UAVs and UCAVs

Patriot

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UAVs for Counter-Insurgency - Global Market & Technologies Outlook 2010 - 2015
01 Jun 2010 8ak: Market Intelligence Group (US) has released a report on UAV technology, operational capabilities and global market outlook. Manu Sood, Editor, 8ak interviewed Ed Herlik, Partner, MIG about the report which can be purchased on 8ak here.

8ak: What is the report about?

Herlik: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) technology is improving rapidly in terms of platform and payload. How to integrate the improved capabilities with military doctrine is a challenge that needs to be understood both by sellers and the buyers (government & military) around the world. UAVs are an indispensable tactical as well as strategic tool, gathering and distributing multiple forms of data, linking communications and enabling other capabilities such as special operations.

This report is part of a series of three reports. Border Security was released earlier in the year and another on Commercial Applications is due to be released soon. The reports are not only about where the technology is going, but also where the investments are going. Looking at Predator type UAV videos, the general perception is that these types of UAVs are the most desirable but our reports point out the market for these will grow only slightly and will pale in comparison to the growth in other types of UAVs.

Predators/Heron class UAVs will be quite useful for nations like India that are just now developing UAVs. More developed markets are moving on to commercially useful extreme persistence and micro UAVs.

8ak: Why is it relevant to India, given that each country would face a different form of insurgency?

Herlik: India is concerned about the integrity of its international borders, attacks from insurgents and security of remote islands. All of these issues are addressed in the reports. Border security is the focus of the first report while insurgencies (to include island bases) are covered in UAVs for Counter-Insurgency.

The US army's first priority is to establish radio communication before they even think of camera-based surveillance. This challenge is the same for India when they send small units in to jungles and the report covers how UAVs can be used to establish radio communications.

It is very easy for insurgents to take forest cover and hardest for the forces to find them. However, there are not many people in the jungles and UAVs can look for signs of life, tracks and patterns that can make finding them much easier and importantly also creating the fear amongst the insurgents that they cannot take forest cover for granted. One can also track and detect very short range radios communications. Drug smugglers in the US use throw away radios because they have only a 6km range without realising that this in not linear, rather the signal is in the form of a bubble. So a UAV could effectively pick up these radio communications and track, trace or block them.

The report also gives an example on the straits around Indonesia. Here the Coast Guard can launch small recoverable-UAVs from a patrol boat that could monitor an island. The boat can continue its course and the UAV is fast enough to catch up after the mission to be refuelled for the next island.

8ak: Who should buy this report in India?

Herlik: The report is applicable to buyers, sellers and new entrants for this technology. In case the buyer is the government or military, it would help them understand where the technology is going, applications they may not have considered and a detailed Operating Concept showing the best way to integrate UAVs with existing forces. So when they are speaking with sellers they can ensure desirable capabilities are not left out, are better able to compare between various platforms/sellers and can use the analysis for proof that an independent expert verifies the value of their product.

For sellers who think they fully understand the technology, can still use the graphic diagrams and charts to show the buyers an independent third party confirmation about applications and capabilities.

8ak: What are MiG's capabilities in terms of reports/intelligence especially in an India context?

Herlik: MiG uses analysts who are respected in their fields. For example, I am responsible for this report and for discussing it with customers. I have over 5,500 hours flying fighter jets, have 2 patents and another two pending applications for UAV related patents. Besides the lead analyst, MiG has a staff of graphics and production experts who ensure that our quality standards are met.

On UAVs, we analysed 9 UAV market reports expecting that the forecasts would be parallel, but the divergence was huge and only two of them got it right for 2010. Given that market forecasts are so variable, MiG reports focuses approximately 50% on the technology and operating concepts and then only 50% about market forecasts. This we believe will give the best insights and value to the readers.
 

nandu

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cross posting

VTOL UAV could aid fight against pirates

Israeli unmanned air systems maker Innocon has unveiled a fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing concept designed for shipboard operations, to help protect shipping from pirates.

Powered by a four-stroke engine, the 1.5m (4.9ft)-long unmanned air vehicle has a 1m wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of 30kg (66lb). Endurance is 4h.

Innocon chief executive Michael Armon says the UAV, which is undergoing flight-testing and is expected to achieve full capability within months, will be capable of carrying a 5kg payload, probably the day/night optical T-Stamp unit made by Controp in Israel. "This payload and others of this category allow excellent video tracking of targets in day and night conditions," Armon says.



The aircraft will be equipped with Innocon's Naviator flight management system, enabling fully autonomous operation from take-off until landing. "The system will be operated by a simple laptop from the ship's bridge," says Armon. The system price is expected to be about $300,000.

"Our idea is to put some of these special UAV systems on cargo ships so that they can give an early warning about a planned pirate attack," he says.

The as-yet unnamed system is based on a 10-year-old design by a US inventor who is a partner in the programme, says Armon.

http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2010/06/02/342635/vtol-uav-could-aid-fight-against-pirates.html
 

nandu

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Quadrotor UAV may be the most manoeuvrable yet


03 Jun 2010 : Truly amazing video of a lab-prototype UAV with 'aggressive manoeuvres' developed by students of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania. The little motor drives 4 rotors giving it high precision to fly through narrow gaps/windows, ability to 'stick' itself against walls and many more. Attached with payloads, it would be great for Indian special forces to have!.

GRASP integrates computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. GRASP has grown into a $10 million research center with technological innovations like autonomous vehicles and robots, developing self-configuring humanoids and making robot swarms.

http://www.8ak.in/
 
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nandu

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Rustom MALE UAV Programme Up For Cabinet Approval

Rustom MALE UAV Programme Up For Cabinet Approval



India's Rustom medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV will be a Rs 1,500-crore project and has now reached the government's apex Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for final financial approval. The technology demonstrator part of the project, which ended with an unfortunate first flight crash last November, cost the project Rs 49-crore, and included a scaled down demonstrator vehicle (Rustom-1), which had an endurance of just 4 hours. The next two prototypes, designated Rustom-H, will be able to cruise at 35,000-feet with an endurance of 24-hours. Both new prototypes are currently under fabrication and the first of them is scheduled for a test-flight by the end of this year. The Rustom-H will look exactly like the vehicle that was put on display at AeroIndia 2009 (see photo).

http://livefist.blogspot.com/
 

Patriot

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India working on UAV anti-collision system
by Staff Writers
Bangalore, India (UPI) Jun 4, 2010
http://www.spacedaily.com/images-lg/uav-swarm-brown-lg.jpg
Indian aerospace scientists have developed an in-flight collision avert system that prevents unmanned aerial vehicles from crashing into enemy aircraft or other objects.

The model predictive static programming algorithm protection system, developed at the Indian Institute of Science, uses a series of installed collision guidance algorithms as instructions that allow the UAVs to detect objects, especially if they are flying low.

This includes tall buildings, towers and other aircraft, including commercial passenger planes.

The MPSP Algorithm can also be used in medium- and long-range missiles to ensure they don't crash into objects such as anti-missile missiles as they approach their own target. MPSP can redirect the missiles back on course to their target without loss of accuracy.

The developer, Radhakant Padhi, 37, said he has been working on algorithms for aerospace for more than a decade and perfected the algorithm technology during his project related to advanced missile technology at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

In 2005, Padhi developed an advanced version of the algorithm, called the MPSP algorithm, while working on one of India's missile guidance systems.

Padhi also said he received $80,000 of funding from Air Force Research Lab in the United States to further develop the MPSP Algorithm.

AFRL, operated by the U.S. Air Force Materiel Command, controls the Air Force science and technology research budget. The laboratory was formed in 1997 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. It was a consolidation of the four Air Force laboratory facilities of Wright, Phillips, Rome, and Armstrong as well as the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

It has worked with NASA, Department of Energy National Laboratories, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other research organizations within the U.S. Department of Defense. Projects include the X-37, X-40, X-53, HTV-3X, YAL-1A, Advanced Tactical Laser and the Tactical Satellite Program.

AFRL, as with similar technology
research establishments in the United States, is facing a staffing problem as 40 percent of its workers are set to retire over the next two decades. The country also isn't producing enough scientists to keep up with job vacancies.

One reason for the personnel shortage is a large percentage of science and engineering graduates in the United States are foreign citizens who aren't eligible for work because of security clearances needed for many of the jobs. Government statistics show that 60 percent of all doctoral candidates in the sciences are foreign-born, a report in The Boston Globe newspaper said last year.

"If the requirement is you have to be a U.S. citizen, then you have a large pool that simply isn't eligible," said Mark Regets, a senior analyst at the National Science Foundation who tracks science and engineering graduates and workforce.

Air Force Materiel Command is looking to fill more than 5,000 positions by October 2011, many of them in chemistry, physics, and electrical, aeronautical and environmental engineering. Jobs include researching cleaner fuels, laser-guided weapons, UAVs and cyberprotection.






http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/India_working_on_UAV_anti-collision_system_999.html
 
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http://www.satnews.com/cgi-bin/story.cgi?number=1496433994


In This UAV Case, Loitering Is A Much Desired Activity


India is procuring 8 to 10 Israeli Harop (Harpy 2) Loitering Attack Drones.

