ 3 billion. The French-German company teamed with Sikorsky Aircraft to win the contest with its Eurocopter UH-145, a military version of the EC145. The UH145 flies at 131 kts, has a range of 370 nm, endurance of 3.4 hrs and can carry 2 pilots and 8 passengers. Its unique attributes include an antitorque rotor mounted on a high tailboom for safety and a set of aft-mounted clamshell cabin doors. UH145 production will move from Germany to the United States as part of the deal which is the first major win for EADS as a prime contractor for the US military.  Read More

New CH-47F Chinook helicopter unveiled

June 16, 2006 The first production CH-47F Chinook helicopter was unveiled to the U.S. Army during a rollout ceremony in Ridley Park, Pa. The aircraft is the first of 452 new CH-47F heavy-transport helicopters included in the U.S. Army Cargo Helicopter modernization program. The aircraft features a newly designed, modernized airframe and a Rockwell Collins Common Avionics Architecture System advanced digital cockpit to meet the needs of current and future warfighters. Powered by two 4,868-horsepower Honeywell engines, the new CH-47F can reach speeds greater than 175 mph and transport payloads weighing more than 21,000 lbs. The CH-47F, with the Robertson Aviation Extended Range Fuel System, has a mission radius greater than 400 miles.  Read More

ScanEagle UAV demonstrates maritime capabilities

May 18, 2006 Last year we wrote about the ScanEagle UAV and its success in supplying U.S. Marines in Iraq with critical real-time tactical battlefield imagery. This time, we’re writing about the adaptation of the ScanEagle as a low-cost intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform for amphibious operations. Currently being trialled for its maritime capabilities by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) in "Trial Vigilant Viper" off the coast of Scotland, the ScanEagle completed ten autonomous flights with full launch and recovery from a Type 23 Frigate in rough sea conditions. A small UAV such as the ScanEagle can significantly increase the capability of a boat, and the missions conducted during the trial illustrate this enormous potential for land and sea surveillance, beach reconnaissance, force protection, maritime interdiction and naval gunfire support.  Read More


May 5, 2006 As part of its Helicopter Electro Actuation Technology (HEAT) program for the U.K. Royal Navy’s EH101 Merlin helicopter fleet, AgustaWestland has awarded a US$32 million contract to BAE Systems for the development of the digital flight control computer. The new HEAT system will replace older, more complex hydraulic systems and will be the first electromechanical fly-by-wire system installed on a helicopter. It will reduce pilot workload, cost of ownership, maintenance, and weight while improving survivability, safety, and aircraft handling and agility.  Read More

SkyTote - the VTOL UAV that transitions into horizontal flight

April 8, 2006 One of the greatest difficulties with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft is that they invariably don’t have high speed as one of their attributes. The principles are well explained in our article about the Cartercopter, and it’s one of the prime reasons the US military has persisted with the V-22 Osprey. There has been much emphasis on the development of new unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in recent times, and development imperatives have often been torn between the various needs for UAVs that can quickly move from target to target yet loiter as a fixed and stable platform, all the while operating with no launch and retrieval infrastructure. One of the planet's most innovative companies, Aerovironment, has proposed an innovative configuration known as the Skytote to meet all of these needs. The SkyTote is a novel UAV using dual counter rotating propellers that will take off and land vertically like a helicopter, but also transition into horizontal flight like a conventional aircraft for efficient point-to-point operation. This complex vehicle uses an intricate drive system to allow helicopter operations with cyclic and collective control, as well as blade pitch control, combined with normal aircraft control surfaces in conventional flight operations  Read More

Weaponised, man-transportable Micro UAVs

March 14, 2006) Military conflict over the millennia has been defined largely by the technologies available – the spear, the sword, the horse, gunpowder, rifles, cannons, motorised transport, tanks, the anti-tank and anti-personnel mine, aircraft, rockets and so on. One of the coming capabilities capable of offering a massive advantage in warfare involves robots, sometimes guided and sometimes autonomous that walk, carry, roll, swim and fly. The first UAVs were used to improve situational awaereness and this has quickly evolved – now all but the smallest UAVs have been armed and found to be very effective at delivering precision firepower. The Tactical Aerospace Group (TAG) is about to reveal a new class of weaponised UAV that will be particularly useful for brigade level and down. Initially designed with the ability to be transported through a jungle environment for use in drug interdiction, the TAG UAVs can accompany spec-op teams, be carried over severe terrain and can be fitted with recoilless firearms, new technologies such as Metal Storm and up to 70mm rockets/missiles adapted from existing shoulder launched weapons.  Read More

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