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.
The U.S. Navy will depend heavily on technology innovation to meet increasing operational demands on a fleet that is aging and suffering from budget constraints, according to the vice chief of naval operations. Adm. Mark E. Ferguson, USN, told the audience at the Thursday luncheon town hall that the Navy needs to work cooperatively with industry to develop the innovative technologies and capabilities it needs.
“The best ideas come out of your laboratories,” he said, addressing industry representatives. “The edge we will need will come from innovation.”
Unmanned systems for reconnaissance, surveillance and warfighting have grown so quickly in popularity that they are spawning a familiar list of challenges that must be met sooner rather than later. Many of these issues have arisen with other military technologies that became popular quickly, and planners found that fixing these problems was significantly more difficult the deeper the technologies were embedded in everyday military operations.
The Federal Aviation Administration has announced the six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) sites available for conducting operations research and testing. Test site operators will perform their research at the University of Alaska; Griffiss International Airport, New York; Texas A&M University; and Virginia Tech, as well as in the states of Nevada and North Dakota. Investigations will include system safety and data gathering; aircraft certification; command and control link issues; control station layout and certification; ground and airborne sense and avoid capabilities; and environmental impacts.
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) demonstrated the launch of an all-electric, fuel cell-powered unmanned aerial system (UAS) from a submerged submarine. Operating under support of the USS Providence and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center-Newport Division, the NRL developed the eXperimental Fuel Cell (XFC) UAS, which was fired from the submarine’s torpedo tube using a Sea Robin launch vehicle system. The Sea Robin launch system was designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC). Once deployed from the TLC, the Sea Robin launch vehicle with an integrated XFC rose to the ocean surface.
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.
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. The capability is being made possible through a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project that adds depth perception to the range of unmanned aerial hover vehicles’ features. Using stereo vision, the unmanned aerial vehicle can estimate a target’s position relative to the hovering aircraft in real time, and then the system tracks where the payload must be placed and the motion of a robotic arm. Control logic maneuvers the vehicle and directs the robotic arm to engage a designated target and to place the payload.
The U.S. Army’s Project Manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS) is partnering with academic institutions to build on lessons learned in combat. Officials aim to advance the operational understanding of UAS technologies and explore a range of rapidly expanding uses for them, including within U.S. airspace. For example, unmanned aerial vehicles could be used in disaster response and humanitarian relief efforts as well as environmental and law enforcement initiatives. For some projects, the agreements will enable students to visit U.S.
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.
It's nice when Fido obeys commands, but isn't it even better when he instinctively anticipates those directives? Apply this concept to unmanned systems-robotics to be exact-and the warfighter has a more foolproof companion by his side on the battlefield. That's the idea driving the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance (CTA) to advance the state of the art in unmanned technologies and move them more quickly into theater. Robots will eschew remote-control guidance, relying on programming that gives them autonomy via artificial intelligence.
How do you stop a rifle round shot at a soldier’s head? Researchers from the U.S. Army and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are in the nascent stages of developing technologies to field unmanned assets that might do just that.
The U.S. military for decades has employed unmanned systems—from dropping bombs miles above the Earth’s surface to detecting underwater mines from miles below. Now, researchers and scientists are on the threshold of tweaking the technology as part of a new concept for the use of unmanned assets, which could bring an army of autonomous protective robots to the battlefield.
With its developing fleet of autonomous “guard dogs,” the U.S. Navy is becoming more lethal and protective using the same technology.
The sea service is capitalizing on a first-of-its-kind autonomous technology, with software originally developed by NASA for the Mars Rover, which can transform just about any surface vessel into an unmanned platform able to protect other ships or “swarm” hostile vessels, officials say.
As the U.S. Navy modernizes information systems across the fleet, one organization is responsible for researching, developing and fielding the full range of technologies in the Asia-Pacific region, providing complete life cycle development and support for systems, from concept to fielded capability.
It really is the perfect weapon for a country of couch potatoes. Grab the remote, point, click and “boom,” there goes some hapless al-Qaida bigwig, blown to smithereens in living color. It is like playing “Call of Duty,” but with real ammo. That’s what smart operators can do with an MQ-1 Predator (as in “Apex”) or an MQ-9 Reaper (as in “Grim”). The bad guys never see them coming. Yes, for the United States, this truly is the day of the drone.
Systems entered in the U.S. Navy’s 17th annual RoboSub competition, held July 28-Aug. 3, are far more sophisticated than the toys that competed in the first competition, which was launched in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“In the earlier days when we first did this, the systems were considered to be some kind of toys,” says Steve Koepenick, an autonomous systems expert with the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, which hosts the competition. “They are now tools. They’re part of the kit that our sailors and Marines take into theater with them. That’s reflected in the competition and the things the students are trying to do.”
The U.S. Army is preparing—for the first time—to develop and field micro robotic systems under programs of record, indicating confidence that the technology has matured and years of research are paying off. The small systems will provide individual soldiers and squads with critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data in jungles, buildings and caves that larger systems can’t reach. Ideally, they will become valued combat team members.