Harpy 2 UAV (Israel) This purchase is part of a procurement program valued at a billion dollars. Developed from the earlier Harpy, the Harop improves on the original design by offering a longer nose, outer wing extensions, plus a canard foreplane. Essentially resembling a small aircraft with a cranked delta wing and rear two bladed propeller, the Harop is a vehicle launched UAV controlled by a remote operator and capable of flying more than 1,000 kilometers and loitering for hours, all while armed with a 51 pound warhead. Similar to the autonomous Harpy, the UAV is primarily geared toward the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) role. It features two modes of guidance to the target. Homing in on radio emissions with its anti-radar homing system, or unlike the Harpy, have its operator select static or moving targets with the drones electro-optical (TV) sensor. Using the operator mode, targets can be hit regardless of whether they emit signals or not. This line of sight capability can be used at ranges up to 150 kilometers or longer using relays built into each weapon. The Harop was submitted under the name "White Hawk" to the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense back in 2005 for the possibility of meeting the Ministry's requirement for a Loitering Attack Munition Demonstration program known as "Fire Shadow." (Source: Mike Perry, Strategy Page.
 

nrj

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First Unmanned VTOL - Camcopter S100

This year, Schiebel's CAMCOPTER S-100 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) is making aviation history. As the first unmanned VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) System to fly at ILA Berlin, the helicopter will prove its extraordinary skills at Berlin Schonefeld airport from 8 to 13 June 2010 by daily flight displays.


The pictures of the flight displays will be shown in real time. Included on the viewing screens at the Berlin Air Show will be the data transmission of the sensor on the CAMCOPTER S-100; an EO/IR payload camera.

CAMCOPTER S-100 was the first and only UAS flying in the history of the Le Bourget Air Show in Paris 2009. We are very pleased to show the advantages of our unmanned helicopter to a wide expert audience said Hans Georg Schiebel, Manager of Schiebel.

Claus Gunther, member of the Diehl Executive Board and President of the Corporate Division Board Diehl Defence, is optimistic for the future: This is not the first time our cooperation partner Schiebel's helicopter drone has offered a convincing performance in Germany. In the summer of 2008, the CAMCOPTER S-100 successfully completed a three-week test series with the German Navy's new corvettes K130.

The CAMCOPTER S-100 carries out target and impact reconnaissance contributing to the protection of German soldiers in military operations. The work share of Diehl BGT Defence as prime contractor comprises the system's adaptation to German requirements, provision of sensors and logistics as well as integration in the German corvette K130 as well as the army's reconnaissance troops inventory.

With its proven maritime capability, the CAMCOPTER S-100 is used in civil as in the military sector. Its outstanding, multi-tasking networking abilities -ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) are essential for missions in military-maritime sector. Data can be gathered, analyzed and used directly without time loss for optimal implementation of the mission.

The perfect size and mobility of the CAMCOPTER S-100 makes it the ideal UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) of its class. With its innovative autonomous flight control and its unique performance data the CAMCOPTER S-100 is the world leader in the tactical segment. The VTOL UAS was developed according to the equirements and standards of manned aviation.

Source
 

Patriot

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How UAVs Will Change Aviation



Are airplane pilots destined for the same fate as flight navigators and engineers? Will they be replaced by lines of code, electrons and data-linked commands from faceless controllers beyond the horizon?

However unlikely that scenario, the trend is worth noting. As is being demonstrated daily in thousands of operations around the world, the black boxes on a growing number of aircraft are so "smart," they obviate the need to have a human operator on board to complete a given mission.

Pointing to the hundreds of automated takeoffs and landings performed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) every day, David Vos, senior director, unmanned aerial systems at Rockwell Collins, declared, "It doesn't matter whether a pilot is on board. Think about that. What does it enable?"

What does it "enable" to have human ability, judgment and experience on board the aircraft anyway? In the age when experience — "best practices," if you will — can be distilled into software and sensor accuracy can exceed human situational awareness, what need, then, is there for the steady human hand at the helm? When the effect of the experienced hand can be duplicated and the database of experience constantly (and wirelessly) added to?

No One Aboard — Get Used to It
You see where this is leading, right? Because before we yield the cockpit to software and circuitry, we have to yield airspace to the unmanned and autonomously piloted vehicle. This is coming sooner than we want to accept — UAVs operating routinely in civil airspace, at our flight level, and on computer-generated NextGen 4-D ballistic flight plans. And in large numbers.

The U.S. military alone operates thousands of them — and the militaries from France, Israel, England, Russia and elsewhere are also operating UAVs in ever-growing numbers. From the individual 10-person squad up through theater level, every command seems to be cultivating its own UAV for the invaluable "look over the hill" (or hemisphere) it provides.

These unmanned aerial systems (UAS, a more inclusive nomenclature) embrace a mind-boggling diversity of vehicle types and a size spectrum ranging from insect (micro) dimension to something with far more gravitas — indeed, the RQ-4B Global Hawk, Northrop Grumman's long-range reconnaissance platform, has a span of 130 feet, or about the same as that of a Boeing 757.

Both the U.S. Air Force and Navy now operate intercontinental variants of the Global Hawk that has flown unrefueled from the U.S. West Coast to Australia. And both services are pursuing visions of very-high-performance, unmanned combat aircraft (UCAV), Boeing's Phantom Ray for the Air Force and the X-47B offered to the Navy by Northrop Grumman (and in preparation for carrier trials in 2011) that are formidable in their lethality and potential.

Since systems to support a human operator — pressurization, environmental, cockpit instrumentation, ejection seat, windows, armor, etc. — are unnecessary in an unmanned aircraft, the vehicle's overall size and weight can be reduced by a third below those of comparable world-class piloted fighters. Other yields would include commensurate reductions in overall systems complexity, manufacturing difficulty, maintenance and operating costs. And, of course, the benefit to ground-based operators of these remotely piloted weapons performing dangerous missions deep in harm's way without endangering their own lives, is incalculable.

Hardly a week goes by without a news report of claimed deaths of insurgent targets from Hellfire missiles launched from General Atomics Predator UAVs operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of less dramatic but more practical interest to people who operate aircraft while seated in therein is what will happen when the unpleasantness ends for the United States in the Middle East, and the units deploying UAVs by the thousands across the region bring them home. New UAV pilot/operators will need to be trained, and everybody needs to practice, and there will be tremendous pressure to allow UAVs of all sizes into the NAS since there's only so much domestic airspace to go around.

Graham Warwick, senior editor, technology, at Aviation Week & Space Technology, a sister publication, observed, "The military will have to find a way to train when they get back. The Army alone has 4,000 UAVs! There are thousands of them coming back, and you can't put them all in the Nevada desert, as they need dozens of training areas. Then, too, they have to transit from where they're based to the ranges — there is a lot of need for secure airspace corridors. Testing UAVs requires access to airspace, as well."

And those demands are likely to increase in parallel with the military's growing reliance on these vehicles. Indicative of that commitment is the fact that this year for the first time, the U.S. Air Force's allocation for UAV operators equaled that for onboard pilots (approximately 286). The common wisdom among many military planners is that the much-troubled Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II will be the last new tactical manned aircraft. The U.S. Air Force reserves its UAV operator positions for airplane pilots; the U.S. Army does not, relying instead on a so-called "mouse-click" philosophy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy's recent buy of Global Hawks is on line to replace half of that service's Lockheed P3A anti-submarine patrol fleet, which handles the bulk of the oceanic surveillance mission. For the foreseeable future, however, the armed response to any threat will remain with the manned Orion component.

In two years, the U.S. military UAV population has burgeoned from a few hundred to more than 6,000. In the civil sphere, the FAA had received 178 applications for UAV Certificates of Authorization as of Nov. 1, 2009; four months later, that number had risen to 222, with 166 COAs approved. In FY09, there were about 20,000 UAV flights in U.S. civilian airspace totaling more than 2,500 hours aloft. Meanwhile, in academia, major aeronautics programs have responded to the increased interest in UAVs by offering degrees in UAV design, operation, maintenance and management.

Broadening Fleet Through Miniaturization
Miniaturization through microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology has reduced remote control systems hardware to a 15-pound package adaptable to almost any aircraft type.

MEMS provide "a level of performance and reliability unthinkable five years ago," said Rockwell's Vos, a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has helped lead the unmanned systems industry from its inception. "We are fielding a triplex system right now in the UAS business, and it comes in under 15 pounds. We are also active in developing light aircraft that are 'optionally piloted' and capable of full performance. We can do that because of the MEMS technology that enables fully autonomous capability. So whether the pilot is on board or not does not matter."

"We do automatic takeoffs and landings all over the world every day," he continued, noting that the Predator family of aircraft have accumulated one million flight hours in combat "and the Army will announce the same thing for its UAVs any day now."

The point is that unmanned flight hours are racking up really fast and with them, systems' refinement and operational expertise across airframes.

"We can take the off-the-shelf avionic solution and put it into a production airframe and make it an unmanned aircraft. Any [FAR] Part 23 airframe will do," Vos said. "Several companies out there are doing this now, like Aurora Flight Sciences [with a Cessna 337 or O-2], Diamond Aircraft [with a DA-42] and Proxy Aviation Systems [the SkyRaider, a canard-configured light plane]. Seven years ago this was not possible."

