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unmanned systems

Slowing Down Rapid Acquisition

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

With the war in Afghanistan winding down, the U.S. Defense Department’s rapid deployment office, which specializes in identifying, developing and quickly fielding game-changing technologies, now will take a more long-term approach. Slightly stretching out the process will offer more flexibility to procure the best possible systems, will present more opportunities for interagency and international cooperation and may cut costs.

Pockets of Resistance Threaten Robotics Funding

May 22, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Defense Department is failing to invest in game-changing technology that could increase efficiencies and save lives, according to a just-released report from the Center for a New American Security, which also recommends funding more battlefield drones.

NATO Testing Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Capabilities

May 16, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Representatives from the U.S. Army and Air Force, along with 17 NATO nations and three partner nations, will participate in a joint reconnaissance trial in Norway this month to test and evaluate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance concepts and technologies.

Longbow to Provide Tactical Data Link Technology

May 2, 2014

Longbow LLC, Orlando, Florida, was awarded a $25,197,219 modification (P00006) to contract W58RGZ-12-C-0049 for the production of 17 radar electronics units and unmanned aerial system tactical common data link assemblies, a P4.00 software upgrade, and associated gold standard hardware for production testing. Army Contracting Command, Redstone, Alabama, is the contracting activity.

Congressman Wants New Defense Office Solely for Unmanned Systems

May 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

A bill introduced this week in the House of Representative would compel the U.S. Defense Department to create an office specifically to oversee unmanned systems strategy. Introduced by Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), the creation of the office is part of the Asia-Pacific Region Priority Act.

The Air Force Networks its Networks

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Air Force networking that links its air assets has extended its reach into the rest of the service and the joint realm as it moves a greater variety of information among warfighters and decision makers. This builds on existing networking efforts, but it also seeks to change longtime acquisition habits that have been detrimental to industry—and, by connection, to the goal of speeding innovative capabilities to the warfighter.

The Air Force has broadened some of its research to apply to other networks such as the Joint Information Environment (JIE). One vital effort is the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, or BACN. It provides airborne links aboard crewed and unmanned aircraft, and future iterations may take the form of pods attached to combat aircraft. Other networks and capabilities are being developed or expanded.

This method is in line with the overall Defense Department approach to networking. “We’re starting to think much more ‘system of systems,’ but we need to graduate to ‘enterprise of enterprises,’” says Dr. Tim Rudolph, chief technology officer (CTO) at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “It is that much of an integration of different features of different platforms.”

Rudolph also supports the Program Executive Officer (PEO) Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks (C3I&N) as CTO and chief architect, and he is a senior leader/technical adviser for integrated information capabilities. He explains that networking air assets includes domains such as terrestrial, space and cyber.

“Networking is like plumbing,” Rudolph analogizes. “Most people don’t hire plumbers because they like cast iron or copper [pipes]; they do it because they want to move something through the pipes.” The Joint Aerial Layer Network (SIGNAL Magazine, June 2013, page 52, “Joint Aerial Layer…”) provides a construct that allows a great deal of interoperability among assets in various domains, he observes.

Robots Learn With Heads in the Cloud

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Researchers working on multiple projects in Europe and the United States are using cloud computing to teach robotic systems to perform a multitude of tasks ranging from household chores to serving hospital patients and flipping pancakes. The research, which one day could be applied to robotic systems used for national defense, homeland security or medical uses, lowers costs while allowing robots to learn more quickly, share information and better cooperate with one another.

Cloud robotics is an emerging research field rooted in cloud computing, cloud storage and other technologies centered around the benefits of converged infrastructure and shared services, according to researchers with the recently completed RoboEarth project, which was funded primarily by the European Commission. Cloud robotics allows robots to benefit from the powerful computational, storage and communications resources of modern data centers. In addition, it lowers costs for maintenance and updates and reduces dependence on custom middleware.

Researchers with the RoboEarth project envision an Internet for robots that will allow systems to share information and learn from each other about their behavior and their environment, paving the way for rapid advances in machine cognition and behavior and, ultimately, for more subtle and sophisticated human-machine interaction.

Helicopter Remote Piloting System Proves Successful

April 8, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Navy has successfully demonstrated the Autonomous Aerial Cargo and Utility System (AACUS), which allows current, full-size helicopters to be remotely controlled by a tablet device. Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, USN, chief of naval research, recently revealed that two young Marines at Quantico, Virginia, were able to land a full-size helicopter autonomously on an unprepared landing site with just one touch on a mini-tablet.

Insitu Supports RQ-21A Overseas Contingency Operations

April 1, 2014

Insitu Inc., Bingen, Wash., is being awarded $8,355,422 for firm-fixed-price delivery order 0025 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-12-G-0008) for the hardware and services required to operate, maintain, and support previously procured RQ-21A EOC unmanned aircraft systems in support of overseas contingency operations. Hardware and services to be provided include spare and consumable parts and in-theatre field service representatives to supplement Marine Corps operators and maintainers. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Qatar to Develop Optionally Piloted Aircraft

March 27, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Thales recently announced the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Qatar Armed Forces to assist in the development of an Optionally Piloted Vehicle-Aircraft (OPV-A), a high-performance intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance system.

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