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.
Click to launch the photo gallery
We were recently on hand to find out what this sort of trade show looks like. Launch the gallery above for our photo tour.
they ought to name it moose its got a huge nose
Way to go McCauley! From the Air Capital of the World!
Good to see Kansas getting a little more positive attention.
I can't wait for the new heli version with free wi fi that surveils me every where I go. I am a little jealous of the terrorists right now.
I had no idea drones were that big (shown in the picture). I always pictured them as much smaller aircraft. Now I'm wondering, other than the obvious fact that no pilot means no support systems (less weight) and increased manoeuvrability (no pilot to black out from high Gs), what are the advanatges of drone aircraft? From the looks of it, you still need a substantial area to take off from and, presumably, all the ancillary stuff that entails. I'm guessing that thing lights up like a Christmas tree on radar too.
Some drones are much smaller. Several types have a wingspan of less than 7 feet and can be launched by hand. This drone is designed to fly at much higher altitudes for much longer times, however, and is constructed accordingly. It would also "light up" on radar were it not flying at 80,000 feet.
The main advantage of all of these drones is not less weight or more maneuverability. These drones are not designed for combat but for surveillance. The major advantage is that surveillance forces are now expendable. It is much easier to justify losing an unmanned drone in a surveillance action than to risk a human pilot.
All the oohs and aahhs, They will use these at home every chance they get. So much for the 4th amendment. At least we have plenty of sheeple to support there Tyranny.
1. UAV Weight Savings. While it is commonly (and mistakenly) assumed that a UAV WILL be lighter because it does not have to have provisions for a human, it is actually true only in some very specific and limited number of cases (the 'cheapest', shortest range, and least capable ones).
If you want to replace the Rated Meat-Servo with an autonomous or semi-autonomous control system, you are instantly taking on complexity and redundancy in onboard flight control and mission systems which add weight to achieve equivalent reliability. You are also taking on more extensive and complex environmental control systems (involving some combination of one or more sets of plumbing, heat exchangers, and/or fans)to keep the additional and also densely packed avionics from overheating. You also are probably taking on more complex power generation schemes including larger battery arrays to power the more complex system, and on top of it all -- additional structural weight to keep it in place, and additional fuel just to fly the heavier weight over the same distance. Without an onboard operator, you may need more redundant data links (more weight) and in every case I can think of, you add the additional requirement of a more robust communication system (more weight) to connect with a ground system element, possibly via satellite systems: all of which have to function even in a degraded state to ensure mission success.
2. Maneuverability (Gs). While it is always possible to build a plane that can pull more Gs than a human can take, the practical limit is the upward weight spiral from adding structure to the UAV to attain a higher G capability. This spiral yields a diminishing return in capability (range, payload, speed, operational ceiling) just for the ability to pull that next 'one more G'.
While 9G's (sustained) are typically thought of as the upper limit of human flight, that is only true for a certain level of state-of-the-art in aircrew support systems. I received a briefing a few years ago from a test pilot who had tested an 'experimental' suit in a centrifuge and he asserted that the capability to go to significantly higher Gs, comfortably, was well within reach if needed. I believe the only reason we have not seen it happen to date is that it has not been 'needed' nor economical to do so.