Tag Archives: Unmanned Aerial System

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.

 

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

 

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”

 

This is how a Reaper drone is deployed to Afghanistan. In Kit Form.

Did you know RAF delivered its five Reaper UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) as if they were model kits?

The Royal Air Force has just deployed five more MQ-9 Reaper remotely-piloted aircraft that have joined the five Reapers already there and support ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) operations in Afghanistan. Interestingly, the drones are delivered as model kits and re-assembled at Kandahar airfield as the following images, released by the UK MoD.

Reaper model kit

Along with the images of the British have also released some figures about the air strikes against Taliban conducted by the RAF unmanned aircraft in theater with LGBs (Laser-Guided Bombs) and Hellfire missiles:

“In over 54,000 hours of operations using Reaper in Afghanistan, only 459 weapons have been fired, which is less than one weapon for every 120 hours of flying.”

Reaper model kit 3

And here’s the reassembled Reaper:

Reaper model kit 4

Image credit: Crown Copyright

 

The Italian Navy is testing a tiny Camcopter drone from its amphibious warfare ship

The Italian Navy is testing the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 Unmanned Aerial System from the San Giusto amphibious warfare ship

In April 2012, the tiny Camcopter S-100 became the first UAS ever to fly from an Italian ship, operating from the ITS Bersagliere frigate.

In February this year, the Italian Navy selected the S-100 as the UAS of choice for use from its fleet: it will be used for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) tasks from ships at sea, and to support military and civil activities such as SAR (Search And Rescue) or assistance in case of natural disasters.

Equipped with a Wescam MX-10 and a Shine Micro AIS (Automatic Identification System), the S-100 has the capability to collect time-critical data during 6-hour missions. By means of its electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors it extends the warship’s ability to see beyond the range of its own sensors and to collect and share critical information, in real-time.

The S-100 carries a 75 lbs/34 kg payload at an altitude of 18,000 feet.

In these days the Marina Militare is testing the tiny drone from the San Giusto amphibious warfare ship, to evaluate the interoperability of the Camcopter with the ship, its ability to takeoff and recover on the ship’s flight deck, its noise level, as well as other operational parameters.

The San Giusto is the first Italian Navy ship to employ the Camcopter S-100 during the week-long evaluation cruise which involves technical engineers from Schiebel, pilots from the 4° GrupElicot (Heli Group) from Maristaeli Grottaglie as well as personnel from Centro Sperimentazione Aeromarittimo (CSA – Air-Land Test Center) based at Luni.

S-100 ground control station

Image credit: Marina Militare / Italian Navy

 

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