Just a week after Congress finally passed an FAA spending bill requiring the aviation regulator to expedite the integration of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the national airspace, President Obama has already signed it into law. What does that mean? The bill requires full integration of UAS into the national regulatory framework by Sept. 30, 2015, but you'll start seeing drones in the sky sooner than that.
When European farmers turn their eyes skyward, they soon may have more than the weather to worry about. The more progressive aviation framework in Europe means that government monitors potentially have a new weapon in their arsenals--unmanned aerial drones--to enforce regulations, and they’re starting with agriculture. EU regulators are exploring potential aerial systems that can help them spot farm subsidy cheats and violators of Common Agricultural Policy rules.
In Afghanistan, supply convoys have been a favorite target of insurgent fighters, not only because they make warfighting possible for troops at forward operating bases but also because they are so very vulnerable to ambushes and IEDs. But on Saturday, NATO logisticians hit a major milestone in Afghanistan, reaching out and touching one of the holy grails of robotic warfare when an unmanned K-MAX helicopter successfully delivered a sling-load of beans, bullets, and band-aids to an unspecified base for the first time.
The Federal Aviation Administration wants you to fly the robot-friendly skies, but the regulatory overseer has more than a few challenges to overcome before it can extend that invitation in earnest. The FAA today announced it has added a research project aimed at figuring out exactly how the U.S. can safely fold unmanned aircraft into its national infrastructure and eventually the airspace it governs.
Drug runners and pirates beware: a Navy helicopter drone made its first official drug bust on April 3. The U.S. Navy Fire Scout stealthily tailed a "go-fast" boat suspected of carrying narcotics for three hours, and captured video of the boat's refueling rendezvous with a fishing vessel. Not a bad outcome for started as a "routine test flight," according to Navy reports.
Finding and capturing insurgents behind deadly roadside bomb attacks has proven tricky, but an ex-U.S. Air Force officer says that airships could have deployed as early as 2006 to provide steady surveillance that can track bombers back to their lairs. Now he has gone public with his criticism of how the Air Force shunted aside airships in favor of preserving the roles of aircraft and satellites -- an action that he says cost the lives of warfighters.
A mysterious, unidentified drone that has been spotted in multiple photos from Afghanistan resembling previous stealth aircraft has finally been officially revealed. The U.S. Air Force confirmed the new craft, designated the RQ-170 Sentinel, to Aviation Week last Friday, after photos circulating online had caused much speculation among defense buffs.
Roadside bombs have long represented the greatest killer of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there's hope beyond the sturdy little demolition bots that already work with their human handlers. The Pentagon now has two aerial drones on the testing docket as possible countermeasures for improvised explosive devices (IEDs)--one of which we're calling 'Helipanda' for the remainder of this post.