Monthly Archives: September 2013

UAV007 Drone UAV Drone

DARPA HydraThis Episode:

A visual drone census map, who should develop privacy laws that govern drones, the Hydra proposal for drones at sea, surveying Australia with sUAS, and unmanned F-16 target drones.

The News:

Drone U. Releases US Drone Census

Drone University, an online educational platform, has created a U.S. Drone Census map showing the “complex ecosystem of users, industry, legislation, and research.” You filter the points on the map by selecting categories from a dropdown, like DIY Drone Groups, Academic Programs, and FAA test Site Applicants.

Should states determine if drones can record your conversations?

U.S. courts have held that the First Amendment protects the “right to record,” but this is not firmly established.The scope of the “right to record” is very much open. Recordings by drones adds a new twist to the debate, but we should not rush to legislation.

DARPA’s Plan to Flood the Sea With Drones, Carrying More Drones

The DARPA idea is to develop an undersea network of sites (called Hydra) from which drones can be quickly launched in response to world events that need immediate attention, like natural disasters and piracy.

UAV: fixed wing or rotary?

UAV applications for the survey, mining, agriculture, and civil construction industries can be accomplished with fixed wing or rotary aerial vehicles. Fixed wing is good for aerial mapping, rotary for inspections or difficult to access locations.

Boeing, USAF Complete First Unmanned QF-16 Flight

Boeing QF-16

Boeing QF-16

The first flight of a remotely piloted Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jet was successful. Two Air Force ground pilots launched the QF-16, took it to 40,000 feet, and performed some aerial maneuvers, including a 7G barrel roll.  In USAF parlance, this is not a Drone it is a FSAT or Full Scale Aerial Target. Video: On Target: F-16 flies with an empty cockpit.


UAV006 Spy on the Chicken

PUMA AE beach launch

PUMA AE beach launch. Courtesy AeroVironment, Inc.

This Episode:

The Reaper is turned into a Jammer, drones are spying on chickens in Australia, FAA rules for small UAS’s delayed again, UAV privacy questions remain, a new UAS Test Center in the UK, monitoring wildlife with a PUMA and the weather with a Global Hawk, FEMA shuts down Colorado UAV flights, and more multi-rotor’s come down in crowds.

The News:

Jamming Pod Demonstrated on MQ-9 Reaper UAV

General Atomics has fitted a Northrop Grumman jamming pod to an MQ-9 Reaper. The test flight occurred back in April during a U.S. Marine Corps weapons and tactics instructor (WTI) course, but has only recently been made public. Planned for the October WTI course is a demonstration with EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare (EW) jets and smaller unmanned aircraft.

Animal Liberation activists launch spy drone to test free-range claims

Australian activists are concerned that some large free-range chicken farms are not in fact free-range. So for $17,000 they purchased a hexacopter, fitted it with an HD video camera, and flew it over the farms to document their claims. The group says this does not violate trespass laws.

First Commercial UAS Flight Due; Small UAS Rule Delayed

An Insitu ScanEagle was expected to make the first commercial flight of an unmanned aircraft on September 11, under a restricted category type certification the FAA awarded in July. ConocoPhillips was to launch the ScanEagle from a research vessel in the Arctic Ocean west of Alaska to monitor whale migrations and ice flows.

The FAA’s release of a Notice of Proposed RuleMaking (NPRM) which would govern the operation of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) weighing up to 55 pounds has been delayed until early in 2014.

UAV Operations in National Air Space Advance as Privacy Fight Heats Up

The standards being developed for sUAS over: UAV design, including command and control systems, batteries, production, quality assurance, maintenance, and continued airworthiness, the aircraft flight manual, and operations over populated areas.

ASTM International developed the initial standards for the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Committee that was chartered in 2008. That feeds the NPRM process which includes a mechanism for public comment.

The ASTM standards committee for large UAS was unable to make enough progress, so it’s mission was changed to minimum operational performance standards (or MOPS) for detect-and-avoid equipment.

Unlike the slow rule-making progress for commercial UAS, Government agencies (like law enforcement and public safety) can move quickly as a result of the March MOU between the FAA and the Department of Justice.

UK Inaugurates National UAS Test Center

Two UK airports (West Wales Airport and Newquay Cornwall Airport) have launched a “National Aeronautical Center” (NAC) to develop, test and demonstrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), both commercial and military.

More drones coming Saturday in NOAA tests

NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations is testing the PUMA UAS in the Florida Keys to monitor wildlife without disturbing them.


NASA Global Hawk

A NASA Global Hawk undergoes systems testing while parked on the ramp at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center on the edge of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in preparation for participation in NASA’s Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes, or GRIP, hurricane mission.

Spy Drones Turning Up New Data About Hurricanes And Weather and NASA to Investigate Tropical Storm Humberto: Atlantic’s Second “Zombie Tropical Storm”

NASA is flying two Global Hawks from Wallops Island over Hurricanes under the five-year HS3 (Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel) Mission.

Falcon UAV Supports Colorado Flooding Until Grounded by FEMA

The Falcon UAV was providing valuable aerial imagery of the recent tragic Colorado floods. However, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has arrived with conventional manned aircraft and the Falcon was ordered to stand down.

Multirotor Crashes into Crowd in Spain and Pirate Party Crashes Spy Drone in Front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel

A hexacopter comes down into a packed crowd in Spain, allegedly injuring several people. Meanwhile, in Dresden, Germany at a political party campaign rally, another copter came down in front of the podium.

