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13 Feb 14. Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy successfully flew the second MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter for the first time. Conducted at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif., the flight will allow the team to ramp up testing efforts to prepare the system for operations. Current tests are focused on validating the flight capabilities of the MQ-8C before ship-based flights take place this summer. “The addition of the second MQ-8C means we can begin testing on more components and equipment needed to operate the system as an intelligence-gathering platform,” said George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium range tactical systems at Northrop Grumman. “This includes installing and conducting tests on the full sensor suite.” Fire Scout uses on-board sensors to capture full-motion video, identify targets and then distribute the information in real time to various users. This allows ship-based commanders to maintain awareness of a specified area or keep an eye on a target of interest for long periods of time. “Flight testing has been very successful since the system’s first flight Oct. 31,” said Vardoulakis. “We’ve completed 41 flights totaling 66 hours. This accomplishment points back to the maturity of the MQ-8C’s autonomous control systems that allow the aircraft to operate as an unmanned system.”

10 Feb 14. X-47B Will Pair With Manned Aircraft in Testing Later This Year. The U.S. Navy plans to take the Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstrator (UCAS-D) aircraft out to sea onboard an aircraft carrier this summer to test how well it operates together with manned aircraft around the ship and on the flight deck. During the two previous X-47B at-sea periods onboard USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) in 2013, while the unmanned demonstrator had a Boeing F/A-18 chase aircraft, the two types did not operate together on the carrier flight deck. This time around the manned F/A-18 and X-47B will operate from the carrier together cooperatively. The testing would cover how the X-47B would integrate with manned aircraft both in the marshal stack in the airspace around the carrier and on the flight deck. However, the 2014 summer at-sea period will not involve a full carrier air wing, because the Navy plans to use a crawl, walk, run approach to integrating unmanned aircraft onto the flight deck. Initially, the service will test the X-47B with the F/A-18, Winter said. The plan is for fleet operators to understand exactly how an unmanned aircraft would work around the carrier flight deck and develops standard operating procedures, Winter said. The idea is to reduce the risk for the operational follow-on to the X-47B called the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft, which is slated to arrive on the flight deck around 2020. “And when we do start doing flight tests with the UCLASS, it is not the first time that they have done that and we’re already ahead of the game,” Winter said. Meanwhile, the X-47B will continue to fly at Patuxent River to refine the aircraft’s precision navigation technology, landing algorithms, ground handling and the bandwidth of its data-links, Winter said. The Navy will keep the X-47B flying over the next two to three years to mature and verify technologies for the UCLASS program. Among the most important of those technologies are the line-of-sight and beyond line-of-sight data-links for the UCLASS program. (Source: UAS VISION/USNI News)

11 Feb 14. Israeli-based wireless military communications provider Commtact introduced a miniaturised data terminal for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at the Singapore Airshow 2014. The company distributes datalink systems that connect UAVs with commanders on the ground. Its latest offering, known as the Advanced Mini Link System (AMLS), has an airborne module that weighs in at 300 g and is touted to significantly reduce take-off weight for unmanned aircraft, allowing o

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