October 7, 2021
By Robert K. Ackerman
U.S. Army soldiers launch an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for surveillance and reconnaissance in Germany. Research by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) aims to provide UAVs, along with various small handheld devices, with power sources providing twice the energy and 10 times the shelf life of conventional batteries in extreme environments. Credit: U.S. Army photo

Future unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets may be able to operate in hot conditions for long periods of time if new power source research bears fruit. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has launched a program to develop portable power sources for unmanned and autonomous systems operating in extreme environments.

Known as the Robust Energy Sources for Intelligence Logistics in Extreme, Novel and Challenging Environments (RESILIENCE) program, the effort is tapping corporate and academic expertise to build power sources, largely batteries, that can provide an extended supply of power in the face of conditions that otherwise sap conventional batteries.

July 2, 2021

Threat Management Group LLC, North Charleston, South Carolina, has been awarded a $7,621,740 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for commercial off-the-shelf training aid items. This contract provides for training aid supplies for Counter-Improvised Explosive Device and Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft systems. Work will be performed in Ladson, South Carolina, and is expected to be completed June 30, 2026. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition. Fiscal 2021 operation and maintenance funds in the amount of $8,385 are being obligated at the time of award. The 338th Enterprise Sourcing Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, is the contracting activity (FA3002-21-D-0006).

September 27, 2019
Students from the Autonomy New Mexico program at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque developed drone platforms in order to test hypersonic system applications. Credit: Vince Gasparich

As part of Sandia National Laboratories' quest to develop hypersonic solutions, a group of university students working at the labs this summer developed autonomy and artificial intelligence capabilities for hypersonic flight systems. They tested the capabilities on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

July 26, 2019

Textron, AAI Corp., Hunt Valley, Maryland (W911QY-19-D-0033); Arcturus UAV,* Rohnert Park, California (W911QY-19-D-0050); Martin UAV,* Plano, Texas (W911QY-19-D-0032); and L3 Technologies, Ashburn, Virginia (W911QY19D0051), will compete for each order of the $99,500,000 firm-fixed-price contract for Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems. Bids were solicited via the internet with 11 received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of July 24, 2022. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

 *Small Business

Ocotber 5, 2018

AeroVironment Inc. has been awarded a $13,000,000, single-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract, for Raven RQ-11B small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS). This contract satisfies recurring requirements for RQ-11B SUAS, spares kits, ancillary equipment, and recurring related training. The location of performance is U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility which includes Central America, South America and the Caribbean nations. The work is expected to be completed by September 28, 2023.  This award is the result of a non-competitive acquisition and one offer was received. Fiscal year 2018 operations and maintenance funds in the amount of $2,800,000 is being obligated at the time of award.

August 8, 2018

DOD reported that Insitu Inc. of Bingen, Washington will support both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with unmanned aircraft systems. 

June 27, 2018

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Arizona, is awarded a $29,688,168 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Low Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) Innovative Naval Prototype (INP). Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, and work is expected to be completed by January 25, 2020. Fiscal year 2018 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $7,129,599 will be obligated at the time of award.

August 17, 2017

Insitu Incorporated, Bingen, Washington, is being awarded $7,407,625 for firm-fixed-price order N00019F0235 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-17-G-0001) for the procurement of six ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems, related support equipment, training, site activation, technical services and data for the government of the Philippines. Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington, (70 percent); and Hood River, Oregon (30 percent), and is expected to be completed in July 2019. Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $7,407,625 are being obligated at the time of the award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

July 24, 2017
SwellPro's waterproof drones shoot video both above and below the water. In an effort to keep airspace safe, NASA is funding research into UAV system detection and tracking.

Researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) are launching a project to find new ways to detect and track unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace. The project seeks to research and develop high-performance communications, networking and air traffic management (ATM) systems, including navigation and surveillance for both manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The work is supported by a three-year, $1.33 million grant from NASA’s University Leadership Initiative.

June 21, 2017
By George I. Seffers
A new Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program seeks to converge radio frequency communications, electronic warfare and radar capabilities on compact unmanned aerial systems.

