To many, the notion that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will one day fly alongside passenger airliners and other aircraft, in fair weather and foul, still seems like science fiction. Yet civil aviation authorities in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and elsewhere are now finalizing rules under which these operations will take place, possibly as soon as 2010.
“We’re getting bigger–but we’re still manageable,” said Tom Cassidy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI). The firm best known for the UAV that rewrote the rules of air warfare–the Predator–now employs more than 1,200 people at nine locations in southern California.
A number of multirole airborne systems for earth remote sensing (ERS) have been developed by Irkut to equip both unmanned and optionally piloted aerial vehicles. The systems are the result of research and development carried out by the company and its partners since 1999 for the systems detection and monitoring of emergencies. Tasks envisioned include the search for survivors and provision of information to rapid response agencies.
Having flown for the first time on May 29, Alenia Aeronautica’s Sky-X unmanned technology demonstrator is making its debut at the Dubai show, appearing in the static display. The Italian group is also hoping to attract regional orders for its C-27J transport, and ATR 42MP and ATR 72ASW maritime patrol platforms, models of which are on display at its stand (C301).
FLIR Systems is showcasing three new compact multi-sensor systems developed to maintain the company’s position as a leader in this field. Each is a derivative of an earlier model but incorporates an advance in technology that results in improved performance.
The Firefly throwaway micro unmanned aerial vehicle (MUAV) system displayed for the first time by Integrated Dynamics (Stand W301) places the Pakistani company in the forefront of this technology. Designed to enable a soldier to see what is behind a building or over a hill, the Firefly is a rocket-boosted glider carrying a day/night digital camera.
The Diamond DA42 MPP (multi-purpose platform) fitted with an UOMZ sensor pod attracted considerable interest when it was displayed at the Paris Air Show. Present studies could lead to the aircraft being offered as an optionally piloted or unmanned aerial vehicle, a development that could be available in about three year’s time.
As part of the United Arab Emirates’ general technology drive, and in line with its move to netcentric warfare operations, a Space Reconnaissance Center has been established to receive and disseminate reconnaissance data from satellites. It is also being developed to handle downlinked information from other platforms, such as UAVs, aerostats and manned aircraft.
In accordance with heightened security risks and the United Arab Emirates’ aggressive pursuit of high-tech solutions, the country’s UAV Research and Technology Center is collaborating with two European UAV manufacturers to push ahead with plans for fielding new vehicles for border surveillance and other homeland security and military tasks. In October the first Camcopter S-100 was delivered to the UAE as a result of this work.
Armed UAVs are not new: back in the days when UAVs were known as RPVs (remotely piloted vehicles) Ryan Aeronautical made several proposals to arm its BQM-34 Firebee target drone, the earliest dating to 1953.