Monthly Archives: December 2013

UAV019 General Atomics Sense and Avoid

General Atomics Predator B

This Episode:

A successful first sense and avoid flight, a Russian drone killer, UAS test site selection approaches, and a drone hunting proposal is going to the voters.

The News:

General Atomics tests UAV that can “sense and avoid” other aircraft

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. has had a successful first test flight in California of a prototype Sense and Avoid (SAA) system, using a Predator B. Developing SAA is key to allowing UAS in the U.S. airspace. Radar, transponder, and traffic alert systems all worked together for the first time to detect other aircraft. This is not an optical system. Instead, it integrates three systems:

  1. BAE Systems’ AD/DPX-7 Identification Friend-or-Foe (IFF) transponder with Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) receiver

  2. the General Atomics Due Regard Radar (DRR)

  3. Honeywell’s TPA-100 Traffic Collision Avoidance System or TCAS.

Russia upgrades Pantsir-S systems to create “UAV-killers”

With unmanned aircraft playing an increasing role in military operations, it was only a matter of time until we began to see UAV-specific countermeasures. The Russians are modifying their Pantsir-S (SA-22 Greyhound) gun-missile system to make it more effective at bringing down UAVs.

Freight-Drone Dream Has U.S. States Vying for Test Sites

Twenty-four States are vying to become UAS test sites where private researchers can study how unmanned aircraft can be integrated into the airspace. The FAA plans to announce the six sites before the end of 2013.

Colorado judge rules in favor of holding drone-hunting vote after legal fight

Remember Deer Trail, that Colorado town that is looking at a proposal to issue hunting permits for drones? A District Judge rejected a legal challenge and so now the town’s 370 voters will decide the matter April 1, 2014. The FAA maintains it’s position that shooting down aircraft is a criminal act.

An annual license would cost $25, and hunters would receive a $100 bounty for “identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.”


UAV018 UAV Engines, Servos, Parachutes, and Bob

UAV Propulsion TechThis Episode:

Guest Bob Schmidt is President, UAV Propulsion Tech, a U.S. technical sales rep firm that markets German and Australian technology into the U.S. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle market. We talk about A Mexico Mayor buying drones, the secret RQ-180, a sub-launched stealth, and drones that heal themselves.

UAV Propulsion Tech solutions include consumer off the shelf (COTs) and custom propulsion and servo solutions, as well as rescue/recovery parachute solutions that protect high value air vehicle and payload assets. Companies represented are: Orbital Australia and Hirth Motors for propulsion systems, Volz Servos for actuators and Skygraphics for rescue/recovery parachute solutions.

The News:

Tijuana Mayor to buy Drones

Tijuana plans to buy 3D Robotics RTF quadcopter drones to monitor traffic, evaluate accident scenes, detect landslides, and control wildfires.

Secret New UAS Shows Stealth, Efficiency Advances

An AviationWeek exclusive describes the secret RQ-180 designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Developed by Northrop Grumman and now flying, this stealth UAS could be operational in 2015.

U.S. Navy Fires “XFC” Drone from Underwater Submarine

The XFC UAS is an all-electric, fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system

Drones learn how to keep flying when damaged

Aircraft maintain flight stability based on a fixed vehicle configuration. When something breaks on a drone, like a rotor blade, it crashes. Unless the control software is intelligent enough to detect the changed configuration and adaptively react.

In this video, the vibrating propellor on a quadcopter breaks off. Without the adaptive software, it drops like a stone. With adaptive software, it starts to tumble, reacts and becomes partially stable, and lands itself quickly and safely.

Max’s Quadcopter:

No flights this past week as Max was taken out by a bad cold.


UAV017 UAS for Good, Bad, and the Improbable

RP Flight Systems Spectra

This Episode:

Using a drone to smuggle contraband into a prison, learn to fly unmanned vehicles at a University, UAV privacy laws carve out drones as a special case, drones are blocked even for humanitarian purposes, the vision for UAS, and how to hack a drone.

The News:

Drones used to try to smuggle contraband into jail

Prison guards, probably among the most perceptive people, noticed a hexacopter over Calhoun State Prison in Georgia. Four people were arrested after the drone was found in a car with some tobacco and mobile phones – desirable items for the incarcerated.

So you want to FLY Drones

After becoming interested in this field, the author joined a Drone Pilot Training Certificate program at the Unmanned Vehicle University (UVU), which was founded in 2012. The three-phase Certificate has students complete an online “ground school” from home, then computer flight training simulation, and finally actual flight school.

Flightless Drones

We think about privacy concerns associated with Unmanned Aerial Systems, but what makes drones so different? Shouldn’t we be looking at privacy from a general surveillance perspective, regardless of the technology? What about other robotic or autonomous devices that can snoop on you?

Civilian Drones Movie

This documentary presents compelling examples of actual search and rescue operations (SAR) where drones played a critical role. These are real people with lost loved ones. The non-profit search team of volunteers has been declared by the FAA to be in an official capacity, not essential, and therefore forbidden.

The Texas Equusearch SAR team featured in the documentary uses a variety of resources (divers, searchers on horseback, etc.) and has conducted 1300 searches across the U.S. They found the RP Flight Systems Spectra to be invaluable in locating missing persons.

Two producers of the documentary were interviewed on Episode 280 of the All Things That Fly podcast, about 14 minutes in. Their mission is “Spreading the word about the humanitarian use of civilian drones” and you can find them on Twitter as @CivilianDrones.

Amazon’s Hopes For Drone Deliveries

Amazon Spoof

Amazon Spoof has produced a concept video showing an octocopter load a package and deliver it to the front walk of the purchasing family’s home. While limited to 5-pound packages, Amazon says that covers 86% of the packages shipped. They say such a service could be deployed within five years.



Flying hacker contraption hunts other drones, turns them into zombies

Well known hacker Samy Kamkar has released the specifications needed to turn a Parrot AR Drone into “SkyJack,” which can hijack nearby Parrot drones.

Max’s Quadcopter:

Max now has a Blade Nano QX quad-copter that he’s learning to fly, although not very successfully so far. The “buy small and don’t spend a lot of money” strategy for the first multi-copter is proving to be a good one since Max crashes the thing a lot.