22 Oct 15. Russia Will Test Unmanned Tiltrotor Aircraft By 2016. State testing of the Granat-5 unmanned tiltrotor aircraft designed for the Russian Navy will begin before the end of the year, a spokesman of the developing company, Izhmash Unmanned Systems announced. “One of our projects that will undergo state tests by the end of the year is the unmanned aircraft model with vertical takeoff and landing Granat-5,” Evgeny Zaitsev said. According to Zaitsev, the tiltrotor aircraft weighs 7 kilograms (15 lbs) and has the advantages of airplane speed and helicopter vertical take-off. The Granat-5 was designed for the Navy special forces to examine small bridgeheads prior to landing, Zaitsev added. The Izhmash Unmanned Systems Granat-1 to Granat-4, and Tachyon unmanned aircraft models are currently in use by the Russian Military. (Source: UAS VISION/Sputnik News)
21 Oct 15. US Army Tests Drone Swarms. In this season’s Network Integration Evaluation at White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss, coordinated units of remotely operated and automated aircraft will be used to represent a possible threat on tomorrow’s battlefields.
Members of the Army offices are using off-the-shelf quad and octocopters and flying them in groups, part of a program to study possible use, effectiveness and countermeasures for the deployment of large numbers of synchronized drone aircraft. While different countries building, deploying, and selling large airplane-sized drones for military purposes, small-scale drones are still gaining a foothold. The small-scale drone is expected to become more viable as a possible weapon, and it is that preparation for the future that is driving the swarming project.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms. Most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” said James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office PEO STRI, one of the groups involved in the project. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”
Normally used by hobbyists and photographers, the quadcopter-style drones don’t represent a huge threat in their current state. The tiny aircraft have a flight time of only a few minutes, and have a limited payload capacity. This makes them ill suited for the surveillance missions drone aircraft are most commonly associated with, which require an aircraft that can stay aloft for long periods of time, and carry heavy zoom and thermal camera systems.
The concern comes from the affordability of the off-the-shelf systems. Small military drones, custom designed for the military mission, and outfitted with the latest hardware can be expensive. The Tarantula Hawk Micro Air Vehicle, a military drone about the size of a large bucket, comes with a price tag in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with hundreds of thousands more needed to train an operator. An off-the-shelf quadcopter, like the 3D Robotics Iris series used in the test, can be bought for around $1,000, and requires almost no training to operate.
For NIE, the off-the-shelf drones will be configured to carry special payloads for specific missions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested. By conducting the flights at WSMR, the engineers can evaluate things such as actual flight time and performance, as well as payload capabilities. Using data collected from the WSMR flights, the engineers hope they can increase the flight time of the drones, and make other improvements.
“The payloads make the difference. When you add video, the camera, the heavier battery… the smaller bird here the flight time goes from about 15 minutes, to about 7 minutes of flight time,” Story said. “That’s part of what we’re doing here. It’s seeing if we can increase the flight time.”
From a military perspective, this low price tag of the off-the-shelf drones can translate to a le