Category Archives: Drones

NASA’s demilitarized MQ-9 Predator B drone filmed Orion splashdown for NASA TV

The video of the Orion crew module Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) as it descended through the atmosphere until splashdown into the Pacific Ocean was filmed by Ikhana, NASA’s unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

On Dec. 5, NASA successfully launched an Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), a spacecraft destined to carry a crew of up to four astronauts to destinations beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket.

The first flight lasted 4 hours and 24 minutes.

The Orion descending for landing as planned in the Pacific Ocean was filmed by NASA’s Ikhana UAS (Unmanned Aerial System). The drone, a demilitarized MQ-9 Predator B owned and operated by the agency with technical support from the Air Force’s Medium Altitude UAS Division and the Nevada Air National Guard, was acquired by NASA in 2006 to support science missions and technology developments.

The UAS, remotely piloted from a ground control station at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, filmed the re-entry phase of the capsule it detected though its IR (Infra Red) camera: once located and acquired, the camera operator switched to the optical camera to follow the descent until splashdown.

In the past, the Ikhana was used to perform wildfire imaging and mapping (Western States Fire Mission 2007-2009); in March 2012, NASA used the drone to test an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast device. In August 2014, the UAS conducted a series of tests in Arctic Circle.

 

Epic Fail Of Portuguese Navy New Drone’s First Launch

It’s not easy to launch a drone.

Some of our readers may have seen it already. For all the others, here is a funny video filmed during the press conference held in Portugal last April to showcase the new coastal surveillance UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) of the Portuguese Navy.

The video speaks for itself: just like a large paper airplane, the hand-launched drone immediately plummets and crashes into the water.

The mishap occurred while Portugal’s Defense Minister José Pedro Aguiar-Branco was visiting a naval base near Lisbon and, according to local reports, was caused by a “launch sequence” affected by some part of the airframe clipping the special operator who was launching it.

Fortunately, a second attempt to launch the drone was successful. Too late to save the reputation of the small UAS…

H/T to Emiliano Guerra for the link

 

Italian Police Forces to use Air Force’s Predator drones

Italian Police and Military Police can use Italian Air Force Predator drones for a wide variety of missions.

On Nov. 26, the Polizia (Police), Carabinieri (Military Police) and the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) signed a deal for the use of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) in various urban activities as well as to support relief operations in case of natural disasters.

The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator A+ both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) at Amendola airbase.

The Italian drones have flown ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions) as well as MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have supported Operation Unified Protector in Libya, Mare Nostrum operation in the Mediterranean Sea near Lampedusa (where they have monitored the migratory flows and consequent tragic ship wreckages off the island) and they are also currently deployed in Kuwait (to support the US-led anti-ISIS operation in Syria and Iraq) and Djibouti, where  they are used to monitor the seas off the coast of Somalia in anti-piracy missions.

Leveraging their persistence on the target area (up to 20 hours), the drones will now enable Police forces to monitor major events and support anti-crime and riot-control operations.

Italian Air Force Predators have already flown similar missions during the G8 summit in 2009 when they contributed to the event’s security; among all the other things, a Predator provided real-time imagery of the Obama motorcade from Pratica di Mare airbase (where the Air Force One had landed) to L’Aquila, the location chosen for the meetings.

Image credit: EUNAVFOR

 

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”