Friday, October 24, 2008

The insatiable hunger for drones

As if we need any more proof that the unmanned aerial systems field is growing rapidly, consider these two news items that appeared this week.

The Air Force is launching two new training programs to get more pilots for drone aircraft. The Associated Press reports that the programs will create a new brand of pilot for the drones flown by remote control.

New drone operator will learn the basics of flying a small manned plane, but will not go through the longer, more rigorous training that their fighter jet brethren receive. A senior Air Force officer said that by the end of September 2011, the goal is to have 50 unmanned combat air patrols operating 24 hours a day, largely over Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently there are 30.

"I don't know that you could ever get (a drone) to everybody who wants one," said Col. Curt Sheldon, assistant to the director of air operations for unmanned aircraft issues. "I believe it is virtually insatiable. We are pedaling fast, we are working hard to meet that need." (Story)

And then there’s this item:

Raytheon and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport, early last month demonstrated an unmanned aircraft system for submerged submarines.

The program simulated the submarine launch of a specialized UAV (or UAS, if you prefer) for collection of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information in a littoral environment.

In the demonstration, two submerged launch vehicles were deployed over the side of a surface ship. The vehicles descended to 80 feet, reverted to positive buoyancy, floated to the surface, stabilized in variable sea states, aligned into the wind, and then launched an inert representative UAS at precise orientation and velocity. (Story)

The Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor has a foot in the door of this important, growing field, including the Northrop Grumman has an unmanned systems center in Moss Point, Miss., that does finishing work on the Fire Scout helicopter drone and fuselage work on Global Hawks.

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