Unmanned aircraft: New kid on block flexing muscle

An unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, operator, with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, assembles a Raven during a UAV refresher course, on Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 5, 2013. The Raven is slightly smaller than the UAVs that infantry units commonly operate in Afghanistan, but the skills to fly them both are the same. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

By Keith Oliver, Army News Service

WASHINGTON (Oct. 14, 2015) — WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 14, 2015) — “It’s a tactical capability working at a strategic distance.”

That’s what Army Col. Courtney Cote told a gaggle of mostly aviation and aerospace media at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, or AUSA. He was talking about unmanned aerial systems — the new player on the battlefield that, Cote asserts, is here to stay. Continue reading

Drones swarm U.S. Army’s Network Integration Evaluation

By John Hamilton

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (Sept. 30, 2015) — In this season’sNetwork Integration Evaluation, or NIE, taking place on White Sands Missile Range, or WSMR, and Fort Bliss, Texas, coordinated units of remotely-operated and automated aircraft will be used to represent a possible threat on tomorrow’s battlefields.

Members of the Targets Management Office with U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation, or PEO STRI, are using off-the-shelf quad and octocopters and flying them in groups. The endeavor is part of an U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, or ATEC, program to study possible use, effectiveness and countermeasures for the deployment of large numbers of synchronized drone aircraft.

“ATEC is our customer, they tasked us to come out and look at swarming, the variations and the payloads we can apply to this,” said James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, PEO STRI. “We saw this as a threat that wasn’t being addressed and ATEC agreed.”

While drones are seeing expanded use, with many different countries building, deploying, and selling large airplane-sized drones for military purposes, small-scale drones are still gaining a foothold, mostly due to the technical limitations involved. That technology is expected to improve, and the small-scale drone become more viable as a possible weapon, and it’s that preparation for the future that is driving the swarming project.

“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” Story said. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”