Pilots 'Unnecessary to Performance of the Mission'
"We now have the capability with our prepackaged avionics to allow the manufacturers to marry them with their airframes to make fully autonomous aircraft," Vos claimed.

As an example, Kaman is operating an unmanned K-Max external lift helicopter in a U.S. Marine Corps competition against Boeing's A160, a rotary lifter that was unmanned from inception. Moreover, the U.S. Army's recently released UAV roadmap focuses extensively on optionally piloted aircraft.

"Through many demonstrations, we can say that we no longer have to care whether the aircraft is manned to perform a certain mission."

There is an argument "sweeping over all of industry," Vos said, that unmanned machines can handle dull, dirty and dangerous duty, the so-called "Four Ds," better than humans. "At the Quad-A [Army Aviation Association of America] meeting [in mid-April] in Texas, Sikorsky announced a '2-1-0' pilot concept, where you could have a choice of two, one or no pilots aboard their helicopters," he said. That "public statement" is validating what many UAV insiders have known for some time, "that optionally piloted aircraft can fulfill these functions."

Going from there, it is not a stretch from an economic point of view to assume, then, that "given the autonomy and infrastructure, you could really exploit civil UAVs from an economic benefit," Vos segued, cutting to the chase. "I am confident that we will not take any shortcuts and do it right so that the systems will be reliable and safe, and having that is tremendous from an economic standpoint."

For example, Vos suggested, air taxi operators could potentially replace a copilot with automation and gain an extra fare seat — "a significant gain, a 33-percent seat-mile improvement in that you would go from three to four passengers in a five-seat airplane. In simplistic terms, you have within a domain of interest the ability to know every other airplane and what it is doing, and together with the proactive ATM and reactive anti-collision technology, it becomes safe to operate with automation."

We'll get to the ATC question in a bit, but in the meantime, another sign of the coming incursion of unmanned aircraft into the NAS on a large scale is the strength of the infrastructure growing up around the nascent industry.

Academic Response to UAVs
Kansas State University at Salina is in the third year of operating its UAV studies program within the College of Technology and Aviation. The University of North Dakota Department of Aviation and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida are also offering UAV courses and degrees with UAV majors.

KSU got into the field as a result of the total destruction of the town of Greensburg, Kan., by a tornado in 2007. Responders wanted aerial views of the destruction, but most National Guard helicopters were deployed in Iraq. Recognizing the need for an efficient and cost-effective medium that could perform aerial surveillance over future disaster sites, the governor and adjutant general subsequently directed that a research program be instituted to investigate the use of small UAVs for the purpose. Shortly thereafter, KSU got the assignment to conduct research and establish a UAV training program within the school of aviation.

"Our program is not focused on Predators, but the small UAVs, 55 pounds and less, which we believe will really proliferate," said Kurt Barnhard, Ph.D., director of the College of Technology and Aviation. "Our goal was to make these small UAVs ready to fly in the NAS and do something worthwhile with them. These systems will be priced in the $50,000 range, versus 10 times that for a helicopter. This [size] is where we see the market exploding. As soon as the FAA opens up the airspace, the small ones will begin to proliferate. There is no way around it."

KSU claims to be one of the few institutions that is focused on training UAV operators. "The UAV industry is dominated by engineering right now, and that has outstripped operational enablement," Barnhard said. "The engineers can design stuff that can do things that the airspace system is not ready for, so you need some aviation discipline that we have here because we operate Part 141 flight and Part 147 maintenance schools. We train people to operate in the NAS, and that discipline was and still is lacking in this [UAV] industry."

Ranging Restrictions
The problem is, the industry wants to "take off and fly everywhere," Barnhard observed, "and we are saying, 'You have to do that safely.' It has to be run in a structured way to be safe, and we're here with training and licenses." Minimum entrance requirement for KSU's UAV operator program is a Private Pilot certificate, preferably with an Instrument rating. "Everybody we've hired has FAA certificates — pilots and mechanics," Barnhard said. "We have set that forth as a benchmark. You have to pass muster, and that means knowing how to fly or maintain."

The FAA agrees with this since current regulations require a Private Pilot certificate as a minimum to operate a civilian UAV in the national airspace.

While the smaller vehicles upon which KSU is focusing are fully automated with an integrated autopilot system, they, like most autonomous UAVs, can be redirected by an operator.

One such aircraft is the Aerosonde, which is made by AAI, a Textron company. Weighing just 38 pounds and powered by a low-turning, two-stroke piston engine, it can fly long missions — in fact, it transited the Atlantic Ocean west to east burning less than two gallons of fuel. When going long, it has to be monitored and linked through an Iridium satellite connection. The operator follows the vehicle's progress and can upload new waypoints.

However, under current FAA rules, UAV operators must maintain line-of-sight connectivity with their aircraft. "The FAA has been very strict about line of site," Barnhard said. Consequently, "we use chase planes even when the vehicle is operating autonomously." He added, "There is a lot of pressure to get rid of that requirement."

All UAVs, including the Aerosonde, are equipped with a lost-link capability in case communication is lost, whereupon the aircraft is programmed to fly to a certain location and orbit until comm is reestablished — unless it is a helicopter, in which case it will hover until comm is reestablished. "These procedures are specified in the certification," Barnhard said. "They all are required to have a lost-link capability."

For the Aerosonde, KSU is limited by its FAA Certificate of Authorization to 2,500 feet maximum altitude and operation within a three-square-mile area adjacent to a U.S Air Force range, "all very protected and low impact," Barnhard claimed. "The idea is for us to prove the track record over this airspace. When a disaster occurs, then we will request an emergency COA allowing us to fly in the disaster area with cameras and/or sensors aboard. Then we work with the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] or National Guard — anyone who needs actionable intelligence. You can apply an aerial assist for extremely low cost and keep it up there for a long time. The advantages far outweigh the risks of these things."

When the subject of "routine seamless integration with manned aircraft in the NAS" comes up, Barnhard quickly responds that "there are standards in the FARs that the operator must abide by to fly from point A to B. The airspace will be gradually opened and the COAs expanded. They talk about when NextGen is in place by 2013 we'll have a regulation that we can go by and do routine operations with the big ones [UAVs]. I would expect it within five years."

Regarding safety concerns arising from the mixing of conventional and unmanned traffic, Barnhard said, "There are more people involved with a typical unmanned flight than for a manned flight with a typically sized aircraft. Even the smaller ones require a team of two or three. We hope that will ease public acceptance and speed them along."

Beyond that, the UAV industry has to find a way to meet the FAA's requirement for an equivalent level of safety to manned aircraft. "Just like conventional piloted aircraft, UAVs have to see and avoid other traffic," noted AW&ST's Warwick. "They must meet that requirement in order to be allowed into civil airspace. How do you get to that level?" The consensus, he says, is that won't be achieved for at least another decade.

Key to safe separation — the see-and-avoid enabler, as it were — is the FAA's NextGen and Europe's SESAR, the modernized and automated ATC systems. While the necessity to accommodate unmanned aircraft was not among the original design goals of these advanced air traffic management systems during their definition periods 20 years ago, the unique features of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), the backbone of the systems, not only do that, but facilitate mixing UAVs with piloted aircraft.

ATC's Accommodating Automation
"NextGen and SESAR were not set up around UAVs, but around the need to reinvent the ATC system to accommodate larger volumes of traffic," Vos, of Collins, observed. "But it just so happens that the infrastructure is tremendously enabling for UAVs as well."

"From the point of view of a tracking infrastructure like ADS-B, multilateralism, existing ground-based radar, and command and control digital data links," he said, "these are all parts of NextGen and SESAR and will make the mix of manned and unmanned aircraft possible."

So, the UAV integration essentially involves three elements: reliable systems; tracking; and a rapid command response capability with the aircraft's operator or ATC.

"If you think about it then," Vos said, "it is not terribly different from what is in the cockpit now. NextGen is looking longer term at data links as opposed to analog voice comm, and if you look at the original theme of NextGen and then plug in the unmanned airplane and assume it meets the same safety and reliability requirements at all levels as an equivalent manned airplane, then why shouldn't we operate those vehicles in the same airspace?"

Indeed. The technology has been proven through more than two million hours of military operations. Control algorithms have been refined to support high levels of precision and repeatability. And emergency subroutines have been embedded in memory software. As for the platforms, they're essentially basic airplanes or light helicopters powered by simple engines with decades of service.

Economic Appeal
History shows that favorable economics can force outcomes that at first glance seemed unlikely or even impossible. And so it could be for unmanned aircraft ultimately supplanting some now with humans aboard and in control.

One economic argument for employing UAVs is to reduce or eliminate flight crew costs, though as already noted, unmanned aircraft are attended by ground operators who represent costs as well.

How and when this might occur is a matter of pure speculation, of course, but any such change would likely happen slowly, possibly beginning, as Vos suggests, with automation assuming copilot duties. And then . . .

In researching this report, we heard of studies by major cargo airlines involving optionally piloted freighters, supposedly crewed on transoceanic flights by a single pilot, or none at all.

We queried Federal Express on the subject and received a friendly but dismissive response from corporate spokesman Jim McCluskey, who said, "I'm in touch with our research people all the time, and I've never heard anything like that." Nevertheless, he said, he'd run it up the executive chain of command to see what came back. In a follow-up conversation a few days later, his tone had changed somewhat. "I have an official statement from the company concerning alleged studies of minimally piloted or pilotless air freighters," he said. "'FedEx is always interested in new technology that will help us improve service to our customers, but we do not disclose the nature of our research.'"

