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.
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.
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.
Unmanned ground systems on the battlefield provide critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data and help counter improvised explosive devices. Now, ground robots are positioned to expand into armed missions in Afghanistan.
The notion of robots as trusted companions on the battlefield is no longer limited to the scope of science fiction or TV adventure. With the U.S. Army's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance and its members forging ahead on autonomous technologies, warfighters may just very well have their own "Lassie" to save the day. What more can be done to enhance robotic artificial intelligence to benefit the troops? Share you ideas here.
An aircraft developed by a U.S. corporation is serving as a test-bed for advanced unmanned aerial systems. The internally funded program will employ a fighter-size prototype the company previously designed for a now-defunct military program. The applications for the platform have yet to be determined but will be based on customer desires and requests. The first flight is scheduled to launch late next year, and the company believes it will help shape the future of autonomous air technologies.
Autonomous unmanned vessels soon may be patrolling harbors and conducting coastal reconnaissance missions. The prototype for these future robo boats can operate cooperatively with other robotic surface craft and navigate to a destination without human guidance. Designed for use in shallow waters, the boat can connect to and be controlled by U.S. Navy ships via tactical communications networks.
An armed ground robot with its own sensors and weapons is undergoing operational trials with U.S. troops. Designed to support soldiers in nonlethal and direct combat situations, the robot features a variety of sensors to locate enemy forces and a machine gun and grenade launchers to suppress them. The machine is also equipped with safety and communications equipment allowing coalition forces to operate it at considerable distances for reconnaissance and infiltration missions.
Ships without captains or crew are cruising from the open seas to the coastline. These developmental craft from both the public and private sectors will improve security and capabilities near land and keep sailors and others out of danger.
Unmanned aerial vehicles have become such an integral part of missions that it is difficult to remember a time when the U.S. military relied solely on manned aircraft. As the U.S. Navy prepares to launch into a similar brave new world where crewless platforms propel warfighters out of harm's way, the service faces challenges beyond the technical hurdles. Some issues can be resolved by industry; others will require a worldwide national-level consensus that will change the maritime domain with ramifications not seen since the dawn of modern shipbuilding.