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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

27 Apr 12. Indra’s new UAV, the Pelicano helicopter, performed a test flight at the Marugán aerodrome in the province of Segovia. This test marks the market launch of Indra’s new unmanned helicopter system, which is now ready to enter into service. The flights took place as part of UNVEX’12, the Spanish conference for unmanned systems that is holding its second edition in Madrid this week. Indra has presented its family of unmanned solutions at this industry event, including the Mini-UAV Mantis, the latest version of the Pelicano rotary wing UAV, as well as the communications, IFF transponder and remote video terminal equipment for the Atlante programme, which the company is developing together with the Cassidian company. (Source: ASD Network)

26 Apr 12. The US House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has proposed the provision of $260m to the US Air Force (USAF) to continue operation of its 18 Northrop Grumman-built Block 30 high-altitude RQ-4 Global Hawk drones. According to the HASC, the committee is recommending an increase in end strengths to reflect the corresponding manpower requirements to maintain 18 air force Block 30 RQ-4 Global Hawks as part of its fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Bill. A HASC source was quoted by AOL Defense as saying that the procurement, as well as operations and maintenance funding to operate the Global Hawks will be included in other subcommittee marks scheduled to be released in the near future. “The Air Force’s proposal to just retire [the UAVs] immediately hasn’t gone over so well here on the House side with members,” the source added. Defense Appropriations subcommittee democrat Norm Dicks said the air force’s decision to mothball the Block 30s is “unacceptable,” which means that once the HASC bill is passed, the money to implement the project will come from the appropriators. Under USAF’s fiscal year 2013 budget request and five-year plan, the Block 30 programme was scrapped and funds to operate all the 18 drones already acquired from the prime contractor Northrop were stopped, arguing that they were less effective and more expensive to fly. The air force had initially planned to purchase 42 Block 30 aircraft, with the cost of each aircraft estimated to be around $215m, to help replace its fleet of Lockheed Martin-built Cold War-era U-2 spy planes from 2015. (Source: airforcetechnology.com)

24 Apr 12. The U.S. Navy has selected Northrop Grumman to produce the next-generation Fire Scout unmanned helicopter using the Bell 407 airframe. The new variant provides greater range, endurance and payload capacity to ship commander’s intelligence-gathering efforts. According to a U.S. Department of Defense news release on contract awards released April 23, the company will produce a total of eight Fire Scouts within an amount not to exceed $262m. The Navy plans to purchase a total of 28 aircraft under a rapid development effort. The Fire Scout endurance upgrade has been designated as the MQ-8C. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the MQ-8C program. Major suppliers for new variant include Bell Helicopter and Rolls Royce.

23 Apr 12. UAV ‘smart wing’ receives 3-D printed circuitry. Stratasys and Optomec Inc have developed a thermoplastic ‘smart wing’ for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with functional electronics printed directly onto the wing structure using a three-dimensional (3-D) printer and additive manufacturing technology. Stratasys’ Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process was used to construct the base wing structure using Fortus 400 and 900 MC 3-D printing systems out of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation’s (SABIC’s) Ultem 9085 – a polyetherimide-based, high-tensile, FST-compliant thermoplastic resin able to withstand continuous high temperatures, Stratasys’ vice-president of New Business Development Direct Digital Manufacturing, Jeff DeGrange, told IHS Jane’s. (Source: Jane’s, IDR)

23 Apr 12. Textron prepares CUSV for mine warfare trial. Textron Advanced System

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