Monday, January 28, 2008

Hovering Drones Rushed to Iraq (Updated)

Ducted-fan unmanned aerial vehicles are making their way to Iraq to help spot improvised explosive devices. These new drones, which can hover in place, have been under development as part of the Army's massive Future Combat Systems, but it's actually the Navy that plans to deploy them, reports Flight International:

The US Navy will usher Honeywell's unmanned ducted-fan technology into operational service later this year, after disclosing a surprise order for 372 vehicles. All 186 two-vehicle RQ-16A Micro Air Vehicle systems, which includes 93 ground stations, will be delivered between June and November, as the USN rapidly deploys the new hover-and-stare asset to help explosive ordnance disposal teams search for improvised bombs
"That's fast and, based on our experiment with supporting an in-theatre assessment, we have been standing up a production capability to meet those kinds of demands," says Vaughn Fulton, Honeywell's MAV programme manager.

The 11kg (25lb) RQ-16A will join the USN's growing fleet of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Although the slowest of the US services to embrace unmanned aviation, the USN plans to acquire a portfolio of five classes of UAS. But its newest priority should not displace a pending decision to buy a Broad Area Maritime Surveillance system, or a long-term plan to acquire a fleet of small tactical vehicles. "The planned RQ-16A acquisition will not result in any changes to plans for other UAS procurements," says the US Naval Air Systems Command.

The Honeywell-developed Micro Air Vehicle, funded by DARPA, have been one of the more successful UAV projects under FCS, surviving cuts that killed two of the four classes of UAVs envisioned for the massive Army modernization program.


A reader e-mailed me to say: "MAV was developed as part of a joint ACTD, that started in the beginning of CY 2002. The program was well under way before FCS reared its head. The MAV is not part of FCS. FCS is developing a CL I UAS and it is not MAV. FCS has continuously tried to claim success by taking credit for other people's programs. GAO is right on track on uncovering the truth about FCS."



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