Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
UAVs Come of Age

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are changing the face of modern warfare, homeland security, law enforcement and even weather reporting.

As UAV technology improves, unmanned vehicles are playing a greater role in national military operations, with missions ranging from early warning and maritime tracking to communications relay. In the past decade, unmanned platforms have morphed from novelty support systems to essential tools in modern warfare. As UAV technology becomes more mainstream, applications are being explored for the Department of Defense (DOD), homeland defense, international defense, civil border patrol and commercial markets.

What are UAVs?

A UAV is any aircraft flown without a pilot. Researchers have referred to them as remotely-piloted vehicles (RPV), remotely-operated vehicles (ROV), drones, robot planes or pilot-less aircraft. These designations are somewhat broader than UAV, which refers only to aircraft, while ROV and RPV could refer to submarines, boats, ground vehicles, and other types of moving vehicles.

Most often called UAVs, they are defined by the United States DOD as powered, aerial vehicles that do not carry a human operator, use aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or non-lethal payload.

UAVs range from the size of an insect to that of a commercial airliner. The U.S. DOD currently possesses five major UAVs: the Air Force’s Predator and Global Hawk, the Navy and Marine Corps’ Pioneer and the Army’s Hunter and Shadow. The U.S. military services continue to be innovative in their use of UAVs. Recent examples include arming UAVs, using UAVs to extend the eyes of submarines and teaming UAVs with strike aircraft and armed helicopters to improve targeting.

UAVs also range in degree of autonomy. Some require a team of field technicians while others are capable of flying themselves once launched. While aircraft like the Predator and Boeing X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle require extensive resources and qualified professionals to operate effectively, operators can be stationed in one location while the UAVs fly at another location halfway around the world. This takes the risk off of pilots who don’t have to be anywhere near the plane.

UAVs in Military Operations

The war on terrorism has put a high premium on the primary mission of UAVs today: intelligence gathering. Furthermore, the outstanding military effectiveness of UAVs in recent conflicts has opened the eyes of many to the number of the advantages provided by unmanned aircraft.

As the world's most modern military forces adopt network-centric operations, their leaders are recognizing the overwhelming advantage provided by having the products of real-time surveillance and intelligence gathering at their fingertips. Perhaps the safest, most efficient and flexible method for gathering such information is through the use of unmanned aircraft.

The earliest UAVs were developed after World War I. They were used during World War II to train antiaircraft gunners. Nevertheless, they were little more than full-sized remote controlled airplanes until the late 20th century. Lately, interest in such craft has grown within the higher ranks of the U.S. military, as they offer the possibility of cheaper, more capable fighting machines that can be used without risk to aircrews. Initial generations have primarily been surveillance aircraft, but some have already been fitted with weaponry.

As military leaders look to the future, they are examining how information dominance and real-time shared situational awareness are critical to the challenges of military operations. The U.S. military is laying the groundwork to complete its transition from an industrial-age fighting force to an information-age force that is agile and rapidly deployable. And as technology, procedures and familiarity improve, more advanced UAV and UCAV systems are set to play a major role in the future of intelligence gathering and in delivering even greater capability to the future war fighter.

Civilian Opportunities for UAVs

Civilian applications of UAVs can be grouped into four major categories: commercial, civil, security and scientific. The majority of these applications involve monitoring, communications and imaging. These areas of interest affect a large number of civilian fields and are highly needed in the commercial marketplace.

Of all of these applications, those that will emerge soonest are local monitoring and surveillance. More research is currently being aimed at exploring possible peacetime surveillance roles for UAVs in the U.S. to monitor illegal entry into the country and provide surveillance over the White House.

As UAVs become simpler and less expensive to operate and maintain, they will be more suitable for mainstream commercial applications. One day, overnight delivery companies might employ unmanned robotic flyers to deliver priority mail. Large-scale farming could be revolutionized by UAVs, which would monitor crop areas and tell farmers when to harvest. UAVs equipped with aerial cameras could also be used for moviemaking, television news and sports reporting.

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are also considering UAVs for surveillance purposes. The U.S. Transportation Department has looked at possible security functions for UAVs such as following trucks with hazardous cargo. The Energy Department has also been developing high-altitude instruments that can be carried by UAVs to measure radiation in the atmosphere.

