Tag Archives: UAV’s

New Policy: Military Bases Can Shoot Down Trespassing Drones



Shoot Down Drones

A small drone crash-landed at the White House in Washington, D.C. An increase in similar private drones above U.S. military complexes led to the Pentagon issuing guidance on how bases can now defend themselves against the private aircraft. (U.S. Secret Service via AFP)


“The Pentagon has signed off on a new policy that will allow military bases to shoot down private or commercial drones that are deemed a threat, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Monday.

The policy itself is classified and was transmitted to the services in July, Davis said. Broadly, it outlines the rules of engagement for a base when a private or commercial drone is encroaching upon its airspace.

On Friday, unclassified guidance was sent to each of the services on how to communicate the new policy to local communities.

The installations “retain the right of self-defense when it comes to UAVs or drones operating over [them,]” Davis said. “The new guidance does afford of the ability to take action to stop these threats and that includes disabling, destroying and tracking.”

Davis said the private or commercial drones could also be seized.

However, in some instances where the military leases land for operations, the use of a drone may not always be a threat — and who owns the airspace may not always be clear.

The Air Force, for example, maintains its arsenal Minuteman III nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles in 150 underground silos in vast fields around Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. But the land is only leased from commercial and private farmers who use the rest of the area for crops or livestock. Those farmers sometimes find it easier to launch a drone to check on their cows or agriculture than to cover the miles by foot or truck.

As of last fall, the sky above the silos at Minot AFB was also not previously restricted airspace.

It was not immediately clear whether the new policy has changed access to the airspace above the silos or at other bases.

The policy would affect 133 military installations, DOD said.

Davis said the policy was worked through the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies, and the specific actions a base takes when a drone encroaches upon it “will depend upon the specific circumstances,” Davis said.”





Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Eyes Unmanned Swarm for Reconnaissance




“The OFFSET program will develop a game-based open architecture develop and test swarm tactics.

U.S. military researchers want to work with industry to develop ways to swarm unmanned vehicles inside cities and towns to enhance reconnaissance capabilities and identify threats to U.S. and allied military forces from standoff ranges.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., will brief industry on the upcoming OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on 30 Jan. 2017 at the DARPA Conference Center, 675 N. Randolph St., in Arlington, Va.

DARPA researchers hope that such swarm systems also may lead to new enabling technologies for swarming unmanned vehicles, such as distributed perception, robust and resilient communications, dispersed computing and analytics, and adaptive collective behaviors, DARPA officials say.

Urban environments are complex, dynamic, and unpredictable, and present a major challenge in modern security and civil operations, researchers explain. Benefits, however, may be worth dealing with the complexity when swarming unmanned vehicles work with human ground personnel, experts say.

Swarming unmanned vehicles may increased standoff distances for detection and identification of potential dangers, offer increased safety and surveillance, and enhance intelligence preparation of the battlespace, DARPA officials say.

A formal solicitation for the DARPA OFFSET program (DARPA-SN-17-02) should be released on or near 30 Jan. 2017.

The program will advance two key areas to increase the effectiveness of small-unit combat forces operating in the urban environment: swarm autonomy for agile, complex, collective behaviors for intelligent movement, decisions, and interactions with the environment; and human-swarm teaming, enabling swarm commanders to infer, interact with, and influence swarm system behaviors.

The project also seeks to enhance understanding of key enabling technologies for unmanned swarm tactics with a test bed game environment that will help researchers experiment with new and evolving swarm tactics.

Emphasis will be on open software and systems architectures, game software design and game-based community development, immersive interactive technologies, and robotic systems integration and algorithm development for distributed robotics.

Those interested in attending the DARPA OFFSET program industry briefings should register online no later than 25 Jan. 2017 at http://www.eiseverywhere.com//ehome/207084.

Email questions or concerns to the DARPA OFFSET program manager, Timothy Chung, at DARPA-SN-17-02@darpa.mil.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-17-02/listing.html.”




UK Plans to Buy $1 Billion Worth of Enhanced Reaper Drones



(General Atomics photo illustration)


“The British government plans to buy $1 billion worth of the U.S.-made MQ-9 Reaper.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency in a release this week on its website announced the State Department supported the proposed sale of as many as 26 of the Certifiable Predator B remotely piloted aircraft made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., based in San Diego.

The transaction was previously reported by The Washington Post.

The unmanned system is an enhanced version of the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper — which the British military already operates — and is designed to soar as high as 50,000 feet for more than 40 hours at a time, thanks to new fuel-economy features such as a 79-foot wingspan and winglets.

