Tag Archives: drones industry

The 1 Million Genies out of the Bottle

The head of the U.S. Departement of Homeland Security  (DHS)  on May 15, 2018 told Congress that the agency needs new legal authority to track threatening drones and disable or destroy them if necessary.  “Our enemies are exploring other technologies, too, such as drones, to put our country in danger. ISIS has used armed drones to strike targets in Syria, and we are increasingly concerned that they will try the same tactic on our soil,” she said…

Government and private-sector officials are concerned that dangerous or even hostile drones could get too close to places like military bases, airports and sports stadiums.Nielsen added that DHS has “also seen drones used to smuggle drugs across our borders and to conduct surveillance on sensitive government locations.”

In 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration barred drone flights over major U.S. nuclear sites. The FAA also banned drone flights over 10 U.S. landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty in New York and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.  Also banned in 2017 were drone flights over 133 U.S. military facilities. The Pentagon said in August 2017 that U.S. military bases could shoot down drones that pose a threat.  The FAA said in January 2017  that more than 1 million drones have been registered. Last week, the U.S. Transportation Department picked 10 pilot projects allowing drone use at night, out of sight operations and over populated areas

Exceprts from U.S. agency seeks new authority to disable threatening drones, May 15, 2018

Trapping and Killing Drones

Mobile Force. Image from DARPA

The rapid evolution of small unmanned air systems (sUAS) technologies fueled by the exponential growth of the commercial drone sector, has created new asymmetric threats for [conventional armies]…[There is is a need to] identify, track, and neutralize these sUASs while mitigating collateral damage.

DARPA is soliciting proposals for award for the Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program … The MFP program [seeks to develop a system] capable of defeating a raid of self-guided, small Unmanned Aircraft Systems attacking a high value asset on the move. The program …seeks to develop an integrated system capable of providing protection to ground or naval convoys against self-guided sUAS and, to the extent possible, other asymmetric threats… By focusing on protecting mobile assets, the program plans to emphasize low-footprint solutions in terms of size, weight, power (SWaP),and manning….The Mobile Force Protection program has selected the U.S. Army Maneuver Aviation and Fires Integration Application (MAFIA) as the software architecture…(www.fbo.org)

Note that In 2016 the Islamic State tried to use small commercial drones to launch attacks, prompting American commanders in Iraq to issue a warning to forces fighting the group to treat any type of small flying aircraft as a potential explosive device.  (NY Times).

Drones and the Anti-Poaching War: Tanzania

DT-18. Image from http://www.delair-tech.com/en/systems/dt-18

The Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) says it is looking to deploy the French-made Delair Tech DT-18 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to carry out surveillance operations over key national reserves to protect critically endangered elephant and rhinos from poachers.

This follows successful test-flights of the DT-18 UAV over the Tarangire National Park last week by private Tanzanian company Bathawk Recon…Bathawk Recon is a private company which was set up to develop and deploy UAV surveillance systems for national parks and game reserves.  Its representative Mike Chambers said the UAV had performed to their satisfaction in both day and night surveillance operations. He said the DT 18 can fly multiple day and night missions thanks to an infrared camera….

TheDT-18 trials were conducted under the auspices of the (Tanzanian) Private Sector Anti Poaching Initiative which seeks to bring the private sector to participate in war against poaching.The UAV systems will be operated by the Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU) of the national parks authority. Tanzania is battling a serious rhino and elephant poaching crisis and the populations of both species have continued to decline in the last few years. The most affected are Selous Game Reserve, Tarangire National Park and Ruaha Game Reserve.  Some 30 elephants are killed every day in Tanzania by poachers.

Excerpts from Oscar Nkala, Tanzania seeking to deploy DT-18 UAVs in anti-poaching war, DefenceWeb.com, Nov. 12, 2104

Why They Love Drones, industry insights

Global spending on drones is forecast to nearly double in the next decade, growing to $11.3 billion a year — and suggesting a near-$95 billion market over the next 10 years, according to industry research firm Teal Group.  Big-hitters in the market include Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, as well as privately-held General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Textron Systems.

As companies develop next-generation UAV features to cater to their primary defense market, their efforts are focused on two areas: weaponization and intelligence.  “Historically, we have seen larger aircraft like the General Atomics’ Predator as a weaponized variant. We’re seeing a trend of weaponization down to smaller classes gaining momentum,” said Michael Lewis, an analyst at Lazard Capital.  Textron’s Shadow unmanned system is another example of an armed drone. Among smaller UAVs, AeroVironment recently won a $5 million contract from the U.S. Army for its Switchblade.   As the United States draws down its troop presence in battlegrounds from Iraq to Afghanistan, so the need for intelligence gathering capability increases, driving demand for the Predator and Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk.  “With UAVs, you can do more with less as they act as a force-multiplier,” Michael Ciarmoli of KeyBanc Capital Markets said.

Though fewer troops on the ground may mean less need for the hand-held UAVs carried by some soldiers, the Defense Department will still buy the small UAVs as it has yet to complete its inventory requirements.AeroVironment, founded by aircraft designer Paul MacCready in 1971, is known for its focus on small UAVs, but the California-based firm has recently branched out into electric vehicle charging stations.  The company is developing its Shrike brand of ultra-small UAV, which weighs just 5 pounds and can fit in a backpack. Shrike will focus on surveillance and intelligence gathering.  “AeroVironment’s positioning as the sole-source supplier of small unmanned aerial systems to the Department of Defense gives it a protected niche in the defense market,” said BB&T Capital Markets analyst Jeremy Devaney.

U.S. drone makers have a technological edge over international peers and could be looking at lucrative export contracts, though these are often out of reach because of strict rules on arms exports.  The economic argument to help sensitive arms sales may gain traction as campaigning for the 2012 U.S. presidential elections kicks off against a backdrop of a 9 percent unemployment rate.  There’s also tougher competition from foreign countries, especially Israel and China.  In a time of slower growth in the U.S. market, companies can be expected to push sales in international markets,” said Philip Finnegan, a Teal Group analyst.  The Obama administration has begun consulting Congress on plans to sell Global Hawk spy planes to South Korea, a Reuters report has said. Such a deal would need a waiver of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary arms control pact involving at least 34 countries.  Both surveillance and armed U.S. drones, which have been widely deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, have received strong interest from Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia and nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan, among others.  AeroVironment, AAI, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics have principally sold their UAVs to NATO allies. Exports make up just 7 percent of AeroVironment’s sales, and 6 percent of Northrop’s.

While U.S. authorities’ concern is more about the transfer of advanced sensor capabilities abroad, UAV makers would at least be able to export airframes, plus maybe sensor and weapon suites approved for foreign sales.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency that oversees foreign military sales is working on pre-approved lists of countries that would qualify to buy drones with certain capabilities.  Meantime, NATO sales might provide some relief. “As our NATO partners attempt to standardize their weapons portfolios more in line with what the U.S. uses, we will see more sales of systems such as AeroVironment’s Puma and Raven UAVs,” said Lazard’s Lewis.  “Three years out, AeroVironment will be selling more internationally than they are today.”

A potential growth area for UAVs is in commercial markets, where there is increasing demand for law enforcement, exploration, disaster recovery and border security.  In the United States, however, prospects are some way off unless the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) opens up domestic airspace for commercial UAV operations.  “Airspace restrictions will play an important role in how quickly these new opportunities become reality,” said Lindsay Voss at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.  “When these two obstacles are overcome, the possibilities for the global UAV industry are endless,” she said, referring to the export rules and FAA restrictions.

Soham Chatterjee and Bijoy Anandoth Koyitty, Drone makers seek out new targets, Reuters, Sept. 23, 2011