TECHNOLOGY: A Couple of Unmanned Aircraft Firsts (UPDATE)

August 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

UPDATES: to add photos, dateline, background material and to make typeface conform throughout posting.

What is STUAS and LEMV, Alex?

LAS VEGAS — Sorry about that subhead. But every time I turn on the TV in my hotel room to get the evening news, “Jeopardy” is on instead.

Among all the news and developments here at the AUVSI annual conference (we’ll be summarizing events early next week) were two announcements about the first flights of two very different unmanned aircraft systems: the Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS) and the much larger Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicles (LEMV).

Insitu Inc., which is building the STUAS for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, said the small drone completed a one-hour test flight July 28 at an Insitu facility in eastern Oregon.

The RQ21A STUAS takes wing for the first time. (Insitu photo)

The STUAS program was awarded to Insitu for its Integrator UAS in July 2010 to provide persistent maritime and land-based tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data collection and dissemination capabilities to the Marines.

Meanwhile, the head of Army intelligence finally revealed what the blogosphere has been buzzing about for a day. The Army’s 300-foot airship – please don’t call it a blimp – made its maiden flight Tuesday (Aug. 7) at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Known as the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), the slow moving, football-field-sized airship is designed to be able to hover over a patrol area for weeks, spotting changes in movement, human activities and ground conditions that a faster moving aircraft might miss.

The LEMV is also expected to carry hundreds of pounds of sensors, radars and other intelligence gathering technology. Plans also call for using it to relay communications between remote military outposts. The optionally-manned air vehicle — meaning it can fly with or without a human crew on board, stayed aloft for about 90 minutes and was piloted by a human crew on the first flight.

The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) returns from a successful first flight Aug.7 over New Jersey.

LEMV is a hybrid airship, that uses aircraft engines to move like an airplane but also uses helium to keep it aloft.  It is a joint venture of Northrop Grumman and Hybrid Air Vehicles of the United Kingdom.

At the final general session of the unmanned systems conference today (Aug. 9) Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, the head of Army intelligence, said the Army managed the Defense Department program in an act of enlightened self-interest.

“We took that on for the Department of Defense and frankly, we took it on for ourselves, because it is our soldiers that are going into these regional conflicts where we may not get the apportionment of strategic ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technology).”

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Entry filed under: Aircraft, National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, Special Operations, Technology, Unmanned Aircraft, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

TECHNOLOGY: Big Droids and Drones Conference in Las Vegas FRIDAY FOTO (August 10, 2012)

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