Posts tagged ‘UAV’
Coordinating U.S. Arctic Efforts.
President Barack Obama has signed an executive order establishing a new panel that will advise the U.S. government on preserving the Alaskan Arctic.
Obama said he was establishing the Arctic Executive Steering Committee to help juggle more than 20 tribal, scientific, corporate, and federal interests at play in the Arctic, where temperatures have risen at twice the rate as the rest of the United States, The Hill reported.
“As the United States assumes the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, it is more important than ever that we have a coordinated national effort that takes advantage of our combined expertise and efforts in the Arctic region to promote our shared values and priorities,” the executive order, signed Wednesday (January 21), noted.
In April, the United States will take over from Canada the chairmanship of the eight-member Arctic Council — Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. The council, created in 1996, is a high level intergovernmental forum seeking to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States — with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities — on issues like environmental protection, oil and gas development, shipping and climate change.
Obama did not mention the Arctic specifically in his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday (Jan. 20) but he said climate change posed the greatest threat to future generations, USA Today reported. And while he didn’t announce any new climate initiatives in his speech, he did say he was “determined to make sure that American leadership drives international action.”
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Russian Arctic Buildup
Russia’s continuing activities in Eastern Ukraine are drawing criticism from NATO and other western nations. But in the Arctic, which is expected to grow more accessible as melting sea ice opens up shipping lanes, Moscow’s military buildup is also being noticed with some concern.
According to the Ottawa (Canada) Citizen, Russia is to looking to have 14 operational airfields in the Arctic by the end of 2015 as it pushes ahead with its plan to boost its military presence in its Northern region. Four airfields are already operational. Ten more will be built in the coming year, Russia’s deputy defence minister Dmitry Bulgakov told the country’s Sputnik news agency, the Canadian newspaper noted.
Newsweek notes that … A detachment of about 800 servicemen from Russia’s Northern Fleet has been stationed in the Russian town of Alakurtti, Murmansk region, just 50 kilometers from the Finnish border. It’s part of a large-scale expansion of Russian military facilities in the country’s northwest according to a press statement (here’s a link to the statement, in Russian) by the unit’s commanding admiral Vladimir Korolev.
The rest of the fleet are expected to be stationed there “soon” according to Korolev. The base will be one of the key strongholds in Russia’s northernmost territories, designed to strengthen the country’s defense capabilities from the west, and improve their territorial claims over areas in the Arctic, said Newsweek.
At full force, Russia’s Northern Fleet consists of about 3,000 ground troops trained for combat in Arctic conditions, along with 39 ships and 45 submarines. Its arrival in Murmansk follows Russia’s decision last year to create a united command for all of its units designated with protecting Russia’s interests in the country’s northern regions, the news website noted.
And UPI notes (via Military.Com ) that Russia’s military press service has confirmed the country will be sending drones to the Arctic in early 2015.
“Before the end of the current year specialists with several Orlan-10 sets will arrive at the permanent service base,” the press service told Russian news agency Tass. Test flight will begin in the next few months. The drones are allegedly meant to do surveillance over coastal areas and to help sea vessels navigate, according to UPI.
The Orlan-10 is a Russian drone with a front propeller, resembling a traditional manned aircraft. The aircraft was first discovered to be in use in early 2014, when one was shot down in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, The Moscow Times wonders if the worldwide drop in the price of oil, the driving force in Russia’s economy, could slow Russia’s activities – military and commercial – in its Arctic region.
ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”
China is sending a 700-man infantry battalion to South Sudan, its first combat-trained unit to serve in a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
Previous Chinese peacekeepers were mainly engineer, transportation, medical service and security units, according to Xinhua news service.
The unit includes 121 offices and 579 soldiers – 43 members of the battalion have participated in peacekeeping missions before, according to Xinhua. The first 180 soldiers will fly to South Sudan in January. The rest of the unit will travel by air and sea in March.
The battalion will be equipped with drones, armored infantry carriers, anti-tank missiles, mortars, light weapons and other equipment “completely for self-defense purposes,” Commander Wang Zhen said.
