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Posts Tagged ‘unmanned

Test Sites chosen for civilian, private use of drones

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The U.S. approved drone test centers in six states, including New York, as the start of research efforts to eventually allow civilian unmanned aircraft widespread access to the nation’s airways.

The Federal Aviation Administration, after sifting through 25 applicants, also approved bids from Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia…

The selection is one of the first U.S. regulatory moves to begin integrating unmanned aircraft with piloted planes and helicopters as companies including Amazon.com…push to develop commercial drones…

The test sites will be used to help the FAA develop certification standards for unmanned aircraft and how they can be operated within the air-traffic system, according to the law requiring the sites…

The winners were the University of Alaska, which also has test sites located in Hawaii and Oregon; the state of Nevada; Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York, which also plans to use a facility in Massachusetts; the North Dakota Department of Commerce; Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute, in Blacksburg, which will also conduct testing in New Jersey.

The first site will become operational within 180 days and will operate at least through 2017, Huerta said.

In response to concerns that drones put people’s privacy at risk, the FAA will require test-site operators to maintain records of devices flying at the facility, create a written plan for how data collected by airborne vehicles will be used and retained, and conduct a yearly privacy review.

Facilities must also adhere to all privacy laws that may apply to drone use, such as restrictions on law enforcement to obtain search warrants, according to the FAA’s privacy policy.

And we all know how thoroughly the federal government guarantees privacy laws. Right?

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Written by Ed Campbell

December 30, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Colorado town considering drone hunting licenses

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The farming and ranching town of Deer Trail, Colorado, which boasts that it held the world’s first rodeo in 1869, is now considering starting a 21st century tradition – paying bounties to anyone who shoots down an unmanned drone.

Next month, trustees of the town of 600 that lies on the high plains 55 miles east of Denver will debate an ordinance that would allow residents to purchase a $25 hunting license to shoot down “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Similar to the bounties governments once paid to hunters who killed animals that preyed on livestock, but only after they produced the ears, the town would pay $100 to anyone who can produce the fuselage and tail of a downed drone.

“Either the nose or tail may be damaged, but not both,” the proposal notes.

The measure was crafted by resident Phillip Steel, a 48-year-old Army veteran with a master’s degree in business administration, who acknowledges the whimsical nature of his proposal…

“We don’t want to become a surveillance society,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He said he has not seen any drones, but that “some local ranchers” outside the town limits have seen them.

Under the proposal, hunters could legally shoot down a drone flying under 1,000 feet with a 12-gauge or smaller shotgun.

The town also would be required to establish a drone “recognition program” for shooters to properly identify the targeted aircraft…

The Feds haven’t commented, yet. No doubt the NRA, Republicans and the Tea Party will campaign for the proposal.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm

X-47B unmanned aircraft makes historic first carrier landing

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The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator put another page in the history books on Wednesday with its first unmanned arrested-wire carrier landing. The drone flew 35 minutes from Patuxent River Naval Air Station to the carrier USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia, where is landed at about 167 mph with an arresting wire catching its tail hook and bringing it to a stop in 350 ft..

This test marks the culmination of ten years of research by the Navy and Northrop Grumman to produce a prototype unmanned combat vehicle for the US Navy. Previously, the X-47B completed deck operations aboard the USS Harry S. Truman in December and the first UAV catapult launch in May…

“We have been using the same [carrier] landing technology for more than 50 years now and the idea that we can take a large UAV and operate in that environment is fascinating,” says Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy program manager. “When I think about all of the hours and all of the work-ups the team put into executing this event, I had no doubt the air vehicle was going to do exactly what it was supposed to do.”

After the initial landing, the X-47B was launched again from the carrier by catapult and did another arrested landing…

I know, I know. It’s a shame the military gets to do all this fascinating research.

When you live in the belly of the beast that is the last dedicated imperial superpower – to some extent – you grow accustomed to the rules of the game. Death and destruction trumps all other motivations. They get the dollars even without a requisition. The military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned against has ruled the United States for decades.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 14, 2013 at 2:00 am

Unmanned drone technology for mining trucks in Australia

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The largest iron-ore mine in Australia will take a leap in efficiency starting next April: 10 automated trucks, one remote driver.

