Long a tool of allies trying to foil improvised explosive devices, unmanned systems now may be entering the fray against friendly forces. Both terrorists and nation-states are striving to employ these systems, especially airborne platforms, to deploy new types of improvised threats against U.S. and coalition forces.
Robots, drones, automated devices—they are but a few of the names given to unmanned systems proliferating across the military and the commercial sector. The sky’s the limit for unmanned aerial vehicles, and no ocean is too deep for their underwater counterparts. Yet the potential for these devices, which seems unlimited, is being hindered by the human element they support. Planners must abandon convention and explore disruptive approaches that will allow unmanned systems to reach their full promise.
The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate has announced a $199,814.31 award to Asymmetric Technologies LLC, to enhance U.S.
The Defense Department's futuristic research agency reached a huge milestone in its robot sea vessel program Thursday, christening the unmanned prototype "Sea Hunter" and entering a two-year extended test phase.
Early this year, violent floods brought immense destruction to communities in the Zambezia province of central Mozambique, Africa, endangering thousands of children and adults. Floods ravaged the region, decimating roads and bridges; 70 percent were unusable for ground vehicles, and some were unmanageable even by foot. In the absence of electrical power and a way to resupply gasoline for generators, refrigerated vaccines became unusable. Furthermore, damaged roadways meant that much-needed supplies never arrived.
Despite substantial increases in capability and applications, U.S. and multinational robotics and autonomous systems have limited information interoperability, convoluting an already complex data-sharing environment. The U.S. Defense Department finds itself in a predicament created by rapid and independent fielding of systems over the past 10 to 15 years along with the use of proprietary software and payload and bandwidth restrictions.
Unmanned systems deployed in ones and twos already have changed some aspects of warfighting, whether collecting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data or dealing with roadside bombs. When deployed in tens, hundreds or even thousands, robotic systems may change the very nature of warfare, providing greater standoff, increased lethality and enhanced survivability while driving up the costs of war for potential enemies.
U.S. Army officials envision a future in which robots are integral members of the team performing a range of missions, whether hunting for roadside bombs, searching for threats inside buildings, lugging heavy equipment or packing heat in the form of a light machine gun or missile launcher for troop protection. The Army’s existing robotics road map is updated routinely, but now officials are looking for ways to realize their vision sooner than planned.
U.S. Navy officials have, for the first time, proved that the unmanned X-47B aircraft and an F/A-18 Hornet can operate at the same time within the same aircraft carrier-controlled landing pattern. Manned and unmanned aircraft flying from the same flight deck may change the way warfighters operate in the decades to come. They would improve carrier air wing proficiency by providing persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting and strike capabilities, offering warfighters greater flexibility and reducing danger to aircrews.
A developmental U.S. Navy project aims to provide a creative solution to the challenge of how to move unmanned underwater vehicles to their proper point for submersion. The project is creating a bio-inspired seacraft that will use flight to reach its destinations.
The U.S. Army’s Project Manager of Robotic Systems Joint Project Office, Warren, Michigan, is conducting market research to see what companies can provide a lightweight common robotic system (CRS) for dismounted soldiers.
The inertial navigation system (INS) market size is estimated to be $2.75 billion in 2014 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10.98 percent to reach $4.63 billion by 2019, according to Research and Markets, a Dublin-based market analysis firm. Though North America and Europe have the largest market for INS in terms of commercial and defense aviation, military and naval applications, a lot of INS development programs have been launched in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.
Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, California, is being awarded a $63,070,969 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-07-C-0055) for the Phase II continuation of post-demonstration activities in support of the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program. These activities include continued X-47B aircraft systems, test bed and flight test support at both shore-based locations and associated carrier detachments, continued development of Fleet Concepts of Operations, X-47B maintenance support, lab and test bed operational support and continued flight test opportunities. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contract
Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Integrated Systems Sector, San Diego, California, is being awarded an $8,465,734 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-12-C-0126) for the extension of engineering and software sustainment services in support of the Vertical Take-off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Fire Scout MQ-8B. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.
Just as the U.S. Navy initially resisted the transition from sail to steam-powered ships and elements of the Army dismissed air power and fought against the shift from horses to tanks, some parts of the military continue to resist the expansion of uninhabited systems into traditional combat roles. As a result, 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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. The OPV-A will be a hybrid between a conventional and unmanned aircraft capable of flying with or without a pilot on board. Unimpeded by a human’s physiological limitations, an OPV-A is able to operate under more adverse conditions and/or for greater endurance times. The airframe, to be selected by the Qatar Armed Forces, will be integrated with a mission systems capability to enable the optionally piloted capability.