Posts tagged ‘UAV’

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: An Industry Just Bursting to Take Off

Commercializing Unmanned Aircraft.

Drones large and small on display at an AUVSI Expo in Washington. (Click on photo to enlarge) 4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

Drones large and small on display at an AUVSI Expo in Washington.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

For more than a decade the world has become well acquainted with the capabilities unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) provide in warfare, from “eyes in the sky” reconnaissance to delivery platforms for Hellfire missile strikes.

But the pent up demand for commercial unmanned aircraft in the United States is still waiting for federal regulators to ease rules banning most UAS from operating in the national airspace. Until they do, a predicted flood of new employment and business opportunities for UAS designers, manufacturers, instructors, mechanics, evaluators and operators will have to wait.

One business sector, the film and television industry, got some relief recently when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees air safety, gave permission to six production companies to fly UAS over movie sets – but under strict limits.

Meanwhile, unmanned aircraft – some tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand — are being sought for a variety of non-military activities: inspecting infrastructure in dangerous to reach places like suspension bridges and oil drilling platforms; monitoring the migrations of land and sea creatures; keeping an eye on crops and livestock; patrolling vast stretches of desert, forest and ocean; supplying video and still photography for the real estate, travel and motion picture industries and enhancing real time news coverage by television stations or Internet web sites.

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the industry trade group for all things robotic including UAS, says unmanned aircraft could generate more than $82 billion in economic impact and 100,000 jobs in the United States in just the first decade after UAS are integrated into the national airspace.

But it may take more than a decade before drones are delivering pizzas because of two thorny issues: public concern over privacy and civil liberties; and government concerns about safety.

To read the rest of this story click here.

October 17, 2014 at 12:12 am Leave a comment

U.S. ARMY: Learning to Win in a Complex World [UPDATE]

AUSA: So Many Tanks, So Little Time.

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

UPDATES to clarify late night — sometimes clunky –writing, and add background and perspective.

The Association of the United States Army’s massive annual conference and exposition just ended. And while there were few, if any, tanks on display, enough trucks, and armored vehicles — including a vintage Volkswagen bus with a rooftop machine gun — were on view to satisfy any military gadget junkie

During its three-day run in Washington’s Convention Center there was much discussion at AUSA about where the U.S. Army is going — and how it’s going to get there–  in a world where a war, insurgency, terrorist attacks, disease outbreaks or natural disasters seem to be breaking out every day. Compounding the problem — thanks to budget cuts —  which Congress may reintroduce in a year or so — the Army is shrinking and disposing of war-worn equipment to stay within its budget.

But Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno said those previous across-the-board budget cuts meant developing projects like the Ground Combat Vehicle had to be scrapped and there is little money to buy new vehicles, aircraft and weapons that will be needed to tackle future crises. They also said more budget cuts starting in Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2015) will mean even less money for training and that will lower the Army’s readiness for the complex world it faces. Assistant Army Secretary Heid Shyu explained that congressional budget cutting through sequestration has drastically reduced research and development for new technologies that could help a smaller Army deal with multiple challenges.

We heard at least two generals and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, himself a former Army sergeant, say they didn’t want to see another Task Force Smith  as an example of what could happen if a major crisis breaks out after precipitous, post-war cuts to defense spending. Task Force Smith was a disastrous delaying action by an understrength, poorly equipped and makeshift Army battalion cobbled-together in Japan and rushed to Korea during the first days of the Korean War. The valiant but ineffective effort to stop the Communist advance in July 1950 came as a shock to U.S. leaders and the public just five years after America ended World War II with the largest, best-trained and best-equipped army in the world.

4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR Photo by John M. Doyle

Despite the often grim forecasts about defense funding, thousands of military and civilian visitors turned out for AUSA 2014 to see hundreds of armored vehicles, unmanned aircraft, helicopters, small arms and body armor on display in the two floors of exhibits by industry and service organizations. Also on display: the latest sensors and video cameras, robots and communications equipment.

While the AUSA exhibit floor has often been used to unveil industry’s latest solutions to the Army’s problems — like coping with roadside bombs or lightening soldiers’ equipment loads — several big defense contractors this year trumpeted new contracts to upgrade, or extend the lifespan, of aging equipment like the Humvee or Stryker armored vehicle. In addition to pavilions for foreign exhibitors and products, there was also a homeland security pavilion that emphasized the links between defending America over here as well as over there.

In coming days we’ll be exploring some of the things we heard discussed at AUSA 14 including developments like the new Army Operating Concept of what it takes to win in a complex world. We’ll also be discussing the regionally aligned force concept and the Pacific Pathway initiative to facilitate America’s strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region.