As with their military counterparts, other potential civilian jobs for UAVs might focus on the dull, dirty and dangerous such as power-line and pipeline patrol, ag applications and firefighting.

'Equivalent Levels of Safety . . .'
The FAA's position on integrating UAVs into the NAS thus far has been cautious but attentive. The aviation agency recognizes the demand from the UAV industry and the military for greater access to civil airspace and, accordingly, has formed the Unmanned Aircraft Program Office (UAPO). However, the agency has made clear that system safety is its paramount concern.

In a speech delivered to an aviation trade association in November 2009, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt stated flatly that "unmanned aircraft systems are not ready for seamless or routine use yet in civilian airspace." Claiming he believes that UAVs represent the wave of the future, Babbitt nevertheless cautioned that "where we are on various fronts, they're not ready for open access to the NAS, and we can't give you the thumbs up." The "level of technical maturity" of UAV operations is not where it needs to be for full operation in the NAS, Babbitt said, and a fundamental deficiency on the part of UAVs is see-and-avoid capability. End of debate for the administrator: If you can't see me, I don't want you in my airspace.

Apparently, the FAA agrees with KSU's Barnhard's prediction that when UAVs do enter civil airspace in large numbers, the under 55-pound craft will be the most popular, and the agency aims to address those first in an NPRM. According to Babbitt, "it will define standards for routine commercial operations to meet the needs of a large portion of the UAS community." The administration is also working with the Defense Department to revise a Memorandum of Agreement that addresses critical access needs.

Meanwhile, the UAV industry is optimistic that its vehicles will gain full NAS access in well less than the decade Warwick predicted. Many proponents believe the biggest challenge to UAV acceptance by the public is not technological. "From here on, what happens will be an economic decision, whether it is cost effective to have a pilot on board or a fully autonomous automated aircraft," Vos said. "That argument will drive whether it is two, one or zero [pilots]."

Vos shared a personal dream: "As soon as we have full autonomy with VLJs, I will buy one, since some days I just want to push a button to go somewhere and sit back and read the newspaper or work on my laptop. That technology is not far away; we have some work to do to improve safety and reliability. But the really exciting time in the history of aviation will occur in the next couple of decades." BCA

- David Esler




http://news.combataircraft.com/readnews.aspx?i=1314
 
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http://www.siliconeer.com/past_issu...ntinent-IndiaPreparesForAnotherKindofWar.html

India Prepares for Another Kind of War


Aside from the much spoken about acquisition of big conventional arms by India, a silent accretion has been the fleet of reconnaissance and `killer' Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), specifically aimed at neutralizing threats from Pakistan, and possibly China in future.

Official sources say that if progress is as planned within the next two years India should possess a fleet of at least 25-30 "attack" UAV's compared to less than 5 now, with such capabilities. India has never admitted to using the destroyer UAVs till now.

Latest reports suggest that some surveillance UAVs may be deployed in Maoist infested areas, following the deadly attack on paramilitary forces in Chhattisgarh this week that killed 75 security personnel.

The sources say that the moves to acquire attack UAV's gained post the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, with Indian defense commanders pressing for their procurement as they have been used by the Americans in the Af-Pak region to very good effect, so far.

India has been procuring unmanned drones since the Indo-Pak Kargil conflict in 1999, having inducted over 100 UAVs in the decade that has followed, but mainly for spying, detecting incoming missile attacks and incursions at the border.

The ongoing contracts for the Army, Navy and The Indian Air Force (IAF) comprise mainly Israeli 'defensive eye in the sky drones' for spying on the enemy. These have mainly included the unarmed Heron and few Harpy killer drones that function like cruise missiles.

However, this is set to change now.

Sources say that Israeli arms suppliers have been briefed by New Delhi that future UAV fleets to India should comprise a bigger dose of attack UAVs.

And, in keeping with new threat dimensions, the IAF is looking to induct the Israeli Harop killer UAVs from 2011 onwards that approximate the Harpy attack drones. Other wings of the armed forces are likely to follow.

Integration issues are not expected to be severe as the UAV technology is considered relatively simple and does not require complementary hardware installations.

The Indian defense forces already have under their jurisdiction dedicated satellite links and channels that can be used by the attack UAVs.

There is a possibility that India may pitch for American UAV versions given the deepening defense relations between the two countries.

India's new UAV procurement sets follow considerable talk at the highest political and military levels of targeted assaults and hot pursuit by Indian forces in known terror zones in Pakistan and now possibly Afghanistan.

Military officials have been impressing upon the political leadership in New Delhi about an inadequate and obsolete arsenal at their disposal.

Officials say that over a longer term India will look to procure or develop the next generation UCAVs (combat UAVs) that will substitute missile-fitted fighter jets for conventional attack missions.

'Harpy' and 'Harop' versions destruct with the target while American 'Predators' and 'Reapers' drones approximate fighters as they return to base to replenish arms for fresh missions.

Spy drones are among a clutch of 'intelligent arms' being procured by India from Israel.

The IAF is inducting three Israeli Phalcon AWACS costing over U.S. $1 billion capable of tracking missiles attacks and can keep an eye on neighboring nations without infringing airspace.

Another system procured from Israel last year for U.S. $600 million are aerostat radars to also spot surreptitious guerilla attacks such as the one in Mumbai wherein the attackers used dingy boats to infiltrate the city.

Pakistan has been pushing for multi utility drones, apart from big armaments such as F-16 fighter jets, from America as part of its military aid package in exchange of taking on the al-Qaeda and now the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Post recent talks between Pakistan and America, the latter is poised to supply state-of-the art arms, including laser guided bomb kits, helicopter gun ships, naval frigate, surveillance drones and latest F-16 fighter jets to the former, its ally in the Af-Pak complex.

However, so far, Washington has apparently limited to Pakistan supply of tactical unarmed 'Shadow' UAVs for intelligence-gathering purposes while withholding killer 'Predator' drones.

Pakistani officials have been quoted to say that they are hopeful of procuring the destroyer drones as well in the near future. Some reports also suggest the possibility of a Predator equivalent being jointly produced by China and Pakistan.

India has held for long that American big arms largesse to Pakistan to take on terror are such that they can only be used against India and ineffective to take on the guerilla tactics adopted by militants holed in various remote regions.

The conflict situation between neighbors India and Pakistan in South Asia and the push for strategic space between India and China in the Asian region has caused an arms race of big proportions for long.

In the decade that has followed Kargil, India's total arms purchase deal value (from domestic state-owned armament companies and abroad) has crossed a big U.S. $50 billion, with every sign of such momentum being carried over the next decade and crossing U.S. $100 billion.

Interestingly, India's arms acquisitions have more than doubled over the last five years from 2004-2009 (U.S. $35 billion) compared to 1999-2004 (U.S. $15.5 billion), as defense plans of the earlier period due to the Kargil conflict have been followed to fruition.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a reputed arms trade monitor, in its report for 2009, has said that India is the world's second largest arms buyer over the five-year period from 2005-2009, importing 7% of the world's arms exports.

The top spot went to China. India could well take the number one spot as China is turning self sufficient in arms, while the former's procurements continue to rise.
 
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http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/1st_Fire_Scouts_Arrive_FRC_East_999.html

1st Fire Scouts Arrive FRC East

Fleet Readiness Center East began its new role as one of the Navy's depot repair points for the MQ-8B Vertical Take-off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle when it inducted its first two Fire Scouts.

The Fire Scout is an unmanned helicopter that is equipped with a number of information gathering systems designed to provide operational commanders with real-time intelligence, reconnaissance, and targeting awareness.

The 9.4-foot tall, 3,150-pound aircraft has a 20,000-foot ceiling, a top speed of 125 plus knots (about 143 miles per hour), and can fly 110 nautical miles, then hover on station for up to five hours relaying and recording events from distances far enough to remain largely unseen and undetected.

In a recent deployment aboard USS McInerney, one of the MQ-8B's now at FRC East, tracked, filmed, then played an integral role in a drug interdiction mission that nabbed drug smugglers off the coast of Latin America. The six-month cruise was the first operational assignment for the weapons platform.

FRC East is performing maintenance in conjunction with a corrosion assessment requested by PMA-266, according to MQ-8B Fire Scout Fleet Support Team Lead Brian Stephens.

"The material condition of the aircraft is being evaluated by FRC East E and Es (estimators and evaluators) and FST (fleet support team) engineers along with a broader national Fire Scout Team," he said.

"The results of this inspection will enable FRC East artisans to improve the condition of the aircraft before it is returned to service later this year. As a result of the configuration changes developed and incorporated at FRC East, the aircraft will be even more robust on future deployments then they were when received from the manufacturer."

The depot is also reworking 10 main rotor heads.

"We're applying an improved finish that will significantly reduce the corrosion that had to be treated during the first deployment," Stephens explained.

In the future, FRC East will repair approximately 60 of the Fire Scout's components. Artisans are receiving hands-on training by working with the FST and Northrup Grumman engineers.

The Navy will field 121 Fire Scouts, once the platform is fully deployed. The inventory currently stands at seven - one trainer, two at Northrup Grumman for developmental testing, and four the Navy flies during operational evaluations.

