Sunday, December 30, 2012

Naval Drones 2012 Year in Review

What were the top stories in unmanned naval technology during 2012?  What follows is a completely unscientific count-down of the major events related to naval drones over the past year:

10. The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force captures a flock of Schiebel S-100 UAVs operating from PLAN frigate on film.
Camcopter variant operating off Chinese Frigate.
9. SAIC was awarded a contract for the planned DARPA ASW drone, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), which will autonomously hunt and track diesel subs.
SAIC rendering of ACTUV's unique tri-maran hull form.
8. DARPA *almost* conducts air-to-air refueling of UAVs.  Trials actually transferring fuel were postponed due to BAMS-D crash (See #3).
RQ-4 Global Hawks in formation for DARPA drogue and probe refueling demonstration.
7. Kongsberg Maritime's Hydroid subsidiary REMUS mine-hunting AUVs proliferate globally with orders received from UK, Japan, Belgium, Germany, Norway navies.

RN sailor launches the wildly popular REMUS 100: "It comes down to reliability and availability."
6. The MD-500 Unmanned Little Bird helicopter of "Black Hawk Down" fame completes sea trials off the US and French Coasts.
H-6U approaches frigate Gu├ępratt.
5. Who's right? Iran claims to have captured a U.S. Navy ScanEagle UAV in the Persian Gulf while the USN denies those claims. 
ScanEagle displayed on Iranian state TV's Arabic-language channel Al-Alam.
4. USN tests Spike ER missiles from Rafael Protector unmanned surface vessel 
The U.S. Navy's Precision Engagement Module (PEM) tested at sea.
3. Navy RQ-4 Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator (BAMS-D) crashes in Maryland.
This high-tech trash fire used to be a $100 million drone.
2. Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAS-D completes catapult launch at at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. while another airframe finishes deck handling and taxi testing on aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).  
X-47B on Truman's aircraft elevator.
1. Unmanned Undersea Vehicles make a big splash in the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Aden with dozens of countries participating in 5th Fleet’s International Mine Countermeasures Exercise

Royal New Zealand Navy Operational Dive Team deploys REMUS during IMCMEX 2012.
Did we miss any?