Posts tagged ‘UAV’

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM Wants to Kick Addiction to Airborne Recon

SOCOM’s ISR Roadmap.

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off in Afghanistan (Air Force photo)

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off in Afghanistan (Air Force photo)

TAMPA, Florida — U.S. commando forces have a virtual “chemical dependence” on air assets for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data, and U.S. Special Operations Command wants to kick the habit, says SOCOM’s intel capabilities and requirements chief.

U.S. Air Force Colonel Matthew Atkins says 80 percent of SOCOM’s ISR comes from air assets, both manned and unmanned. “This is where our spending and our resource investment has been,” Atkins told a briefing at a special operations conference Wednesday (May 20) on SOCOM’s ISR Road Map.

The ISR roadmap calls for sustaining existing large and expensive ISR air assets like the Air Force MQ-9 Reaper or the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle — both of them unmanned aircraft — while investing in newer, simpler aircraft. The roadmap makes “one thing abundantly clear,” according to Atkins. “We need to reduce our reliance on airborne platforms,” he said, adding that airborne ISR “is not always available and is often the most costly” way to gather intelligence.

So SOCOM will be putting considerable energy into exploring and expanding ground-based and maritime-based ISR, “because that’s where we see the most cost benefit analysis,” Atkins said. Space and cyber-based capabilities will also be studied to enhance special ops missions and to deliver precision intelligence.

The command will need technological help from industry to solve the data transport problem. And because SOCOM will be relying increasingly on partner militaries, it will require ISR platforms to be affordable and employable by partners, with the intelligence sharing components “essentially baked in” to facilitate cooperation.

MQ-7 Raven small unmanned aircraft  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Michael Guillory)

RQ-11 Raven small unmanned aircraft
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Michael Guillory)

Atkins said SOCOM is seeing a tremendous demand from partner nations to teach — not only ISR acquisition — but how to use the information in what SOCOM calls foreign internal defense — training foreign militaries how to defend their territory and people themselves and rely less on U.S. assistance.

“A lot of these countries know how to fly the Scan Eagles (a small drone) and other things that they buy, but they don’t necessarily know how to use them” to process information and turn that information into useable intelligence, Atkins told a standing room only audience during the 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference sponsored by TAMPA-headquartered SOCOM and the National Defense Industrial Association. The conference ended today (May 21).

May 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Drone Trade Group Renames Annual Conference

AUVSI to Xponential.

A New Name for Unmanned Systems conference. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

A New Name for Unmanned Systems conference.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

ATLANTA — The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is a big, clunky name with a clunky acronym (AUVSI), but officials of the robotics trade group say the name has to cover a wide area of interests and technologies from aerial drones of all sizes to self-driving cars … from robots that can clean gutters to those that can neutralize mines and bombs … from autonomous ocean-going gliders that measure water salinity and temperature to underwater robots that can inspect the hulls of ships and harbor infrastructure beneath the surface.

So when your 4GWAR editor crossed paths Tuesday (May 5) with AUVSI’s new president, Brian Wynne, at the group’s annual conference, we asked what happened to the suggestion at last year’s conference that a committee would soon start investigating the feasibility of a new name — perhaps something flashier or at least shorter.

“There’s no plan to change the name at this time,” Wynne said over the din of the exhibit hall floor. But he said there would soon be news about the name of the AUVSI’s moveable feast, known simply as Unmanned Systems 2015 (or ’14, or ’13 — you get the idea.)

A busy corner of Unmanned Systems 2015's exhibit hall. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

A busy corner of Unmanned Systems 2015’s exhibit hall.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Well this morning (May 6) there was a new display on the exhibit hall floor (see above photo) and an announcement at the day’s opening general session that next year’s conference and expo — in New Orleans — would be known as Xponential 2016.

In a press release, AUVSI officials called it a “rebranding and evolution” of the annual event, which this year drew 600 exhibitor and 8,000 attendees from more than 50 countries (including Britain, Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands and South Korea).