UAV 005 Drones are a Grass Roots Effort


This Episode:

Optionally piloted helicopters, fast response from the FAA to drone requests, a forecast of the global UAV market, success tips for UAV suppliers, and water sampling drones.

The News:

Polish SW-4 Solo to Assist Royal Navy Rotary-Wing UAS (RWUAS) Study

The SW-4 SOLO RUAS (Rotorcraft Unmanned Aerial System) is being introduced by PZL-Świdnik, and Agusta-Westland based on the PZL SW-4 light single engine helicopter. This Optionally Piloted Helicopter (OPH) is under the RWUAS (Rotary Wing Unmanned Air System) Capability Concept Demonstrator (CCD) programme as a conceptual multi-role UAV for the UK Royal Navy.

Others have activity in the OPH arena: Sikorsky Aircraft has a research program called Matrix Technology to develop systems and software for autonomous, optionally piloted, and piloted vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. They are using an optionally piloted S-76 called the Sikorsky Autonomous Research Aircraft (S.A.R.A.) as a flying lab, and plan to demonstrate operation with an Optionally Piloted Black Hawk.

Eurocopter (now to be  renamed Airbus Helicopter) has conducted demonstration flights with an optionally piloted EC145. Reportedly, they now plan to look to OPV variants of its product line.

FAA Cuts the Red Tape to Let UAS Work Yosemite Wildfire

Desperate to get a better view of the giant wildfire last month, the call for help from the Incident Commander went to the California governor’s office, then to the Department of Defense and the FAA for help. An emergency Certificate of Authorization was issued within hours by the FAA to the California Air National Guard to fly to the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator over the Yosemite fire.

The Global UAV Market 2013-2023

A report titled “The Global UAV Market 2013–2023” has been released by Strategic Defence Intelligence. This $4,800 report states that the Global UAV market is estimated at US$114.7 billion during the next 10 years, with most coming from North America, but Europe spending US$24.3 billion on UAVs. HALE UAVs are forecast to constitute the largest share of the UAV market.

Managing The UAV Madness: 5 Keys To Success

Agricultural applications for unmanned aircraft is probably a huge opportunity. Robert Blair is a wheat grower in Kendrick, Idaho. He spoke at the InfoAg Conference about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and offered some advice.

University of Nebraska Lincoln helping develop water-sampling drones

ASCTEC Firefly

ASCTEC Firefly

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded a $956,210 grant  for the three-year “Co-Aerial Ecologist: Robotic Water Sampling and Sensing in the Wild” project as part of the National Robotics Initiative. UNL is seeking to develop a UAV that can be located near a water source, fly out and take water samples, then return them for analysis.

They already have a modified AscTec Firefly copter that can take several 20ml water samples, but it can only fly a 20 minute mission. They hope to extend that and make the vehicle autonomous. Perhaps perform on-board analysis of the water samples. From the video, you can see they’ve demonstrated the copter in the lab and outside in a pool. This is taking place at the Nebraska Intelligent MoBile Unmanned Systems Lab (NIMBUS).

UAV 004 Goosebusting by Hexacopter

Flamewheel 550

This Episode:

Using a hexacopter for wildlife management, airline pilots are concerned about UAVs, a copter goes into a crowd, wildfire fighting with a Predator, a sea-faring drone, building a ground station, and a Chinese attack UAV under development.

The News:

Canada plans to use hexacopter drones in war against geese

GOOSEBUSTER_600An Ottawa beach has been plagued by geese despite attempts to scare them off with trained dogs, loud noises, and other means. Along comes Steve Wambolt, the owner of Aerial Perspective, with a Flame Wheel 550 hexacopter and an idea, and he’s successfully used the craft to drive most of the geese away.


Pilot Group Expresses Concern Over Sharing the Sky With Drones

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) representing over 59,000 airline pilots issued (in April 2011) a white paper, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Challenges for Safely Operating in the National Airspace System” which says, “The fundamental function of operating the aircraft in a safe manner must be maintained at the same level of safety regardless of the location of the pilot or the levels of automation.” Military UAS operations do not meet this criteria. 

When Drones fall from the Skies

At an event called the Great Bull Run at a racetrack in Virginia, a drone copter with a camera flying over the stands, suddenly veered downward and into the crowd. Five people suffered minor injuries. 

Predator UAV Provides Surveillance in Battle Against Yosemite Fire

The MQ-1 Predator is flown for 22 Hours in support of the RIM fire in Yosemite National Park. The 163rd Reconnaissance Wing of the California Air National Guard out of Victorville Southern California Logistics Airport used Infrared cameras to determine hot spots and contained areas, and provided real time images to people on the ground.

Transatlantic Drone Takes to the Sea

It’s not aerial, but it is a drone. It’s an unmanned robotic boat called the Scout designed by students in seven colleges to cross the Atlantic Ocean. You can follow the progress of the craft at the Scout Transatlantic website.

Tearing an old laptop apart to build a ground control station

Here, parts from an old broken laptop and some other components are assembled in a Pelican case as a ground station. The DIY community is very active in the unmanned vehicle arena. It’s a bit like the early days of the personal computer when the term “hacker” meant something positive that geeks aspired to.

China’s ‘Sharp Sword’ stealth UAV to make first flight one year later

China’s “Sharp Sword” attack unmanned aerial vehicle has been seen taxiing around and was captured on video. It looks a little like the X-47B. The report is that we will see a first flight in one year.