Posts tagged ‘UAV’
Threat Rises in Afghanistan
A United Nations official says aid workers in Afghanistan are under an increasing threat in the war wracked country as most U.S. troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year.
Nine Afghan aid workers were killed in separate attacks on two days last month. Suspected Taliban gunmen killed six aid workers in northern Faryab province (see map) November 27. An explosive device killed three other aid workers in southern Uruzgan province the previous day, the Voice of America website reported.
An October report from the Aid Workers Security Database identified Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for aid workers, VoA added.
Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, said in a statement Saturday (November 30) that he’s “extremely concerned” about the rise in attacks on civilian aid workers during a time of transition when Afghanistan soldiers and police will be taking over security responsibilities from U.S. and NATO coalition forces.
“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.
“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.
According to Bowen, there were 237 attacks on Afghanistan’s aid workers through November – with 36 people killed, 46 wounded and 96 detained or abducted. Last year, there were 175 attacks, with 11 people killed, 26 wounded and 44 detained or abducted, the New York Times reported.
UN Drones Patrol Congo Skies
U.N. Peacekeepers have deployed two unarmed, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor rebel activity near the borders with Rwanda and Uganda, the BBC reports.
It is the first time U.N. peacekeepers have deployed a drone bought and paid for by the United Nations – rather than bringing them from their home countries, which Belgian and Irish troops have done in previous African peacekeeping missions.
The drones, two Falcos manufactured by Selex ES, a unit of Italian aerospace contractor Finmeccanica, were launched in the skies over Goma, a citry in the eastern DRC briefly occupied byM23 rebels. The rebels are mostly ethnic Tutsi fighters who were integrated in the DRC Army in 2009, but mutinied in 2012 over their alleged mistreatment by the DRC Army.
More than 800,000 people fled their homes due to the violent revolt, which M23 leaders ended last month after U.N. Peacekeepers took the gloves off and pursued an offensive against the rebel group.
The drones will be used to see if any neighboring countries are supplying the rebel militia. Both Rwanda and Uganda have denied aiding the M23 rebels. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the BBC that if successful in the DRC, the Falco UAVs could be used in other U.N. Peacekeeping missions.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its initial plans Thursday (November 7) for gradually integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace of the United States.
The FAA, an agency of the Transportation Department, has been studying unmanned aircraft — also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or simply drones — for years, trying to figure how to let aircraft without a pilot on board make their way into a domain already crowded with commercial airliners, private planes and jets, military aircraft, skyscrapers, bridges, radio towers, power lines and stormy weather.
As an early step in that process — expected to take 15 years — the FAA issued its first annual Roadmap outlining the steps needed to integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace. The roadmap addresses current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures “that will be required as demand moves the country from today’s limited accommodation of UAS operations to the extensive integration of UAS” into national airspace in the future, according to an FAA statement that accompanied release of the 71-page roadmap that tackles such issues as operator training, air traffic control challenges and national security issues. The FAA also released the 26-page UAS Comprehensive Plan to safely accelerate working civil UAS into the nation’s airspace system.
While the military has made extensive use of drones for reconnaissance, surveillance and attack over the last dozen years, UAS are strictly limited in their operations in U.S. airspace. Research institutions, government agencies and law enforcement must first obtain a waiver, known as a certificate of authorization — which allows, but sharply restricts the areas where non-military UAS flights can take place. The agriculture, energy and scientific communities already have developed numerous uses for UAS, but are limited in their use by the FAA — as are local police and fire/emergency departments.
Other groups, however, have voiced privacy and civil liberties concerns about widespread use of drones — large and small — in U.S. skies, especially by law enforcement agencies.
The Associated of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the main industry group, estimates that UAS technology will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82 billion in economic impact in the first 10 years after drones are integrated into the national airspace.
Full disclosure: 4GWAR editor John M. Doyle writes freelance articles for AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems magazine.
