In the never-ending search for accident prevention’s silver bullet, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said recently that reinventing the wheel isn’t always the best solution.
We’ve been hearing about unmanned aircraft strikes on suspected terrorists in the tribal regions of Pakistan, in Afghanistan and lately in Somalia and Yemen, for years now. So it’s surprising that the U.S. government’s first official acknowledgement that it uses remotely piloted aircraft—drones, if you must—to take down terrorists came just one week ago.
Despite news reports last week to the contrary, the State of Hawaii is not stuck with a useless remote-controlled drone, at least according to its builder, Paul Schultz, CEO of Hawaii-based Hawaiya Technologies.
With funding now assured under the FY 2012 Reauthorization and Reform Act, the FAA’s four-year UAV project is getting under way. But the overarching goal of achieving access to the NAS is going to require a good deal of effort, particularly on the regulatory side. It looks fairly straightforward, but in fact it can get complex and there’s a distinct possibility that some participants won’t make it by the Sept. 30, 2015 deadline.
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) could soon be coming to civil airspace near you and the FAA wants to know what you think. The safety considerations of mixing piloted aircraft in NextGen airspace with those flown by people on the ground or even totally by computer are a serious concern for most aviators.
IAI-Elta Systems have stepped up the marketing of a multi-mission airborne reconnaissance and surveillance system (Mars2) based on the Gulfstream G550 business jet. The sensor suite will combine SAR and GMTI radar plus EO/IR, Sigint and C3 capability “in a tight integration thanks to some unique algorithms,” said Gideon Landa, Elta’s general manager, airborne systems and radar division.
The acquisition cost of F-35s for the international partners is bound to be affected by the slowdown in U.S. production, Dave Scott, Lockheed Martin’s director for international F-35 customer engagement, told AIN. “But we’ll still be doing about 30 in each of the next few years for the U.S., and when you add orders that have already been confirmed by the partners plus Israel and Japan, it’s not a bad annual rate,” he continued.
Among the debutantes here at the 2012 Singapore Airshow is the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s latest UAV, the Heron 1 from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Singapore’s armed forces have acquired a number of Heron 1s under their “third-generation transformation” program, and they are replacing IAI Searchers with the UAV Command. Deliveries began last year. The UAVs are equipped with IAI’s TAMAM MOSP (multi-mission optronic stabilized payload) and offer a significant improvement in sensor capability, endurance and autonomous operation.
Saab Surveillance Systems is offering a new maritime mode for the Erieye AEW&C system that can detect moving objects as small as jet skis or rubber boats that might be used by terrorist groups. Mats Wicksell, technical program manager, told an AEW conference organized by Defence iQ in London that AEW systems can play an important role in maritime surveillance because of their wide-area coverage. Like other AEW systems, the Erieye radar already offers detection of larger vessels.
I have been following with interest the developing story of how Iran has reportedly managed to capture some of the U.S.’s most sensitive surveillance technology, and I still have to shake my head at what a waste it was.