Quadcopter UAV Careens Through Extremely Tight Spaces Autonomously

Fully embracing the notion that there’s no point in building a UAV if it doesn’t make other UAVs look completely lame by comparison, UPenn’s GRASP Lab has developed an autonomous quadcopter that does a lot more than hover. It flips, dives, twists and otherwise dazzles, executing aggressive aerial maneuvers like dashing through tight windows with just three inches clearance and zipping in between other hovering quadcopters with graceful ease. All by itself. The UPenn quadcopter certainly isn’t the first of its kind. MIT has one that navigates with tiny onboard laser scanners, while the the University of Tübingen's AscTec Hummingbird gets around autonomously using the same infrared camera as the Wiimote. For its part, the UPenn UAV keeps track of itself in space using 20 external Vicon cameras that digitally map its surroundings as well as an inertial measurement unit – basically a series of gyros and accelerometers like the ones in the iPhone. Because it requires such a setup, the tiny quadcopter won’t be flying any missions outside of a predefined space anytime soon. But given the UAVs extreme agility, if researchers can figure out a way to untether the machine from the lab, it could have myriad applications in everything from search and rescue to intelligence to military operations. That’s not even taking into account how much civilian fun the thing could provide if it packed a camera and a little AR.

Navy uses laser to shoot down drone

The Navy says it used a laser to track and destroy two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that were flying over San Nicholas Island, illustrating a technology that eventually could be added to surface warships based in San Diego. Lasers have been used to knock down drones before. But the latest test, held on May 24th, "marks the first detect-thru-engage laser shoot-down of a threat representative target in an over-the-water, combat representative scenario," the Naval Sea Systems Command said in a statement released over the Memorial Day weekend. Such lasers are currently based on land, but the Defense Department has said it would like to have a version that can be placed on ships. The Navy has been developing an advanced version of the surface-to-air Standard missile to destroy missiles that might be fired by such nations as Iran and North Korea. The well-developed versions of the Standard are a common part of the weapons systems on local cruisers and destroyers. However, the use of lasers represents a major technological step for the Navy, which has been looking for ways to destroy comparatively inexpensive UAVs that might pose a threat the U.S. vessels.

via: signonsandiego.com

Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAV - Test Flight Nation 2009

The Northrop Grumman X-47B is a demonstration Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle. The X-47 began as part of DARPA's J-UCAS program, and is now part of the United States Navy's UCAS-D program to create a carrier-based unmanned aircraft. Unlike the Boeing X-45, initial Pegasus development was company-funded. The original vehicle carries the designation X-47A Pegasus, while the follow-on naval version is designated X-47B. The US Navy did not commit to practical UCAV efforts until mid-2000, when the service awarded contracts of US$2 million each to Boeing and Northrop Grumman for a 15-month concept-exploration program. Design considerations for a naval UCAV included dealing with the corrosive salt-water environment, deck handling for launch and recovery, integration with command and control systems, and operation in a carrier's high electromagnetic interference environment. The Navy was also interested in using their UCAVs for reconnaissance missions, penetrating protected airspace to identify targets for the attack waves. The J-UCAS program was terminated in February 2006 following the US military's Quadrennial Defense Review. The US Air Force and US Navy proceeded with their own UAV programs. The Navy selected Northrop Grumman's X-47B as its unmanned combat air system demonstrator (UCAS-D) program. Roll out of the X-47B was at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California on December 16, 2008. First flight was expected to occur in November, 2009, but was delayed until the first quarter of 2010 due to "propulsion acoustic and engine-start sequencing issues". On December 29, 2009 Northrop Grumman oversaw towed taxi tests of the aircraft at the Palmdale facility, and are expected to taxi the craft under its own power in January, 2010. It is planned to have a three year test program at Edwards AFB, California and NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, culminating in sea trials in 2012. The X-47B carries no weapons, but it has a full-sized weapons bay. It is that same size and weight as an operational vehicle would be, in order to provide realistic testing

Suspected U.S. Drone Crashes Near Afghan Border

A suspected U.S. drone crashed in Pakistan's lawless tribal area near the Afghan border Sunday, a rare mishap for a program Washington has increasingly relied on to kill Taliban and Al Qaeda militants, said intelligence officials and a local resident. Local tribesman in North Waziristan were congratulating each other for shooting down the drone, said resident Saudur Rehman. But the Pakistani army rejected similar claims after a drone crashed in neighboring South Waziristan in 2008, saying it was a technical problem. "I saw that the aircraft was coming down and finally crashed in an open area a distance from me," said Rehman, who indicated he heard gunfire just before the crash. "Tribesmen are celebrating and congratulating each other for shooting it down." The crash occurred around 6 p.m. in the Hamdhoni area of North Waziristan, some 2.5 miles northwest of the main town of Miran Shah, said two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. North Waziristan is dominated by militant groups that stage cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. One of those groups, the Haqqani network, an Al Qaeda-linked Afghan Taliban faction, is believed to have helped orchestrate the Dec. 30 homicide bombing at a remote base in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA employees. In the roughly three weeks following the attack, suspected U.S. drones carried out 12 missile strikes in North and South Waziristan, an unprecedented volley since the covert CIA-led program began in earnest in Pakistan two years ago. The strikes are part of a broader trend of President Barack Obama's strategy of relying more heavily on the unmanned aircraft to kill militants in Pakistan than his predecessor. The militants have responded with a wave of killings targeting people they suspect of helping facilitate the drone strikes, including six Pakistani men whose bodies were found in two different areas of North Waziristan on Monday. Pakistani intelligence officials have said at least 30 of their operatives were killed in North Waziristan in 2009, many with notes attached to the bodies alleging they were U.S. spies. The six bodies found Sunday had similar notes, said intelligence officials and residents. The bodies of five men who had been fatally shot were found on the outskirts of Miran Shah, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Authorities found the body of a sixth man who had been beheaded near Mir Ali, another town in the tribal area, said resident Razaullah Wazir. "This is the fate of American spies," said a note attached to the body written in the local Pashtu language, according to Wazir. The U.S. does not discuss the drone strikes, but officials have said that they have killed senior Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the country.

