The U.S. military has awarded contracts for UAVs to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) services potentially worth nearly $1.5 billion. The main beneficiary appears to be AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which proposed the Australian-built Aerosonde small unmanned aircraft system.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
News and issues relating to civil and military unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) of all kinds and sizes, including those used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), combat (unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs), law enforcement, research and other applications. Of particular focus is the FAA's planned integration of UAS into the U.S. national airspace system.
The Hermes 450 UAV designed by Israel’s Elbit Systems has been acquired as a surveillance platform by at least 10 countries, including Singapore, but only the UK has requested major changes.
French air force commander General Jean-Paul Palomeros, speaking on the recording of full-motion video (FMV) from airborne platforms–especially UAVs, said, “The challenge today is to exploit the amount of ISR data gathered and then disseminate it in a useful way to different customers.” A huge amount of expert manpower is required, he told AIN, but the general is not convinced that automatic target recognition software is the answer. Artificial intelligence would be best applied to make UAVs fly autonomously, he believes.
The latest UAV from ST Aerospace, the Skyblade 360–a mini-UAV that has been designed to use fuel cell technology to extend its endurance to an impressive six hours–is on display for the first time here at the show. ST Engineering has identified unmanned systems as one of seven competency clusters within its aerospace sector, and has been working with DSO National Laboratories to develop a number of vehicles.
Yotaisc, a high-tech company from Beijing, China, is exhibiting a new rotary-winged UAV on its booth (C99). The X200 employs coaxial, contrarotating rotors to reduce the footprint of its main rotor. This has the added benefit that rotor torque is eliminated, thereby negating the need for a long tailboom and tail rotor.
Thales has adapted a Spanish-designed UAV named Fulmar for maritime border surveillance. The French company revealed that the UAV is already operational in an unspecified South Asian country.
The stealthy, jet-powered Predator-C UAV may be heading for Afghanistan, where it will be operated by “a classified customer,” presumably the CIA. The U.S. Air Force published a procurement notice stating its intention to award a sole-source contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for a single aircraft to serve as “a test platform” in a “multi-agency role” as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The French Air Force will sign a contract for between five and seven A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports in 2013, with quick deliveries foreseen, according to its commander General Jean-Paul Palomeros. Budget difficulties thwarted earlier French attempts to procure a new tanker.
Cassidian, the global security solutions and systems giant and subsidiary of EADS, is focusing on its unmanned air systems capability, as well as highlighting its security and communications activities in the Gulf region.