For the second time in less than a month, a major Internet-related company has acquired a firm developing a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which could serve as a node to provide Internet connectivity from the stratosphere.
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 European Commission plans to set “tough new standards” to regulate the operation of UAVs, known as remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in Europe, before they are more widely introduced into unrestricted airspace in 2016. The standards will cover safety, security, privacy, data protection, insurance and liability, the commission said.
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft is progressing through its flight-test program, but still without a “sense-and-avoid” system that would protect against collisions with other aircraft. The program office said it is taking a “layered approach” to meeting the requirement until it finds a technology solution.
The Grand Forks, N.D., Sheriff’s Department announced in late March that it has received FAA authorization to fly unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) throughout its jurisdiction at night, making it the first law enforcement agency in the U.S. to gain such authorization.
Social media site Facebook has acquired a UK-based company whose founders helped develop the Zephyr, a solar-powered unmanned aircraft, as part of its “Connectivity Lab” project to more widely distribute Internet access.
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.
The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) awarded Israel’s Elbit Systems a contract to supply a Hermes 900 unmanned aircraft system (UAS), “which will be equipped with a new and advanced intelligence-gathering system considered a breakthrough operational solution,” Elbit announced on March 26.
Manufacturer MBDA said its dual-mode Brimstone missile fired from an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft scored direct hits against a range of targets during recent trials at U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, in California. The U.S. and UK militaries sponsored the trials, which were held in December and January.
Europe’s first purpose-built center for UAV research activities has opened in Spain. Known as Atlas (air traffic laboratory for advanced unmanned systems), the facility was officially opened on March 21 by the president of Andalucía, Susana Díaz, whose regional government has funded much of the €4.5 million implementation of the project from EU allocations. Additional funding has come from national government, and the site has been developed in close cooperation with potential customers, such as Boeing.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed that his country will buy MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft to operate alongside the eight Boeing P-8A Poseidons it plans to purchase. Abbott announced the Triton acquisition during a March 13 visit to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Edinburgh.