The two MQ-8B's at FRC East should be back in the Fleet about mid-June.
 

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India developing unmanned combat aerial vehicle

India may soon get its own unmanned combat aerial vehicle, specifically aimed at neutralising threats from Pakistan, China and terror groups. The top secret unmanned aircraft project is currently in progress in a Bangalore laboratory.

Headlines Today has learnt that the drone, called Aura, is being designed to deliver weapons with precision and without prejudice as the American Predators have been raining red hell on militant and terrorist strongholds in Pakistan.

The Indian government has been working on this secret programme to build an aircraft quite like Predator. The Indian Predator is being developed under a secret project codenamed AURA, an acronym for Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft.

The aircraft itself goes by a working title that leaves nothing to the imagination. Classified secret, Aura has remained completely unknown and invisible until now.

Headlines Today has learnt that when ready in a few years the aircraft will be built with stealth characteristics. It will cruise at medium altitude and will be capable of carrying two or more guided strike weapons with on-board sensors for targeting and weapon guidance.

Pakistan has been pushing for multi-utility drones from the US in exchange of taking on the al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The US is poised to supply state-of-the-art arms, laser-guided bomb kits, helicopter gunships, more F-16 fighters and even spy drones to Islamabad. The Chinese threat too looms large.

Sources said the classified AURA programme looks forward to a first flight in the next three-four years with weapons trials shortly thereafter. In the coming decade, India stands to get its own Predator, developed from scratch, fine-tuned and built completely in the country.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/S...veloping-unmanned-combat-aerial-vehicle.html:
 

Agantrope

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AURA: India's UCAV Programme

Deep inside a non-descript building in Bangalore's Vimanapura area, Indian military scientists are working hard to define the country's first unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), one of India's least known government-sponsored defence programmes. Still classified and "off the books", the programme is steeped in conceptualizing a robotic drone aircraft that can autonomously seek, identify and destroy targets with on-board guided weapons.

According to information made available for the first time, the project has a typically evasive name – AURA, for Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft. But the working title of the drone aircraft itself leaves nothing to the imagination – Indian Unmanned Strike Aircraft Programme (IUSAP). In other words, a pilotless bomber.

The AURA programme is currently under the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), and led by aerospace scientist Biju Uthup, who has worked with the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA Tejas) programme in several capacities. Sources reveal that the AURA team is currently conducting a detailed feasibility study of possible parameters under which the aircraft will finally be built. The plan is to develop the IUSAP as a tactical stealth aircraft built largely with composites, and capable of delivering laser-guided strike weapons.

Air Marshal (Retd) Tej Asthana, India's first Strategic Forces commander says, "We must encourage the programme, and ensure that it stays as Indian as possible. We cannot import UCAVs. It is important for us to have a programme like this to get us in line with the best in the world."

The AURA programme is, to be fair, still only a concept, and therefore well behind a large number of global combat drone programmes that are either fully operational or near, the most famous of them being the American MQ-1 Predator hunter-killer drone that has garnered a fearsome name for itself as America's weapon of choice along the Durand Line.

"It would have been prudent if we had started a programme like this 20 years ago," says Air Marshal (Retd) Padamjit Ahluwalia, who once headed the Air Force's sword arm Western Air Command. "This is an aircraft that will use artificial intelligence for actual weapon delivery. It is a great thing that it is indigenous, because believe me, no country that has this technology will give it to us. We must make sure we get the sensors and weapons bang-on."

The parameters of the IUSAP, like range, cruising altitude and sensor/weapon specifications are still unknown, and probably still undefined. Another element that will need thorough working out is the degree of autonomy such an aircraft can be given. For instance, all attack decisions on the American Predators operating in Pakistan are taken by ground controllers.

Former Air Force Chief, FH Major says, "We could have the finest autonomous pilotless vehicles. But that last minute decision to go for the target, abandon or reframe a mission will be difficult for a UCAV. But that doesn't mean they don't have huge scope."

India currently operates unarmed Israel-built drones restricted to surveillance and intelligence-gathering duties, and has ordered a limited number of Harop loitering "kamikaze drones" from the same source. For the AURA programme, there are several challenges still ahead apart from the flying vehicle itself. These include on-board electronics, sensors, guidance systems, and of course, strike weapons that can be used on the platform.

With government funds to be spent on the AURA programme, there are seasoned skeptics as well. Former Air Force Chief, S Krishnaswamy, who flew combat missions in the 1965 Indo-Pak war, "Such research is definitely necessary, but the more we venture into unknown areas the greater the risk of time and cost overruns. We should ask ourselves if such a systems fits in with our requirement at this time. There should be safeguards to ensure it doesn't turn into another joke like the Light Combat Aircraft."

http://livefist.blogspot.com/2010/06/aura-indias-ucav-programme.html

But I am still skeptical about this program
 
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nrj

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But I am still skeptical about this program
What could be the odds? On a considerable timeframe, it must succeed. But if the project aims much advanced technology then its not becoming reality in this decade.

No specifications out yet but I think we should soon have the TV engine with enough thrust to power this UCAV. Regarding Stealth ADA is starting from zero. It'll require different & miniaturized weapon package of its own kind. We have good hold on Remote sensing but developing composites will be tedious journey.

Its too early but I feel AURA & AMCA will find similarity in many aspects & MOD/GOI should go ahead with only one of them.
 
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http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/B...UAV_Cooperative_Control_Technologies_999.html

Boeing To Demonstrate UAV Cooperative Control Technologies


Boeing has received a three-year, $9.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to further develop and demonstrate technologies that will enable multiple small unmanned aerial vehicles to coordinate with each other and a manned airborne control station to more safely and effectively carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

The Foxhunt Multi-Small Unmanned Aerial System Cooperative Control Demonstration will leverage Boeing's networked systems expertise and technology advancements to directly support an emerging and challenging U.S. Air Force need.

"The focus of the Foxhunt program is the airborne control of a varied mix of unmanned aerial vehicles," said Patrick Stokes of Boeing Research and Technology, the company's advanced, central research, technology and innovation organization, who will manage the research effort.

"It's part of a grander vision outlined by the Air Force Research Laboratory to include the air launch, command-and-control and airborne recovery of unmanned aerial systems - all from an airborne mothership."

Stokes said the unmanned aerial systems are intended to be an extension of the manned mothership's sensor and weapon suites, improving situational awareness and intelligence, as well as surveillance and reconnaissance reach, allowing for safer stand-off distances.

The team working on this effort includes researchers from the Boeing Research and Technology and Boeing Test and Evaluation groups of Boeing's Engineering, Operations and Technology organization; Boeing Defense, Space and Security's Phantom Works organization; and Insitu, a wholly owned independent Boeing subsidiary.

Jonathan How, a renowned researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the area of unmanned aerial vehicle cooperative planning, also is on the team.

"This research project is a good fit within Boeing's overall research-and-technology strategy," said Jim Paunicka, a Boeing Technical Fellow and the program's principal investigator.

"It supports research and technology roadmaps in many Boeing programs, helping to further the development of technologies involving airborne communications and networking, unmanned aerial systems, control station architecture, multi-mission planning, and command-and-control."
 
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http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/NASA_Expanding_Tests_Of_Star_Wars_Inspired_Droids_999.html

NASA Expanding Tests Of Star Wars-Inspired "Droids"

You won't find any light sabers on the International Space Station, but you will find a trio of "droids" that look a lot like what any self-respecting science fiction fan remembers as a Star Wars "remote."

That's the tricky little device that Luke Skywalker used to hone his light-saber skills before he went up against Darth Vader and the rest of the evil empire.

But instead of being used for light-saber practice, the droids on the space station are being used to test automated rendezvous and formation flying in zero-gravity. And soon, there may be a host of other things the droids will be used to test as their capabilities and uses are expanded and made available for National Laboratory and other uses.

Known officially as Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, the droids have been on the station since 2006. Astronauts have conducted more than 20 experiment sessions with them, and are on tap to conduct many more. Each SPHERES droid is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment.

Together, they are testing techniques that could lead to advancements in automated dockings, satellite servicing, spacecraft assembly and emergency repairs.

Those techniques can be tested in computer simulations on Earth, but the space station is the only place they can be tested under sustained microgravity conditions. So far, the tests have all occurred in the safety of the station's interior, but in the future upgraded SPHERES satellites may venture outside the station as well.

In 1999, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor David Miller showed the movie Star Wars to his students on their first day of class. After the scene where Skywalker spars with a floating droid "remote," Miller stood up and pointed: "I want you to build me some of those."

So they did. With support from the Department of Defense and NASA, Miller's undergraduates built five working droids. Three of them are on the station now.

"What is happening," explained Miller, SPHERES' principal investigator, "is that DARPA, who owns the facility on orbit, is transferring it to NASA."

NASA, in turn, plans to make the capability available to other U.S. government agencies, schools, commercial concerns and students to expand the pool of ideas for how to test and use these bowling ball-sized droids.

Someone who has first-hand microgravity experience with the droids is Greg Chamitoff, who spent six months on the station as a member of the Expedition 17 and 18 crews, and was a co-investigator for the original SPHERES experiment.