With demand from China and other steel-hungry industrializing economies rising, the massive trucks—programmed to haul ore and waste around the pit using the global positioning system—are part of a push by Rio Tinto PLC to to adopt automated technology to cut costs and ramp up production even in the face of a labor shortage.

Traveling precise routes around Yandicoogina mine and operating 24 hours a day, the trucks will be under the supervision of a single worker in a portable office at the mine, backed up by a control center in Perth that oversees all of the company’s 14 mines, as well as its rail lines and ports, in the distant Pilbara region of Australia’s northwest.

Rio Tinto, which last year said it didn’t have enough truck drivers, drillers or locomotive drivers, is alone among the major iron-ore producers in the Pilbara to adopt the experimental technology. But the Anglo-Australian company says it is confident the autonomous trucks, trains and drill rigs it is testing are creating efficiencies and helping it meet aggressive output targets.

Rio Tinto has been giving the automated trucks a trial at another mine, West Angelas, since late 2008, using five of them to haul waste. It said Wednesday it plans to double its fleet and deploy the trucks to Yandicoogina, where they will carry not just waste but the valuable ore.

“There’s nothing weirder than seeing one of these giant trucks with no driver in it,” said Karen Halbert, a spokeswoman for the company. “They even honk their horn before they back up.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ed Campbell

June 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Mexico confirms U.S. drones in flyovers against drug gangs

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Mexico has admitted that American unmanned drones operate over its territory, but denied that it constitutes a violation of its sovereignty.

Har. Send a copy of that memo to Pakistan!

U.S. Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles have been used to collect intelligence and track drug traffickers, but only under Mexican supervision, according to a statement by the technical secretariat for the Mexican National Security Council.

Each of these actions is undertaken with full respect to the law,” the statement says…

The flights had been kept secret “because of legal restrictions in Mexico and the heated political sensitivities there about sovereignty,” The New York Times reported.

1. So what changed?

2. When will the joint committee supervising the flights ask that they be armed with missiles?

Written by Ed Campbell

March 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm

‘Eternal plane’ lands in Yuma, Arizona

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The UK-built Zephyr unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has confirmed its place in aviation history as the first “eternal plane”.

The solar-powered craft completed two weeks of non-stop flight above a US Army range in Arizona before being commanded to make a landing.

The Qinetiq company which developed Zephyr said the UAV had nothing to prove by staying in the air any longer.

It had already smashed all endurance records for an unpiloted vehicle before it touched down at 1504 BST (0704 local) on Friday…

Zephyr took off from the Yuma Proving Ground at 1440 BST (0640 local time) on Friday, 9 July.

After only 31 hours in the air, it had bettered the official world record for a long-duration flight by a drone; but then it kept on going, unencumbered by the need to take on the liquid fuel that sustains traditional aircraft.

Clear skies at 60,000ft delivered copious amounts of sunshine to its amorphous silicon solar arrays, charging its lithium-sulphur batteries and keeping its two propellers turning.

At night, Zephyr lost some altitude but the energy stored in the batteries was more than sufficient to maintain the plane in the air.

Zephyr is set to be credited with a new world endurance record (336 hours, 24 minutes) for an unmanned, un-refuelled aircraft – provided a representative of the world air sports federation, who was present at Yuma, is satisfied its rules have been followed properly.

One more step in a lot of right directions.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 24, 2010 at 2:00 am

Unmanned combat plane prototype

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The Ministry of Defence has unveiled its prototype unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV)…

Defence Minister Gerald Howarth said it was a “truly trailblazing project” and featured “the best of our nation’s advanced design and technology”. The aircraft is due to begin flight trials early next year.

Named after the Celtic god of thunder, Taranis is the first step in the development of unmanned strike aircraft, capable of penetrating enemy territory. Unmanned aircraft carrying weapons are already used in service, such as the MQ-1 Predator which carries Hellfire missiles, although these are only suitable for use where the airspace is under allied control.

