TECHNOLOGY: Big Droids and Drones Conference in Las Vegas

August 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm Leave a comment

Robots and Gliders and Drones, Oh My!

LAS VEGAS — The information flow is coming fast and furious at the Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International’s 2012 conference and expo here in Las Vegas.

First, the acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration says the federal agency is working away at selecting six states to be testbeds for the integration of unmanned aircraft into the National Air Space – where commercial aircraft and private planes fly.

But acting Administrator Michael Huerta said he couldn’t say when the FAA would make its decision – Only that “we’ve gotten a lot of interest” on the program and “we’re currently evaluating everything we got. We’re very close. Keep watching this space.”

Until then, all unmanned aircraft must get permission from the FAA to fly in U.S. Commercial airspace on a case by case basis.

He was followed by the head of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Group for the International Civil Aviation Organization – a United Nations agency – which is looking at ways to admit drones into the commercial airspace around the world. But then she said ICAO is strictly bound by a legal document, known as the Chicago Convention, has some pretty firm rules about aircraft without a pilot on board. Leslie Cary added that it will take some time before those rules are amended for autonomous aircraft.

In the meantime, she said ICAO will soon publish vehicle certification and basic pilot standards for remotely piloted aircraft. She called those standards “just the tip of what will become the regulatory framework.”

Folks from Lockheed Martin and Kaman told a press briefing that the Marine Corps, which is testing their unmanned cargo helicopter, the K-MAX, in Afghanistan, want to keep it in-country for another six months because they are getting such good results with the two test models they are using.

Then Northrop Grumman officials talked about new models of their Global Hawk – a high altitude unmanned reconnaissance aircraft – including their maritime version for the Navy, the MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance system, which debuted in California in June and will have its innaugural flight later this year. Meanwhile, a demonstration model of the BAMS continues to fly missions over Afghanistan and other areas overssen by U.S. Central Command.

And that was just a part of what went on Tuesday morning!

Since then, we’ve worked our way around the massive exhibit hall chock full of small, multi-engine UAVs that can fly through an open window, autonomous underwater vehicles, known as gliders, that can take temperature and salinity samples of the ocean while drifting with the current and tracked robots that can disarm bombs or tell an infantry squad what’s around the next bend in a dark alley.

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Entry filed under: Aircraft, Homeland Security, National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, Skills and Training, Technology, Unmanned Aircraft, Unmanned Systems, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (August 5 – TECHNOLOGY: A Couple of Unmanned Aircraft Firsts (UPDATE)

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