"It was really incredible to be able to watch the SPHERES fly around in real-time following the logic of my algorithms right in front of me," Chamitoff said. "As free-flying robots, these SPHERES are pretty amazing. There's no other test bed where you can do this kind of research and development in 3-D. You can simulate it in a computer, but to do it in zero-G, and 3-D, that's a unique capability."

"The algorithm I was testing was for real-time path-planning optimization while avoiding moving obstacles. One SPHERE was trying to visit a series of way-points as efficiently as possible, while another SPHERE was the moving obstacle and was actively trying to get in the way. This type of trajectory planning will be necessary for future robots to be able to navigate in their environment while trying to accomplish useful tasks," Chamitoff explained.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden recently was at MIT to help kickoff the Summer of Innovation, which is designed to engage more students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Part of that program will be SPHERES-Zero-Robotics activities this August that will give middle school students a chance to program the droids for action on the space station.

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently issued a call for ideas on how to use SPHERES. These ideas are being integrated into a new educational program called International Space Station Spheres Integrated Research Experiments, or InSPIRE.

The new program is designed to use SPHERES to test advanced space technologies and facilitate student and public participation in the development process through the power of crowd-sourcing - a concept in which many people in a community can contribute ideas or concepts. Proposals were due June 2.

"The continued expansion of capabilities will lead to an increased knowledge of navigation systems and stimulate a large number of next generation spacecraft developers," said Jason Crusan, chief technologist for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Miller says that, when his team designed the SPHERES droids, all of their uses couldn't be imagined up front. So, they built an "expansion port:" into each droid where additional sensors and appendages can be added, such as cameras and wireless power transfer systems.

"Look at wind tunnels and the role they played in aviation," Miller said. "SPHERES is analogous to that in microgravity. We're testing inside the station now because it is more tolerant to failure. The next plan is to go outside, sending SPHERES out through the Kibo airlock to fly away from station and be retrievable."
 
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http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/G_NIUS_Avantguard_Unmanned_Ground_Combat_Vehicle_999.html

G-NIUS Avantguard Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle

G-NIUS Unmanned Ground Systems has unveiled it's AvantGuard UGCV to the IDF. Based on the technological strength and capabilities of G-NIUS' Guardium UGV system, as well as building on the Tactical Amphibious Ground Support (TAGS) vehicle excellent maneuverability in harsh terrain environments, the AvantGuard UGCV significantly expands the applications envelope to encompass Counter IED (CIED) and ground maneuvering combat missions.

Employing a set of modular payloads such as: Ground Penetrating Radar, Counter IED Jammer, Mini-Pop cooled thermal surveillance camera, Counter Human and Vehicle Detection Radar and more, and based on its inherent endurance, AvantGuard can be effectively deployed in a variety of combat missions including: Counter IED, Advance Guard, Armed Sentry, Combat Logistic Support, CASEVAC and more.

It is controlled by a mobile or portable Operational Control Unit (OCU), and can also operate in a Follow-me mode, where it is autonomously trailing a guide-foot soldier.

The rapid and effective integration of the Guardium's autonomous kit to the TAGS platform underscores the robustness and adaptability of G-NIUS' strapped-on autonomy approach.
 

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How UAVs Will Change Aviation

Are airplane pilots destined for the same fate as flight navigators and engineers? Will they be replaced by lines of code, electrons and data-linked commands from faceless controllers beyond the horizon?

However unlikely that scenario, the trend is worth noting. As is being demonstrated daily in thousands of operations around the world, the black boxes on a growing number of aircraft are so "smart," they obviate the need to have a human operator on board to complete a given mission.

Pointing to the hundreds of automated takeoffs and landings performed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) every day, David Vos, senior director, unmanned aerial systems at Rockwell Collins, declared, "It doesn't matter whether a pilot is on board. Think about that. What does it enable?"

What does it "enable" to have human ability, judgment and experience on board the aircraft anyway? In the age when experience — "best practices," if you will — can be distilled into software and sensor accuracy can exceed human situational awareness, what need, then, is there for the steady human hand at the helm? When the effect of the experienced hand can be duplicated and the database of experience constantly (and wirelessly) added to?
No One Aboard — Get Used to It

You see where this is leading, right? Because before we yield the cockpit to software and circuitry, we have to yield airspace to the unmanned and autonomously piloted vehicle. This is coming sooner than we want to accept — UAVs operating routinely in civil airspace, at our flight level, and on computer-generated NextGen 4-D ballistic flight plans. And in large numbers.

The U.S. military alone operates thousands of them — and the militaries from France, Israel, England, Russia and elsewhere are also operating UAVs in ever-growing numbers. From the individual 10-person squad up through theater level, every command seems to be cultivating its own UAV for the invaluable "look over the hill" (or hemisphere) it provides.

These unmanned aerial systems (UAS, a more inclusive nomenclature) embrace a mind-boggling diversity of vehicle types and a size spectrum ranging from insect (micro) dimension to something with far more gravitas — indeed, the RQ-4B Global Hawk, Northrop Grumman's long-range reconnaissance platform, has a span of 130 feet, or about the same as that of a Boeing 757.

Both the U.S. Air Force and Navy now operate intercontinental variants of the Global Hawk that has flown unrefueled from the U.S. West Coast to Australia. And both services are pursuing visions of very-high-performance, unmanned combat aircraft (UCAV), Boeing's Phantom Ray for the Air Force and the X-47B offered to the Navy by Northrop Grumman (and in preparation for carrier trials in 2011) that are formidable in their lethality and potential.

Since systems to support a human operator — pressurization, environmental, cockpit instrumentation, ejection seat, windows, armor, etc. — are unnecessary in an unmanned aircraft, the vehicle's overall size and weight can be reduced by a third below those of comparable world-class piloted fighters. Other yields would include commensurate reductions in overall systems complexity, manufacturing difficulty, maintenance and operating costs. And, of course, the benefit to ground-based operators of these remotely piloted weapons performing dangerous missions deep in harm's way without endangering their own lives, is incalculable.

Hardly a week goes by without a news report of claimed deaths of insurgent targets from Hellfire missiles launched from General Atomics Predator UAVs operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of less dramatic but more practical interest to people who operate aircraft while seated in therein is what will happen when the unpleasantness ends for the United States in the Middle East, and the units deploying UAVs by the thousands across the region bring them home. New UAV pilot/operators will need to be trained, and everybody needs to practice, and there will be tremendous pressure to allow UAVs of all sizes into the NAS since there's only so much domestic airspace to go around.

Graham Warwick, senior editor, technology, at Aviation Week & Space Technology, a sister publication, observed, "The military will have to find a way to train when they get back. The Army alone has 4,000 UAVs! There are thousands of them coming back, and you can't put them all in the Nevada desert, as they need dozens of training areas. Then, too, they have to transit from where they're based to the ranges — there is a lot of need for secure airspace corridors. Testing UAVs requires access to airspace, as well."

And those demands are likely to increase in parallel with the military's growing reliance on these vehicles. Indicative of that commitment is the fact that this year for the first time, the U.S. Air Force's allocation for UAV operators equaled that for onboard pilots (approximately 286). The common wisdom among many military planners is that the much-troubled Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II will be the last new tactical manned aircraft. The U.S. Air Force reserves its UAV operator positions for airplane pilots; the U.S. Army does not, relying instead on a so-called "mouse-click" philosophy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy's recent buy of Global Hawks is on line to replace half of that service's Lockheed P3A anti-submarine patrol fleet, which handles the bulk of the oceanic surveillance mission. For the foreseeable future, however, the armed response to any threat will remain with the manned Orion component.

In two years, the U.S. military UAV population has burgeoned from a few hundred to more than 6,000. In the civil sphere, the FAA had received 178 applications for UAV Certificates of Authorization as of Nov. 1, 2009; four months later, that number had risen to 222, with 166 COAs approved. In FY09, there were about 20,000 UAV flights in U.S. civilian airspace totaling more than 2,500 hours aloft. Meanwhile, in academia, major aeronautics programs have responded to the increased interest in UAVs by offering degrees in UAV design, operation, maintenance and management.
Broadening Fleet Through Miniaturization

Miniaturization through microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology has reduced remote control systems hardware to a 15-pound package adaptable to almost any aircraft type.

MEMS provide "a level of performance and reliability unthinkable five years ago," said Rockwell's Vos, a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has helped lead the unmanned systems industry from its inception. "We are fielding a triplex system right now in the UAS business, and it comes in under 15 pounds. We are also active in developing light aircraft that are 'optionally piloted' and capable of full performance. We can do that because of the MEMS technology that enables fully autonomous capability. So whether the pilot is on board or not does not matter."

"We do automatic takeoffs and landings all over the world every day," he continued, noting that the Predator family of aircraft have accumulated one million flight hours in combat "and the Army will announce the same thing for its UAVs any day now."

The point is that unmanned flight hours are racking up really fast and with them, systems' refinement and operational expertise across airframes.

"We can take the off-the-shelf avionic solution and put it into a production airframe and make it an unmanned aircraft. Any [FAR] Part 23 airframe will do," Vos said. "Several companies out there are doing this now, like Aurora Flight Sciences [with a Cessna 337 or O-2], Diamond Aircraft [with a DA-42] and Proxy Aviation Systems [the SkyRaider, a canard-configured light plane]. Seven years ago this was not possible."
Pilots 'Unnecessary to Performance of the Mission'

"We now have the capability with our prepackaged avionics to allow the manufacturers to marry them with their airframes to make fully autonomous aircraft," Vos claimed.

