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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

18 Apr 14. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is a step closer to perfecting the repurposing of aging surveillance UAS into high-bandwidth mobile hotspots designed to ensure warfighters have aerial Wi-Fi access in the most remote places on Earth. The agency is outfitting retired SRQ-7 Shadow UAS that once gleaned information for the Army above the Middle East with lightweight pods that contain the technology necessary to provide soldiers with a gigabit-per-second connection to forward-operating bases, operations centers and fix communications centers through what DARPA calls a millimeter-wave backbone network. All told, the pod is eight inches wide and about 20 pounds – its small stature is important given that RQ-7 Shadows weigh less than 200 pounds – yet in announcing the completion the first phase of the three-phase Mobile Hotspots programme, DARPA said it has achieved millimeter-wave amplification capabilities sufficient to provide high-capacity connectivity at distances greater than 50 kilometers. In its announcement, DARPA signaled it had developed “mobile ad-hoc networking approaches” to maintain the high-capacity backhaul network on mobile air and ground platforms, utilizing “unique solutions” to overcome challenges warfighters would face in connectivity, topology or terrain. DARPA began work on the programme’s second phase in March, and aims to integrate its phase-one technologies into “Shadow-compatible aerial pods and ground vehicles,” culminating with a demonstration of “at least four Shadow-compatible pods, two ground vehicles and a fixed ground node.” A third phase would see DARPA field test Mobile Hotspot systems on networks of multiple drones and mobile ground vehicles. (Source: UAS VISION/ Defense One)

16 Apr 14. UAV market could decline in a few years. UAV production will increase for the next three years before declining for the next seven as demand falls, according to a report by market research firm Forecast International. With the end of the Iraq and Afghan wars, the report predicts “production of about 1,000 UAVs of all types in 2014, with output rising to nearly 1,100 units in each of the following two years. Thereafter, production is forecast to average about 960 UAVs annually for the remaining seven years of the 2014-2023 forecast period.” Some 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5bn, expected to be produced between 2014 and 2023. However, there is good news for UAV manufacturers. “While UAV production is expected to remain relatively stable over the next 10 years, the value of production will steadily climb, from about $942m in 2014 to $2.3bn in 2023,” said Forecast International. “China manufacturer AVIC is expected to account for the lion’s share ($5.76bn) of the 10-year market value, based on production of hundreds of pricey UAVs, nearly all earmarked for Chinese consumption. Northrop Grumman, builder of the U.S. Air Force’s expensive RQ-4B Global Hawk and the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton, is next in line with forecast production worth $2.58bn.” Conflict in Ukraine will also spur demand in Eastern Europe. “Poland wants UAVs capable of carrying out reconnaissance and surveillance missions, as well as strikes on ground targets,” said Larry Dickerson, Forecast International’s senior unmanned vehicles analyst. “Warsaw will make a decision on purchasing new unmanned aircraft before the end of 2014, but an announcement could come much sooner.” South Korea is also buying Global Hawk Block 30 UAVs. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

14 Apr 14. The Air Force expects to greatly increase its use of unmanned systems in the next 25 years, with remotely-piloted aircraft taking over some missions traditionally performed by manned aircraft, according to a recently released report titled RPA Vector. The report discusses the future of remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA) and the potential of small unmanned aircraft systems, covering concepts and capabilities that will be required within the

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