Monday, March 31
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle NEWS

1. Predators patrol skies
Keith Rogers,, March 22, 2003

While the world watched television footage of the bombing on Baghdad Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged the important role of the Air Force's unmanned Predator spy planes, the ones that 100 men and women from the Nellis base are operating in the war.

"We're using the Predator and it's helpful," Rumsfeld said, standing beside Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a room packed with reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

Predators, developed and manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., of San Diego, have come a long way since they were used in 1998 to spy on tanks and compounds in Bosnia.

In August, the company announced that the 27-foot-long Predator for the first time had launched what is essentially a baby Predator, or miniature unmanned aerial vehicle, while in flight.

Known as the FINDER, which stands for Flight Inserted Detector Expendable for Reconnaissance, or sometimes referred to as the "sniffer," these tiny Predators could prove to be invaluable for detecting or "sniffing" chemical, biological or radiological compounds in the air.

These mini-drones could be landed or retrieved to analyze samples.
Some could be used to transmit detection data as they fly on pre-determined routes. [...]

2. Soldier Toys Today, Civilian Toys Tomorrow
Jonathan Krim, Washington Post Staff Writer, March 28, 2003

In the 1991 Gulf War, widespread use of Global Positioning System devices put that satellite technology on the map and helped make GPS a household name. Devices using GPS to get a fix on location became commonplace in cars and in handheld units used by hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Recent conflicts have likewise elevated the military's high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle -- the HMMWV, or "Humvee" -- to a consumer status symbol under the Hummer brand name, for those who can afford the $50,000 price tag.

Technology experts and military historians watching the unfolding war in Iraq note that with the digital age well underway, ..... Technology experts and military historians watching the unfolding war in Iraq note that with the digital age well underway,

Unmanned Predator drones are used as attack vehicles, carrying missiles that were used to kill suspected al Qaeda officials in Yemen late last year.

But for surveillance, camera-carrying UAVs can come in packages as small as six inches across and weigh about two ounces.

One such vehicle, called the Dragon Eye, is built to be taken to the battlefield in a backpack. A bungee cord serves as a kind of slingshot to launch the vehicle before its electric motor takes over. The operator directs it with a laptop computer.

A spokesman for AeroVironment Inc., a Monrovia, Calif., maker of UAVs for military and law enforcement use, said the vehicles his company makes are not available for civilian use. [...]

3. Eye in the sky
Scott Kirsner,, Tech & Innovation

Parked nose down on a chair in Colonel Howard Borst's office, the newest addition to the Air Force's fleet looks like a designer's first-draft concept for an airplane, an aerodynamic idea rendered in Styrofoam.

Actually, Borst explains, this is a flight-worthy Desert Hawk, an unmanned aerial vehicle that's a smaller, lighter, and much cheaper cousin to the Global Hawk and Predator drones that flew in Afghanistan and are now deployed around Iraq. The Desert Hawk has flown more than 120 missions since September. It is launched into the air by two people using a bungee cord as a slingshot. Once aloft, it flies at speeds of 25 to 50 miles per hour, following a flight path that has been plotted out beforehand on a laptop using GPS coordinates.

The plane can be directed to circle over an area of interest, or the operator can alter its flight path while the plane is in the air, using the same kind of point-and-click interface most people use to send e-mail. No prior piloting experience is necessary. The small payload area of the Desert Hawk can hold one of two interchangeable camera systems, an infrared thermal imaging system for night use, or a set of three color cameras for daylight.

The vehicle itself looks as though it has been sculpted from a beer cooler. Borst says the material is "rubberized polypropylene," a flexible, damage-resistant type of foam. The only sound it makes in flight is a steady whine from the electric motor. From the ground, it can easily be mistaken for a bird. In fact, Borst says that during testing in California last year, a curious bird of prey flew in formation with the Desert Hawk.[...]
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