General Atomics has conducted flight-deck handling with an Avenger surrogate aircraft and full-scale PW815 engine testing at its Gray Butte facility near Palmdale, California. (Credit: GA-ASI)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) has demonstrated aircraft-carrier deck handling – including taxi capability, transition to launch, and recovery – using a Predator C Avenger jet aircraft as a MQ-25 carrier-based unmanned tanker surrogate, showing that it can integrate with existing flight deck operations.

MQ-25 deck operations will use specially designed director wands the same size, shape, and weight as those used now. Directors control aircraft taxi operations on deck, including lowering/raising the launch bar, spreading/folding the wings, and raising the arresting hook. Gesture-recognition algorithms in the wands recognize standard Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures (NATOPS) flight deck director hand gestures, translating and sending those commands to the MQ-25 air vehicle.

The MQ-25 signals to the controller and other flight deck personnel with small LEDs that change colors or flash to show they have received a command and indicate the aircraft’s operating state. An on-deck safety observer can instantly stop the aircraft any time an unsafe situation is identified. www.ga-asi.com

AeroVironment Puma-Switchblade demonstrates counter swarm ability

AeroVironment Inc.’s RQ-20B Puma Block 2 long-endurance small unmanned aerial system (UAS) identified a series of high-speed unmanned target boats and transmitted target coordinates to a Switchblade loitering missile system. The missile automatically flew to the fast-moving target, engaging it with an inert payload. The test was conducted from a U.S. Navy coastal riverine craft.

The sensor-to-shooter (S2S) combination, now a prototype, is planned for product release in Fall 2018. Currently fielded Switchblade systems can be upgraded with the S2S capability. www.avinc.com

NASA UTM Testing. (Credit: NIAS)

NASA tests unmanned traffic management program in Nevada

Public partners flew multiple unmanned aerial systems (UAS) during week-long tests at the Reno-Stead Airport to evaluate airspace management technologies that will enable the safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace System. Involved in the tests were the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), which manages the Nevada UAS Test Sites, and NASA’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) program.

NASA provided a Flight Information Management System (FIMS) that will be a prototype for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Testing included UAS ground control locally managing operations, communication, navigation, surveillance, human factors, data exchange, and network solutions.

A team from the Reno Fire Department simulated an incident with a victim experiencing severe blood loss who needed an immediate transfusion. A multi-rotor UAS from Drone America equipped with a blood packet landed so that firefighters could retrieve it.

The partners demonstrated drone flight capability, UAS traffic mapping, and sensor and radar technology connected through a NASA UAS Service Supplier (USS) network to NASA Ames Research Center.

www.droneamerica.com; www.nias-uas.com; https://utm.arc.nasa.gov/index.shtml

More than half of commercial drone flights will be conducted autonomously by 2022

Frost & Sullivan expects that by 2022 more than 50% of commercial unmanned aerial system (UAS) drone flights will be conducted autonomously, operating much like warehouse robots operate today. Drones will be used as a tool to make operations more efficient while drone maintenance and data security will become the prominent areas for revenue stream development. Demand for commercial drones in North America will generate the most revenues with Asia-Pacific a close second.

“The UAS market is becoming an ecosystem focused on information and value-added services where the drone is a tool acting as a cog in the big data machine,” says Michael Blades, Frost & Sullivan’s aerospace, defense, and security research director. “Success in this ecosystem will be achieved by companies that can safely, quickly, and inexpensively provide high-grade data/information for real-time decision making.”

Blades also foresees decreasing demand for remote pilots to operate drones on site, and that by 2022, the industry will resemble the cell phone sector with a few hardware providers and a slew of open-source software and sensor providers catering to specific applications. ww2.frost.com