The drone “will also be used to support the UK’s armed forces and coalition forces engaged in current and future peacekeeping, peace-enforcing, counter-insurgent, and counterterrorism operations,” the release states.

The Certifiable Predator B meets the air worthiness requirements as defined by NATO’s Standardized Agreement, or STANAG, 4671 and similar regulations in the U.K. with new features such as lightning protection, different composite materials and, most importantly, sense-and-avoid technology.

While the release doesn’t specify an armament package, the Predator B is designated by the U.S. Air Force as the MQ-9 Reaper, a larger and more lethal drone than the MQ-1 Predator.

While both are considered medium-altitude drones, the Air Force’s Reaper has a 66-foot wingspan, 50,000-foot ceiling and can carry a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, laser-guided GBU-12 Paveway II bombs and GPS-guided GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions bombs. Meanwhile, the Predator has a 55-foot wingspan, 25,000-foot ceiling and can carry Hellfires.

The British government also plans to buy up to a dozen of the new-and-improved cockpits, called the Advanced Cockpit Ground Control Stations, each of which features a high-definition touch screens, a video game-like controller, and keyboard for chat and other messaging functions.

Operators sit in front of a bank of six 24-inch monitors arranged in two horizontal rows.

The upper monitors provide a 120-degree view of the battlefield using a combination of live video, synthetic images and air traffic information. The wider field of view comes from digital-terrain data fed into the left and right screens complementing the live video in the center screen.

The lower monitors display mission systems, maps including 3-D graphics and a general screen for chat, e-mail and other mission applications. A quick tap of the finger to various boxes on the lower left screen brings up different systems, including the mission check list, command and control pages, and warning system.

The sale also calls for new launch-and-recovery stations, multi-spectral targeting systems, AN/APY-8 Lynx IIe Block 20A synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indicators, embedded global positioning system/inertial guidance units, among other equipment.”

UK Plans to Buy $1 Billion Worth of Enhanced Reaper Drones

The Realities of Federal Drone Domestic Surveillance



“The Atlantic”

“Americans don’t particularly want to be spied on from above.

There are too many federal, state, and local agencies with too many surveillance aircraft to pretend any longer that aerial spying is rare.

A little more than a decade ago the border patrol started using surveillance drones. The technology and the mission were a perfect match, and few did any worrying—almost no one objects to closely monitoring America’s southern border.

The belief that the federal government was using drones to conduct domestic surveillance inside the United States, though, could get a person labeled a paranoid lunatic as recently as 2012. Yet by then, the border patrol had lent its drones to other agencies 700 times. And the Department of Homeland Security was actively developing a domestic drone fleet, egged on by at least 60 members of Congress. “This bipartisan caucus, together with its allies in the drone industry, has been promoting UAV use at home and abroad through drone fairs on Capitol Hill, new legislation and drone-favored budgets,” the Center for International Policy reported.

In 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a staunch defender of NSA surveillance,declared that drones are “the biggest threat to privacy in society today.” Under her questioning, the FBI admitted to using surveillance drones in “a very minimal way.”

What did Feinstein know that the FBI wasn’t telling us? Perhaps that the federal government gave local police departments $1.2 million to spend on drones that year.

In 2015, NBC News reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms spent $600,000 on six drones, “then never flew them because of technical problems with flight time, maneuverability and more.” Has ATF figured them out yet?

AP reported that the DEA was using drones domestically, too.

That brings us to 2016.

On Wednesday, USA Today reported that the Pentagon “has deployed drones to spy over U.S. territory for non-military missions over the past decade,” citing a report by a Pentagon inspector general who declared that the flights are “rare and lawful.”

That’s the narrative that officials speaking on behalf of the federal government keep conveying––that the instances of aerial surveillance over U.S. soil are safe, legal, and rare.

But it isn’t so.

There is too little oversight to presume all these government entities are acting legally. As for safety, Americans know neither what sort of aerial-surveillance data has been archived nor how secure it is. And security researcher Nils Rodday learned that he could successfully hack into professional drones and take over their operations on a $40 budget.

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation are trying to draw attention to these issues; the Department of Justice has issued its own guidelines on domestic drone use. But there’s still not much public discussion, debate, or oversight of domestic drone surveillance.

By keeping various aerial-surveillance programs hidden or very quiet, the government will continue to achieve a rapid fait accompli unless it is stopped”


The VTOL X-Plane -Vertical Takeoff & Landing Thru Electric Propulsion 




“Aurora Flight Sciences was awarded an $89.4 million to build its exotic Lightning Strike.

Aurora now has until September 2018 to build and fly a technology demonstrator of its design, which will use 24  small ducted fans.

