Tag Archives: Drones

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s a Perdix

What’s small, fast, and is launched from the bottom of a fighter jet? Not missiles, but a swarm of drones.

I watched a 60 minute report on Tuesday night that had me so intrigued in what the military is doing with new technology.  This is not just about Drones, it’s about where the future is going with the following technologies.

  • Unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), such as the autonomous car.
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), unmanned aircraft commonly known as a “drone” …
  • Unmanned surface vehicle (USV), for the operation on the surface of the water.
  • Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) or unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV), for the operation underwater.

U.S. military officials have announced that they’ve carried out their largest ever test of a drone swarm released from fighter jets in flight. In the trials, three F/A-18 Super Hornets released 103 Perdix drones, which then communicated with each other and went about performing a series of formation flying exercises that mimic a surveillance mission.

But the swarm doesn’t know how, exactly, it will perform the task before it’s released. As William Roper of the Department of Defense explained in a statement:

Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature. Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.

Releasing drones from a fast-moving jet isn’t straightforward, as high speeds and turbulence buffet them, causing them damage. But the Perdix drone, originally developed by MIT researchers and named after a Greek mythical character who was turned into a partridge, is now in its sixth iteration and able to withstand speeds of Mach 0.6 and temperatures of -10 °C during release.

A Washington Post report last year explained that they had been developed as part of a $20 million Pentagon program to augment the current fleet of military drones. It’s hoped that the small aircraft, which weigh around a pound each and are relatively inexpensive because they’re made from off-the-shelf components, could be dropped by jets to perform missions that would usually require much larger drones, like the Reaper.

Clearly, they’re well on the way to being that useful. Now the Pentagon is working with its own Silicon Valley-style innovation organization, the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, to build fleets of the micro-drones.

I’ll be talking about some of the individual technologies in the future.

Let me know your thoughts and what you think of this type of technology.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane . . . No, It’s a Drone. Long Awaited FAA Drone Regulations Finally Take Flight

The government is taking more steps to address safety concerns and regulate the aerial vehicles.

The government is taking more steps to address safety concerns and regulate the aerial vehicles.

It’s a bird.

It’s a plane.

No, it’s a drone. Also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or unmanned aircraft (UA).

And, technically, they’ve been around a long time, since at least 1849 when the Australians attacked Italy with unmanned balloons loaded with explosives. Even a young Marilyn Monroe, when she was known simply as “Norma Jean,” worked at a company called Radioplane making unmanned aircrafts during World War II.

Since then, as technology has advanced, which, in turn, has made the cost of older technology go down, what was once old, is now new again. Drones are making regular appearances in the movies (Divergent Series: Allegiant). The paparazzi (who are apparently tired of getting punched in the face) are using them. And some day, perhaps very soon, they may just be delivering your packages (Amazon Prime Air).

One of the earliest adopters of drones outside the military, however, has been the construction industry which has used drones to track the progress of construction projects and conduct site surveys such as this one showing the progress of Apple’s new campus in Cupertino:

The increasingly wide-spread use of drones prompted Congress in 2012 to enact the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The Act tasked the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) with establishing regulations to “provide for the safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system as soon as practicable, but no later than September 30, 2015.”

The FAA missed its deadline.

However, on June 21, 2016, the FAA released its Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“Small UAS”) regulations (14 C.F.R. Part 107) which went into effect late this month on August 29, 2016.

So, what do contractors need to know about the Small UAS regulations? Here’s a summary:

Application of Regulations

  • UAS operations subject to the regulations include “building inspections” and “aerial photography.”

Unmanned Aircraft Requirements

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. and be registration. A link to the registration site can be found here.
  • Regulations do not apply to model aircraft flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

Unmanned Aircraft Pilot Requirements

  • A remote pilot in command must hold either a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds a remote pilot certificate.
  • To qualify for a remote pilot certificate a person must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or hold a part 61 pilot certificate other than student pilot, complete a flight review within the previous 24 months, and complete a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.
  • Part 61 certificate holders may obtain a temporary remote pilot certificate immediately upon submission of their application for a permanent certificate. Other applicants will obtain a temporary remote pilot certificate upon successful completion of TSA security vetting.

Operational Requirements

  • Unmanned aircraft must remain within the visual line of sight of the remote pilot in command and person manipulating the flight controls.
  • Unmanned aircraft may not operate over any person not directly participating in the operation and may not be operated under a covered structure or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
  • Unmanned aircraft may only be operated during daylight, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with anti-collision lighting.
  • Unmanned aircraft must yield right of way to other aircraft.
  • Unmanned aircraft may not travel faster than 100 mph and may not fly higher than 400 feet above ground level or, if higher than 400 feet, remain within 400 feet of a structure.
  • There must be minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from the control station.
  • Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace is allowed with air traffic control permission. Operations in Class G airspace is allowed without air traffic control permission.
  • Unmanned aircraft may not be operated from a moving aircraft. Unmanned aircraft may not be operated from a moving vehicle unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area.
  • Unmanned aircraft may not be operated carelessly or recklessly and may not carry hazardous materials.
  • Many of the restrictions above are waivable if an applicant can demonstrate that his or her operations can be safely conducted. A link to the waiver form can be found here.

So there you go. Happy flying. Be safe !!!!