via: foxnews.com

In Afghanistan With Predator Drone Unit

US drone 'kills Filipino militant Abdul Basit Usman'

Abdul Basit Usman was reported killed on 14 January along with several others on the border of South and North Waziristan tribal regions, they said. The US state department has offered a $1m reward for information leading to the militant's capture. Authorities in Philippines said they were investigating the report. "If the reports are true then it is good news for us because the killing of Basit Usman means one less terrorist on the street," the AFP news agency quoted Lt-Gen Benjamin Dolorfino, military commander in south-western Philippines, as saying. But, he added: "We still have to verify the reports." Mr Dolorfino said he was involved in many deadly bombings in the southern Philippines' Mindanao region, where Muslim insurgents have waged a decades-old separatist rebellion, the AFP reported. Correspondents say that if it is confirmed, the death of Abdul Basit Usman would represent a major success for the US authorities. The US state department describes him as a bomb-making expert with links to the Abu Sayyaf militant organisation in the Philippines. It says he has links to Jemaah Islamiah, a South-east Asian Islamic extremist group linked to al-Qaeda. "US authorities consider Basit to be a threat to US and Filipino citizens and interests. Basit is believed to have orchestrated several bombings that have killed, injured, and maimed many innocent civilians," the state department website says. According to earlier report, the 14 January drone attack had targeted Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud. A Taliban spokesman said Mehsud had been in the area but left before the attack.

via: news.bbc.co.uk

C.I.A. Deaths Prompt Surge in U.S. Drone Strikes

Since the suicide bombing that took the lives of seven Americans in Afghanistan on Dec. 30, the Central Intelligence Agency has struck back against militants in Pakistan with the most intensive series of missile strikes from drone aircraft since the covert program began. Targets in Pakistan Beginning the day after the attack on a C.I.A. base in Khost, Afghanistan, the agency has carried out 11 strikes that have killed about 90 people suspected of being militants, according to Pakistani news reports, which make almost no mention of civilian casualties. The assault has included strikes on a mud fortress in North Waziristan on Jan. 6 that killed 17 people and a volley of missiles on a compound in South Waziristan last Sunday that killed at least 20. “For the C.I.A., there is certainly an element of wanting to show that they can hit back,” said Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal, an online publication that tracks the C.I.A.’s drone campaign. Mr. Roggio, as well as Pakistani and American intelligence officials, said many of the recent strikes had focused on the Pakistani Taliban and its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who claimed responsibility for the Khost bombing. The Khost attack cost the agency dearly, taking the lives of the most experienced analysts of Al Qaeda whose intelligence helped guide the drone attacks. Yet the agency has responded by redoubling its assault. Drone strikes have come roughly every other day this month, up from about once a week last year and the most furious pace since the drone campaign began in earnest in the summer of 2008.

via: nytimes.com

Northrop Grumman Bat UAV

Northrop Grumman video of a flight test of its Bat small unmanned aircraft - a flying-wing design acquired from Swift Engineering, which called the UAV the KillerBee.

Barak heads to Turkey to close UAV deal

Amid growing tension between the countries, Defense Minister Ehud Barak heads to Ankara on Sunday in an attempt to salvage Israel's diplomatic and military alliance with Turkey. World Officials said that during the 12-hour visit, Barak and his Turkish counterpart, Vecdi Gonul, will likely announce the finalization a long-delayed multimillion dollar deal for the delivery of 10 unmanned aerial vehicles to Turkey. Last week, incoming Defense Ministry director-general Udi Shani led a delegation to Turkey to discuss the sale. The $185 million project was initiated in 2005 but was under the threat of cancellation and the cause of rising tension between the countries after the Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems Ltd. Heron UAVs were found to be incompatible with the payloads made by a Turkish company. Turkish officials were reportedly in Israel over the weekend to assess the UAVs, which, if found operational would be delivered to Turkey by mid-2010. IAI and Elbit are reportedly paying $12m. in compensation for the delays in delivery of the six remaining UAVs. Barak will bring a large delegation and with a beefed-up security detail. He will meet with Gonul and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He will also lay a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish republic and its first president. Barak will be the most senior Israeli official to visit Turkey since Operation Cast Lead, during which ties with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became strained. Defense officials said that Barak would discuss a wide range of issues with the Turkish officials, including the Palestinian peace process, Syria and Iran, as well as ways to renew defense ties between the countries. Before Cast Lead, IDF troops and aircraft regularly trained in Turkey, but they have not done so since the offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

via: jpost.com

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