(Updates with 7 aid workers kidnapped in northern Syria, four later released, 4 peacekeepers killed in Darfur))
The companies that that provide services ranging from translators to aircraft for humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and development organizations are meeting in Washington this week to discuss how to help people in an increasingly dangerous world.
That need was underscored over the weekend as seven relief workers — most working for the Red Cross — were kidnapped in Syria, according to the Los Angeles Times. All but three have been released but the continuing threat to aid workers in Syria and elsewhere remains.
And tree U.N. peacekeepers from Senegal were killed Sunday (October 13) in Sudan’s West Darfur region. Another peacekeeper from Zambia was stabbed to death Friday (October 11) in North Darfur. Nearly 170 U.N. personnel have been killed in Sudan since the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was established in 2007, according to the Voice of America.
The International Stability Operations Association, which has members ranging from BAE Systems and DynCorp to IAP Worldwide Services and Global Fleet Sales, is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday (October 15-16) at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
One of the technologies some peace and relief organizations are interested in is unmanned systems – unmanned aerial systems, in particular. Jessica Mueller, director of programs and operations for the ISOA, says non-governmental organizations and relief agencies are very interested in obtaining intelligence about what dangers await in the next village, where refugees have fled to or where the greatest need for food is in a vast region with few roads. She thinks unmanned drones could be a big help obtaining that kind of information.
Industry experts say potential platforms range from small versions of the unmanned aircraft use for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, to unmanned helicopters, like the Lockheed Martin K-MAX cargo helicopter system being tested by the Marine Corps in Afghanistan (see photo). Sikorsky Aircraft plans to produce,through its Matrix Technology program, variants of all its rotary wing aircraft that are unmanned and autonomous.
To read more on this topic see your 4GWAR editor’s story in this week’s Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine (subscription required).
Easing Privacy, Civil Liberties Concerns
Unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as unmanned air systems, remotely piloted aircraft or simply, drones — have been getting a lot of attention lately because their use in missile strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Critics of U.S. policy say those strikes also kill civilians, causing hard feelings against the United States among the very people it’s trying to win over.
There is also concern that when the Federal Aviation Administration finally allows drones to fly in U.S. airspace, many will be used by police, government agencies, paparazzi and just plain snoops to spy on people — violating innocent people’s privacy and suspected criminals’ civil rights.
An organization of aviation-friendly state officials is also concerned that a growing wave of UAV-restricting state laws could hurt a burgeoning industry that they predict will some day create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in commercial business and tax revenues for the states.
Already, at least six states have passed legislation restricting UAVs including who can fly them and what they can be used for. Several of those laws limit how law enforcement can use the robotic aircraft in investigations.
Now the Aerospace States Association has come up with guidelines for state lawmakers on how they can regulate UAVs without killing off a job-creating industry in its infancy. The association, after consulting with two state government national organizations and other stakeholders like the American Civil Liberties Union, came up with proposals such as when a search warrant should be required for an aerial search of property by a UAV.
Your 4GWAR editor was at the association’s briefing on the guidelines at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (the Industry’s largest trade group) conference and expo in Washington earlier this month.
You can see that story — written in collaboration with colleague Michael Bruno — in the latest (Aug. 19) issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription required).
Unmanned aircraft play a vital role in counter terrorism, counter insurgency, maritime and border security as well as special operations.
News from AUVSI 2013 (UPDATES with additional quotes and Insitu ScanEagle certification to fly in Arctic)
Unmanned air vehicle (UAV) maker AeroVironment has been making a lot of news lately.
The Monrovia, California-based company makes a line of small UAVs including the 13-pound RQ-20A Puma, the smaller RQ-11 Raven and the Wasp micro air vehicle (MAV). All three are man portable and launched by hand — almost like a paper airplane.
Your 4GWAR editor was interviewing David Heidel, AeroVironment’s business development manager, at this week’s robotics and unmanned systems conference in Washington when he brought up the company’s plans to make unmanned aircraft in India.
