The U.S. Navy has successfully launched an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) from a submerged submarine, the first step to “providing mission intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force.”
Then the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC reaches to the ocean surface where it appears as a spar buoy.
Upon command of the submarine, it is then vertically launched from Sea Robin to a marginal altitude where it assumes horizontal/conventional flight configuration thanks to the its X-wing airfoil autonomously deployed by the folding-wing XFC.
During the first launch, the drone flew for several hour mission “demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), Andros, Bahamas.”
The XFC is a fully autonomous, all electric fuel cell powered folding wing UAS with an endurance of greater than six hours. The non-hybridized power plant supports the propulsion system and payload for a flight endurance that enables relatively low cost, low altitude, ISR missions. The XFC UAS uses an electrically assisted take off system which lifts the plane vertically out of its container and therefore, enables a very small footprint launch such as from a pickup truck or small surface vessel.
European news outlets reported last week that the German Euro Hawk Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) program will be terminated due to the prohibitive cost of modifying the platform to conform to collision avoidance requirements. If the reports are true, Euro Hawk will join a similar project which had the poor luck to be canceled not due to cost over-runs, performance, or technical issues, but due to Air Traffic Control limitations.
The XQM-93 UAV, code-named Compass Dwell, was conceived by the Air Force in the late 1960′s to fulfill a role extremely similar to the current tasking of Euro Hawk. Compass Dwell was intended to provide 28 hour endurance at an altitude of 40,000 and deliver persistence surveillance of Warsaw Pact air defense systems. Euro Hawk is believed to be tasked to provide surveillance of Eastern European military assets.
Image credit: USAF via Designation-Systems.com
Two variants of the project were built, both using a converted Schweizer sailplane. The XQM-93 airframe was built by Ling Temco Vought and mated to a turboprop power plant. The other model, built by Martin Marietta and designated Model 845, featured a turbocharged piston engine. Both airframes flew successfully in 1972, with the Model 845 achieving a flight time of 27 hours and 54 minutes. The UAVs were intended to target Soviet air defense radars and provide standoff jamming during wartime.
Compass Dwell was intended to operate high above commercial air traffic, but would still need to climb and descend through those altitudes during each mission. European air traffic controlling agencies refused to allow the XQM-93 to operate in their airspace, and the program was canceled in 1973.
The termination of these two programs demonstrates the unique challenge posed to operators of UAV systems. Despite the inherent performance benefits in unmanned systems, the limitation of sensors and need to safely de-conflict airspace remain just as much hurdles in 2013 as they did four decades ago.
The Harfang is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned air vehicle (UAV) system that undertakes ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions in support of Operation Serval in Mali.
For the first time since the beginning of the air campaign, along with other photographs of the UAV on the ground (showing a brand new “sharkmouth” applied to the remotely piloted plane and the hangar used to recover the aircraft), the French Ministry of Defense has released some interesting images that depict the Harfang drone ground control station at Niamey, Niger.
Noteworthy, some images have been purposely blurred to hide sensitive information displayed on operators monitors.
Among several unconfirmed reports of an Israeli F-16 shot down and two crew members under custody during the third day of military offensive in Gaza, images of what could be the first Israeli Air Force drone downed or lost during Pillars of Defense, were released by Hamas.
Even if the Israeli government spokesman tweeted that the drone that Hamas showed on Al-Aqsa TV is not Israeli and not in service in the IDF, it actually seems to be one of the Israel’s robots filling the skies over Gaza.
The drone, one of those providing targeting and ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) capabilities in the area, is a Rafael Skylite B UAV.
The Skylite B is a mini-UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that uses an electro-optic payload (located on the nose of the drone), stabilized and outfitted with gimbals.
The tiny robot is among the tactical family of drones, those usually deployed for use by infantry forces and which is man-portable (in backpacks) and enables short periods of reconnaissance and surveillance.
The Skylite B is carried in a backpack, easily assembled, launched with a catapult and landed back using a parachute and an air bag.
Provided that it is not a very accurate prop and it was really captured on Nov. 15 (as happened in Syria, several fake images as this one are being spread on the Internet), based on the low quality video, the little damaged UAV was not shot down: it most probably crash landed in the Gaza strip and was later recovered by Hamas.