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

One of the exhibit halls on the first day of AUSA 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

October 15, 2014 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Helicopters Without Pilots

Sky Spies.

Black Hornet micro helicopter (Photo courtesy: Prox Dynamics -- click on photo to enlarge)

Black Hornet micro helicopter
(Photo courtesy: Prox Dynamics — click on photo to enlarge)

The reductions in force and budget cutbacks have U.S. commanders increasingly turning to unmanned aircraft for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

But the low-intensity conflicts springing up around the world — in both urban settings and remote areas without finished airfields — have also increased the need for vertical take off and landing unmanned air vehicles (VTOL-UAVs) … ranging from the full-sized Northrop Grumman Fire Scout to tiny pocket-sized quad-copters like Prox Dynamics’ Black Hornet.

The Black Hornet unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has been tested by the U.S., U.K. and Norwegian militaries and has been used by the British Army since 2012 in Afghanistan’s Helmand and Kandahar provinces. And the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center has awarded Prox Dynamics a $2.5 million contract to develop a pocket-sized UAV for infantry and special operations troops.

Newer unmanned helicopters are being developed by companies from the British Isles to Colorado.

A Welsh company, Torquing Technologies, has begun rolling out its nano drone, Sparrow, and new communications technology for operating it. Sparrow has machine-to-machine communication technology allowing multiple Sparrows to communicate with each other and fly in swarms.

In Fort Collins, Colorado, Scion UAS is developing two VTOL aircraft, the full-sized optionally manned SA-400 Jackal, which has been acquired by the Naval Research Laboratory for testing, and the smaller SA-200 Weasel. Both aircraft are  designed to be payload agnostic, says Scion’s chairman and manager, Jim Sampson. “We try to build the generic pickup truck because every user has a different payload in mind for their mission and every mission is going to require a different suite of payloads,” he noted.

To read more, see your 4GWAR editor’s story in the September issue of Ground Combat and Tactical ISR magazine

 

October 11, 2014 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: When UAVs and Robots Talk

Linked In.

Lockheed Martin has experimented with cellular links, point-to-point radio, Wi-Fi and mesh networks to communicate with its Squad Mission Support System unmanned vehicle. (Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin has experimented with cellular links, point-to-point radio, Wi-Fi and mesh networks to communicate with its Squad Mission Support System unmanned vehicle.
(Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin)

An unmanned, autonomous helicopter has a rendezvous with an autonomous ground vehicle, picks up the vehicle — known as an SMSS (Squad Mission Support System), carries it in a sling to another location and deposits the SMSS safely on the ground so it  can continue its mission. All of this under the control of satellite communications.

In Britain, a tiny unmanned air vehicle  (UAV) with machine-to-machine communication capability is able to talk with duplicate nano UAVs and fly in swarms.

These are just two examples of how unmanned systems makers and suppliers are exploring ways to improve communications between unmanned vehicles and their operators.

This is from an article your 4GWAR editor wrote for the October issue of  Unmanned Systems  magazine (subscription required). Unmanned Systems is published by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the largest robotic and unmanned vehicle industry group.

Here’s a link to a May posting (4th item) we did about the SMSS from the AUVSI annual conference in Orlando, Florida.

 

October 1, 2014 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA Update 2: Al Shabaab Blitz; Ebola Crisis, Niger Drone Base, Rwanda Verdict, Bastille Day

Somalia Islamists Attacked.

Updates with al Shabaab leader’s death confirmed.

Islamist militants in Mogadishu, Somalia.(Photo copyright, Kate Holt, IRIN)

Islamist militants in Mogadishu, Somalia.(Photo copyright, Kate Holt, IRIN)

The U.S. military today (Friday, September 5) that the leader of the African Islamist extremist group, al Shabaab, was killed in the drone missile attack in Somalia earlier this week.

Witnesses said drones fired at least four missiles Monday (September 1) in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, destroying two al Shabaab vehicles, according to the Voice of America website. On Tuesday (September 2), the Defense Department disclosed that the head of al Shabaab was the target of the attack.

 “We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al-Shabaab, has been killed,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby announced today in a press statement that did not detail how Godane’s identity and death was cestablished. “Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabaab. The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations,” the published statement continued.

Previously, Kirby said U.S. special operations forces using manned and unmanned aircraft destroyed an encampment and a vehicle using several Hellfire missiles and laser-guided munitions,” according to a transcript of Tuesday’s Pentagon press briefing.

