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Showing posts from October 7, 2012

Future Drone Power - Part III: Fill'r Up

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As a follow-up to our posts on powering drones in the future, Bluefin Robotics recently announced a unique concept: deep sea stations that recharge autonomous underwater vehicles.  The system is designed to wirelessly charge a Bluefin 9 AUV's 1.5 kWh lithium-polymer Subsea Battery using inductive coils. In addition to recharging the vehicle, the system has the added bonus of downloading data from the vehicle and transmitting it back to a home base.  The glut of data collected by modern 2 and 3D imaging sonars will require this sort of flexibility on long endurance AUV missions.

The future naval implications of this technology are expansive, however the actual implementation might be challenging.  The system would work well in a permanent installation with AUVs on patrol keeping keep a navy port clear of mines or swimmers.  In an expeditionary environment for say a mine-hunting mission, recharging stations might be installed by buoy tenders and kept powered from surface buoys with…

Israeli Shot-Down Drone Sea Launched?

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Much speculation has occured regarding the mystery UAV the Israeli Air Force shot down over the Negev Desert last Saturday.  A number of interesting theories have been proposed, including those connecting the drone with naval activity:
The Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen channel reported Sunday that the drone originated in Lebanon and flew 100 km into Israeli airspace, however the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon did not detect any UAVs leaving Lebanese airspace.  Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) has been bolstering its UAV force with Iranian built tactical UAVs, so it might be possible that an aircraft flew undetected through across the border.  The Israelis confirmed the drone did not originate in Gaza and some sources to point to Lebanon.  The problem is that the aircraft would have flown at least 200 km and LH probably doesn't possess any UAVs in the inventory capable of this range.Twitterati@drunkenpredatorspeculates that the aircraft might have been an Ababil 3, launched at s…

Undersea Vehicle Navigation and Autonomy

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Changing operational and environmental factors will drive future unmanned naval systems away from remote operation and towards autonomy.  Today, a man-in-the loop is generally required to re-task platforms as the weather deteriorates, operational priorities shift, or maintenance problems occur.  Automation will allow dynamic retasking to take place without human intervention. Additionally, unmanned systems will increasingly operate beyond line-of-sight from their controllers and in areas prone to GPS or other electronic jamming, spoofing, and interference by adversary forces.  Moreover, as noted in the U.S. Air Force’s 2010 Science and Technology Roadmap, autonomous vehicles will enable “operational advantages over adversaries who are limited to human planning and decision speeds.”  Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) require automation for the reasons mentioned above plus the simple fact that normal methods of navigation such as GPS do not work due to the limitations of electromagnet…

DARPA RQ-4A Air-to-Air Refueling Program Analysis

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Air-to-air refueling (AAR) has been commonplace in manned aviation for more than six decades.  Today, remotely piloted vehicles fly hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles from their launch bases to for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.  The inability to refuel in-flight limits time on station and increases the number of aircraft required to surveil a given target location.  DARPA's KQ-X program, initiated in 2010, was designed to prove the technologies required to refuel UAVs in-flight.

DARPA has released videos of the close-proximity test flight of two modified RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.  The final test flight last May demonstrated the ability of close formation flight for most of a 2.5-hour engagement at 44,800 feet.  Although the UAVs did not actually pass fuel, post-flight analysis indicated that 60% of  attempts would achieve contact between the
"Navy style" refueling probe and drogue. 

Perspective from receiving aircraft…