“Xponential encapsulates the tremendous growth and innovation in the unmanned systems industry, as well as the broad societal benefits of the technology,” the release said, quoting Wynne. “Xponential will help the world understand the potential of this industry by providing a single gathering place where people can see and interact with the technology and systems that will soon become part of our everyday lives,” Wynne added.

According to the release, more information about the changes can be found at www.xponential.org.

May 6, 2015 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Droids, Drones and ‘bots Show Opens

Goin’ to the Show.

Busy day on the floor as the Exhibit Hall opens Tuesday. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Busy day on the floor as the Exhibit Hall opens Tuesday.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Updates with new photo, new information on FAA press conferences  and include link to FAA proposed rules. Click on photo to enlarge.

ATLANTA — It’s early May, which to many people means hockey and NBA playoffs, or spring plants sales. But it also means a gathering of those who love machines that can free humans from having to do jobs that are dirty, dull and dangerous.

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International — the folks who design, build, test, buy, sell and operate robots, drones and androids.

About 8,000 people from 55 countries are expected to attend AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2015 conference and expo here in Georgia through Thursday (May 7).

There will be indoor demonstrations of small unmanned aircraft and ground vehicles. Devices showing off their capabilities are slated to include Indago, Lockheed Martin’s five-pound multi-use quad copter and Ontario Drive & Gear’s ARGO J5 extreme terrain-capable unmanned ground vehicle.

Panel discussions include topics like what international opportunities are there for  American unmanned aircraft systems and what kinds of payloads the Pentagon is exploring for unmanned aircraft. Another discussion will address the ethical use of drones and still another will explore emerging commercial markets for unmanned aircraft in the oil and gas industry.

But a hot topic likely to run through the whole week is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed rules for small commercial unmanned aircraft (55 pounds and under).

The FAA’s proposed rules would speed up, somewhat, the glacial pace for getting FAA permission to fly unmanned air systems (UAS) for commercial purposes, such as monitoring crops and livestock or filming movies, TV shows and commercials. But the rule still places restraints on operators’ ability to fly their drones beyond their line of sight — or to fly at night. Farm interests in particular, pushed back on this policy, saying the line of sight rule would make it much harder for a lone farmer to check a large spread economically without multiple drones or assistance.

The FAA hasn’t said what it is going to do next, but they are holding a double press briefing on Wednesday (May 6) presided over by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

May 5, 2015 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

DISASTER RELIEF: U.S. Air Force, Army Special Forces, USAID and Canadian Drone Maker Aid in Nepal Earthquake Relief

Search and Rescue.

Jennifer Massey, Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue K-9 search specialist, Fairfax, Va., and her K-9, Phayu, board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Dover Air Force Base, Del., April 26, 2015. Massey and Phayu are part of a 69-person search and rescue team deploying to Nepal to assist in rescue operations after the country was struck by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Jennifer Massey, a Fairfax County, Va. Urban Search and Rescue K-9 search specialist, and her dog, Phayu, board an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware as part of a 69-person team deploying to Nepal to assist in earthquake rescue operations.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

The U.S. Air Force has sent two large military cargo/transport planes, carrying tons of relief supplies and federal and state disaster response experts, to Nepal to assist in relief and recovery efforts following a massive earthquake that killed thousands and injured thousands more and left still more without food, water or shelter. Two Army Green Beret A-Teams, who were training in the mountainous country when the earthquake hit, are aiding in relief efforts.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the country, high in the Himalayas, Saturday (April 25) killing more than 4,000 in the capital, Kathmandu, and surrounding areas. At least 7,000 people were reported injured and untold thousands more are homeless. Click here to see map of the devastation.

On Sunday (April 26) an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III left Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, bound for Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport, according to a Pentagon spokesman. “The aircraft is transporting nearly 70 personnel, including a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, the Fairfax County (Virginia) Urban Search and Rescue team and several journalists, along with 45 square tons of cargo,” said the spokesman, Army Colonel Steve Warren.

A second C-17 carrying the Los Angeles County (California) Urban Search and Rescue team left a day later from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, flew to March Air Reserve Base, California, to pick up the team and is expected to land in Nepal on Wednesday (April 29), Air Force Times reported.