It was the most aggressive U.S. military operation in nearly a year, coming as the President Barack Obama’s administration grapples with security crises in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, the Washington Post noted. Al Shabaab, which means “the youth,” in Arabic, is a jihadist movement affiliated with al Qaeda that started in Somalia “a chronically unstable country on the Horn of Africa,” and has grown into a regional terrorist group that has carried out attacks in Uganda and Kenya — including last year’s Nairobi shopping mall attack that left scores of dead and injured. Al Shabaab has also cooperated with another al Qaeda branch in Yemen, the Post added.

Al Jazeera reported that the jihadist group confirmed it had come under attack but would not Godane’s situation. The attack comes just a few days after African Union troops and Somali government forces launched a major offensive aimed at seizing key ports from al Shabaab and cutting off key sources of revenue, said Al Jazeera. The Associated Press reported that the air strikes killed six militants but it was not known at the time if Godane was among the dead.

*** *** ***

Widening Ebola Threat

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

The head of an international medical aid, group, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors without Borders), says the world is losing the battle to contain the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

Military teams should be sent to the region immediately if there is to be any hope of controlling the epidemic, MSF’s international president Dr. Joanne Liu told the United Nations Tuesday (September 2), painting a stark picture of health workers dying, patients left without care and infectious bodies lying in the streets, The Guardian website reports.

Although alarm bells have been ringing for six months, the response had been too little, too late and no amount of vaccinations and new drugs would be able to prevent the escalating disaster, Liu told U.N. officials, adding: “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it.”

Ebola has spread to a fifth West African nation. Senegal’s health minister, Awa Marie Coll Seck has confirmed that country’s first Ebola case. On Friday (August 29), she said a young man from Guinea with the deadly disease had crossed into Senegal, where he was promptly put in isolation, according to Al Jazeera. Other countries reporting Ebola cases include: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

The current outbreak, which first appeared in Guinea, has killed more the 1,900 people across the region since March, according to the World Health Organization, the BBC reported. At least 3,000 people have been infected with the virus and the World Health Organization has warned the outbreak could grow and infect more than 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, fear and ignorance is blamed for the violent — and unhelpful reaction is some places in the region. In Liberia, one of the three hardest-hit nations, there have been clashes between soldiers and residents of quarantined slum area in the capital, Monrovia. In Nigeria, residents in some areas are protesting against the idea of building isolation units in their neighborhoods. The Voice of America reported  Friday (August 29) that people have taken to the streets in the northern city of Kaduna, protesting plans to convert sections of a local clinic into an Ebola treatment center. In many parts of Nigeria residents say they fear Ebola more than Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group that has killed thousands of people.

*** *** ***

2nd Niger Drone Base UPDATE

Map of Niger (CIA World Factbook)

Map of Niger
(CIA World Factbook)

After months of negotiations, the government of Niger in West Africa has authorized the U.S. military to fly unarmed drones from the mud-walled desert city of Agadez, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials, the Washington Post reports.

The previously undisclosed decision gives the Pentagon another surveillance hub — its second in Niger and third in the region — to track Islamist fighters who have destabilized parts of North and West Africa. It also advances a little-publicized U.S. strategy to tackle counterterrorism threats alongside France, the former colonial power in that part of the continent, the military newspaper said.

The United States started drone surveillance flights out of Niamey, Niger’s capital, in early 2013 to support French forces fighting Islamist militants in northern Mali. Washington always intended to move the operation further north and now the details have been worked out to relocate the flights to a base in Agadez, about 500 miles (800 kilometers) from Niamey, said a U.S. defense official speaking on condition of anonymity, Defense News reported.

The U.S. Air Force also flies unmanned aircraft out of Chad to help locate hundreds of school girls kidnapped by the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria.

*** *** ***

Rwanda Verdict

A South African court has found four of six suspects charged with trying to assassinate a former Rwandan Army general guilty of attempted murder. Two other men accused in the 2010 attack on Faustin Nyamwasa in Johannesburg, South Africa that left him wounded.

Nyamwasa fled Rwanda in 2010 after a dispute President Paul Kagame, al Jazeera reported. According to the an Al Jazeera reporter, Nyamwasa does not blame the four who were convicted, saying they were “used” by the Rwandan government. According to Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, the trial judge was convinced the murder attempt was politically motivated by people in Rwanda. Kagame denies involvement in the attack.

Police broke up another murder plot against the general in 2011 and early this year armed men attacked his Johannesburg house in a separate incident.

*** *** ***

Africa at Bastille Day UPDATE

African troops march in Bastille Day parade in Paris July 14. (Photo: SCH Sébastien Lelièvre/SIRPA Terre)

African troops march in Bastille Day parade in Paris July 14.
(Photo: SCH Sébastien Lelièvre/SIRPA Terre)

Troops from several African nations that served as peacekeepers during the French intervention in Mali were among the contingents July 14 during the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris. Among the troops in this photo, all wearing the blue United Nations beret are soldiers from Chad, Niger, Senegal and Nigeria.

