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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

06 Apr 07. U.S. Army May Field Ground Robot Earlier. The U.S. Army may accelerate the fielding of the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV), a 30-pound, backpackable robot designed to beam electro-optical images from caves, buildings and other high-risk war zone areas. Under development with iRobot under a $51m deal as part of the Future Combat Systems effort, the SUGV is currently slated for fielding in 2012 as a spinout – technology planned to hit the force earlier than the first FCS Brigade Combat Team in 2015. But the robots’ performance in tests — and the performance in Iraq and Afghanistan of similar, though lower-tech and remotely operated machines — has led FCS officials to consider moving the SUGV to the first set of spinouts to be ready in 2008 and deployed in 2010. “It may very be part of the initial FCS Spinout [2010] as we evaluate the maturity and operational utility of it,” said Allan Resnick, director of requirements integration at the Army Capabilities Integration Center. The decision, to come as soon as this summer, will depend on whether the robot can be programmed to navigate semi-autonomously, without requiring a soldier to dictate its every move, said Resnick. Prototypes are being tested by scientists with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. “Some of the algorithms the ARL have worked on are just marvelous,” Resnick said. “It [the robot] can figure out how to get there as it traverses the terrain. It has the means to determine if it can go through the next three meters or so, and if not, go around the obstacle. “The initial benefit would be for clearing caves and buildings,” he said. “It has an electro-optical infrared camera, and the operator has a device to help him see what the robot is seeing.” If the robot cannot be made semi-autonomous, an improved remote-controlled version may be fielded instead. “The tele-operated robot is good enough to do some of the missions we want to achieve,” Resnick said. “The SUGV is not meant to be semi-autonomous as much as others, it just needs to go around the corner.” (Source: Defense News)

24 Apr 07. According to a news report in aviation news journal Flight Global, India’s aerospace research laboratory, the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), is going to organize a demonstration of micro air vehicles (MAVs) in an urban environment in March 2008 for the US Army. The demonstration will most likely take place at an Indian defence facility in Agra in the northern part of India. The event will be the first US-Asian demonstration for an assessment of micro-air vehicle technologies. (Source: Flight Global/Google)

20 Apr 07. A Defence department plan to award a sole-source contract to a U.S. firm for aerial drones has been scuttled by the Harper government because of concerns over the optics of ministers pushing through yet another multi-million-dollar deal without competition. The Defence department wanted to purchase the Predator unmanned aircraft as part of a $500m program to buy drones for the surveillance of Canada’s coasts as well as for use in Afghanistan, Defence sources said. Under the department’s plan, there would have been no competition for the deal and a British Columbia company’s proposal to provide the military with drones would have been sidelined in favour of those provided by a U.S. firm.

Apr 07. A Canadian firm is coming to Kansas next month to conduct further tests on an unmanned aerial vehicle being developed for use by the military to drop cargo to troops in the field. Officially called the CQ-10A “SnowGoose,” the new UAV built by Ottawa, Canada-based Mist Mobility Integrated Systems Technology Inc. is designed to help the military get supplies to units in remote locations with minimal risk. (Source: Google)

20 Apr 07. ScanEagle developed by Boeing and Insitu, Inc., has surpassed 1,000 flight hours in support of Australian Army operations in southern Iraq.Operating with the Overwatch Battle Group (West)-2 on O

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