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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE 15 Mar 05

15 Mar 05. General Atomics to unveil new Predator this year. General Atomics is preparing to roll out a new Predator variant, potentially raising the competitive pressure in the business. The next generation of the series — the Predator C, which can fly higher and faster than the current Predator B UAV — will be ready later this year, said Thomas Cassidy, chief executive of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, based here. The new airplane could potentially carry the same kinds of payloads and fly at similar altitudes as Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk UAV, Cassidy said, but added that the new plane is not intended to compete with Global Hawk. The company makes the GNAT, Predator and Predator B series of unmanned air vehicles. While GNAT is used for surveillance missions, the Predator series is used for surveillance as well as attacking targets using Hellfire missiles. General Atomics, which is privately owned by brothers Neal and Linden Blue, does not reveal sales or profit information. Cassidy said the company had built 120 Predators to date and after counting current orders the total could go up to 200. General Atomics has a contract to make 20 Predator B series planes for the Pentagon and expects an order for 22 more this year, he said. “I don’t know how many Predator Bs we’ll build — probably 150.” (Source: Defense News, GOPAL RATNAM, SAN DIEGO)

16 Mar 05. EADS is planning to form a 50:50 joint venture with Northrop Grumman for the manufacture and marketing of the Eurohawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, according to a press source citing a company spokesman. They are planning to supply the machine to the German armed forces. The Eurohawk is the European version of the US company’s Global Hawk aircraft. It is designed to fly at an altitude of 20km and can fly continuously, unmanned, for up to 38 hours. German government circles estimate that the development costs for the aircraft will amount to around 350m euros, and that the purchase of five Eurohawk systems will cost a further 300m euros. A duration of around four years is expected for the development phase. (Source: Original article by Gerhard Hegmann, Abstracted from Financial Times Deutschland)

14 Mar 05. Boeing and The Insitu Group recently demonstrated new autonomy software aboard ScanEagle, a long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The software, imbedded in ScanEagle’s auxiliary processor board, allowed the UAV to autonomously map its route while in flight and complete a series of maneuvers.
The new technology would enable a UAV in the field to map its own path without operator input and fly to an area to locate fixed and moving ground targets, monitor weapon strikes or provide imagery for damage assessment. At present, an operator on the ground must plot the UAV’s course via waypoints to ensure the vehicle reaches and remains in the proper position to accomplish its assigned task. ScanEagle’s two-hour flight at the Boeing Boardman test range was a precursor to an April joint Army/Air Force PCES capstone flight demonstration at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. During flights at White Sands, ScanEagle will utilize its autonomous software to track targets, provide aim points for Army and Air Force weapon deployment and provide imagery to support post-strike damage assessment. Since ScanEagle was deployed in theater with the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) last summer, the UAV has provided critical information to tactical commanders. The Marines have relied heavily on the system due to its long-endurance capability, unique ISR value, clear detailed imagery and ability to operate in a harsh weather environment. Boeing received a contract from the U.S. Marine Corps in July 2004 to provide two ScanEagle “mobile deployment units” for use with the I MEF.

15 Mar 05. Northrop Grumman Corporation announced that it would team with leading Australian companies to develop an Australian ground system to integrate with the company’s Global Hawk

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