As an example, Kaman is operating an unmanned K-Max external lift helicopter in a U.S. Marine Corps competition against Boeing's A160, a rotary lifter that was unmanned from inception. Moreover, the U.S. Army's recently released UAV roadmap focuses extensively on optionally piloted aircraft.

"Through many demonstrations, we can say that we no longer have to care whether the aircraft is manned to perform a certain mission."

There is an argument "sweeping over all of industry," Vos said, that unmanned machines can handle dull, dirty and dangerous duty, the so-called "Four Ds," better than humans. "At the Quad-A [Army Aviation Association of America] meeting [in mid-April] in Texas, Sikorsky announced a '2-1-0' pilot concept, where you could have a choice of two, one or no pilots aboard their helicopters," he said. That "public statement" is validating what many UAV insiders have known for some time, "that optionally piloted aircraft can fulfill these functions."

Going from there, it is not a stretch from an economic point of view to assume, then, that "given the autonomy and infrastructure, you could really exploit civil UAVs from an economic benefit," Vos segued, cutting to the chase. "I am confident that we will not take any shortcuts and do it right so that the systems will be reliable and safe, and having that is tremendous from an economic standpoint."

For example, Vos suggested, air taxi operators could potentially replace a copilot with automation and gain an extra fare seat — "a significant gain, a 33-percent seat-mile improvement in that you would go from three to four passengers in a five-seat airplane. In simplistic terms, you have within a domain of interest the ability to know every other airplane and what it is doing, and together with the proactive ATM and reactive anti-collision technology, it becomes safe to operate with automation."

We'll get to the ATC question in a bit, but in the meantime, another sign of the coming incursion of unmanned aircraft into the NAS on a large scale is the strength of the infrastructure growing up around the nascent industry.
Academic Response to UAVs

Kansas State University at Salina is in the third year of operating its UAV studies program within the College of Technology and Aviation. The University of North Dakota Department of Aviation and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida are also offering UAV courses and degrees with UAV majors.

KSU got into the field as a result of the total destruction of the town of Greensburg, Kan., by a tornado in 2007. Responders wanted aerial views of the destruction, but most National Guard helicopters were deployed in Iraq. Recognizing the need for an efficient and cost-effective medium that could perform aerial surveillance over future disaster sites, the governor and adjutant general subsequently directed that a research program be instituted to investigate the use of small UAVs for the purpose. Shortly thereafter, KSU got the assignment to conduct research and establish a UAV training program within the school of aviation.

"Our program is not focused on Predators, but the small UAVs, 55 pounds and less, which we believe will really proliferate," said Kurt Barnhard, Ph.D., director of the College of Technology and Aviation. "Our goal was to make these small UAVs ready to fly in the NAS and do something worthwhile with them. These systems will be priced in the $50,000 range, versus 10 times that for a helicopter. This [size] is where we see the market exploding. As soon as the FAA opens up the airspace, the small ones will begin to proliferate. There is no way around it."

KSU claims to be one of the few institutions that is focused on training UAV operators. "The UAV industry is dominated by engineering right now, and that has outstripped operational enablement," Barnhard said. "The engineers can design stuff that can do things that the airspace system is not ready for, so you need some aviation discipline that we have here because we operate Part 141 flight and Part 147 maintenance schools. We train people to operate in the NAS, and that discipline was and still is lacking in this [UAV] industry."

Ranging Restrictions

The problem is, the industry wants to "take off and fly everywhere," Barnhard observed, "and we are saying, 'You have to do that safely.' It has to be run in a structured way to be safe, and we're here with training and licenses." Minimum entrance requirement for KSU's UAV operator program is a Private Pilot certificate, preferably with an Instrument rating. "Everybody we've hired has FAA certificates — pilots and mechanics," Barnhard said. "We have set that forth as a benchmark. You have to pass muster, and that means knowing how to fly or maintain."

The FAA agrees with this since current regulations require a Private Pilot certificate as a minimum to operate a civilian UAV in the national airspace.

While the smaller vehicles upon which KSU is focusing are fully automated with an integrated autopilot system, they, like most autonomous UAVs, can be redirected by an operator.

One such aircraft is the Aerosonde, which is made by AAI, a Textron company. Weighing just 38 pounds and powered by a low-turning, two-stroke piston engine, it can fly long missions — in fact, it transited the Atlantic Ocean west to east burning less than two gallons of fuel. When going long, it has to be monitored and linked through an Iridium satellite connection. The operator follows the vehicle's progress and can upload new waypoints.

However, under current FAA rules, UAV operators must maintain line-of-sight connectivity with their aircraft. "The FAA has been very strict about line of site," Barnhard said. Consequently, "we use chase planes even when the vehicle is operating autonomously." He added, "There is a lot of pressure to get rid of that requirement."

All UAVs, including the Aerosonde, are equipped with a lost-link capability in case communication is lost, whereupon the aircraft is programmed to fly to a certain location and orbit until comm is reestablished — unless it is a helicopter, in which case it will hover until comm is reestablished. "These procedures are specified in the certification," Barnhard said. "They all are required to have a lost-link capability."

For the Aerosonde, KSU is limited by its FAA Certificate of Authorization to 2,500 feet maximum altitude and operation within a three-square-mile area adjacent to a U.S Air Force range, "all very protected and low impact," Barnhard claimed. "The idea is for us to prove the track record over this airspace. When a disaster occurs, then we will request an emergency COA allowing us to fly in the disaster area with cameras and/or sensors aboard. Then we work with the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] or National Guard — anyone who needs actionable intelligence. You can apply an aerial assist for extremely low cost and keep it up there for a long time. The advantages far outweigh the risks of these things."

When the subject of "routine seamless integration with manned aircraft in the NAS" comes up, Barnhard quickly responds that "there are standards in the FARs that the operator must abide by to fly from point A to B. The airspace will be gradually opened and the COAs expanded. They talk about when NextGen is in place by 2013 we'll have a regulation that we can go by and do routine operations with the big ones [UAVs]. I would expect it within five years."

Regarding safety concerns arising from the mixing of conventional and unmanned traffic, Barnhard said, "There are more people involved with a typical unmanned flight than for a manned flight with a typically sized aircraft. Even the smaller ones require a team of two or three. We hope that will ease public acceptance and speed them along."

Beyond that, the UAV industry has to find a way to meet the FAA's requirement for an equivalent level of safety to manned aircraft. "Just like conventional piloted aircraft, UAVs have to see and avoid other traffic," noted AW&ST's Warwick. "They must meet that requirement in order to be allowed into civil airspace. How do you get to that level?" The consensus, he says, is that won't be achieved for at least another decade.

Key to safe separation — the see-and-avoid enabler, as it were — is the FAA's NextGen and Europe's SESAR, the modernized and automated ATC systems. While the necessity to accommodate unmanned aircraft was not among the original design goals of these advanced air traffic management systems during their definition periods 20 years ago, the unique features of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), the backbone of the systems, not only do that, but facilitate mixing UAVs with piloted aircraft.
ATC's Accommodating Automation

"NextGen and SESAR were not set up around UAVs, but around the need to reinvent the ATC system to accommodate larger volumes of traffic," Vos, of Collins, observed. "But it just so happens that the infrastructure is tremendously enabling for UAVs as well."

"From the point of view of a tracking infrastructure like ADS-B, multilateralism, existing ground-based radar, and command and control digital data links," he said, "these are all parts of NextGen and SESAR and will make the mix of manned and unmanned aircraft possible."

So, the UAV integration essentially involves three elements: reliable systems; tracking; and a rapid command response capability with the aircraft's operator or ATC.

"If you think about it then," Vos said, "it is not terribly different from what is in the cockpit now. NextGen is looking longer term at data links as opposed to analog voice comm, and if you look at the original theme of NextGen and then plug in the unmanned airplane and assume it meets the same safety and reliability requirements at all levels as an equivalent manned airplane, then why shouldn't we operate those vehicles in the same airspace?"

Indeed. The technology has been proven through more than two million hours of military operations. Control algorithms have been refined to support high levels of precision and repeatability. And emergency subroutines have been embedded in memory software. As for the platforms, they're essentially basic airplanes or light helicopters powered by simple engines with decades of service.
Economic Appeal

History shows that favorable economics can force outcomes that at first glance seemed unlikely or even impossible. And so it could be for unmanned aircraft ultimately supplanting some now with humans aboard and in control.

One economic argument for employing UAVs is to reduce or eliminate flight crew costs, though as already noted, unmanned aircraft are attended by ground operators who represent costs as well.

How and when this might occur is a matter of pure speculation, of course, but any such change would likely happen slowly, possibly beginning, as Vos suggests, with automation assuming copilot duties. And then . . .

In researching this report, we heard of studies by major cargo airlines involving optionally piloted freighters, supposedly crewed on transoceanic flights by a single pilot, or none at all.

