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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

10 Oct 13. The Chilean Navy is evaluating a possible procurement of Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 tactical unmanned aircraft system for maritime patrol tasks. In 2011 Elbit won a contract to supply Hermes 900 systems to the Chilean armed forces, with the nation’s Air Force currently operating three UAS on strategic reconnaissance missions. One of these is equipped with a maritime search radar. Santiago selected the type after a competition also involving the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron. A larger system based on Elbit’s combat-proven Hermes 450, the Hermes 900 has a maximum take-off weight of 1,100kg (2,420lb), including a payload capacity of up to 300kg. With a 15m (49.2ft) wingspan, the type can be flown to an altitude of more than 30,000ft (9,140m). (Source: UAS VISION/Flight Global)

10 Oct 13. Quadcopters fly in a legal grey area. While privacy and safety concerns are holding back the commercial drone market, falling prices and rising technical sophistication are creating a growing market for consumer “quadcopters” – remote-controlled gadgets with four rotors that fly below the radar of current regulation. The Phantom, a quadcopter made by China-based DJI, costs less than $1,000 and uses a sophisticated combination of gyroscopes, GPS and flight-control algorithms to provide a fast, stable and versatile unit. Launched in January, it is already proving popular with amateur photographers: one video of a Phantom, equipped with a GoPro sports camera, flying over Niagara Falls has had more than 1m views on YouTube. DJI was selling drones costing tens of thousands of dollars for industrial inspection, aerial photography and other commercial uses before it created the Phantom, using some of the same technology, as a way for professionals to learn how to use their more expensive models.
“A lot more people than that have taken to it,” says Colin Guinn, head of DJI’s North American unit, based in Austin, Texas, and its chief innovation officer, adding he sells thousands of Phantoms every month.
“Our goal was to get out of the market of hobby guys who build things in their garages and get into camera stores,” says Mr Guinn. “There are far more people taking pictures than flying remote-controlled helicopters.”
The availability of this technology is creating interest and skills that will fuel the nascent commercial drone market – but some fear irresponsible flying by novices might raise the risk of stricter regulation across the industry. Chris Sanz, chief executive of Skycatch, a start-up working on drone technology for markets such as construction and agriculture, founded the company after creating the “drone games.” Held at events such as the Maker Faire, the drone games set challenges for quadcopters to complete tasks and pull stunts. For example, a group of drones danced the Harlem Shake, an internet craze earlier this year, at the SXSW event in Austin this spring. (Source: FT.com)

10 Oct 13. Start-ups see a new technology revolution in drones. When the Pentagon was the only customer for drones, the market was dominated by
many of the same large defence contractors that sell other multimillion dollar items to the Department of Defence, including Northrop Grumman and Boeing. But with the prospect that drones will be used more widely in domestic airspace, a new wave of start-up companies, with venture capital backers and a Silicon Valley mindset, are springing up to take on the big contractors for this new market.
“We are very influenced by the history of the Bay Area,” says Chris Anderson, chief executive of 3D Robotics, another San Diego-based company that sells small, easy-to-assemble models that can cost as little as $500. “The PC beat out the mainframe and the cell phone beat out satellite phones. The bottom-up model fits for fast-moving technologies. It is easy to see the same thing happening with drones,” says Mr Anderson, who used to be the editor of ‘Wired’ magazine. “Who would you back: the military-industria

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