Over the next five years U.S. Defense Department researchers plan to build a prototypical system that will converge radar, communications and electronic warfare functions for a range of unmanned aerial systems, including the RQ-7 Shadow and the RQ-21 Blackjack. A do-it-all system will efficiently switch between intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; command and control; networking; and combat operations support missions without changing payloads.

April 17, 2017
Boeing has been awarded a contract modification to continue supporting DARPA’s Hydra program, which seeks to develop a network of unmanned vehicles.

The Boeing Co., Huntington Beach, California, has been awarded a $7,576,425 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification (P00003) for a within-scope change to a previously awarded contract (HR0011-16-C-0114) to provide continued support for a research project under the Hydra Phase 2 program. Fiscal 2017 research and development funds in the amount of $645,510 are being obligated at the time of award.

February 1, 2017

Syracuse Research Corp., North Syracuse, New York, was awarded a $65,000,000 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for development, production, integration, delivery, deployment and sustainment of up to 15 sets of the low slow small unmanned aerial system integrated defeat system, which is the counter-unmanned aerial system solution required to meet the mission requirements of the acceleration phase of the joint urgent operational need. Bids were solicited via the Internet with one received.

By Katie Helwig
Douglas Maughan from the Department of Homeland Security speaks to AFCEA committee members.

Douglas Maughan, director of the Cyber Security Division at the U.S.

November 1, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray is one example of the Defense Department's pursuit of autonomous systems.

Over the next decade—if not sooner—the U.S. Defense Department wants more of its military systems to operate autonomously, capable of independently determining the right course of action no matter the situation. The Defense Science Board predicts the department will get there. 

Autonomous systems address several problem areas, and reasons to pursue the technology are numerous, according to a technical panel presenting this week at the MILCOM 2016 conference in Baltimore.

November 1, 2016
By F. Patrick Filbert
With its Gremlins program—named for the imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II—the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) envisions fleets of drones dropping out of bombers. An artist’s rendering shows groups of unmanned aerial systems as they launch from large aircraft that are out of range of adversary defenses.

As people get better at killing each other, the technology they are using to defend themselves also gets better. This applies to both friends and foes of the United States. The world is growing increasingly volatile, with nation-states developing innovative ways to threaten global stability. Russia, for one, is creating anti-access/area-denial exclusion zones with its encroachment on sovereign nations, and China has been establishing air defense zones off its coast while spending heavily on modernized weapon systems that can reach farther into the Pacific Ocean.

September 22, 2016

The not-for-profit defense and aerospace research and development firm SRC Inc. delivered to the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) its first Agile Condor pod system, a scalable, low cost, size, weight and power (low-CSWaP) hardware architecture for on-board processing of a great deal of sensor data through high-performance embedded computing. The AFRL envisions using the system to enable real-time processing for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.  

September 1, 2016

Insitu Inc., Bingen, Washington, is being awarded a $9,896,412 modification (0007) to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-14-C-0070) to procure intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services using its unmanned aircraft system in support of the Navy. Work will be performed at locations outside the continental U.S., and is expected to be complete in September 2019. Fiscal 2016 operations and maintenance (OCO) funds in the amount of $9,896,412 are being obligated at time of award, all of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

August 26, 2016
By Benjamin K. Sharfi
An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line at Hurlburt Field, Florida, in 2014. The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft primarily used as an intelligence-collection asset.

Not surprisingly, as the technology behind unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has increased over the decades, so have their costs. But why do modern-day UAVs and their equipment cost so much? The simple answer: because they can. But that doesn’t mean the cost is justified.

April 1, 2016
By Barry M. Horowitz
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilot sits at the controls during flight tests evaluating cybersecurity. New approaches are being studied to ensure cybersecurity for links to and systems onboard UAVs.

This threat can come from signals beamed into a control stream or even embedded software containing a Trojan horse. Researchers are addressing this challenge from traditional and innovative directions as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles continues to expand into new realms. But the issues that must be accommodated are growing as quickly as threat diversity.

