unmanned systems

August 6, 2013


Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is encouraging the U.S. Coast Guard to work with industry to identify the latest unmanned vehicles to improve maritime safety and security while saving money. In a recent Congressional Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation hearing, Hunter, the chairman of the subcommittee, shared that he has seen a commercially built autonomous surface vehicle that can facilitate sub-sea to surface to satellite communications.

August 1, 2013
By Rita Boland
U.S. Army systems engineers conduct hardware in the loop testing on a Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft. The Army is partnering with universities through Memorandums of Understanding to give students the knowledge and experience necessary to contribute to the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) field in the future.


August 1, 2013
By Max Cacas


Domestic security officials aim to replace human divers with an autonomous underwater vehicle whose design is derived from nature: the tuna, one of the fastest and most maneuverable fish in the sea. The vehicle would be used primarily to inspect ship hulls for contraband, saving divers from hazardous trips into hard-to-reach areas below the waterline where oil and other toxic chemicals are part of the mix. Designers also envision the tuna-modeled robot could also be used for search and rescue missions.

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers and Robert K. Ackerman
The Black-I Robotics LandShark unmanned ground vehicle is an open-source platform being used to write assured software. It shares some computer control features with modern automobiles, which are becoming increasingly vulnerable to system takeover by outsiders.


The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing new control software to reduce the vulnerability of unmanned systems to cyber attack. This effort is relying on new methods of software development that would eliminate many of the problems inherent in generating high-assurance software.

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers
Warfighters overwhelmed by the vast amounts of imagery available from unmanned aerial systems and other sensors may soon rely on Persistics, a revolutionary system that compresses data while maintaining vital image quality.


Researchers at one of the premier national laboratories in the United States are prepared to hand the Defense Department a prototype system that compresses imagery without losing the quality of vital data. The system reduces the volume of information; allows imagery to be transmitted long distances, even across faulty communications links; and allows the data to be analyzed more efficiently and effectively.

May 9, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Unmanned vehicles may become joint platforms as new software allows operators using a standard control system to use craft employed by different services. So, an Army squad deep in the battlefield may be able to use data accessed directly from a Navy unmanned aerial vehicle to bring an Air Force strike to bear against enemy forces.

May 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps officials describe the K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter as having met or exceeded requirements in Afghanistan, but they also report that the Marines have not yet developed requirements for the system to become a program of record and say they are unsure what effect sequestration will have on the system.

April 4, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Future conflicts likely will be fought in degraded information technology environments, which will require the U.S. Navy to develop and exploit new capabilities to continue to operate in contested cyberspace. Technologies such as a flexible information grid, assured timing services and directed energy weapons must be part of the naval information system arsenal if the sea service is to maintain information dominance through the year 2028.

April 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers
A modernized and fully digitized unmanned aerial system could be performing vital missions over the Asia-Pacific region in the coming years. The upgraded Shadow system fielded by the U.S. Marine Corps could potentially play a major role in the region.

The upgraded RQ-7 could play a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region.

February 25, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Navy technology may allow in-flight conversion from helicopter to fixed wing.

Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are developing unmanned aircraft technology that will allow the conversion from a vertical take-off and landing system to a fixed-wing craft during in-flight operation. The conversion capability will provide the take-off and landing flexibility of a helicopter with the longer range, higher speeds and lower wear and tear of an airplane.

February 11, 2013
By Max Cacas

Earthbound technologies and computer programming that make most popular video games possible are driving development of the remote-controlled robots now in use by NASA in the unmanned exploration of Mars and the solar system. Those improvements in both hardware and software also spur innovation in the next generation of robots envisioned for use by government and industry. That is important because NASA recently has proposed a new, multiyear program of sending robot explorers to Mars, culminating in the launch of another large scientific rover in the year 2020.

February 1, 2013
By Clarence A. Robinson Jr.
The Gorgon Stare sensor system is being mounted in Afghanistan on USAF/General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This system from Exelis and Sierra Nevada Corporation can zoom in on and transmit up to 64 different images to soldiers on the ground.

Industry opens up an array of real-time imaging

Sweeping advances in sensor technologies are enabling wide-area airborne persistent surveillance on both manned and unmanned aircraft. Emerging sensor systems can provide high-resolution mosaic imagery for large swaths of the battlefield while focusing on individual objects.

December 13, 2012

A vision-driven robotic arm will enable the precise long-range delivery of a payload weighing up to one pound into difficult-to-reach environments.


November 1, 2012
By Max Cacas

Unmanned underwater vehicles mimic nature and collaborate on tasks.

Robotics experts are using the swarming behavior of insects and fish as a model for software that will operate the next generation of underwater robots. Fleets of robots not only will be able to navigate to a common goal, but they also will have the means to deal autonomously with unanticipated factors, much as insects and fish can change behaviors based on the circumstances.

November 1, 2012
By George I. Seffers
Northrop Grumman Corporation's X-47B is one contender for the U.S. Navy's carrier-based UAV program. The program is important to industry because it is currently the only large UAV platform being developed by the U.S. military.

The next five years will be as exciting as the last decade--but in a different way.

Unmanned vehicles will undergo an array of changes in the coming years brought about by the war in Afghanistan winding down, budgets tightening and the national strategy shifting toward the Asia-Pacific region. Adjustments may include the retirement of some unmanned air systems, a stronger focus on refining existing unmanned planes rather than fielding new ones and increased research and development of land and maritime technologies.

November 1, 2012
By George I. Seffers
The Ground Based Sense and Avoid System will allow military operators to fly unmanned aircraft in the same airspace as commercial aircraft so that warfighters can train and prepare for the next conflict.

A new crash avoidance 
system will allow both 
manned and unmanned
 planes to operate 
in U.S. airspace. 

The U.S. Army is developing a collision avoidance system that will allow unmanned and manned aircraft to fly in the same airspace more easily and safely. The first-of-its kind system will enable service operators returning from the war zone to fly drones in the same U.S. skies as civilian aircraft, keeping the warfighters proficient and ready for the next conflict.

September 30, 2011
By George Seffers

The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, was awarded a $34,077,057 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the research and development services in support of electro-optical and infrared technologies; night vision technology; and laser technologies and payloads for unmanned platforms. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is the contracting activity.

May 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine

Future aircraft that break into several pieces mid-flight may represent a technological advantage rather than a catastrophic incident. The U.S. Air Force is looking to develop unmanned aircraft that introduce a new set of capabilities not available with humans in the cockpit. Among these many future possibilities are transformer-type vehicles that split into separate flying segments and then reattach when their mission is completed.

May 2011
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Magazine

Persistent surveillance has been pegged as a crucial capability in current and future operations. Mind’s Eye is one of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) newest and most aggressive efforts to improve conditions for warfighters on the ground. The agency is working with the U.S. Army, industry and academia to create a way to educate video collection devices. Although existing cameras and sensors capture activity in an area, the mounds of visual data they collect are overwhelming to analysts and warfighters alike. Once visual intelligence is achieved, these information mountains will become actionable knowledge molehills that can be sent to commanders and perhaps directly to warfighters’ handheld computers in the field.