Solar Eagle is being developed to remain aloft up to 5 years. It is equipped with multiple sensors and acts like a low flying satellite. Not exactly low with an anticipated attitude of 65,000 feet. The plans call for a thousand pound payload and is expected to launch with-in 2 years.
Fire Scout now deploys from Navy ships and has been helping in the tracking of suspected drug smugglers.The unmanned system has a 600 pound payload currently and can stay aloft for extended periods of time. It recently did sea trials from the USS McInerney.
The Reaper continues to advance with longer flight times and larger payloads. It has been a very useful tool for tracking and engaging threats to military and border patrols. The system is expensive at a 55 million dollar price tag. How ever compared to flying and maintaining a piloted jet, it is still a more attractive solution for security forces. With its long range wireless guidance system, It can be operated in the Middle East from a base in the USA. Pilots are not put at risk and return home after a mission located on the other side of the world.
British defense company QinetiQ solar powered UAV set a world record for sustaining flight with out refueling. The light aerial vehicle remained aloft for 2 weeks straight on a test flight in Arizona, USA. Very thin solar panels store enough power to keep it airborne
during the night. The Zephyr is expected to be a great resource tool for monitoring areas during a natural disaster or collecting information used in environment data collection. Remote communications using wireless technology can be transmitted where needed.
ASAC (automatic supervisory adaptive control) has been tested on a FA-18 jet. During the trail 60% of a wing was blown off. The smart computer system quickly identified the problems and maintained flight control. The jet was able to safely land. This will be a huge advancement for pilots in danger to get back home safely. The system is very fast and has been contracted to be installed on a modern UAV. The adaption will allow a damaged unit to remain aloft or return to base for repairs. Some unmanned aerial vehicle systems cost millions of dollars and this will greatly eliminate incurred costs due to a lost drone-UAV.
RMAX chopper has been modified by Virginia tech to be used as an unmanned system. It can be deployed on search and rescue missions. It is easily handled by 2 people. The Yamaha helicopter weighs roughly 200 pounds and easily transportable to different
locations. It can fly in a radioactive environment. The unit would be good for monitoring dangerous environments such as the nuclear plant melt down seen in Japan. The university team is currently engaged building a tethered robot.
New UAV plane flies onto a wall and then can "walk" with assistant from the propeller. Small spines on the landing mechanism allow it to cling to the wall. It can stay in place for days and monitor with wireless technology. This could be especially useful in places that are hazardous for humans. It is being developed at Stanford University.
The French company Parrot has developed a small civilian drone controlled by a smart phone OS (operating system) MIT labs created a similar unmanned aerial vehicle using a quad rotor platform. These units can be fitted with sensors and cameras for a variety of applications.
Boeing is revealing its Phantom Eye. It is a hydrogen fueled UAV with a 450 pound payload. Plans are to use it as a communications hub. A program called "Vulture" is working on a battery to power the UAV up to 5 years and carry a 1000 pound payload. This is a very radical design and may take a few years to become reality.
University of Nebraska has developed a UAV called Tempest. The research project called Vortex2 use the unmanned aerial system to fly into storms and gather data. Weighing only 20 pounds and capable of 100 mph it uses a variety of sensors to monitor
atmosphere conditions. The University of Colorado has also been engaged with its development. After clearance from the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) it was successfully flown into a super-cell
thunderstorm and relayed information back to ground bases.
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