Friday, November 21, 2008

News to note

For those of you interested in either the Air Force tanker project or unmanned aerial systems, there's a story in Aviation Week that combines the two topics.

A Boeing-led team has been selected to continue development of a system enabling unmanned aerial vehicles to autonomously rendezvous with a tanker and refuel. It's Phase 2 of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Automated Aerial Refueling program, and it involves actual fuel delivery to a surrogate UAV (Story).

In another UAV-related story, the Air Force News Service reports that a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland is researching miniature acoustic sensors and sound localization techniques using the hearing mechanisms of flies as a model. It could lead to the development of an artificial fly unmanned aircraft system with combined hearing and vision for navigation to inaccessible locations. It could also result in micro aerial vehicles having improved homing capabilities (Story). Of course, there's still the issue of navigation of micro-UAVs. The small size makes it particularly difficult to maneuver them. Even breezes can impact their flight. A meeting in Fort Walton Beach earlier this year discussed that very issue.

Here’s one for those of you who follow the space program, and particularly the progress of the Constellation Program. NASA, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences Corp., and Alliant Techsystems successfully performed a ground firing test of a launch abort motor for the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The test was conducted at ATK's Launch Systems facility in Promontory, Utah (Story). Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Mississippi's Stennis Space Center are both involved in the Constellation Program.

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