19 Aug 13. States Are Competing to Be the Silicon Valley of Drones. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is poised to select six locations as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) test sites. And states are pulling out the stops to convince the agency to let them host one of them. Wyoming, North Carolina, Utah, Ohio, Minnesota, Oklahoma and North Dakota all had booths at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s (AUVSI) drone conference in Washington last week — and some of them were quite lavish. Ohio was giving away cookies shaped like the state. North Dakota and Oklahoma both had huge booths that included semi-enclosed meeting areas. Utah had a large inflatable snow yeti holding a model of a drone designed in-state. All this to convince the crowd, and ultimately the FAA, that their corner of America is on the verge of becoming the Silicon Valley of drones. (Source: glstrade.com/Washington Post)
22 Aug 13. With Transformer (TX), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is giving ‘off-road’ an entirely new meaning. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works® is leading a team with Piasecki Aircraft to develop the next generation of compact, high-speed vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned payload delivery systems under the Transformer programme. Transformer’s unique design could adapt to multiple missions with interchangeable payloads, including cargo pods, medical evacuation units, a tactical ground vehicle, armed scouts, and reconnaissance and strike capabilities. This flexibility combined with emerging autonomous unmanned air vehicle control systems could provide terrain-independent transportation and cargo supply capability to dispersed ground combat units. When compared to a standard helicopter, Transformer’s tilting ducted fans allow for a safer operating environment in smaller landing zones with faster transit speeds of up to 200 knots. Transformer TX is currently in “Phase 3,” of the development process. This means that Lockheed Martin is now finalizing the design before manufacturing a working prototype. DARPA will then evaluate the prototype to see if it meets requirements, if it does, Lockheed Martin may receive a contract to produce Transformer TX for flight in 2015. Lockheed will start testing a one-third sized model in wind tunnels soon. (Source: UAS VISION)
20 Aug 13. Unmanned systems are commonplace in the world of aviation. But it wasn’t long ago that they were more of an oddity for world militaries. That changed when technological developments finally let systems operate for long stretches of time, giving operators a near-permanent eye in the sky. Once that barrier was breached, UAVs could be used for all kinds of applications. Is a similar breakthrough coming for unmanned systems that operate underwater? Boeing believes so — and that it will happen within the next two years. The company has a background in unmanned submersibles. Its 18.5-foot-long Echo Ranger premiered in 2001. But it has a limited range. Kosko is confident his team is close to being able to change that.
“Within two years,” he said when asked for a timetable. “There’s going to be game-changing stuff. Those game-changers include the ability to have long, persistent trips for autonomous systems, potentially with multiple payloads. Right now a 10, 20, 30, 40-hour vehicle is more of a toy. It definitely does something productive, but if you have to have a man in the loop, you might as well have done it off of a boat,” he added. “I think the game changer is what we’re interested in and what we assume will be persistent systems, bigger vehicles with a lot of payload capability and a vehicle that always comes back home.”
Kosko tacitly acknowledged that the company is working on some form of prototype while developing this system, and also noted that developing that future unmanned underwater system is not without risk for Boeing. While Kosko said US Navy officials have expressed interest, budget realities could very