Call it a UAV (unmanned air vehicle) or an RPA (remotely piloted aircraft), the unmanned aircraft has become an integral part of the operations of many air forces, navies and armies around the world. Despite the issues associated with integrating UAV operations into non-segregated airspace, the unmanned aircraft has become a vital tool for performing “dull, dirty and dangerous” missions such as persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance).
Unmanned aerial vehicles
For years UAVs from the United States and Israel have dominated the larger end of the unmanned market, but now a number of new players have begun to emerge. While they have yet to threaten the dominance of the “big two,” newcomers from other countries are increasingly chipping away at the marketplace and threatening to take sales away from the established suppliers.
Spain is forging ahead with plans to become one of Europe’s leading nations in the unmanned arena through the launch of two connected initiatives that will place the country, and the region of Andalucía in particular, at the forefront of unmanned air vehicle research and test.
Consumer electronics manufacturers, former toy and hobby suppliers, research university spinoffs and major aerospace companies are among the entities vying for a share of the simmering commercial market for small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) generally weighing less than 20 pounds. They are advancing numerous fixed- and rotary-wing designs, some of which were displayed at the Unmanned Systems 2014 conference in May and others elsewhere. Following is a description of some, although by no means all, of the recent showings:
Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) manufacturer Insitu is developing a growth variant of its Integrator, the basis of the U.S. Marine Corps’ RQ-21A Blackjack tactical UAS. The new UAS is aimed at the military market but Insitu offered few other details.
The first UAV Payloads conference will be held in London on June 24 and 25 with a focus on capabilities such as SIGINT/EW (signals intelligence/electronic warfare) and search and rescue, as well as applications involving electro-optical/infra-red (EO/OR) sensors for medium- and high-altitude long endurance (MALE and HALE) aircraft.
Having already supplied pricing, availability and technical data, Northrop Grumman is hopeful that in the coming weeks the Republic of Korea will sign a letter of acceptance concerning the acquisition of four RQ-4B Global Hawk HALE UAVs, paving the way for a formal request for proposal and contract signature. The potential sale was notified to U.S. Congress in December 2012, and is being conducted via government-to-government channels, with the U.S.
Lockheed Martin and AeroVironment signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly pursue opportunities in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) markets, focused on AeroVironment’s high-altitude, long-endurance Global Observer. The companies announced the agreement at the Defense Expo 2014 conference in New Delhi on February 7.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) issued a new 25-year “roadmap” for the ongoing development, production and use of unmanned aircraft, ground and maritime systems through 2038. The roadmap forecasts that Pentagon spending on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will continue growing through 2015; thereafter the rate of spending will decline.
AINtv has been looking at new unmanned aerial vehicle designs in the works to meet evolving surveillance and other special-missions needs.
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