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23 Dec 10. Tracking pirates in the Gulf of Aden, detecting bush fires in
Australia, and improving battlefield communications and surveillance in
Afghanistan are all potential uses for the solar powered unmanned aircraft, Zephyr, which has now officially been awarded three World Records – including one for the longest flight ever by an aeroplane – two weeks – and one for altitude higher than any current surveillance aeroplane in its class. These records were achieved on the first flight of the all-new Zephyr aircraft. Experts at QinetiQ say that because of Zephyr’s unique ability to fly higher and longer than any other current aircraft, it offers enormous benefits to a number of potential customers in the military, academic, commercial and scientific arenas. Soaring 13 miles above the ground, Zephyr can watch over a diameter of 600 miles, and has demonstrated this by sending continuous, high resolution live images back to Earth. This has a massive advantage over the intermittent, distant and expensive “snapshot per orbit” from satellites flying 100 miles above the earth. Zephyr has also demonstrated its ability to relay essential military and civil communications in remote areas between simple hand-held radios. Its persistent flight capability, soon to be months, also means that where other aircraft must eventually land, Zephyr can stay in the air for longer, providing an unrestricted view from high altitude. Aside from having flight capabilities far beyond other aircraft and satellites, Zephyr also offers significant cost savings. It is just one tenth of the cost of other unmanned aerial vehicles and one hundredth of the cost of a satellite. At a time when governments, companies and universities around the world are trying to find cost cutting solutions, Zephyr provides a very attractive proposition.

04 Jan 11. The Pentagon needs to do a better job enforcing its Broad Area Maritime Surveillance contract, a recent Defense Department Inspector General (IG) report says.
“DOD officials did not have the proper controls to validate the
contractor charges and performance for the BAMS contract,” the IG said in its report, released late last month. The Navy BAMS contract with Northrop Grumman, valued at $1.8bn, is in the third year of a seven-year contract, the IG notes, and is part of a major acquisition program worth more than $19bn. BAMS is an offshoot of Northrop’s Global Hawk UAV and represents a major foray by the Navy into strategic unmanned aerial systems. But the Navy and Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) officials need to improve their management and administration of the BAMS contract, the IG says. Specifically, “BAMS contracting officials did not review 39 contractor bills or validate whether the BAMS contractor was entitled to $329.3m in payments, create or maintain a complete government-furnished property listing, or properly plan to share more than 5,000 specialized tools and testing equipment, worth more than $150m, with the Air Force Global Hawk program,” the IG says. These conditions occurred because BAMS contracting officials did not properly perform all of their assigned duties, comply with federal and defense policies, or complete necessary training requirements, according to the report. As a result, the IG warns, “The BAMS program is at risk for increased costs, schedule delays, and not meeting the needs of the warfighter.” (Source: Aviation Week)

03 Jan 11. RE2, Inc., a leading developer of intelligent modular manipulation systems, is providing its Small Robot Toolkit (SRT) to Northrop Grumman Corporation subsidiary Remotec Inc., which will use the tool-change technology to upgrade the manipulation capabilities of the
Andros HD-1 unmanned ground vehicle. The U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command recently awarded Remotec a contract to upgrade its fleet of Andros HD-1 Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) to help counter evolving threats from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). RE2 developed the end

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