Twenty-six members of two Army Special Forces teams, who were training in Nepal at the time of the earthquake, are helping Nepal’s military find and help survivors of the devastating earthquake, according to Military Times. One team was in country for high altitude training, so it is helping find survivors in popular trekking trails, including Mount Everest’s base camp.

The United States is also providing an initial $10 million in emergency assistance for relief organizations in Nepal “to further address urgent humanitarian needs,” according to the White House.

The Fairfax, Virginia team — which includes firefighters, paramedics, physicians, canine handlers, communications experts and engineering and construction specialists — have established their Base of Operations in a Baseball Field in Nepal. The Los Angeles County Search and Rescue team will be based with them once they arrive in-country, according to the Fairfax team’s webpage.

Meanwhile, Canadian unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) manufacturer, Aeryon Labs — along with partners GlobalMedic and Monadrone — is deploying three of its small drones to Nepal to aid disaster relief efforts, according to AUVSI News. The drones being sent to Nepal are outfitted with thermal cameras to help locate survivors, and the Aeryon HDZoom30 camera, which has an extended zoom, to look at targets from over 1,000 feet away.

Small unmanned aircraft provide “the unmatched capability to get onsite and into the air immediately to start determining how and where to provide support to the people.” said Rahul Singh, executive director of GlobalMedic.

Click here to see aerial footage from NBC — shot by a drone — of the devastation in Kathmandu, and the Fairfax Urban Search and Rescue team’s travels to Nepal.

U.S. Air Force personnel load pallets of equipment and supplies for victims of the Nepal earthquake into a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at March Air Force Base, California, April 26. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen)

U.S. Air Force personnel load pallets of equipment and supplies for victims of the Nepal earthquake into a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at March Air Force Base, California, April 26.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen)

 

 

 

 

 

April 28, 2015 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: First-Ever Unmanned Aerial Refueling

Navy Drone Makes History.

X-47B successfully completes the first autonomous aerial refueling demonstration over the Chesapeake bay on April 21.  (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

X-47B successfully completes the first autonomous aerial refueling demonstration over the Chesapeake bay on April 21.
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

Aviation history was made over Chesapeake Bay yesterday (April 21) as the Navy and Northrop Grumman completed the first-ever refueling  in flight by an autonomous unmanned aircraft.

Northrop Grumman and the Navy announced the first successful demonstration of aerial refueling by the tailless, bat-shaped X-47B.

We reported last week at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Expo that the aircraft, officially known as the  Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft was expected to test this procedure soon.

It wasn’t the first time the X-47B made history. In 2013 became the first unmanned aircraft to autonomously launch from and recover aboard an aircraft carrier. The X-47B — there are actually two of them — is nearing the end of its program. The Navy is not asking for any additional funding in fiscal 2016.

The next step will be the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program, to introduce an unmanned carrier-based strike fighter into the fleet.

In addition to Northrop Grumman, several other major defense contractors are competing for the contract including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics.

Here’s another photo of the operation.

X-47B prepares to engage with an Omega K-707 tanker drogue and complete the first autonomous aerial refueling demonstration over  Chesapeake Bay on April 21. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

X-47B prepares to engage with an Omega K-707 tanker drogue and complete the first autonomous aerial refueling demonstration over Chesapeake Bay on April 21. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

 

 

April 22, 2015 at 5:54 pm Leave a comment

MARITIME DOMAIN: Navy Unmanned Aircraft; Railgun Testing; Securing the Hemisphere

News Ahoy!

XB47B unmanned aircraft on board the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman by Alan Radecki)

X-47B unmanned aircraft on board the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman by Alan Radecki)

The Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland draws to a close Wednesday (April 15).

Your 4GWAR editor has been helping out the Seapower magazine team with their daily show news publication.

Here’s a sample of what we’ve been seeing.

The Navy’s unmanned demonstrator aircraft for showing how drones could be integrated into the busy flight deck of an American aircraft carrier is facing its last challenge.

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) says that unmanned aircraft system (UAS), known as the X-47B, (see photo above) will soon start testing its ability to refuel in the air.

To see the full story, click here.