But here’s the truly innovative part: those fans will be driven by individual electric motors running on three megawatts of electricity, the equivalent of 4,023 horsepower, produced by three generators.The generators will be powered by a single Rolls-Royce AE 1107 turbine engine, the same one used on the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor flown by the Marines and Air Force and, soon, by the Navy.

To meet DARPA’s requirements, the LightningStrike must weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds, about the size of a UH-1Y Huey helicopter, cruise faster than 300 knots (345 mph), about 50 knots faster than the V-22, and hover far better than any helicopter in existence.

All four contestants in the competition offered unmanned aircraft designs. The three losing entries, all relying on conventional engines, were:

  • A sleek tiltrotor offered by Karem Aircraft, namesake company of Predator drone inventor Abraham Karem.
  • A monoplane with swiveling ducted fans on its wingtips and two more embedded in its fuselage offered by Boeing Co.
  • A retro-looking “tail-sitter” proposed by a team of Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. that got started before the latter company bought the former.

It’s no surprise that Aurora offered the most avant garde design. The company was founded and is led by John Langford, who burst on the aeronautical scene a couple of decades ago by leading a team that set a world record for human-powered flight. If the LightningStrike works, the aeronautical engineering world is sure to be, well, electrified.”

You-Ain’t-Gonna-Believe-This Design Wins DARPA X-Plane Deal

The Military’s Super-Fast Bird Drone


fast drone


“The Defense Department’s mad scientists show how to make super-fast, light-weight drones.

UAVs small enough to fit through an open window and able to fly at speeds up to 20 meters per second (45 miles per hour, while avoiding objects within complex indoor spaces.

But why does the military need fast-flying bird-robots? “Military teams patrolling dangerous overseas urban environments and rescue teams responding to disasters such as earthquakes or floods currently can use remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to provide a bird’s-eye view of the situation, but to know what’s going on inside an unstable building or a threatening indoor space often requires physical entry, which can put troops or civilian response teams in danger,” DARPA wrote in a press release.

In other words, the tiny drones have to not only fly fast, but display some very rudimentary understanding of where they are going. That’s no easy technological feat, as a group of NASA and IEEE scientists write in this paper titled “Towards Autonomous Navigation of Miniature UAV.“

“A major algorithmic challenge is to process sensor information at high rate to provide vehicle control and higher level tasks with real-time position information and vehicle states,” the group wrote.Since micro rotorcrafts can only carry a few grams of payload including batteries, this has to be accomplished with a very small weight and power budget.”

The smaller the frame, the harder it is to fit a computer on it that can crunch all of the video data that the machine needs to fly—if it’s not going to fly without GPS or remote guidance.

The recent demonstration shows the feasibility of that goal.”



More Unmanned Than Manned Aircraft in U.S. Skies




“There are more unmanned aircraft than piloted aircraft that could potentially fly in U.S. skies, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said there are more than 325,000 registered UAVs in the U.S., versus only 320,000 piloted aircraft, according to the Washington Times. The average operator owns 1.5 UAVs.

The UAV census was enabled by a new law requiring all existing UAVs weighing over nine ounces to be registered by Feb. 19, while all new aircraft must be registered before their first flight.

“The registration numbers show the surging popularity of remote-controlled aircraft, which are flooding airspace already packed with passenger planes and leading to concerns over midair collisions,” the Washington Times said. “About 7,000 planes fly in U.S. skies [at] any time during the day, according to the FAA, along with an untold number of [UAVs].”


Toy Drones Interfering With Military

AP Rick Bowmer

AP/Rick Bowmer


“There have been at least 35 cases of small drones interfering with military aircraft or operating too close to military airfields in 2015.

That’s a small fraction of the estimated 1,000 reports received by the FAA this year of small drones interfering with civilian air traffic or coming too close to passenger airports.

The Air Force revolutionized drone warfare. Now it’s finding itself on the defensive.

Rogue toy drones — a hot-selling Christmas gift this season and last — are starting to interfere with military operations at several bases across the country. With sales of consumer drones expected to approach 700,000 this year, military officials say they are bracing for the problem to get worse and are worried about the potential for an aviation disaster.

Last month, an Air Force A-29 Super Tucano aircraft reported a near midair collision with a small rogue drone over the Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range in Georgia, Air Force officials said.

In June, an Air Force KC-10 aerial refueling tanker flying over the Philadelphia suburbs at an altitude of 3,800 feet was forced to take evasive action and barely avoided striking a football-sized drone that passed within 10 feet of its right wing, officials said.

There have been at least 35 cases of small drones interfering with military aircraft or operating too close to military airfields in 2015, according to reports filed with the armed forces or the Federal Aviation Administration.