This is the next generation of combat aircraft and flight trials will begin next year,” Sqn Ldr Bruno Wood told BBC News. “It’s a technology demonstrator that could be used as a testbed which may form further potential solutions to the RAF,” he added.

The issue of “writing the pilot” out of the aircraft equation has long been a controversial topic, more so since the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) went into active service…

Peter Felstead, editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly, told BBC News that the development of UAVs paralleled the development of the first manned aircraft during World War I.

“First they were used for reconnaissance, then they were armed for bombing and ground attack missions and they eventually became air-to-air combat craft,” he said.

“This is the first step for the UK. This isn’t an aircraft that will go into service, it’s a tech demo, but it will prove technologies, demonstrate capabilities and inform the direction we [the UK] are going in.”

They might have called it the Terminator, eh? We know how they turned out.

Wonder what DARPA is doing down this alley?

Written by Ed Campbell

July 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm

NASA’s Global Hawk completes first scheduled science flight

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NASA pilots and flight engineers, together with colleagues from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have successfully completed the first science flight of the Global Hawk unpiloted aircraft system over the Pacific Ocean. The flight was the first of five scheduled for this month’s Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) mission to study atmospheric science over the Pacific and Arctic oceans.

The Global Hawk is a robotic plane that can fly autonomously to altitudes above 60,000 feet — roughly twice as high as a commercial airliner — and as far as 11,000 nautical miles — half the circumference of Earth. Operators pre-program a flight path, and then the plane flies itself for as long as 30 hours, staying in contact through satellite and line-of-site communications to the ground control station at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California’s Mojave Desert.

“The Global Hawk is a revolutionary aircraft for science because of its enormous range and endurance,” said Paul Newman, co-mission scientist for GloPac and an atmospheric scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “No other science platform provides this much range and time to sample rapidly evolving atmospheric phenomena. This mission is our first opportunity to demonstrate the unique capabilities of this plane, while gathering atmospheric data in a region that is poorly sampled.”

GloPac researchers will directly measure and sample greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances, aerosols, and constituents of air quality in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere…

The aircraft can then take off, fly its mission, and land without any additional pilot or scientist intervention. Though the plane is designed to fly on its own, pilots can change course or altitude based on the atmospheric phenomena ahead. Researchers also have the ability to command and control their instruments from the ground.

Truly an advancement. Saving on weight and life support for a pilot and/or crew alone is worth an enormous increase in range and duration of research flights.

RTFA for lots more detail – and direction of research.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 10, 2010 at 12:00 pm

UAV News – Flying robots, drones and telepresent warfare

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I receive several daily newsletters from Simon Mansfield – my favorite messenger from Oz. They run the gamut from Earth science, space science, science and economics in China – to the occasional special edition like this one dedicated to robot warfare in the air.

The UAV market has seen unprecedented growth since 2001, with its current projected value over the next 10 years estimated at $17.9 billion.

“An insatiable demand for unmanned air vehicles is fueling massive growth within this market,” said Larry Dickerson, senior unmanned systems analyst for Forecast International. “No matter how many UAVs are built, military agencies want more.”

Dickerson notes that a few years ago, UAV contracts in the millions of dollars were big news; now these awards are in the billions. “In addition to procurement, research funding for unmanned air vehicles could exceed $20 billion through 2018,” he added.

The $17.9 billion market for UAV reconnaissance systems includes all air vehicles, ground control equipment, and payloads likely to be produced between 2009 and 2018. The United States is the driving force behind this market, and U.S.-based companies will account for more than 60 percent of the market’s value. Still, demand for UAVs is growing elsewhere.

Europe is the second largest market for UAVs, with France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom working to expand their UAV fleets. However, a shortage of funding is hindering some research and procurement programs.

In Asia, new UAVs – some from local sources – are being acquired by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Purchases are not restricted to major powers and those facing conventional warfare threats.

This is the lead article of over two dozen. Fascinating stuff – although equally scary, since many of these military platforms – especially the smallest – are adaptable for use by police and old fashioned government snoops.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 2, 2009 at 6:00 am

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