The latest generation of the “Gorgon Stare” wide-area surveillance system has reached initial operational capability (IOC) in Afghanistan, lead contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) announced on July 1. Fitted to a General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft, the system is providing the U.S. Air Force’s only operational capability for day/night persistent wide-area motion imagery, the company said.
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.
Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) manufacturer Insitu is developing a growth variant of its Integrator, the basis of the U.S. Marine Corps’ RQ-21A Blackjack tactical UAS. The new UAS is aimed at the military market but Insitu offered few other details.
Despite recently acquiring the GA-ASI Reaper UAS from the U.S., the French air force has extended the service of its predecessor UAS, the Harfang, until at least the end of 2017. The Harfang UAS consists of IAI Heron 1 UAVs that are equipped with a communications and control system designed by Airbus Defence & Space (previously EADS Cassidian) in France. The French defense procurement agency, DGA, has recently signed contracts with main contractor Airbus D&S, and with IAI, for the upgrade and continued maintenance of the Harfang system.
Flight-test operations have begun at the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site, which last week became the fourth operational site of six authorized in the U.S. by the FAA. The agency granted the university a two-year certificate of authorization (COA) to fly the 85-pound American Aerospace Advisors’ Recon System-16, based on the Arcturus T-16XL fixed-wing aircraft.
The FAA reauthorization legislation that President Obama signed into law in February 2012 gives the FAA the authority to regulate a model aircraft as an unmanned aircraft if it is flown in an unsafe manner, the FAA states in a policy notice published in the Federal Register on June 23.
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy conducted the first flight of an MQ-8B Fire Scout equipped with a new maritime surveillance radar that will “drastically” improve the Navy’s long-range surface search capabilities, the contractor said. The Navy plans to field the radar on the unmanned helicopter next year.
The FAA last week issued oil company BP and unmanned aircraft manufacturer AeroVironment its first official approval for commercial operations over land in the U.S. using unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Flights using AeroVironment’s 13.5-pound Puma AE began immediately on June 8, performing aerial surveillance of BP’s pipelines and other facilities in support of the Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska.
Last summer, the FAA issued restricted-category type certificates to the Puma for limited aerial surveillance but only over Arctic waters.
The Swiss air force has selected the Elbit Hermes 900 to replace its earlier-generation IAI Ranger UAVs. IAI also competed for the UAS 15 contract, which is worth about $280 million. The selection is subject to further government and parliamentary approvals.
The FAA issued a certificate of authorization (COA) to AeroVironment allowing the company to fly its Puma AE unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for energy company BP in Alaska, the first time the agency has approved a commercial UAS operation over land.
The U.S. Marine Corps has deployed the new RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to Afghanistan through an early operational capability. The 135-pound-mtow aircraft is undergoing initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E), a phase the service expects to complete this year.