China currently has more than 2,000 peacekeepers serving in conflict zones around the world. The U.N. has more than 11,000 peacekeepers in oil-rich South Sudan, which won its independence from Sudan in 2011. Fighting broke out a year ago when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.
Fighting in the capital, Juba – one of the fastest growing cities in the world – set off a series of retaliatory massacres that have claimed thousands of lives and driven the country to the brink of famine, according to The Guardian news site.
A 2011 report by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Saferworld, found that, despite stated neutrality, China is gradually using diplomatic means to push for the resolution of certain conflicts, according to The Guardian. The report also said China is becoming both a major supplier of conventional arms in Africa and has increased its contributions to U.N. peacekeeping missions since 2000 – most of them based in Africa.
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Bus Stop, Market Bombings.
At least 26 people have been killed in bombings in two major cities in northern Nigeria, the BBC reported. Twenty were killed at a bus stop in Gombe, while six more died in an explosion at a market in Bauchi.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the militant Islamist group Boko Haram is waging an insurgency in the area, the BBC noted.
Meanwhile, a video purportedly released by Boko Haram shows dozens of people being executed at a school dormitory. There is no independent confirmation that Boko Haram produced the video. It is unclear where or when it was shot.
But the video bears Boko Haram’s insignia and shows gun-wielding men chanting “Allah is great” and speaking in the Kanuri language associated with the group’s fighters, says BBC Nigeria analyst Jimeh Saleh.
Meanwhile, Cameroon’s military said it had dismantled a training camp run by Boko Haram near its border with north-eastern Nigeria. Soldiers captured 45 trainers and 84 children between the ages of seven and 15 who were undergoing training, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant Colonel Didier Badjecks, told the Reuters news agency.
Despite a strong military presence, Nigeria’s Boko Haram continues to strike targets in northern Cameroon, according to an Al Jazeera report.
Boko Haram launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009, seeking to create an Islamic state in the region.
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The World Health Organization says the Ebola death toll in in West Africa has risen to more than 7,500, the Voice of America reported.
And the number of cases is nearing 20,000 according to the WHO’s latest data posted on Monday.
The new numbers show Liberia and Guinea with a decrease in the rate of Ebola transmissions, while Sierra Leone’s cases continue to rise. Those three West African countries account for almost all the Ebola deaths.
The death toll in other countries remains the same with six deaths in Mali, eight in Nigeria, and one in the United States. Spain and Senegal have had one case each, but no deaths.
Christmas Drone Concern.
Concerned that “tens of thousands” of adults and children may be getting small drones for Christmas, three unmanned aircraft trade groups and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a joint education program today (December 22) to ensure that people unfamiliar with flying rules operate their small planes and helicopters safely.
In a teleconference with reporters announcing the launch of the “Know Before You Fly” program’s website officials said they were concerned that people ignorant of what they are and aren’t allowed to do when flying their new “toys” might cause accidents in the air or on the ground. The program is a joint effort of the world’s largest robotics trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), as well as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and the Small UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) Coalition – along with the FAA.
AUVSI President and CEO Michael Toscano, said small unmanned aircraft were drawing a lot of interest as the “must have holiday gift” and he anticipated “tens of thousands” would be under Christmas trees this season.
“This is an issue of growing concern,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.”The price of unmanned aircraft has come down and this newer and more powerful technology is more affordable to more people, yet many are unfamiliar with the rules of flying,” he said, adding that retailers and manufacturers were offering UAS, often mini helicopters, for prices ranging from $20 to thousands of dollars.
The program seeks to make new UAS owners aware of best practices such as: Don’t fly above 400 feet; Keep your aircraft within sight and don’t fly within five miles of an airport without first notifying FAA air traffic control or the airport operator. “We urge you to join a model airplanet club to learn how to safely operate and enjoy your aircraft,” Huerta said to new drone owners.
While FAA rules bar commercial operations like professional photographers or farmers from flying drones to assist their work, Congress has mandated that model airplane enthusiasts and hobbyists can fly remotely operated aircraft at low altitudes without a permit or license as long as they follow a few simple rules. By contrast, universities, designers, government agencies, including police and fire departments, must submit to a lengthy and slow process of certification by the FAA before they can fly UAS under stringently limited circumstances.