AeroVironment has signed an agreement to team up with Indian aerospace and automotive manufacturer, Dynamatic Technologies to make small UAVs. Potential customers include India’s Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs.
“International is a target of ours. We had significant [international sales] growth at the end of last year. We’re in over 24 countries right now,” Heidel said. “We see this as a big opportunity and a big step to form a teaming agreement with an organization to do local manufacturing,” he added during our interview at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
In a press release, Udayant Malhoutra, Dynamatic’s CEO and managing director said “teaming with AeroVironment is strategic to our efforts to build capabilities in the Aerospace Segment.” He cited “the combination of AeroVironment’s technical capabilities and unmatched experience in unmanned aircraft systems and Dynamatic’s precision engineering capabilities.”
At AUVSI, we also discussed the big news of the week for small UAVs: the test flight of a solar-powered Puma AE (All Environment) UAV, which stayed aloft for over nine hours. That’s more than four times the standard flight time of the battery-powered Puma AE.
On that project, AeroVironment is working with Alta Devices, a Sunnyvale, California manufacturer of thin, flexible solar cells. “It was a standard Puma platform with the solar technology of Alta integrated into the wings,” said Heidel. He said the flight test in July also included a new AeroVironment long endurance battery that extended the Puma’s normal two-hour flight to three hours and then the small UAV flew another six hours and 11 minutes using solar power. (Please click on the photo above to enlarge the image and get a better look at the solar panels on the Puma’s wings.)
In other AeroVironment news, the Army has ordered $13.5 million in Raven UAVs as well as spare parts. It was the fourth and final part of a 2012 contract valued at $59.6 million.
And AeroVironment has won certification from the FAA to fly the Puma AE as one of the few UAVs allowed to operate in the national airspace for commercial purposes. AeroVironment is expected to fly Pumas in the Arctic to monitor oil spill response.
We forgot to mention earlier that another UAV manufacturer, Insitu, also received FAA approval to fly its catapult-launched ScanEagle from a ship in Arctic waters. The larger and heavier (44 pounds) ScanEagle will be surveying ice floes and whale migration in areas of planned oil exploration, according to our friends at Aviation Week’s ARES blog.
AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2013
UPDATES with Teal Group UAV analysis
Hardly a day goes by now when unmanned aircraft, submarines or robots aren’t in the news: flying up to the International Space Station, monitoring dangerous weather or discovering long lost shipwrecks.
They’re also in the news because they can conduct surveillance on bad guys and launch missile strikes on terrorist hideouts — all from a safe distance. And that has some people worried about Big Brother intrusions on civil liberties and due process. There are also concerns — especially about the safety of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) — among the public and some lawmakers in Congress and several states.
But a recent study by an aerospace and defense market analysis firm indicates that future looks bright for UAVs — even in tough budgetary times for the U.S. government. According to Teal Group’s 2013 market study, UAVs continue to be “the most dynamic growth sector of the world aerospace industry this decade.”
Teal Group estimates that UAV spending will more than double over the next decade “from current worldwide UAV expenditures of $5.2 billion annually to $11.6 billion” for a total of “just over $89 billion in the next 10 years.”
An excerpt from the report’s executive summary , released in conjunction with this week’s annual conference and expo of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. (AUVSI), attributes the growth projections to the “enormous growth of interest” in UAVs by the U.S. military. “UAVs have proved their value in Iraq and Afghanistan and are being sought by a growing number of militaries worldwide,” says Philip Finnegan, Teal Group’s director of corporate analysis and an author of the UAV study.
The study cites the demands on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) needs for the expected growth in UAV payloads. The UAV electronics market will grow steadily — with the fastest growth coming in synthetic aperture radar SAR and signals intelligence/electronic warfare SIGINT/EW technology, according to David Rockwell, another author of the study.
