The UAV community that will meet soon in Las Vegas for Unmanned Systems North America might draw some wisdom from the effort to introduce unmanned aircraft in UK civil airspace.
Boeing has been awarded a three-year $9.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to develop and demonstrate technologies that enable multiple small unmanned aerial vehicles to coordinate with each other and a manned airborne control station to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
Analysis and simulation of operations by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is not always an easy task because of the need to consider the broad C4-ISTAR picture, often in a joint scenario. However, being able to verify mission requirements and to validate concepts of operation before buying new systems is certainly of value to military clients.
The recent commencement of low-altitude Customs and Immigration patrols by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) along the Arizona/Mexico border and the earlier nonstop, totally automated, transpacific and transatlantic flights above FL600 by the USAF’s Global Hawk (AIN, December, page 54) are strong signals that one day the altitude gap between these two will close, and we’ll have unmanned aircraft sharing our airspace. When will that day arrive?
To many, the notion that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will one day fly alongside passenger airliners and other aircraft, in fair weather and foul, still seems like science fiction. Yet civil aviation authorities in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and elsewhere are now finalizing rules under which these operations will take place, possibly as soon as 2010.
In November the UK Royal Air Force’s UAV Battlelab plans to integrate an unmanned air vehicle into a military exercise for the first time, as part of Project Sabrina. An earlier attempt in June was cancelled due to technical difficulties, but the Battlelab is optimistic that the UAV’s participation in the next Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor (CQWI) exercise will go ahead.