That’s a small fraction of the estimated 1,000 reports received by the FAA this year of small drones interfering with civilian air traffic or coming too close to passenger airports.

But military officials, who once thought the remote locations of their airfields and restricted airspace offered a measure of protection from wandering drones, said they are no longer immune.

Cmdr. William Marks, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, said Navy pilots or air-traffic controllers at U.S. bases have reported close calls or encounters with unauthorized drones 12 times in the past three months. Prior to that, the Navy was recording an average of less than one incident per month.

“We’re seeing an exponential curve, so yes, it is a concern,” he said.

[Rogue drones a growing nuisance across the U.S.]

One military airfield that has experienced multiple risky encounters with drones is the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.

In May, a Marine Corps Harrier jet coming in for a landing at Yuma reported a small blue drone about 100 feet off its right side. In July, a Navy T-45 Goshawk training aircraft flew within 100 feet of another drone about five miles west of Yuma, according to FAA records.

Col. Robert Huber, a senior Army aviation official, said his service has not received any reports of problems with rogue drones on Army installations so far. But given the experiences of other branches of the military, he said the Army anticipates “that there could be more challenges.”

Prior to last year, close encounters with rogue drones were almost unheard of. But rapid advances in technology and falling prices have led to a boom in sales — and a corresponding surge in reports of air-traffic chaos.

Under FAA guidelines, drone pilots flying for recreation are supposed to keep their aircraft below 400 feet and at least five miles away from airports. Regulators, however, have been largely unable to enforce those guidelines.

In an attempt to bring a measure of order to the skies, the FAA on Monday began requiring all recreational drone owners to register online with the agency and to affix identification numbers on their aircraft.

[Near-collisions between drones, airliners surge]

More than 45,000 people registered in the first two days, overwhelming the system and forcing the FAA to take it offline temporarily for repairs. The FAA said it expects that as many as 400,000 small drones could be sold during the holidays.

In anticipation of more difficulties to come, the Air Force last week began a new campaign to educate its pilots, flight crews and air-traffic controllers about the hazards posed by small drones.

Steven Pennington,  the Air Force’s director of bases, ranges and airspace, said many consumer drones are only two or three feet in diameter. At that size, pilots usually can’t see them until they’re within 600 feet — giving the pilots just a second or two to react before the military aircraft whiz by.

Pennington said the Air Force is telling its pilots: “Boys and girls, there’s a change in the world. There are small things flying. We know some of them are flying in our terminal areas and they shouldn’t be. We’re working on that. We know that there are some of them flying in around our military training routes and special-use airspace. We’re working on that. But the first thing is to tell people to be aware.”

The Air Force is also considering more forceful countermeasures. On Tuesday, the service posted a contract solicitation for portable equipment that could be used to disrupt the flight paths of rogue drones near military installations.

According to the solicitation, the Air Force Global Strike Command wants to buy portable jammers that would interfere with drones’ navigational signals and force them to return to where they launched from.

Although the FAA has recorded scores of near-misses, there have been no reports of a midair collision between a drone and a regular aircraft in the United States.

Pennington likened the aviation threat posed by small drones to those of large birds, which can weigh anywhere from two to 15 pounds. The difference, he said, is that drones contain hard plastic or metal, like their lithium battery packs.

If a drone were to get sucked into a military jet engine, he said, “we’re relatively certain it would be a significant problem.”


DHS Red Tape Stifling Adoption of Unmanned Aerial Systems


Image: Cartoonistgroup.com


“Red tape within the Department of Homeland Security is stifling the adoption of unmanned aerial systems within its 22 agencies, found a recent report.

“Bureaucratic resistance in components across DHS is threatening its ability to effectively acquire and operate unmanned systems,” including small systems that have become increasingly inexpensive and more capable, said a report titled “Unmanned Systems in Homeland Security.”

The report was put together by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, and the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute, a federally funded research and development center operated by ANSER, a public service research institute based in Falls Church, Virginia.

“On balance, the HSE [homeland security enterprise] is not yet well poised to capitalize on, or respond to widespread commercial and consumer use of, unmanned systems,” it said. “While work is underway in DHS, for example, it appears to be largely reactive, siloed, focused primarily (though not exclusively) on the air domain, and limited to DHS vice the larger HSE. This is not sufficient for what is likely to be a disruptive technology.”

Customs and Border Protection has an established program using large Predator systems, but it has yet to fully embrace small systems, the report said.

