Tag Archives: unmanned systems

Northern Exposure: The Future of Unmanned Systems in the Arctic

throw web

Will AUVs and UAVs help open the earth’s northern reaches?

By K. Joseph Spears

The Arctic is one of the world’s last remaining frontiers. Though mapped long ago, much about this massive area remains unknown. For example, only ten percent of Canadian Arctic waters are charted to modern hydrographic standards. Scientists know more about the physical characteristics of the moon and Mars than about the waters of the planet and of the Arctic, in particular.

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Managing the Transition: Matching Army Robotics Force Structure and Strategy

LTC Stuart Hatfield Army RoboticsLieutenant Colonel Stuart Hatfield is the Robotics Branch Chief, Dominant Maneuver Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, Department of the Army in the Pentagon, where he manages the Army’s $800 million budget for Robotics and Unmanned Ground Systems. LTC Hatfield is the Army Staff lead integrator for Unmanned Ground Systems, and he co-chairs the Joint Staff Unmanned Ground Systems Integrated Product Team to synchronize concepts, requirements, technology, and standards for remote and autonomous systems across the Department of Defense. LTC Hatfield was honored by the National Defense Industrial Association as the 2012 Ground Robotics Champion.

Interview by UTS Editor George Jagels

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Synthetic Aperture Radar: Seeing Through The Clouds

synthetic aperture radar SAR picture golf course water

By Mark Ellsworth, Media Manager, IMSAR LLC, and Curtis Thomas, External Communications, IMSAR LLC

It’s tomorrow. The rain has been falling for hours, showing no signs of relenting. The town’s river, already full from a wetter-than-usual spring, has begun to overtop its banks and the preventative levees.  (more…)

Coordination from the Cloud

A New Solution Fuses Intelligence and Operations

By George Jagels

iCommand-table_24x24

Evermore capable, advanced, and expensive systems and software have proliferated in modern militaries. A November 2013 essay in Small Wars Journal by three Army officers, however, hit on an important paradox: Does it matter how capable a program is if it is too difficult to use? They were writing about the suite of Army Battle Command Systems, which have come under criticism from lawmakers and soldiers for their “atrocious user interface and poor, almost non-existent interoperability,” but the authors’ sentiment touches on a wider issue of managing information and the helpful but complicated array of systems on the battlefield.

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Objective: Rapid Results

How the Air Force is Using Quickly Deployable Predator teams to Achieve Success

By George Jagels

MQ 1

Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) have supported U.S. forces in major overseas operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Millions of hours have been flown by medium altitude long endurance (MALE) platforms such as the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper in support of ground troops, intelligence gathering missions, and precision strike operations. Just as the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review predicted, the demand for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) continues to rise, yet these platforms are slated for budget reductions.

The Air Force FY 15 budget cuts the number of combat air patrols from 65 to 55 while eventually phasing out the MQ-1. The U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan accounts for some of this decrease, as does a different mission set for the Asia-Pacific region, where airspace will likely be less favorable to slow, defenseless RPAs.

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Pocket Change: A Nano Air Vehicle Proves Its Worth

The PD-100 Black Hornet fits onto a combat vest and is designed to look around corners without risking the user life or being detected by the enemy.

By George Jagels

As equipment improves, the average weight a soldier carries keeps rising. A 2009 Army study showed the average soldier humped 100 pounds of gear on patrol. And with budget freezes and force cuts, training specialists at the squad level is less and less feasible. Thus when one thinks of adding an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to a small unit, words like “unfeasible” and “unnecessary” might be the reaction. But what if that system took two days to learn and weighed 2.8 pounds, fitting into a soldier’s combat vest?

Prox Dynamics, a small UAS company based in Norway, builds just such a system. The PD-100 Personal Reconnaissance System, or Black Hornet, is a nano air vehicle (nano UAV) with many of the capabilities and potential of much larger, more complicated devices. In a field with ever more competition— witness the extraordinary expansion of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International trade group—the Black Hornet seems in a class of its own. With the little heard from Aerovironment’s Hummingbird since 2011, my research shows operationally useful nano UAVs are confined to the Black Hornet.

