28 May 15. Images emerge of new Chinese twin-fuselage HALE UAV concept. Images have appeared on a Chinese website of a new large twin-fuselage turbofan-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that could serve as a new high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) multi-mission platform. Reportedly produced by the 601 Institute of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC), the large twin-fuselage UAV concept, called ‘Project 973’ or ‘Shen Diao’ (‘Divine Eagle’), has been the subject of speculative conceptual drawings since 2012. These drawings showed a leading-edge mounted canard-wing configuration, but indicated platform was to perform as a high-altitude near space vehicle conducting surveillance, cuing, and communication missions. A graphic from a Chinese publication showing the employment concept for a large UAV similar to the Shenyang ‘Divine Eagle’ concept. (Via Top81 website) What may be the first actual images, however, show the UAV employs two bulbous-nosed fuselages while the canard wing is mounted between them but not at the leading edge. A much longer high-aspect ratio wing is mounted aft and an apparent high-bypass turbofan is mounted between two large vertical stabilisers. Some early speculative images indicated the UAV would carry a large metre-wave antennae mounted between the fuselages for counter-stealth missions. However, it is also likely that radar arrays and electro-optical systems could be mounted inside the fuselages. Chinese sources indicate the ‘Divine Eagle’ was at least influenced from SAC discussions with the Sukhoi Aircraft Corporation, perhaps early in the last decade. In the late 1990s Sukhoi stared developing a concept for a similar large canard twin-fuselage HALE UAV called the S-62. However, Sukhoi did not have the resources to develop its concept. It is also possible that SAC gained significant insights while opting not to pay for a co-development programme; a frequent Chinese tactic. Sukhoi’s S-62 concept also led to its Zond series of large and medium-size UAVs first seen at the 2003 Moscow Airshow. At the time Sukhoi officials noted that China had expressed “great interest” in the Zond designs. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
27 May 15. USAF developing swarms of mini-drones. The US Air Force is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones designed to overwhelm and confuse enemy radar systems or blanket an area with multiple sensors at the same time, service officials said. While still primarily in the laboratory stage, the concept is gaining traction with Air Force scientists who are making progress developing algorithms for swarms of small unmanned aircraft vehicles, or UAVs, said Mica Endsley, Air Force Chief Scientist.
“It is built on the biological concept of say a swarm of bees, for example, where you can see a lot of them fly as a group but they do not run into each other. They manage some type of coordinated activity between them in order to be able to navigate successfully,” Endsley told Military.com. “In the laboratory – we have developed algorithms that allow small UAVs to be able to operate that way so that they can work in conjunction without running into each other.”
Endsley added that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology. Swarms of drones would be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force officials said.
“You might want to set the task for five or six UAVs to go and cover a particular area where they work in conjunction with each other. Maybe one has one type of sensor and the other has another type of sensor — so they could cue each other,” Endsley said.
“If one picked up an object of interest, it could cue another one to go examine it with maybe a different kind of sensor that might a hi