*** *** ***

Here are some other stories on the Seapower website:

Electromagnetic Railgun’s First at-Sea Test Set for Summer 2016

The first at-sea test firing of the Navy’s electromagnetic railgun is slated for late summer 2016, a Naval Sea Systems Command official said April 14.

The rail gun, which uses high-powered electromagnetic pulses instead of chemical propellants to fire projectiles that can move at seven times the speed of sound, will be mounted on a joint high-speed vessel to fire over the horizon at a target anchored in the water, said Capt. Mike Ziv, program manager for Directed Energy and Electric Weapons Systems.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

*** *** ***

Larger Fire Scout a ‘Great Fit’ for the Navy

The larger version of the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter has completed 297 test sorties and is slated to begin initial operational testing and evaluation in 2016, the Navy program manager said April 13.

The Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout, is larger, faster, longer and farther-flying than the MQ-8B, with increased endurance and will reduce the burden of manned aircraft, Capt. Jeff Dodge told a briefing at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

*** *** ***

Coast Guard Sees Combatting Crime Networks as Key to Hemispheric Security

The U.S. Coast Guard says it’s not enough to seize thousands of pounds of cocaine at sea or even arrest the people transporting illegal drugs by boat. Instead, it’s crucial to defeat the transnational organized crime (TOC) networks behind the illicit commerce in narcotics and people, according to the Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy.

“Last year alone. the Coast Guard took 91 metric tons of cocaine out of the [trafficking] stream,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan told a briefing on the first day of the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. He noted that is three times the amount of drugs seized by all U.S. law enforcement agencies “including along the southwestern border.”

To read more of this story, click here.

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.  (U.S. Navy photo)

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.
(U.S. Navy photo)

April 14, 2015 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Aerial Photography Using UAS Soars Outside U.S.

Small Drones, Big Jobs.

A Coptercam unmanned mini helicopter operates with a a video camera. (Photo courtesy Coptercam via Facebook)

A Coptercam unmanned mini helicopter operates with a a video camera.
(Photo courtesy Coptercam via Facebook)

While the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration slowly opens up parts of the national airspace to unmanned aircraft for commercial use,  unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) elsewhere in the world are providing unique aerial views of migrating wildlife, bridges needing structual inspection and sprawling sporting events.

UAS operated by news organizations were used to capture images of the massive pro-democracy crowds demonstrating in Hong Kong last year. They are also used by industry to supervise remote logging and mining operations in Canada and monitor banana plantations in Costa Rica.

Your 4GWAR editor has a story in the March issue of AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems magazine. You can see it by clicking here. Some of the small UAS mentioned in the article were demonstrated at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last year at the Unmanned Systems 2014 conference sponsored by AUVSI, the robotics industry trade group. This year’s AUVSI expo is in Atlanta in May.

In Australia, Coptercam, one of the first companies Down Under to provide aerial video and still photography using a UAS, flies its custom-built unmanned mini helicopters to take video and still photos for architects, real estate agents, advertising agencies as well as television and documentary film crews.

Starting in the Western Australian city of Perth in 2011, the company has expanded operations to Sydney on Australia’s East Coast, as well as Melbourne and Adelaide. Coptercam operates a small fleet of eight-rotor octocopters with a maximum takeoff weight of 26.4 pounds (12 kilograms).  A three axis camera gimbal system can carry cameras like the Sony NEX-7, Canon 5D Mark III and Blackmagic Design’s cinema and production cameras.

Chief pilot and co-founder Hai Tran says he first strapped a Sony handycam to the bottom of his radio controlled helicopter for fun in 1999 “but it didn’t work very well.” He kept at it, however, and in 2011 he obtained an Unmanned Air Vehicle Controller Certificate and started Coptercam.

Click here to see a video shot by Coptercam of a 2014 pro surfing competition at Bell’s Beach, Australia. (Editor’s advice: if you’re wearing headphones, you might want to turn the volume down before viewing).

While Australia permits commercial operators to fly UAS, the requirements are pretty rigorous. Like many commercial operators in the States, Tran complains that hobbyists and amateurs flying radio-controlled unmanned aircraft, face fewer restrictions on where and when they can fly their UAS.

April 6, 2015 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

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