October 26, 2015

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, was awarded a $38,155,365 modification (P00114) to contract W58RGZ-12-C-0075 for MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft systems performance-based logistics support for the Block 1 program of record and Special Operations aviation regiments. Work will be performed in Poway, California, with an estimated completion date of October 23, 2016. Fiscal 2014 and 2015 operations and maintenance (Army) and other procurement funds in the amount of $38,155,365 were obligated at the time of the award. The Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity.

June 5, 2015

Logos Technologies Inc., Fairfax, Virginia, is being awarded a $32,840,745 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for basic and applied research of compact sensor systems that could be flown on platforms such as the RQ-21 Blackjack, Tigershark, and RQ-8 Firescout for the Air Force and Army. The research conducted will leverage previous quick reaction capability efforts in the domains of wide area airborne surveillance, hyperspectral imaging, high-resolution imaging, and light detection and ranging.

May 14, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
A bomb disposal robot removes a suspicious package during a training operation at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Giddy up! Military and civilian bomb squad operators are taking to a capabilities exercise robot rodeo to showcase proficiencies and uses of robotics in the field. For the first time in nearly a decade, organizers included unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the competition.

April 30, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
Before and after illustration of Lockheed Martin's GeoMI software to piece together a number of aerial photographs into one image. Without the software, the images fail to line up seamlessly.

Imagery captured from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be up to 10 times less expensive than from manned aircraft or satellites, prompting government agencies and private farmers alike to investigate using the economical method to scan miles and miles, from power lines for infrastructure maintenance to railroads for servicing or acres of farmland for precision agriculture.

February 1, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, AH-64D Apache Longbow and Warrior Alpha land at Michael Army Airfield, Utah, in 2011, after the Manned-Unmanned Systems Integration Capability exercise. The aircraft joined with the RQ-11B Raven and MQ-5B Hunter to demonstrate their interoperability.

The lead and superiority that the United States holds over the rest of the world in unmanned and autonomous systems is diminishing rapidly as technological and less expensive improvements help level the playing field between the haves and have-nots. Accordingly, the military’s push to protect the lives of troops just might instead place humans at greater risk. The technology behind development of unmanned and autonomous systems makes the platforms more precise, meticulous and exacting than the legacy systems they will replace, but the migration theoretically could make some governments hungrier for war—more apt to wage conflict than vie for diplomatic solutions.

July 28, 2014

Benchmark Contracting Incorporated (dba Cobblestone Construction), Las Vegas, was awarded a $10,643,419 firm-fixed-price contract for construction of a remote piloted aircraft mission complex physical protection system, Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, Nevada. The Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles, is the contracting activity (W912PL-14-C-0012).

January 25, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman

The battlespace dominance enjoyed by U.S. forces for two decades may be disappearing as many potential adversaries begin to employ the very technologies that have served U.S. forces. Dick Diamond Jr., national security trends and strategic issues analyst with Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, warned that the near monopoly enjoyed by the United States in precision guided munitions (PGMs) and surveillance is going away. "We may not be able to conduct our favorite American way of war in the future," Diamond declared. Moderating a West 2011 panel focusing on unmanned systems, Diamond went on to say that the United States may not be able to position forces forward for fighting at a time of its choosing.

October 21, 2009
By Maryann Lawlor

Unmanned aerial systems were the topic of the final panel session of MILCOM 2009. Although it seems UAVs have been around for a long time-and are essential in current operations-the ground truth is that a number of challenges remain to be resolved before these aircraft can be used to their full potential. Among the challenges is how to reduce weight, size and power needs. In the area of research and development, a number of programs are underway that will increase UAVs' effectiveness on the field. Although the U.S.

December 29, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. military can get a bird’s-eye view of a battlefield or humanitarian mission via use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Now, it wants to get into buildings without having troops actually step foot inside.

The Pentagon’s main research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), circulated a Broad Agency Announcement for its Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, focused on acquiring algorithms that would let small, autonomous assets access buildings and navigate the “labyrinth of rooms, stairways and corridors or other obstacle-filled environments,” according to the agency.