The makers and operators of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are increasingly frustrated at the FAA’s slow pace in determining when commercial interests can fly unmanned vehicles for profit, while any member of the public can fly a UAS without any training or registration. Toscano said he believes most people would follow the rules once they are made aware of them. “As more and more of this technology is introduced, the rules will get more refined,” he said. As for “rogue entities out there,” he added, “if they misuse the technology, then they have to be held accountable and we have laws out there to do that.”
Congress has mandated that the FAA develop rules to integrate drones into the National Airspace System by 2015, but observers believe the agency, which is charged with operating the air traffic control system and maintaining aviation safety, won’t make that fast-approaching deadline. Huerta would not be pinned down on when the FAA would release its proposed rules for small commercial UAS flights. “We’re very focused on getting it out quickly,” he told reporters.
A front page story in the Washington Post today (December 22) reports that FAA officials may be ignoring the concerns of some of their own safety experts in allowing seven film and video-making companies, as well as entities in a few other business sectors, to fly drones commercially under much reduced restrictions. The paper noted that one film company had already lost control of one of its camera drones which flew off and crash-landed harmlessly in rough terrain not far from he movie set. But Huerta dismissed the notion that the FAA has been soft on safety.
“With any new technology, you’re going to have different points of view and different opinions and we welcome that because that’s how we get to ensuring that we can develop the best regulations and the best mitigations are put in place,” said Huerta. “I’m very confident we have a very open process and a thoughtful and transparent process that is focused on how we stage integration into the National Airspace System, but to do it in a safe manner,” he added.
What They Want and Can Afford
TYSON’S CORNER, Virginia – Money is tight while national security threats keep evolving, so the Defense Department plans to be careful about what robots, droids and drones it can buy in the future.
That was the overall message from Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps leaders over three days this month at the Unmanned Systems 2014 Program Review, a government robotics conference hosted by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
Even though they expect funds for robots and drones to be limited, they say demand will grow for unmanned vehicles – especially ones that can get into small or unsafe spaces like tunnels or denied airspace — to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information for troops in the field.
All of the services are looking for unmanned systems that share common controllers and other hardware/software. And they want them interoperable so troops on the ground, in the air or at sea – no matter which service – will be able to communicate with all unmanned systems and coordinate their activities.
So here’s a look at some of the capabilities the armed services are looking for.
The Defense Department’s Joint Staff is developing a Joint Concept for Robotic and Autonomous Systems, expected in the summer of 2018, according to Army Col. Charles Bowery of the Joint Staff Robotic and Autonomous Systems Team (JRAST). He said the concept report targets the 2025-2030 time frame and will reflect improved ways for “developing, deploying and acquiring those technologies.” Chartered in 2014, the JRAST seeks to synchronize Robotic and Autonomous Systems development, acquisition, and employment across the Defense Department.
The Army is not buying any new UAS in the near future but it isn’t getting rid of any either. Army plans call for pairing the MQ- 1 Gray Eagle and smaller RQ-7 Shadow UAS with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to perform the scouting mission once performed by the OH-58 Kiowa manned scout helicopter, which is being retired.
“All of my portfolios are essentially looking at what is the amount of financing or money that is available to meet the requirements,” said Army Major General Robert Dyess, director of Force Development in the financial management (G-8) section of the Army Staff.
On ground vehicles, he told conference attendees, the Amy had just completed joint testing of the Autonomous Mobility Applique System which showed the ability to “essentially, I believe, turn any vehicle in the motor pool – at the commander’s assessment – into a vehicle that has either a semi-autonomous or autonomous type of capability.”
The Navy has only one program of record for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), the Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS), a family of robotic systems ranging from a 35-pound robot that can be carried in a backpack to a vehicle-towed unit weighing about 750 pounds.
Tom Dee, deputy assistant of the Navy for Expeditionary Program and Logistics Management, said the Navy is looking for UGVs that not only replace humans in dangerous situations, but can be force enablers.
“We want to make them team mates with our squads, to be able to assist us, not just to replace us doing things that we’re concerned about doing” like bomb disposal, Dee said. .” He added that AEODRS would be built using open architecture and modular design that would allow the Navy to “plug and play” new developments in sensors, cameras or robotic arms onto a common platform.