Types of UAVs and Honeywell’s Role in the Future

As the UAV market grows, a number of different types of UAVs are emerging for various applications. Honeywell technology is playing a major role in the development of many of these future systems.

Organic Air Vehicles (OAVs)

OAVs are designed to operate from the battlefield by field troops and provide small combat teams and individual soldiers with the capability to detect the enemy forces concealed in forests or hills, around buildings in urban areas or in places where the shooter does not have a direct line-of-sight.

OAVs can hover and stare, and essentially become sentinels for maneuvering troops. Rather than sending a soldier into harm's way to scout a particularly potential high-risk area, a unit will be able to use the OAV instead. Typical OAV missions include reconnaissance and surveillance, path finding for friendly ground vehicles (both robotics and manned), maneuver force protection, and targeting for non-line-of-sight fire operations.

Honeywell is creating lightweight integrated avionics developed for OAVs as a common core avionics package and vetronics mobility package for UAVs and UGVs. This common electronics and software package can be applied to small, unmanned air vehicles, but also can be used on conventionally winged as well as Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicles and the soldier UGV. It also has the potential of being used as the mobility control for the larger MULE UGV. This lightweight (1.5 lb.) core integrated avionics suite from the OAV shares its principal components with large quantity artillery projectiles.

The OAV's core package consists of a MEMS inertial measurement system, a GPS receiver and a flight management unit processor that:

Integrate GPS and inertial data for position and attitude information
Run Honeywell’s MACH flight control laws
Generate outputs to control servos
Perform payload management and coordinate communications content and usage

Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs)

MAVs are primarily being explored as mission capable flight systems for military surveillance and reconnaissance applications. MAVs are classified as UAVs with the dimension of the vehicle not exceeding 15 cm.

Honeywell is currently flight testing a new 13-inch autonomous MAV surveillance aircraft that a foot soldier can carry on his back. The primary purpose of the MAV is to provide intelligence on enemy activity without risking the lives of human pilots or ground reconnaissance teams. Honeywell is developing the MAV for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of its Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program.

Called a ducted fan air vehicle, the MAV flies like a helicopter, using a propeller that draws in air through a duct to provide lift. The MAV's propeller is enclosed in the duct and is driven by a gasoline engine. A heavy fuel engine variant of the MAV will be available in 2006.

The MAV is controlled using Honeywell's MEMS electronic sensor technology. The micro air vehicle may become part of the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems program as the "hover and stare" Class I Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System. Honeywell is the prime contractor developing the MAV along with subcontractors AAI Corp. for the airframe, AVID for modeling and simulation and Techsburg for testing and acoustics.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs)

UGVs could be used for a variety of applications, including off-road navigation. Small, man-portable UGVs are also being explored for urban reconnaissance scenarios. NASA, DARPA and the U.S. Army are all investing in research to explore other possible uses for UGVs in the future of military operations as well as space exploration.

Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs)

UCAVs, commonly referred to as unmanned fighter jets, are known as are one of the more futuristic applications now being studied for UAVs. The joint U.S. Air Force/Navy program, recently renamed J-UCAS (joint-uninhabited combat air system) is examining a fundamentally different sort of combat UAV - not simply a reconnaissance UAV with a modest combat payload. This vehicle would have performance and payload comparable to a contemporary strike aircraft. While UCAVs will probably take a decade or more to mature, much like earlier aerospace revolutions, it is possible that they will prove a viable alternative to other manned combat air vehicles in the future. UCAV development is also underway in other countries such as France, Sweden and Italy.

The Future of UAVs

The global appetite for unmanned aircraft is showing no sign of abating. Instead there are growing indicators that countries increasingly are looking for an even greater variety of systems.

As technology maturation continues to open doors to more opportunities in the vast market of UAVs, Honeywell is dedicated to working closely with its partners to remain at the forefront of new developments and help broaden the use of UAVs in future military and civilian applications.

For more information, visit http://www51.honeywell.com/aero/technology/tech-areas3/unmanned-air-vehicles.html?c=41.