The state of Oklahoma believes that it has the resources to be among the leading U.S. states in commercializing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). But this spring, the state’s political leaders were disappointed by the findings of a UAS economic impact study that ranked California, Washington, Texas, Florida and Arizona as the top five states expected to see the most in terms of immediate job growth and revenue when UAS are integrated into the National Airspace System.
While the long-term goal for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is for 80 percent of their uses to be in the civilian sector, their main uses currently remain in the military sphere–although their role in border surveillance and disaster situations is increasing.
The U.S. Navy’s next-generation maritime patrol jet, the Boeing P-8 Poseidon, is months away from starting its first operational deployment, which will hasten the retirement of the venerable P-3C Orion turboprop.
Although German UAV specialists Rheinmetall Airborne Systems (RAS) is now 51-percent owned by EADS, the Bremen-based outfit is retaining its own identity and continues to build upon expertise gained in operating two UAV systems for the German armed forces. It has developed a lightweight, low-cost tactical UAV and is proposing an innovative larger design that is hybrid in both airframe and power.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI, Chalet A206) is in the final stages of delivering a persistent surveillance radar system that is mounted on a tethered aerostat platform. The customer has not been revealed by IAI. The radar is based on IAI ELTA’s ELM-2022A multimode radar and provides a range of surveillance capabilities. It can automatically detect and track maritime targets down to periscope size in high-density environments and high sea states.
In the wake of the Euro Hawk cancellation in Germany, the future of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system based on the similar Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV is in doubt. Germany intends to offer for AGS whatever alternative platform it decides to employ for the Cassidian integrated signals intelligence system (ISIS) that was the payload on the Euro Hawk. The Royal Air Force Raytheon Sentinel R.1 ground surveillance aircraft is also on offer.
Boeing said the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is the first payload customer for its Phantom Eye high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system. On June 5, the Department of Defense (DOD) agency announced a $6.8 million contract modification with Boeing to incorporate an unspecified payload aboard future test flights of the aircraft.
At an unmanned vehicles forum in Bonn this week, EADS Cassidian was again promoting what it now calls a Future European Male (Female) system. But the prospects of a pan-European program to match or improve on Male (medium-altitude long-endurance) UAV offerings from Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere have receded. France has decided to buy two GA-ASI Reaper systems, and there are indications that the UK will retain its Reapers beyond 2015, rather than retire them upon leaving Afghanistan.
The German Ministry of Defence abruptly canceled plans to introduce a fleet of five Northrop Grumman RQ-4E Euro Hawk UAVs for high-altitude Sigint collection. The first aircraft, delivered in July 2011, was already flying on development tasks from Manching airbase near Munich. According to German media reports, the country has already spent €508 million of the planned €1.2 billion (in 2012 prices) to acquire the fleet, which was intended to replace aging Atlantic manned twin turboprops.
The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) and Northrop Grumman said the MQ-4C Triton broad area maritime surveillance aircraft completed its first flight from the company’s Palmdale, Calif., manufacturing facility on May 22. The Global Hawk maritime derivative flew for 80 minutes in restricted airspace and reached an altitude of 20,000 feet.