Category Archives: Drones

Armed U.S. Predator drone appears over Iraq

An MQ-1 Predator drone was filmed near Mosul, Iraq.

Allegedly filmed in the skies over Anbar, south of Mosul, in Iraq, the video below shows what clearly seems to be an MQ-1 Predator.

As some analysts noticed the aircraft appears to be armed with Hellfire missiles, even if the first images are a bit too blurry to say it with certainty. Indeed, the Predator seems to carry at least one AGM-114 on the left hand underwing pylon (the other one is barely visible and could be empty) but it could only be the effect of distortion due to the distance and the drone could also be flying with empty pylons (quite rare, because “pure” reconnaissance missions are usually flown without any pylon and a drone with both empty pylons would mainly point to the event that both missiles have already been fired).

American unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are conducting about 30 – 40 daily reconnaissance missions over Iraq.

 

Drone’s eye view of giant Costa Concordia cruise ship leaving Giglio island towards scrapyard

Drones are escorting Costa Concordia providing a different point of the giant ship’s final journey to the scrapyard.

On Jan. 13, 2012 the Costa Concordia luxury cruise ship, ran aground on rocks off the Isola del Giglio Island resulting in the death of 32 people.

The wrecked ship was hauled upright last year and eventually re-floated on Jul. 14. Kept afloat by giant buoyancy chambers, it is currently being towed by dozen vessels.

The removal and the subsequent journey to the Genoa scrapyard in northwestern Italy is being filmed by drones, that provide a unique point of view on one of the biggest maritime salvage operations ever attempted.

By means of AIS (Automatic Identification System), an automatic tracking system used for identification and geo-localization of vessels that can be considered the naval homologous of the ADS-B used by airplanes you can follow the ship being towed by tug boats in real time here.

Costa Concordia maritimetraffic

Image credit: Marinetraffic.com

 

Hamas flying an Iranian-made Armed Drone over Gaza

Al Qassam Brigades are using their Twitter feed to show an Armed Drone flying over Gaza.

Ezzedeen Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas are flying an UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) over Gaza Strip and are using the social media to show footage and photographs of the rarely seen Ababil A1B armed drone.

Ababil (Persian: ابابیل‎, “swallow”) is the name of a large family of UAV made in Iran developed for tactical reconnaissance, short/medium range attack and as target drones.

Notheworthy, the Ababil 1 is one of the less known variants belonging to the family, which includes the Ababil 3, reportedly shot down in Iraq by a U.S. F-16 in February 2009, the Ababil 5 medium range recon drone; the Ababil-T, a a twin-tailed attack variant used by Hezbollah in northern Israel; and several other scarcely seen or unconfirmed models, as the Ababil-R and the Ababil-S.

The aircraft depicted in the footage released by Hamas carries four AGMs (Air-to-Ground Missiles) even though it is almost impossible to say whether they are real weapons or just mock ups.

In fact, the group claimed on Twitter that the A1B carried out three missions over Israeli military bases and a specific mission over the Israeli war ministry but the fact the drone didn’t use any of the on board weaponry seems to suggest it does not have a real capability to use it.

In other words, even if we can’t rule the possibility that Hamas’s drones can use their air-to-surface weapons, it seems that it carries four missiles it can’t fire.

These missiles are quite similar to those carried by Fotros, the largest Iranian UCAV to date. When it was unveiled, the Fotros was showcased carrying missiles that resembled the AGM-114 Hellfire. They sported a ‘K-2′ written on them in a similar style to that seen on AGM-114K-2 missiles.

Nevertheless, the unprecedented activity by Hamas drones is confirmed by the Israeli Defense Force, that confirmed to have shot down a UAV with a Patriot missile, near Ashdod, earlier on Monday Jul. 14.

This is not the first time made-in-Iran drones appear far from Tehran, in war-time. Several types of UAV, including brand new models and drones based on captured US robots, have been spotted over Syria during the uprising and subsequent fighting between rebels and Assadists.

But it is quite surprising to see a small/medium drone, as the Ababil 1, flying (almost undisturbed) over Gaza (especially since the airspace over the Strip is currently filled with Israeli Air Force fighter planes). And, above all, it is weird such a small UAV does carry weapons and surveillance sensors: all things that imply a significant payload and require larger airframes, more robust wings and engineering capabilities not believed to be in Hamas possession until today.

 

 

H/T @troublejee for the heads-up

 

 

Transformer jets, self-healing aircraft and UAVs printed with 3D printers: future of aviation unveiled

Scientists and engineers at BAE Systems have released some interesting details about some futuristic technologies that could be operative by 2040. Or earlier.

BAE Systems has been studying futuristic aircraft shapes for quite some time.

The projects the British Defense company is  working on were recently unveiled through a series of animations which show how civil and military aviation of the future could be based on 3D printers capable to print UAVs on-the-fly during a mission; aircraft that can heal themselves; a Transformer long range aircraft which splits into a number of smaller aircraft when it reaches its target, and a directed energy weapon that could engage missiles at the speed of light.

The Transformer is a flexible aircraft system that combines smaller jets: it’s a sort of mothership made of smaller sub-aircraft which can be combined together to increase the range, reduce the overall aerodynamic drag and save fuel during the transit to the area of operations.

Once the mothership has reached the target area, each single craft can split off to conduct its specific mission: attack, surveillance, airdrop to name but few.

The Survivor technology will be used to develop new aircraft and give them the possibility repair any damage sustained during the mission in flight.

The self-healing technology could improve survivability of the aircraft employed in high lethality scenarios. It is based on advanced materials: “a lightweight adhesive fluid inside a pattern of carbon nanotubes from which the aircraft is constructed and is released when damaged to quickly ‘set’ mid-flight and heal any damage,” according to BAE Systems.

Directed Energy Systems (something that has been studied in the U.S. for a long time)  is instead an on board weapon used to concentrate a low cost beam of energy at the speed of light against enemy aircraft, weapons (missiles, mortars, projecticles). In other words, it could be a laser cannon, used to hit and destroy ground and air targets with much accuracy.

Furthermore, BAE Systems foresees the use of hi-tech on-board 3D Printers that, via Additive Layer Manufacturing and robotic assembly techniques, could be used to create small unmanned aircraft on-the-fly, based on the inputs sent by a human operator from the ground control station. Needless to say, such a way to create drones could be useful in various types of mission, including air strike, surveillance or SAR (Search And Rescue) operations, during which drone copters could be created to rescue and recover single civilians or soldiers.

Even more interestingly, “after use the UAVs could render themselves useless through dissolving circuit boards or they might safely land in a recoverable position if re-use was required,” in order to prevent capture.

Even if these concepts may seem a bit futuristic and remind Terminator or Transformer movies, they will probably be the base of the future aerial warfare.

MQ-8C extended-endurance Fire Scout unmanned helicopter caught “on the road” in California

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

The MQ-8C Fire Scout is a Bell 407 helicopter modified with autonomous controls from the MQ-8B drone copter.

It weighs 2.7 tons, has a 1,000 lb payload, can fly for 24 hours and can carry AGM-176 Griffin missiles, APKWS II guided 70 mm rockets, and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

It first flew in October 2013 and the first two unmanned choppers currently involved in flight testing have already surpassed 100 flight hours.

The Navy plans to operate 28 MQ-8Cs for naval special operations forces. One of those (188688) was seen on a trailer moving northbound on Interstate 405 near Newport Beach, California.

 

MQ-8C on the road

Image credit: “Spencer”