We queried Federal Express on the subject and received a friendly but dismissive response from corporate spokesman Jim McCluskey, who said, "I'm in touch with our research people all the time, and I've never heard anything like that." Nevertheless, he said, he'd run it up the executive chain of command to see what came back. In a follow-up conversation a few days later, his tone had changed somewhat. "I have an official statement from the company concerning alleged studies of minimally piloted or pilotless air freighters," he said. "'FedEx is always interested in new technology that will help us improve service to our customers, but we do not disclose the nature of our research.'"

As with their military counterparts, other potential civilian jobs for UAVs might focus on the dull, dirty and dangerous such as power-line and pipeline patrol, ag applications and firefighting.
'Equivalent Levels of Safety . . .'

The FAA's position on integrating UAVs into the NAS thus far has been cautious but attentive. The aviation agency recognizes the demand from the UAV industry and the military for greater access to civil airspace and, accordingly, has formed the Unmanned Aircraft Program Office (UAPO). However, the agency has made clear that system safety is its paramount concern.

In a speech delivered to an aviation trade association in November 2009, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt stated flatly that "unmanned aircraft systems are not ready for seamless or routine use yet in civilian airspace." Claiming he believes that UAVs represent the wave of the future, Babbitt nevertheless cautioned that "where we are on various fronts, they're not ready for open access to the NAS, and we can't give you the thumbs up." The "level of technical maturity" of UAV operations is not where it needs to be for full operation in the NAS, Babbitt said, and a fundamental deficiency on the part of UAVs is see-and-avoid capability. End of debate for the administrator: If you can't see me, I don't want you in my airspace.

Apparently, the FAA agrees with KSU's Barnhard's prediction that when UAVs do enter civil airspace in large numbers, the under 55-pound craft will be the most popular, and the agency aims to address those first in an NPRM. According to Babbitt, "it will define standards for routine commercial operations to meet the needs of a large portion of the UAS community." The administration is also working with the Defense Department to revise a Memorandum of Agreement that addresses critical access needs.

Meanwhile, the UAV industry is optimistic that its vehicles will gain full NAS access in well less than the decade Warwick predicted. Many proponents believe the biggest challenge to UAV acceptance by the public is not technological. "From here on, what happens will be an economic decision, whether it is cost effective to have a pilot on board or a fully autonomous automated aircraft," Vos said. "That argument will drive whether it is two, one or zero [pilots]."

Vos shared a personal dream: "As soon as we have full autonomy with VLJs, I will buy one, since some days I just want to push a button to go somewhere and sit back and read the newspaper or work on my laptop. That technology is not far away; we have some work to do to improve safety and reliability. But the really exciting time in the history of aviation will occur in the next couple of decades."

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/gene...ne=How UAVs Will Change Aviation &channel=bca
 

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France and UK to Develop European MALE UAV

France and the UK is to launch a joint technology study to develop a European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) surveillance drone.

Dassault Aviation international director Eric Trappier told DefenseNews that the UK and French authorities are currently financing feasibility studies.

The UK has approved funding for the European MALE study project, while France is expected to follow shortly, according to Trappier.

Dassault and Thales will offer the "systeme de drone MALE" (SDM), based on the Heron TP air vehicle, for the programme.

The SDM will include nine air vehicles and three control units worth about €1bn ($1.20bn).

It will carry a payload including a synthetic aperture radar with a range of 100km, a moving target indicator, secure data link for communications with ground troops and satellite uplink for remote pilot control.

The firms are expected to deliver the SDM, which capable of handling communication, electronic and signals intelligence missions, in 2015 if a decision is made on the craft by next year.

BAE Systems and Dassault will be partners for the joint European UAV programme, while Thales France and Thales UK will take part in the collaboration.

A decision on the near-term acquisition of the MALE drone is expected in the coming months, according to Trappier.

http://www.airforce-technology.com/news/news87747.html
 
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http://sify.com/news/eads-eyes-indi...ini-drone-news-international-kgorubfiahi.html

EADS eyes Indian homeland security to sell mini drone



The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) is in discussion with the Indian government for hard-selling its mini drone Tracker to meet the country's homeland security needs, a top company official said.

'We are in discussions with the Indian defence and home ministries for supplying the Tracker mini-drone, which is aptly suitable for the growing security requirements of India,' Bernhard Gerwert, EADS (defence & security) military air systems chief executive, told IANS here.

The fixed-wing mini unmanned aerial system or vehicle (UAV) provides day and night imagery in real time to frontline units and those deployed in disturbed or sensitive areas.

'As a handheld device, Tracker can be quickly deployed and launched by hand for over-the-hill reconnaissance and surveillance detection, classification, localisation and tracking,' Gerwart said on the margins of the six-day Berlin international air show (ILA 2010), which concluded Sunday.

Packed into two personal rucksacks, Tracker is easy to operate and maintain as it is bad weather tolerant, with stealth, accurate and safety features.

'The homeland security needs of India have grown manifold due to growing terror menace in the neighbourhood and spate of violent attacks by Maoists in some of the states. Security concerns arising out of such situations require smart response with sophisticated equipment like Tracker,' Gerwart noted.

Tracker drones are also used for tactical (target) detection, reconnaissance and surveillance, troops or convey protection and artillery support.

The Netherlands-based euro 88-billion EADS delivered 120 Trackers early this year under DRAC (Drone de Renseignement Au Contact) name to the French army, which deployed a dozen of them in Afghanistan since May.

'With long borders and a vast coastline, we estimate India may require about 500 mini-drones to enhance its homeland security set-up across the country, especially in the states facing Maoist attacks and anti-insurgency activities,' said Gerwart.

Supported with ground stations and communication sensors, Trackers can also be monitored remotely with high-speed secure data link, which gives the system a genuine long-range capability, even in adverse weather conditions.

Each Tracker system is equipped with payloads, a compact ground station and an automatic tracking antenna.
 
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http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Israeli_UAV_deal_with_Russia_stumbles_999.html

Israeli UAV deal with Russia stumbles

Negotiations between Israel Aerospace Industries and Moscow on setting up a $300 million-$400 million factory in Russia to produce aerial drones have stalled because Israel government officials are reluctant to provide Moscow with such valuable technology, Haaretz reports.

The United States, which also has no wish to see the Russians get their hands on such advanced military capability, has also sought clarification on the proposed venture.

The Israel media has reported in recent weeks that that state-owned IAI, flagship of Israel's defense industry, also wants to sell Russia an unspecified number of unmanned aerial vehicles following the 2009 sale of a dozen UAVs for some $50 million.

Haaretz reported Sunday that the UAV deal now on the table includes the sale of IAI-manufactured UAVs to Moscow as well. It gave no details on that aspect of the deal.

But it said that the joint production deal has run into opposition from the Israeli foreign ministry and the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

"The sensitive part concerns the transfer of technology to Russia, which despite its attempts has failed to crack the secret of building silent UAVs," the liberal daily reported.

"While no one is talking about giving the Russians the plans for the most advanced pilotless aircraft in the arsenal of the Israeli (military), a deal would represent a technological advance
for the Russians.

"Neither Jerusalem nor Washington wants the technology to end up in the hands of Israel's enemies," Haaretz reported.

IAI officials declined to comment on the report, presumably because of the sensitivity of the proposed deal and Israel's persistent efforts to persuade Moscow not to provide powerful S-300PMU air-defense missiles to Iran.

Tehran wants the five batteries of these missiles it purchased from Moscow under a $700 million contract in 2007 to protect its most important nuclear facilities which Israel has threatened to attack.

The Kremlin said last week that it would halt delivery of the S-300s following the imposition of new U.N. sanctions following Iran's refusal to abandon its contentious nuclear program.

Israel's political leaders may feel that agreeing to some form of joint UAV production deal with Russia, while limiting Moscow's access to the most advanced technology, would help persuade Russia that its interests are better served through such a deal.

"On the other hand," Haaretz noted, "the West has an interest in heightening its strategic ties with Russia in the event of a regional confrontation in the future."

Russia hasn't been able to produce an effective UAV, a weakness exposed during its brief 2008 conflict with Georgia, and it has made no secret of the fact that it wants to reverse-engineer the Israeli craft to fast-track production.

Moscow bought 12 Israeli UAVs under a $53 million deal signed with IAI in April 2009. These were the company's second-tier craft, the Bird-Eye 400 mini-UAV, the I-View MK 150 tactical drone and the Searcher Mark 2 medium-range UAV.

That was Israel's first sale of military platforms to Russia. It was also Russia's first purchase of a foreign weapons system.

Israeli defense sources said at the time that Moscow was seeking improved surveillance equipment with which to upgrade its indigenously produced UAVs.

Russia was reportedly seeking 50 Israeli UAVs, particularly long-endurance craft, including IAI's Heron, the largest Israeli surveillance drone with a 54-foot wingspan. It has the ability to stay aloft for 50 hours at a time at an altitude of 30,000 feet. It can also carry missiles and can be refueled in flight from tanker aircraft.

It was Georgia's use of long-endurance Hermes 450 tactical spy drones, built by Israel's Elbit Systems, to provide battlefield reconnaissance in the 2008 fighting that caught Moscow's interest.

Moscow, which had to rely on the less effective Tu-22 strategic bombers for battlefield intelligence, decided to acquire Israeli craft to study and reproduce in Russia.

"The UAV sale/technology theft was basically a bribe to ensure that the Russians did not equip Iran with better anti-aircraft missiles," a Western analyst commented.
 

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