Jun 06. Empire Test Pilot School completes first Unmanned Aerial Systems course. Responding to the rapid growth in demand for training in the area of unmanned aerial systems, QinetiQ’s Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS), based at the MOD Boscombe Down site, has completed its first ‘Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems Trials and Evaluation’ short course. The course, just one of an expanding number of short test and evaluation training courses now being offered by ETPS, was attended and successfully completed by 14 delegates from the UK Armed Forces and civilian personnel from QinetiQ. Delegates gained a detailed insight into the philosophies and methods which should be applied when evaluating these innovative unmanned aerial systems. Part of the course involved them applying the techniques learned in classroom sessions during a simulated flight trial with an Observer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). They also witnessed a live demonstration of a British Army UAV being flown in an operational scenario.
26 Jun 06. U.S. Army May Scale Back UAV Plans. Air Traffic Control, Supply Challenges Are Critical Issues. The U.S. Army may cancel two of four unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) planned for its Future Combat Systems (FCS) in response to fears that the skies above tomorrow’s battlefield are getting too crowded with helicopters, drones and airborne munitions. Their fate rests with the Army officials who are studying the service’s UAV needs, said Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright, who manages the service’s $165bn, top-priority FCS program. This review also aims to determine whether giving four types of unmanned aircraft to each brigade will strain the troops’ ability to maintain them or needlessly weigh down the brigade with spare parts. FCS is intended to help create agile fighting forces with greatly reduced logistics needs. The UAVs are key to the FCS concept, which will also equip each brigade with a squadron of armed reconnaissance helicopters. The program aims to increase battlefield sensors sixfold. But the concept was originally designed for battles in wide-open spaces, not the cities and mountain roads where U.S. troops have fought their largest battles in recent years. Air and ground officers say the air above today’s battlefields is already too crowded, and adding more unmanned craft will increase the chances of deadly collisions. The number of UAVs in use by the U.S. military has skyrocketed since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Hard experience has shown that the skies above a battlefield, particularly in Baghdad and other cities, can rapidly become congested with UAVs and the many attack and transport helicopters flying at similar altitudes. Moreover, ground forces that want to fire artillery or rockets must clear a segment of airspace so they don’t shoot down friendly aircraft. There has been at least one UAV-helicopter collision; in 2004, a hand-launched Raven drone collided with a Little Bird helicopter over Baghdad. No serious damage resulted, but the specter of might-have-been led the Army to tighten its airspace restrictions. This has reduced UAV use. Last year, soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad said they had all but abandoned the Raven because any unit wanting to fly it had to apply for clearance more than 24 hours in advance. So the question is how to improve air traffic control in congested airspace. For starters, the Army is working to improve the clearance process, Army aviation procurement chief Paul Bogosian said in April. Bogosian also said the Army is trying to develop a common ground station for controlling UAVs, which will help manage the radio signals that guide the aircraft. One Army officer in Iraq said competing radio signals mean that only three Shadow UAVs can fly over Baghdad at a time. And conflicting signals have boosted an accident-and-loss rate among Army UAVs that is “way too high,” Bogosian said. Another way to ease the problem is to reduce the number of planned UAVs. Current