Daniel Sternlicht, head of the Sensing Sciences Division at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, said the Navy is looking to improve sensor capabilities as it transitions from a time and manpower intensive method for detecting, identifying and neutralizing explosive mines in the shallows near shore to an unmanned, sensor-driven one.
Among the capabilities sought in this eventual shift is the ability to neutralize a target mine in a single pass or sortie by an unmanned underwater vehicle rather than multiple passes by manned aircraft or surface vessels, said Sternlicht.
The Office of Naval Research is developing a compact modular sensor package that can be mounted on an MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and detect and classify targets in real time. The Compact Modular Sensor Suite could also speed up the process by eliminating the need for post-mission analysis by a manned aircraft.
Commonality, Interoperability, Affordability.
TYSONS CORNER, Virginia — For years, advocates of unmanned systems — robots, drones and autonomous vehicles — have repeated the mantra “dirty, dull and dangerous.”
In other words, unmanned systems can free humans from tasks that are inherently “dirty, dull or dangerous,” and in most cases do it faster, longer, safer and cheaper than people. Now, the mantra is “commonality, interoperability and affordability” — at least around the Pentagon — where the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps are all facing new demands and adversaries but with less money.
That’s been the take-away this week from the Unmanned Systems Program Review 2014, sponsored by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the leading trade group for all things robotic — civilian and military. Until recently, the three-day annual event, which ended today (November 6) has been a platform for the armed services and other government agencies like NOAA and DARPA, to explain what they are looking for in the way of unmanned ground, air on maritime vehicles. They also outline how their existing programs — like Navy counter mine warfare robots (see photo below) or reconnaissance drones for the Army — are doing and what changes in design or mission are likely in the future.
But as one speaker after another addressed the audience of manufacturers, academics and reporters outside Washington, they noted that defense budgets are tight and likely to get even tighter if Congress resumes across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration in Fiscal Year 2016. “We don’t really know how much [money] we’re going to end up with,” said Tom Dee, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Expeditionary Program and Logistics Management. Uncertainty in funding really puts the squeeze on, driving Defense Department program managers to focus on what they can afford. And that includes programs where the aircraft fly and the submarines and boats sail without a human on board. Major General Robert Dyess, director of Force Development in the financial management (G-8) section of the Army Staff, called sequestration a “large black cloud.”
The budget restraints come at a time when America and its military are facing a widening array of threats and challenges from violent extremist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL in the Middle East and al Shabaab in Africa, criminal narcotics cartels based in Latin America but spreading to Africa and Europe, disease outbreaks like Ebola and natural disasters like Haiti’s earthquake or Japan’s tsunami. Military peers like Russia and China and near peers like Iran and North Korea pose additional concerns. Pentagon leaders have been saying for months that the U.S. military will have to do more with less and unmanned systems could be a way to drive down costs..
So the military in general, and unmanned systems program managers in particular, are looking for commonality in controls and other equipment. Dyess said the Army wants common controllers for unmanned ground vehicles and small unmanned aircraft systems like the Raven, Wasp and Puma, so they can work in unison.
The Defense Department’s Joint Staff Robotic and Autonomous Systems Team is trying to identify advanced applications for increased interoperability between manned and unmanned systems, according to Army Colonel Charles Bowery, the team’s officer in charge. “Interoperability is probably the most important thing we are doing now,” said Chris O’Donnell, Tactical Warfare Systems staff specialist for the Joint Ground Robotics Enterprise in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Most speakers advised the conference that the Defense Department had little use for proprietary technology that makes it impossible to swap out failing parts or add new modular equipment like cameras or sensors to robotic equipment. “Open architecture is critical,” Captain Eric Wirstrom, Maritime Operation Director at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, said today. On the issue of affordability, he was emphatic in his advice to industry about selling unmanned underwater vehicles and the sensors they can carry: “I need it cheap.”
Your 4GWAR editor learned a lot about the future path or unmanned systems in the military over the three-day AUVSI event and we’ll be summing it up on Saturday. Please check back with us this weekend.
Commercializing Unmanned Aircraft.
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.
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