Meanwhile, the people who design, build, equip, use and regulate unmanned systems of all types are gathered at the Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital this week to discuss all the ways robots and ‘droids can free humans from tasks that are dirty, dull and dangerous.
Officials from the Army, Navy, Department of Transportation, business and academia will be among the speakers discussing robots that operate in the air and space, on the ground and on or under the sea at the four-day conference put on by the AUVSI.
More than 600 products and services will be on display in the enormous exhibit hall. Thousands of attendees are expected — including your 4GWAR editor.
More Border Agents?
If a compromise deal on pending immigration legislation holds up, it would double the number of federal agents on the U.S.-Mexican border. But according to Reuters, some officials question the benefits of the $50 billion pricetag for the boost from 21,000 to 40,000 border security agents.
In addition to the federal agent surge and completion of a 700-mile-long border fence, the compromise would also include $3.2 billion for a high tech border surveillance plan – including unmanned aircraft, infrared ground sensors and long range thermal imaging cameras, the New York Times reported.
James Comey tapped for FBI Post
[Updates with Comey nominated, praised by Obama, adds photo and link to 2008 UAV demonstration for FBI]
As predicted, President Obama formally nominated James Comey – a former high-ranking official in the George W. Bush administration – to be the nation’s next FBI director.
At a White House announcement in the Rose Garden, Obama praised Comey’s integrity — without going into specifics of his opposition, when Comey was Deputy U.S. Attorney General, to the continuation of a warantless eavesdropping program that he believed was unconstitutional. Comey threatened to resign in opposition to the move. President George W. Bush later backed Comey’s position.
“This is a 10-year assignment. I make this nomination confident that long after I’ve left office, our nation’s security will be in good hands with public servants like Jim Comey,” Obama said, calling for the Senate to “act promptly with hearings and to confirm our next FBI director right away.”
As a U.S. attorney in New York, Comey successfully prosecuted more than a dozen men for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service members.
If he is confirmed, Comey, 52, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan and areas north of New York City, will replace Robert S. Mueller III, who is leaving the agency after a dozen years. Comey’s nomination has been expected since last month when news reports indicated he had emerged as the top candidate.
Obama also praised the outgoing FBI director. “Under his watch, the FBI joined forces with our intelligence, military and homeland security professionals to break up al Qaeda cells, disrupt their activities and thwart their plots,” the president said, adding: “Countless Americans are alive today, and our country is more secure, because of the FBI’s outstanding work under the leadership of Bob Mueller.”
Earlier this week, the current FBI director told Congress that while the FBI has used drones in its investigations, it has been rare and only for surveillance purposes.
According to NBC, Director Robert Muller acknowledged that the FBI used drones in investigative practices but said the agency is working to establish better guidelines for their use.
Back in 2008, when your 4GWAR editor was working at Aviation Week, we went down to Quantico, Virginia to see a demonstration for FBI officials of a catapult-launched Insitu Scan Eagle unmanned air vehicle. You can see a short video of the launch and recovery here.
A reset for America’s counter terrorism strategy was announced by President Obama Thursday (May 23) … authorities in London are collecting evidence a day after the brutal slaying of an off-duty British soldier by two men allegedly protesting the treatment of Muslims … meanwhile a man in Florida said to have links to one of the Boston Marathon bombers is slain after an altercation with the FBI.
Recalibrating War on Terror
President Obama today (May 23) outlined his revised plan for countering terrorism and ending the global war on terror.
Speaking at the National Defense University in Virginia, Obama pledged to continue “our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations” but, he added, “this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
The president layed out a series of policy changes and clarifications as well as calling for Congress to allow the closing of detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where 166 alleged terrorists – many now conducting a hunger strike – have been held for years without trial.
Obama also said he was setting new guidelines for when U.S. citizens and foreign nationals can be targeted for death by missile-armed unmanned aircraft, the so-called drones. He defended the use of drone attacks in the past but said the threat has changed in Afghanistan and elsewhere and only when targets pose a “continuing, imminent threat” to the United States and only when avoiding civilian casualties is a “near-certainty,” the Washington Post reported.
