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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).