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Showing posts from October 21, 2012

The Evolution of Drone Motherships - Part I

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As long as physical limitations constrain the range and endurance of unmanned air, surface, and sub-surface vehicles, they will need to operate in conjunction with larger platforms.  These motherships serve a wide variety of functions besides simply transporting, launching, and recovering unmanned vehicles.  They maintain and repair the drones, recharge or refuel their propulsion sytems, and they enable data collected from unmanned sensors to be downloaded, analyzed, and disseminated beyond the line-of-sight.  Characterizing the evolution of these unmanned vehicle motherships can help extrapolate how they might be used in the future.

Generation I - Ad hoc platforms: This category includes legacy naval vessels ranging in size from patrol craft (US SOCOM's MK V at right, with ScanEagle) to large amphibious ships, and likely some day, aircraft carriers.  Minesweeping and hunting vessels have carried remotely operated vehicles for decades now, and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs)…