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What’s Happening on the 49th Parallel

Last month, Tactical Defense Media went to Detroit to take in a conference on the U.S./Canada border. Battling storms and power outages, the organizers ended up putting on an insightful show. Here’s a quick rundown:

The conference was based around the “Beyond the Border” initiative. Signed in 2011 by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama, “The Declaration estab­lished a new long-term partnership built upon a perimeter approach to security and economic com­petitiveness. This means working together, not just at the border, but ‘beyond the border’ to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services. Leaders called for the development of a joint Action Plan to realize this goal…”

One major theme discussed was “pushing the border out.” In other words, knowing what is coming into the two countries before it arrives. This entails pre-inspection in ports of departure and prioritizing containers to be searched before they arrive (thereby streamlining the loading and unloading process). The eventual goal is an “inspected once, cleared twice” outcome in which, for example, a container cleared by Canadian customs could be transported by rail into the U.S. without needing to stop at the border for a second inspection.

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Securing the Skies: How Will the U.S. Military Fend Off Unmanned Systems?

This article first appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Unmanned Tech Solutions.

By George Jagels

If they ever existed, the days of an American monopoly on military unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are surely over. While many countries building new systems are NATO members or longtime U.S. allies, some are not: China, Russia, and Iran produce UAS of varying degrees of sophistication. Much like in the recent past, the Pentagon must deal with both a foreign military challenge—at least 76 states now possess UAVs—and a more asymmetric threat. With  growing capabilities of small UAS comes greater access for non-state actors such as terrorist groups and drug cartels. This still-murky asymmetric threat—particularly as U.S. airpower remains unquestioned—presents an interesting challenge for the Pentagon.

Though the services were unable to comment on much of their counter-UAS doctrine and programs, they are developing them. Since 2010, an annual joint exercise called “Black Dart” has tested capabilities on this front. Late last year, the Army held a meeting at Fort Sill, OK, with allied and industry representatives to discuss countering enemy UAVs. The Navy will deploy a laser weapon system designed to destroy missiles and pilotless aircraft to the Persian Gulf next year.
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The Robotic Future is Here: Are You Ready?

By Bruce Schlee, President and CEO, Helical Robotics

This article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Unmanned Tech Solutions.

Robot. Somewhat ironically for a machine, the word evokes emotions—excitement, fear—while sparking endless intellectual debates. Over the past three and a half years, I have been traveling around the world and talking with people about mobile robotics. Most people are fascinated by the thought, but I am constantly asked if or when “they will take over the world.” Although this is a popular theme in Hollywood, a planet run by robots is best left to science fiction novels.

I prefer to look at the evolution of robotics through the prism of its history. To understand where something is going, I often find it is best to remember where it’s been.

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Defense Notes: Radios,Smartphones, and Renewable Energy for the Army; Drones Get a Bad Rap

  • The Army has awarded General Dynamics a $5 million contract for 100 MUOS channel kits to upgrade its 100 PRC-155s, reports DoD Buzz. “With a smartphone-like flow of information, the upgraded PRC-155 radios will allow soldiers to access the MUOS communications system wherever they are deployed, on foot or from land vehicles, ships, submarines and aircraft.”
  • Aoptix and CACI recently received a contract from the Pentagon to develop Smart Mobile Identity devices. Aoptix will be integrating its biometric (iris,face, voice) capabilities into smartphones. This should lessen the load of deployed soldiers who now use a device devoted solely to this purpose. “We are pleased to have been selected by the DoD for this important project which will leverage our next-generation Smart Mobile Identity platform,” said Dean Senner, Chairman and CEO of AOptix. “Users of these systems in-field will benefit from a more compact, lightweight, versatile and accurate identity verification device than has previously been available. We are especially pleased to be working with CACI, leveraging its experience deploying sophisticated solutions for government agencies.”
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