“DHS could make significant use of commercial-off-the-shelf [small] UAS, which will outpace other unmanned systems in domestic quantity and use over the next decade,” it said. Small systems “may not offer radically different capabilities than are already available in manned aircraft, but they can offer those capabilities in a more affordable way, and potentially can be fielded and operated in far greater numbers.”

There is a lack of overarching policy and strategy for the domestic use of such systems which in turn creates “public safety, public affairs and economic risks,” it said.
That is largely due in part to pending rules being written by the Federal Aviation Administration, said Sam Brannen, one of the authors of the study who works for A.T. Kearney’s global business policy council.

The FAA is required by Congress to integrate small unmanned aerial systems — those weighing under 55 pounds — into the national airspace, but it has so far missed key deadlines.

Calling the rules the elephant in the room, Brannen said: “It’s only fair to say that the rulemaking process has gone very slowly, and it’s only fair to say that it has gone very slowly for a number of very good reasons, including zero tolerance for a decrease in aviation safety as a result of introducing UAS.”

“The adoption of UAS in the homeland security enterprise has been slowed by FAA rulemaking. We heard from a variety of potential users that they are simply waiting for rules,” Brannen said during a Dec. 16 panel discussion at CSIS.

Additionally, the delay in regulations is hurting U.S. companies, he said. “The U.S., from a competitiveness stand point, is falling behind other countries because of the regulatory decisions that we’re making.”

It has also resulted in a “Wild West” situation, where some businesses are shirking the rules and flying drones illegally, he said.

“The enforcement is extremely weak, the legal precedent is very murky and they’re willing to take the chance,” he said. “When was the last time you saw a realtor arrested for flying a drone? But when you multiply that across the United States, across commercial sectors it becomes very confusing and congested.”

More research still needs to be done within federal agencies when it comes to small UAS, he said.  During the report’s research period in 2014, only the FBI had small UAS in regular operations, Brennen said. Their use was limited to niche applications and line-of-sight operations.

While the report was published in January, it was only recently released. Kenneth Rapuano, senior vice president at ANSER and executive director of the HSSAI, said the delay was because of “vagaries” within the homeland security public release approval process.”



FAA Gets Serious About Drones




“If your new Christmas toy outweighs two butter sticks, you need to register it with the feds.

Do it now for free.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Dec. 14 FAA Press Release that starting next week, all drone owners will have to register their drones to fly them in the US. To encourage owners to register, the process will be free online for the next month, but after Jan. 20, 2016, anyone wanting to fly a drone will have to pay the US government $5 for the privilege.

The FAA announced its recommendations for registering drones last month, having deliberated with a group of lawyers, companies, and organizations with an interest in the drone industry. Just in time for the Christmas rush—which could see up to one million drones sold as presents—the Department of Transportation reviewed the group’s recommendations, and the agency adopted many of the recommendations in its official policy.

Quartz has broken down the FAA’s new regulations so you know what you’ll have to do with your drone:

Who needs to register?

Anyone flying a drone that weighs over 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds—which is pretty much every consumer drone that isn’t a microdrone. Larger drones need to be registered through the mail. The FAA is quick to point out, for any jokers out there, that you don’t need to register your paper airplane, or toy balloon, or frisbee. If you’re unsure how much your drone weighs, the FAA suggests using a kitchen scale to find out. If you don’t have a scale, the FAA has kindly informed us that two sticks of butter weighs slightly less than the lightest drones that have to be registered.

Any drone, whether it’s tethered or not, even if it’s only flown on private property, will need to be registered. And drone owners will need to have their certificate of registration on them when they’re flying, unless they’re flying inside.

Anyone over the age 13 with a drone will have to register, and according to the FAA’s FAQ page, only US citizens will be able to register drones. Those under the age of 13 can still fly drones, however, as long as they’re accompanied by someone over 13.

The FAA said that anyone who currently owns a drone has until Feb. 19, 2016, to register their drone. The penalties for failing to register are quite steep:

Failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.

How do I register?

The FAA has set up an online portal that goes live on Dec. 21. (You can’t submit any registration online before that date.) You’ll have to provide your full name, address and email. You won’t have to include the model of your drone, and each owner that’s registered can fly as many drones as they wish.

According to the FAA, it’s federal law that the agency has to charge something for registration, which is why it’ll cost $5 starting in January. The agency also says that the cash will be spent on the cost of building the registration site. Every three years you’ll have to renew your registration for another $5 each time.

Although registration will be free for the first month, the FAA is still going to require people to put in a credit card number and charge them $5—the agency will then credit them back. It’s not clear why this has to be done.

Once you’ve got your registration number, you’ll have to mark it on any drone you own before flying it. If you sell your drone, you’ll have to make sure you remove your registration number before giving it to the new owner.”