(Click on the photo to enlarge. To see more photos of the 2014 Bastille Day military parade in Paris, click here.

September 3, 2014 at 11:51 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria Violence, Ebola, U.N. Drones

HOT SPOTS: Nigeria.

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria map
(CIA World factbook)

Another bombing and more deaths in Nigeria where the government is battling radical Islamist militants. This time, the blast was at a market in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, the anti-Western extremisty group blamed for dozens of bombings, killings and kidnappings across Nigeria in recent weeks.

At least 56 people were killed by the car bombing, according to the Associated Press, which noted that Maiduguri, [see map] a city of more than 1 million people, has suffered several attacks. In March, twin car bombs killed more than 50 people at a late-night market where many were watching a football match on a big television screen.

But the violence has been widespread. On Sunday, suspected extremists sprayed gunfire on worshippers at four churches in a northeastern village and torched the buildings, killing at least 30 people, according to the AP. Last week, at least 42 people were killed in three blasts around the country, including 24 slain at the biggest shopping mall in Nigeria’s central capital Abuja.

President Goodluck Jonathan will be visiting Washington this summer to attend the United States-African Leaders Summit (August 5-6). On July 31 he will be speaking about his country’s turmoil at the National Press Club in Washington. Jonathan’s government has taken sharp criticism at home and abroad for its inability to stop the bombing attacks or rescue more than 200 high school girls kidnapped from a school in northeast Nigeria in April.

*** *** ***

Ebola Meeting

A different kind of “summit” meeting is being held in Accra, Ghana where health ministers from 11 African countries are trying to “get a grip” on the worsening Ebola outbreak, the BBC reports.

So far, 763 people have been infected with the virus – and 468 of these have died. Most of the cases have been in Guinea where the outbreak started. But it has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The outbreak is the worst since the disease was identified in the 1970s, Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the Voice of America. Ebola causes fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhea. It is spread through contact with the blood or other fluids of infected people.

Meanwhile, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says anyone caught hiding suspected Ebola patients from authorities will be prosecuted. Sirleaf issued the warning on state radio Monday (July 1), expressing concern that some patients had been kept in homes and churches instead of receiving medical attention, al Jazeera America reported.

Sierra Leone issued a similar warning last week, saying some patients had discharged themselves from the hospital and gone into hiding. Health workers elsewhere in the region have encountered hostility and some have even been attacked.

*** *** ***

Drones Over the Congo

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

United Nations peacekeepers have begun flying unarmed, unmanned surveillance aircraft over the war-wracked eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Italian-made unmanned aircraft are the first acquired by the U.N. for peacekeeping missions but their presence is already posing  questions about how the intelligence they collect will be used and who will get to see it,  according to the New York Times. Another question is just how useful they will be in a country of distances far great than their 125 mile/200 kilometer flying range from their base in Goma [see map].

More and more, drones are flying over some of the toughest peacekeeping missions in the world, improving the United Nations’ intelligence-gathering capability, but also raising new issues about what to do with so much important data, the Times reported.

CIA World Factbook

CIA World Factbook

 

July 3, 2014 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Defense Industry Looks to Public Safety Sector to Revive Flat U.S. Market

 Not Quite Ploughshares.

Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich in the United Nations Art Collection

Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich in the United Nations Art Collection

And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Book of Isaiah, Chapter 2, Verses 3-4.

The U.S. defense industry isn’t quite making ploughshares yet, but as U.S. defense spending has declined, the unmanned systems sector has been talking up the capabilities of its robots, ‘droids and drones to help find lost hikers, track fleeing crime suspects and assist firefighters in remote wilderness areas.

Long time unmanned aircraft makers like AeroVironment and Insitu held briefings at last month’s big robotics industry conference in Orlando, Florida, about how their unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) could assist police looking for evidence or firefighters battling wildfires. The shift to the commercial market was the talk of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) gathering in Orlando.

Wall Street and industry analysts say the U.S. defense market is flat and while manufacturers may be looking hopefully to the commercial market, business will be slow until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally decides how to integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Air Space.

All this and more is covered in an Aviation Week article your 4GWAR editor co-authored with Mike Fabey in Washington and Christina Mackenzie in Paris. The story Saving Grace: Robotic systems target civil market as defense lags, is the June 16 Defense Technology Edition of Aviation Week.

AeroVironment's Qube quadcopter in action. (Courtesy AeroVironment, Inc.) s www.avinc.com

AeroVironment’s Qube quadcopter in action.
(Courtesy AeroVironment, Inc.) s http://www.avinc.com

June 18, 2014 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

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