Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013: The Year in Sea Drones

What was the most significant development in unmanned naval systems for 2013?  Blog readers weighed in on this question and more during our survey.
  • Winning by a landslide, with 71% of the responses, was the successful carrier catapult shots and "traps" (arrested landings) of Northrop Grumman's X-47B.
ALANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 9, 2013) The experimental X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D) conducts an arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is the third carrier to test the tailless, unmanned autonomous air craft's ability to integrate with carrier environment. (US Navy photo By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)
The number of helicopter drones, like this Spanish
Skeldar, grew throughout the world's fleets in 2013.

  • Related to #1, the U.S. Navy's ever-changing UCLASS RFP was the third most notable development as judged in our survey.
According to our web stats, other popular stories this year include:
  • All things related to unmanned system carrying motherships.  Ranging in size and variety from amphibious assault ships, nuclear submarines, to patrol boats, and RHIBs, navies are focused on identifying the most efficient and effective platforms to host UAVs, UUVs, and USVs.
Coastal Command Boat with embarked Knifefish UUV.
  • A BQM-74E target drone's impact on the guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville that occurred during combat systems training in November. 
Workers apply a temporary patch to the starboard side of CG-62.
  • Reports of China's UAV swarms garnered some attention as they enhance the growing Anti-access/Area Denial capability in the Western Pacific.
    China's Sharp Sword UCAV made its first flight in 2013.
  • Iran reportedly mass-produced a ScanEagle imitation based on UAVs it has recovered or "captured" from the Persian Gulf. 
    Iran's ScanEagle factory - real capability or deceptive mock-ups?
  • Unmanned systems again played a major role in this year's International Mine Countermeasure Exercise (IMCMEX) in the Persian Gulf.
A U.S. Navy unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) operator recovers a UUV after a successful run during International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) 13 in Qatar May 14, 2013
 Did we miss any?  Post your thoughts in the comments.