Call it a UAV (unmanned air vehicle) or an RPA (remotely piloted aircraft), the unmanned aircraft has become an integral part of the operations of many air forces, navies and armies around the world. Despite the issues associated with integrating UAV operations into non-segregated airspace, the unmanned aircraft has become a vital tool for performing “dull, dirty and dangerous” missions such as persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance).
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
News and issues relating to civil and military unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) of all kinds and sizes, including those used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), combat (unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs), law enforcement, research and other applications. Of particular focus is the FAA's planned integration of UAS into the U.S. national airspace system.
For years UAVs from the United States and Israel have dominated the larger end of the unmanned market, but now a number of new players have begun to emerge. While they have yet to threaten the dominance of the “big two,” newcomers from other countries are increasingly chipping away at the marketplace and threatening to take sales away from the established suppliers.
With its unmanned air vehicles having achieved more than 1.2 million operational flight hours and serving with more than 50 operators, IAI is one of the leading companies involved in this sector. Here at Farnborough International 2014 it is promoting a wide range of its UAVs, from the 10,230-pound Heron TP to the nine-pound vertical takeoff Ghost, along with related technologies such as advanced electro-optical, sigint (signals intelligence) and maritime patrol payloads.
If you build it, they will come. The UK National Aeronautical Centre (Hall 1 Stand C9) has answered the first part of that challenge by making available the facilities to fly large unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight, in an environment that also accommodates manned aviation. The center now awaits a response from what is expected to be a boom market for commercial UAS.
The International Consortium of Aeronautical Test Sites (ICATS) welcomed CATUAV Tech Center (CTC) in Barcelona as its fifth member here at the Farnborough International Airshow yesterday, adding Spain to the list of countries involved in the partnership. The other countries represented in the group include Canada, the U.S., the UK and France.
In response to increased scrutiny of armed UAV operations by human rights groups, British legislators and the United Nations, the British Ministry of Defence (UK MoD) has stepped up efforts to reassure the public. Late last year, it allowed media (including AIN) access to the Royal Air Force Reaper ground control station (GCS) at RAF Waddington for the first time. New documents describing UK operational procedures, including targeting, have been released. The UK is one of only three countries to have fired weapons from UAVs in combat, the others being Israel and the U.S.
Spain is forging ahead with plans to become one of Europe’s leading nations in the unmanned arena through the launch of two connected initiatives that will place the country, and the region of Andalucía in particular, at the forefront of unmanned air vehicle research and test.
Integrating remotely piloted air systems (RPAS) into civilian airspace in Europe is not going to be easy. Official programs are many, work is extensive, detailed and ongoing, but anyone expecting an early resolution is going to be disappointed. This was the picture gleaned from a series of presentations at last month’s RPAS Today: Opportunities and Challenges conference, run by the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.
The European agency tasked with keeping watch over the EU’s external borders, Frontex, is enthusiastic about adopting remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to help them in that job. But significant challenges–some technical but the majority legal–mean that unmanned aircraft are unlikely to be deployed to help defend EU borders in the near future.
The Heron 1 UAVs that have been providing imagery for the German air force (GAF) over Afghanistan have now clocked more than 18,500 hours in four years. The lease-operate-maintain contract has already been extended twice, and will likely be extended for a further six months, as the German ponders its long-term UAS policy.