Qioptiq logo Raytheon

IS THE UAV PARTY ABOUT TO HIT PROBLEMS?

15 Dec 05. Is an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune on December 15 heralding problems to come in the burgeoning UAV market and is the UK’s decision to go UAV-only and drop manned fighter production synonomous with Selwyn Lloyd’s disastrous decision in the 1950’stop go missile-only, a policy that fundamentally handed France and Dassault in particular the world fighter market with Lockheed Martin?

The article said that unmanned military aircraft have knocked out enemy targets and collected intelligence in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they are plagued with problems that delay information from getting to commanders for hours or days, according to congressional investigators. In addition, unmanned aircraft flights are sometimes delayed or cancelled because the transmission frequencies they use are too congested, and many are unable to switch to less-crowded frequencies, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.

It was announced at this year’s Paris Air Show that a new cross-sector group has been established to prioritise and promote autonomous and UAV systems in the UK. The Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) and the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association (UAVS) signed a memorandum of understanding that will see resources focused on accelerating the implementation of autonomous and UAV systems and making UK industry globally competitive. This follows the US initiative in 2004 forming the NASA-Industry Alliance Initiates UAV National Airspace Access Project.

In BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.7 ISSUE 24, 17th June 2005, UAVS AT THE CROSS ROADS, we said that the growth in UAVs has caused considerable concerns with regard to safety issues and the FAA and CAA is looking at at ways of allowing UAVs to fly in civil airspace equipped with collision avoidance systems and advanced lighting and IFF systems. But adding these systems causes a huge weight restriction to the addition of sensor systems on top if this which would put the 100lb payload and below system in a difficult position in being able to provide airworthiness for civil airspace and the ability to move in civil airspace. On problem in the Balkan conflict was caused by UAVs flying close to F-16 aircraft with no compliant IR lighting. As soon as the pilot came near the UAV, his night vision goggles bloomed causing some loss of aircraft

In BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.7 ISSUE 46, 24th November 2005, U.S. Lack of radio frequencies to control the aircraft,’ we said that the aviation industry’s dream of flying pilotless cargo planes may be grounded by a lack of radio frequencies to control the aircraft. The UAV industry is lobbying regulators to let military UAVs use civilian airspace and airports, to pave the way for cargo airlines to operate cheap, crewless flights. But John Mettrop, spectrum policy chief at the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, told a Royal Aeronautical Society conference that UAV makers have overlooked the high demand of UAVs for radio links for things like remote control and air traffic control. The UAV industry must wait for the World Radio Communication Conferences in 2007 and 2010 to claim the necessary frequencies. But it will face tough competition from emerging communications services such as WiMAX wireless broadband. (Source: issue 2527 of New Scientist magazine, 26 November 2005, page 25)

It looks very much as if restrictions on flights of UAvs will be limited until at least 2010 with the next stage being rationalisation and controls. In addition the requirements for FAA and CAA approvals for such systems as IFF may well put the payload requirements of some systems out of the window. The RAF in particular has long lobbied for regulations, particularly when operating UAVs by untrained Army pilots in airfields where there are fast jets operating. Another area of crucial importance is exterior lighting on UAVs being compliant with IR googles. Use of non-IR compatible lighting in Bosnia in particular is beloived to

Back to article list