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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

11 Sep 06. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has opted to end the X-50A Dragonfly UAV program, which was attempting to pioneer a new type of helicopter capable of stopping its rotor in flight and cruising as a fixed-wing jet until it lost both of its flight prototypes in crashes. Boeing, the prime contractor for the $51.8m effort, will spend the rest of the program funds preparing a final study. The study should be completed by late fall. Dragonfly never got as far as a “conversion” flight, which would have seen the aircraft take off as a helicopter, stop its rotor in mid-air for forward cruise, then convert back to a helicopter for landing. After its first crash in March 2004 at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, the aircraft resumed flight in late 2005 with its only spare and got as far as slow forward flight during testing through March 2006. Then, 18 minutes into an envelope expansion flight on April 12, the second Dragonfly lost control and was damaged beyond repair (DAILY, April 21). A review concluded that the aircraft was lost because of insufficient low-speed control authority, according to DARPA. Fuselage aerodynamic pitch moment for the Dragonfly was very sensitive to airspeed and wake strength. During its final flight, the impact of the rotor’s wake on the fuselage caused the Dragonfly to pitch upward, and the flight control system was unable to recover. (Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report)

11 Sep 06. USAF Predator Cleared for Domestic Relief Ops Service, FAA To Coordinate Restricted Airspace for UAV. The next time the U.S. Air Force responds to a major disaster in the United States, remote-controlled MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could relay live video feeds to rescue teams to help them find survivors. “There are four aircraft packed up and ready to go,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Bannon, chief of unmanned aerial systems for Air Combat Command (ACC) headquarters at Langley Air Force Base, Va. The plan to deploy Predators came following the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) decision in May to approve the use of Predators for disaster relief missions.
The agreement outlines how the Predators will fly in civilian airspace, Bannon said.The idea of using Predators to assist search-and-rescue teams and disaster relief crews started with Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The Air Force proposal to use the UAVs was grounded when the FAA said safety issues needed to be resolved before the aircraft could fly above Louisiana and Mississippi. Under the new agreement, the Air Force and the FAA will cooperate to set aside airspace in which the Predators can fly, said Tom Thibodeau, a consultant for ACC who worked on the airspace issues. For example, the FAA and the Air Force could agree that a Predator would be limited to flying in restricted airspace at an altitude of 19,000 feet. Other aircraft would be expected to stay out of the Predator’s way. (Source: Defense News)

11 Sep 06 . EADS and Israel Aircraft Industry (IAI), have successfully completed the first flight of a MALE UAV System in France. The drone SIDM (Système Intérimaire de Drone Male) flew from the Istres air base, the DGA (French armaments procurement agency) fly test centre with full communication package including satellite communication and line-ofsight data links. This flight, operated from the operational SIDM ground station, demonstrated the integrity of the UAV system, in particular the Automatic Take-Off and Landing (ATOL), satellite communication and the integral command and control functions.

Sep 06. The Air Force Chief of Staff announced “Reaper” has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. The Air Force is the Department of Defense’s executive agent for designating and naming military aerospace vehicles. In the case of the Reaper, Gen. T. Michael Moseley made the final decision after an extensive nomination and review process, coordinated with the other Services. “The name Reaper is o

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