Category Archives: Drones

Watch a Soviet-era Battlestar Galactica spacecraft-like reconnaissance drone launched by Ukrainian forces

An interesting video shows the Ukrainian forces launching Soviet-era Tu-143 reconnaissance drones.

Some months ago we published some pictures showing an almost intact Tu-143 Reys drone, recovered, almost intact, in a field by the pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

Here is an extremely interesting video showing the Ukrainian military extract the Tu-143 from the launching truck, prepare and finally launch the spacecraft-like drone.

The Tu-143 is quite similar to the Tu-141, even though substantially smaller. It has an operative range of about 60 – 70 kilometers and a low-level flight capability.

It is truck-launched and recovered by means of a recovery-parachute, deployed from a hatch on the upper side of the rocket’s rear fuselage.

Powered by  a TR3-117 turbojet with 5.8 kN (590 kgf, 267 lbf) thrust it can reach an altitude of 5,000 mt (16,400 ft) and a top speed of 950 km/h (580 mph). It can carry both photographic and TV sensors with datalink capability to transmit live data to the ground control station.

H/T Brian Ostrander for sending the link over

 

That’s a weird way to move a U.S. Navy drone copter: MQ-8B Fire Scout spotted on a trailer on Interstate 405

An MQ-8 Fire Scout was spotted on a trailer on I-405 at Newport Beach, California

Few months ago we published an image of an MQ-8C Fire Scout, the UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) obtained by giving autonomous controls to a Bell 407 helicopter, on a trailer moving northbound on Interstate 405 near Newport Beach, California.

Whilst some readers suggested the aircraft was a model/mock-up, others were pretty certain the MQ-8C was one of the 28 such drones the Navy plans to operate in support of  naval special operations forces.

Interestingly, the same reader who had taken the photograph of the MQ-8C was able to get a shot of an MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV), a smaller “Fire Scout” drone copter capable to autonomously take-off and land from any aviation-capable warship and at unprepared landing zones and to find, identify, track and illuminate targets and to provide targeting data to other strike platform as well as perform BDA (Battle Damage Assessment).

The tiny drone was used during the air war in Libya; one MQ-8B drone copter was shot down during an ISR mission in support of NATO’s Operation Unified Protector.

Anyway, the new image of an (uncovered) MQ-8B on a trailer seems to prove this is Northrop Grumman’s standard way to move its unmanned aircraft. At least Sikorsky uses a protective cover when moving helicopters on a trailer….

Image credit: “Spencer”

 

Iran releases first (somehow suspicious) video of its RQ-170 stealth drone copy in flight

Eventually, a video allegedly showing the copy of Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) drone manufactured by reverse-engineering of U.S. Sentinel drone captured in December 2011 was released.

On Nov. 10, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, announced that a domestic version of the RQ-170 drone, modified to carry out both bombing and reconnaissance missions, had made its maiden flight.

“The footage of its flight will be released soon,” he told reporters.

Eventually, a video showing the copy of the Sentinel flying somewhere over Iran, filmed both from the ground and from an accompanying helicopter has been released.

The footage of the flying drone looks genuine; what seems to be a bit weird is the sequence of the RQ-170 landing on the runway: more than a UAV, the aircraft moves and reacts to the remote pilot’s input as a small remotely piloted scale model….

Since the first prototype was a smaller copy of the Sentinel (60% the size of the original RQ-170) which flew about four months ago, one might wonder whether the landing drone depicted in the footage is not the full scale replica but the smaller original prototype.

Furthermore, some frames of the landing video seem to be computer generated.

Judge by yourself at min 06:49.

H/T to Soufiane Nourredine for the heads-up

 

Iran has flown its version of the captured U.S. stealthy RQ-170 drone modified to bomb US Navy warships

Although footage has yet to be released, Tehran claims a domestically modified RQ-170 Sentinel has already made its maiden flight.

Update Nov. 12, 2014: a video has been released. Click here.

On May 11, Iran unveiled a copy of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) drone allegedly manufactured by reverse-engineering of U.S. Sentinel drone captured in December 2011. The Iranian version of the Sentinel drone was displayed next to the one that crash landed in northeastern Iran about three years ago for reasons that are still unknown.

In February 2013, a video proved that they had accessed some of the data stored inside the so-called “Beast of Kandahar”: after several unsubstantiated claims, the footage was the first evidence that Iran had managed to retrieve something from the once secret drone’s internal hard disks.

“All the memories and computer systems of this plane have been decoded and some good news will be announced in the near future not just about the RQ-170 and the optimizations that our forces have done on the reversed engineered model of this drone, but also in area of other important defense achievements,” IRGC Lieutenant Commander General Hossein Salami said to the Fars News Agency last year.

On Nov. 10, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, told the press that the Iranian version of the RQ-170 drone, modified to carry out both bombing and reconnaissance missions, has already had its maiden flight.

“The footage of its flight will be released soon,” Hajizadeh told reporters according to FARS News.

Whereas the first prototype was a smaller copy of the Sentinel (60% the size of the original RQ-170) which flew about four months ago, the final model is a full-scale, reverse-engineered stealthy drone, equipped with special parts required to carry bombs. Weapons to be used “against the US warships in any possible showdown between the two countries.

According to the Iranians the American drone was brought down by the Iranian Armed Forces’ electronic warfare unit which hacked into the RQ-170 remote control systems and ordered the aircraft to land in the eastern part of the country.

Even though such claims are still debated, especially in the light of other alleged achievements by Tehran (as the infamous F-313 Qaher stealth fighter jet), Iran has really showcased some almost intact UAV types in the recent past: two RQ-11s and at least one ScanEagle that had penetrated the Iranian airspace from the Persian Gulf.

Anyway, while there are chances that the engine, circuitry, lenses, memories and sensors that survived the crash landing of the CIA-operated RQ-170 might have been evaluated, tested, copied and, possibly, improved with the help of Russia and China, it’s hard to believe such hardware and remaining data have allowed Iran to move as much as 35 years ahead in building drones or their components.  Especially if we consider that, unlike the X-47B and some black UAV projects like the RQ-180, the RQ-170 is no longer the American cutting edge robot tech.

Image credit: Tasmin News

 

This tiny Camcopter will help OSCE monitoring the shaky ceasefire in Ukraine

Schiebel Camcopter used by OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine made its first flight.

On Oct. 23, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) successfully completed the first flight of the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 in eastern Ukraine.

The UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), flown by several operators across the world, are provided, flown and maintained by the Austrian vendor Schiebel, under contract to the OSCE, and operated under the authority and direction of the SMM, with the Mission’s monitors in close attendance.

The task of the S-100 is to provide complementary aerial information-gathering that will be used to monitor the general security situation in Ukraine and the shaky ceasefire. Furthermore, the Camcopter will be used for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Minsk Protocol of 5 September and the Minsk Memorandum of Sept. 19, 2014.

According to OSCE, the SMM’s UAV will operate over the area south of Donetsk down to the Sea of Azov, eastwards as far as the Ukrainian-Russian state border and westwards towards the line of contact: a “SAM-infested region” where anti-aircraft systems have been quite lethal against all types of aircraft. But a tiny Camcopter is harder to spot and shoot down.

Image credit: Schiebel