Israel’s Elbit Systems announced a multimillion-dollar contract to supply its Hermes 450 and 900 unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to a “Latin American customer.” The buyer was identified in press reports as Colombia.
UAVs and drones
Northrop Grumman is marketing an unmanned aircraft that could be a low-cost alternative for training the operators of its own MQ-5B Hunter and the Predator and Reaper UAVs made by General Atomics.
Industry and government executives involved in the development and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) offered airline pilots assurances that air vehicles piloted from the ground will be introduced safely and incrementally to the U.S. national airspace system (NAS). “We’re doing this in an organized and structured fashion,” said Richard Prosek, manager of flight technologies and procedures in the FAA’s UAS Integration Office.
The U.S. Army has validated the design and functionality of a second-phase ground-based sense and avoid (GBSAA) radar system that will support training flights of MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs in unrestricted airspace beginning in 2014.
The draft FAA rule that will provide a regulatory framework for operating small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) of about 55 pounds or less in unrestricted airspace will likely limit those aircraft to flying 400 feet agl or below, within visual line of sight of an observer on the ground and during day VMC. The “sense-and-avoid” aspect of keeping safe separation from other aircraft will be provided by a ground observer, said Ted Wierzbanowski, chairman of ASTM International Committee F38, which is developing UAS standards under an agreement with the FAA.
Two study contracts have been placed with industry after last week’s Anglo-French agreement on further exploration of a joint UCAV development. BAE Systems, together with Dassault Aviation, and Rolls-Royce with Snecma will work on the demonstration program preparation phase (DPPP) of the proposed future combat air system (FCAS). The value and duration of the work were not stated.
The UAV community that will meet soon in Las Vegas for Unmanned Systems North America might draw some wisdom from the effort to introduce unmanned aircraft in UK civil airspace.
France and the UK signed MoUs for the first phase of a Future Combat Air System (FCAS) based on a UCAV, and for industrial and military cooperation on the Watchkeeper tactical UAV. But although British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond reported “excellent progress on UAVs” after a meeting with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, no agreement was reached on joint-study funding for a Male UAV.
European governments have reached a crossroad in the potential development of next-generation unmanned aerial systems that could challenge current Israeli and U.S. leadership in this field. The British and French defense ministers will meet in London on Tuesday, July 24, to assess the Anglo-French Defence Agreement.
Anglo-French cooperation on MALE UAVs may have stalled, according to reports from Paris and from informed sources AIN spoke to at the Farnborough International airshow yesterday. However, it appears that that the proposed joint UCAV study will still be sanctioned when French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visits London on July 24.