If the idea of being hunted by an unmanned aerial drone is unnerving the thought of multiple robots planning a coordinated attack is downright frightening. Unfortunately for those who have to worry about such things, the DoD is working on software tools that allow robots in the sky and on the ground to do exactly that.
The future of carrier-based warfare quietly took to the skies over the weekend as the U.S. Navy successfully conducted the first-ever flight of its vaunted X-47B unmanned aircraft at Edwards AFB. The tailless, fighter-sized drone aircraft, designed by Northrop Grumman for carrier-based takeoffs and landings, spent half an hour in the air late Friday executing basic navigation maneuvers and otherwise proving that its design is airworthy and ready for further development.
The unblinking "Gorgon Stare," the Air Force's new sensor package for aerial drones like the MQ-9 Reaper, is billed as one of the most game-changing intelligence tools to ever hit the modern battlefield: a nine (or more) camera array offering city-wide views of an area in real time simultaneously to dozens of soldiers on the ground.
An autopilot system modeled after honeybee flight is faster and more accurate than gyroscope-based programs, according to a new study. By imitating how honeybees sense their surroundings, aircraft can quickly determine which way is up and complete complex aerobatic maneuvers.
Anyone following the news out of America’s Af/Pak engagement knows that drones are being used increasingly – some say alarmingly so – to ferret out and eliminate militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. But if drones can track militants hiding in the Pakistani hills, why can’t they track a celebrity in Hollywood Hills? A celebrity-photo agency is developing a camera-equipped paparazzi drone that could soon be tracking and terrorizing celebrities in public and at their homes.
The world's biggest tornado hunt is stuck. I'm at an improvised command center in the conference room of the Holiday Inn Express in Perry, Oklahoma, and 35 scientists are trying to decide where, on this cloudy May morning, to deploy the 50 equipment-laden trucks parked outside. The first major storm system of the expedition is forming southwest of us, in Texas, and it's likely to lead to supercells, massive rotating thunderstorms that may in turn spin off one or more twisters. Very promising. But Lou Wicker, a team leader from the National Severe Storms Laboratory, sees a problem. He looks up from a radar screen. "Fifty miles per hour," he says. Too fast.
When most people think "trade show," what comes to mind are harsh fluorescent lights and hollow convention halls, all filled with corporate drones (of the human variety) idly wandering through booths hyping the latest in office paper technology, stopping only to hover over bowls of stale candy and cheap swag.
The annual Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) event in Denver, Co. is also a trade show, down to the expansive halls and harsh lights. But instead of the latest in corporate nothingness, its booths are filled with something far more interesting: the state-of-the-art in flying robots.
An unmanned aerial surveillance drone is only as good as its power source, and as such many technologies are being considered that could drastically extend the duration of drone missions – for instance, DARPA's Vulture program has helped develop a giant solar plane that, theoretically, could fly for five years straight. But Seattle-based LaserMotive thinks laser power is the answer, and to prove it they recently kept a tiny 22-gram helicopter aloft for hours by beaming power to it via a laser.
An advanced fly-by-wire system capable of landing grossly damaged unmanned aircraft—demonstrated on video saving a plane missing 80 percent of one wing—is key to solving one of unmanned flight’s biggest problems
Word spread last week that a rogue MQ-8B Fire Scout copter drone entered restricted airspace just 40 miles shy of Washington D.C. after losing contact with its operators. The revelation occurred smack in the middle of AVUSI 2010, the world's largest UAV tradeshow. And it served as a poignant reminder that all the game-changing technology on display here at the Denver Convention Center still has some innovating to do, especially when flight crews lose control of their unmanned craft.
But to lose control of a flying robot over a warzone is one thing; things get much more complicated in crowded domestic skies. One remarkable system, capable of bringing a plane missing most of one wing safely home, aims to make losing control a more palatable proposition.
Researchers at Yale's Grab Lab aren't about to let the nuances of rotary-wing flight restrict what unmanned aerial vehicles can do. A team there has developed a hand-like modular grasping and manipulation platform that can be fitted to the bellies of UAVs to provide them with extra functionality without overly taxing their flight capabilities.