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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

16 Aug 13. Northrop Grumman is pitching a new method of UAS pilot training to the Air Force and U.S. Customs and Border Protection based on a business model likely to gain in popularity as the UAS revolution expands into civilian airspace: ‘fee for service.’ Rather than training pilots on valuable MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers or in costly computerized simulators, Northrop is urging the Air Force and CBP to give remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) pilots basic flying time on a small UAS system the company has developed called SandShark. They would pay by the hour for using the little planes, Karl Purdy, director of new UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) programmes for Northrop, told reporters here. A ‘conservative’ estimate is that switching to a fee for service training scheme could save the government $70m a year in aircraft costs, simulator costs and damage or losses from pilot errors, Purdy said at the annual Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International trade show in Washington. Pilots wouldn’t even have to go to the private airfields in Arizona, Florida, Montana, New Jersey or Oklahoma where the company has or is expected to soon obtain permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly the SandShark, he said. Operators can control them over any 4G cellphone network or the Internet. (Source: UAS VISION)

14 Aug 13. The U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (Uclass) effort may get lots of headlines for the innovative technology that it represents, but the armed service is trying to use the program to prod the acquisition world toward thinking of unmanned systems in terms of mission capability rather than units purchased. That was one sentiment expressed by the Navy’s program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, Rear Adm. Mat Winter, in his Aug. 13 keynote address to the AUVSI annual conference in Washington.
“What we’re going forward with in our budget documents is talking about the number of orbits [i.e., missions] that we will procure,” Winter told AUVSI attendees in response to an audience question from Capital Alpha Partners analyst Byron Callan.
The shift in language could be helpful to Navy goals as it and the rest of the U.S. military and intelligence sector enter a seemingly long-term austere budget environment. One reason is that requested spending levels would be more closely tied to stated military requirements, versus relatively esoteric unit numbers. In turn, cuts to the request by lawmakers or others could appear more difficult to make, or at least justify. Winter did not suggest all of this in explaining the “paradigm-shifting nomenclature” to AUVSI attendees. But he did argue that orbits, rather than aircraft numbers, was the way to procure unmanned combat aircraft. (Source: UAS VISION)

14 Aug 13. A debate over stealth is defining the future of the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (Uclass) program, as well as drawing battle lines among the four likely contenders, according to industry sources speaking at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference and show in Washington this week. Because stealth is at the center of the argument, secrecy limits what participants can say, at least in public. Moreover, there is a larger question involved: should Uclass be designed to survive against high-end threats, or should penetrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance against the toughest defenses be the job of the classified unmanned air system being developed by Northrop Grumman for the Air Force? In one respect, the Uclass contenders — Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc. — are converging: they appear to be looking at roughly the same size and weight. All will probably be working at the upper wingspan limit (about 65 ft.) imposed by carrier operations. (The high-wing E-2 Hawkeye is a special case.) Carrier approach han

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