His remarks came a day after the White House revealed that four U.S. Citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009. For an outline of the plan, click here.
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Horror in London
An off-duty British soldier was run over by a car and then hacked to death May 22 by two men believed to have ties to radical Islamist groups. Both of the alledged attackers were shot and wounded by London police responding to 9-1-1 calls. One of the suspects men held up a bloody knife and meat cleaver in hands red with blood as he ranted to passersby about his reasons for the attack.
The soldier was identified as Lee Rigby, 25, a drummer with the 2nd Battalion, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, according to CBS. Rigby, who served in Afghanistan, leaves a wife and two-year-old son. He was not in uniform at the time of the attack which took place near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, a section of Southeast London.
The man waving the bloody blades and justifying his attack to passersby who filmed him with their cell phones, was identified as 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo, a British-born convert to Islam of Nigerian descent. The second suspect, also hospitalized with gunshot wounds, was not identified.
Authorities in Britain took two other people into custody on conspiracy charges today (May 23) and government investigators were looking into whether the alleged attackers were “lone wolves” or part of a larger terrorist organization.
Rigby is the first person to have died on British soil in an apparent attack by Muslim extremists since the 2005 suicide bombings on London’s transit system, in which 52 people were killed, the Los Angeles Times reported. An additional 1,200 police officers were out patrolling London May 23.
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Marathon Bombing Mystery
There’s been a new wrinkle in the investigation of last month’s bombing of the Boston Marathon.
A man identified as a friend of one of the two alleged bombers was shot to death in Orlando, Florida May 22 after allegedly attacking an FBI agent who has questioning him, the Associated Press reported.
Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was himself slain in a gunbattle with police just days after the bombing, was shot after attacking the FBI agent who did not suffer life-threatening injuries. Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter from Russia, had lived in the Boston area before moving to Orlando, Fla., over the past couple of years.
Tsarnaev’s younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured and charged in the bombing.
The FBI gave no details on why it was interested in Todashev except to say that he was being questioned as part of the Boston investigation. But some of Todashev’s former roommates said that he knew Tsarnaev from athletic circles in Boston and that the two Russian immigrants might have trained together, the AP reported.
And officials are looking to see if there are any links between Tsarnaev and a triple muder in Boston a year-and-a-half ago.
Big Boat, With Friend
The High-Speed Vessel Swift (HSV-2) got underway in Key West, Florida recently (April 24) with a tethered Aerostat balloon. The crew of the Swift will conduct a series of capabilities tests to determine if the aerostat, TIF-25K — a lighter than air unmanned air vehicle– could participate in U.S. Southern Command’s Operation Martillo.
Aerostats are like blimps but instead of cruising in the air, they are tethered to one spot. They can be used for persistent coastal surveillance when equipped with up to 420 pounds of sensors and other surveillance equipment.
That is a joint, interagency and multinational effort to block transnational criminal organizations from using air or maritime access to the littoral (coastal) regions of the Central America.
Navy League’s Expo
Your intrepid 4GWAR editor is at the Navy League’s 2013 Sea-Air-Space Expo at the Gaylord National Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland (it’s across the Potomac from Alexandria, Virginia).
The annual gathering brings together Navy and Coast Guard officials from all over — including many foreign countries — as well as defense contractors — large and small — and scribes like your editor to find out what’s the Navy’s up to and where it thinks it’s going in the future.
We’re helping the folks at Seapower, the Navy League’s magazine, cover the scores of briefings by Navy and Coast Guard commanders, government officials, big defense contractors and organizations dedicated to the sea services.
On Monday we wrote about the Navy’s plans for unmanned aircraft on nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the successes of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and what Naval Air Systems Command is doing to integrate new systems into the fleet while making them interoperable with existing systems and platforms.
You can see all three stories among lots of others written by the staff of Seapower by clicking here.