The FAA is looking for a few good sites to test unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), signaling that momentum is building toward merging manned and unmanned aircraft in unrestricted airspace.
Unmanned aerial vehicle
As UAVs become more prevalent, their capabilities will continue to develop. If you haven’t seen the videos demonstrating the nano-quadrotor UAVs under development at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, then you are missing something.
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) could soon be coming to civil airspace near you, and the FAA wants to know what you think. The safety considerations of mixing piloted aircraft in NextGen airspace with those flown by people on the ground or even totally by computer are serious concerns for most aviators.
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.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) said it has demonstrated an early prototype of its “due regard” radar for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) on a manned surrogate aircraft, joining other efforts to develop airborne “sense-and-avoid” systems that could help introduce UAS into unrestricted airspace.
NATO officials expect to sign the long-awaited contract to provide an Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) capability within the next three months. Northrop Grumman will provide five Global Hawk Block 40 UAVs, while a consortium of European companies that includes EADS Cassidian and Selex Galileo will provide transportable and mobile ground stations. Initial operating capability (IOC) is slated for 2017-18.
Raytheon and Northrop Grumman are developing new systems and concepts for close air support using an unmanned version of the twin-engine A-10 Thunderbolt II. The companies received contracts worth $7 million each in April 2011 under phase one of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program.
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.