Unmanned Developments

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Guy reported on the Navy's new MQ-4C Triton in an article in last week's Aviation Week & Space Technology called U.S. Navy Starts Run-Up To First MQ-4C Flight.

The triumphant roll-out has been a little diminished by the loss of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Block 10 demonstrator (BAMS-D). Guy writes:

The 116-ft.-wingspan demonstrator crashed in unpopulated wetlands June 11 near Bloodsworth Island in Dorchester County, Md., 22 mi. east of its base at NAS Patuxent River. Although declining to comment on the progress of the investigation, the Navy is confident it will gain a clear picture of what happened. “It will take weeks to sort it out, but one of the good things with UAVs is all the information on the health and state of the vehicle it collected,” says Rear Adm. Bill Shannon, unmanned aviation and strike weapons program executive officer.

Shannon adds that the accident took place 10 min. after takeoff while the RQ-4 was still orbiting in a climbing spiral within restricted airspace, enroute to its operating altitude of 50,000 ft. Images of the crash site appear to show that the RQ-4 impacted in a relatively flat attitude, having evidently descended in a slow spiral.

In this week's Defense Technology Edition, Sharon Weinberger, David Hambling and Bill Sweetman wrote Power Challenge For Unmanned Vehicles. Here's one early rundown from the story:

A number of efforts to develop multiday-plus endurance UAVs have foundered in the past year or so. The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency's (Darpa) Vulture project for a huge solar-powered UAV was canceled earlier this year. Lockheed Martin's HALE-D solar-powered airship impaled itself on Pennsylvania treetops last July, on its first flight attempt. The U.S. Air Force let the gas out of the MAV6 Blue Devil 2 project with a stop-work order. AeroVironment's Global Observer was canceled after the first vehicle crashed at Edwards AFB, Calif., and the other U.S. hydrogen-powered UAV, Boeing's Phantom Eye, is under repair after a rough first-flight landing. The surviving airship program, the Northrop Grumman Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEM-V) is running late, to the surprise of almost no one.

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