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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

05 Apr 13. Bluefin conducts deep-water testing of UUV for DARPA. Bluefin Robotics has completed deep-water testing of a specialised unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), known as Submarine Hold at Risk (SHARK), for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The tests were carried out as part of the Phase 2 development effort under DARPA’s Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting (DASH) programme, which aims to develop new technology by using scalable and affordable distributed technology systems to meet anti-submarine warfare (ASW) surveillance needs. Developed by a team led by Applied Physical Systems (APS), the system was put through six days of operational testing, including two 4,450m dives for around 11 hours, at the company’s dock in Quincy, Massachusetts, US. During the testing, various new vehicle capabilities for its modular UUVs were also examined by the Bluefin team, which included an extended operational depth rating, an advanced pressure vessel design, a new power system, a newly available high-powered acoustics transducer system, and a transportable docking head launch and recovery system. (Source: naval-technology.com)

03 Apr 13. Virginia Tech Researchers develop robotic jellyfish for US Navy. Researchers from Virginia Tech College of Engineering have developed a new autonomous robotic jellyfish prototype, known as Cyro, for performing underwater surveillance for the US Navy. Weighing 170lb, with size of 5ft by 7in, the larger robotic model has been designed as part of a nationwide multi-university $5m project led by Shashank Priya professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech. The project aims to develop self-powering, autonomous machines that support various missions such as surveillance and monitoring the undersea environment, as well as studying ocean life, mapping ocean floors and monitoring ocean currents. Modelled based on a real giant jellyfish Cyanea capillata, the Cyro robotic prototype follows an earlier smaller, hand-sized version of the robot, known as RoboJelly, which is currently under construction by the same research team. Powered by a rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery rather than tethered used for smaller models, Cyro has undergone powering trials using hydrogen and is scheduled to undergo further trials. The tests are aimed at evaluating whether the robot can operate on its own for several months in oceans, while also eliminating the need to recharge. During testing, Cyro demonstrated its ability to swim autonomously and simultaneously collected, stored, analysed and communicated sensory data. Currently, the team is developing ways to reduce power consumption, improve swimming performance and better simulate the morphology of the natural jellyfish, to enable researchers to understand how their propulsion mechanism works. In addition, researchers are studying on a bio-inspired control system to eventually replace the current simplified controller of the robotic jellyfish. Funded by the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the project involves Providence College, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Texas, and the Stanford University. (Source: naval-technology.com)

02 Apr 13. Whither The Hunter-Killers? USAF Ponders Post-Afghan Glut of Reapers, Predators. A handful of unarmed MQ-1 Predators are flying from a new base in Niamey, Niger. They’re part of the effort to help France tamp down civil war in Mali, but the deployment also says a lot about the future of the U.S. Air Force’s huge and still growing fleet of medium-sized unmanned aircraft. On the one hand, the work in Mali shows that the signature weapon of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is outlasting that conflict. On the other, the detachment is a tiny fraction of the Predator/Reaper fleet — and just where are the rest of them going to go? It’s a question that has been buzzing around the Pentagon and across the Air Force. (Source: glstrade

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