• Engineers design invisibility cloak for military drones

    Inspired by the well-known Invisibility Cloak from Harry Potter, electrical engineers have created a new design for their cloaking device, using a Teflon substrate, studded with cylinders of ceramic, which is thinner than any prior development and does not alter the brightness of light around concealed objects. The Teflon has a low refractive index, while the ceramic’s refractive index is higher, which allows light to be dispersed through the sheet without any absorption. Compared to an invisibility cloak, this technology has not only the ability to conceal, but the ability to increase optical communication signal speed and to collect solar energy.

  • Data show drone attacks doomed to fail against ISIS in Syria

    This week, the Washington Post published a story about a new U.S. plan to use lethal drone strikes in Syria to destroy ISIS capabilities on the ground. The desire to do something — anything — to destroy the capabilities of a group so luridly destructive is understandable, but our haste to show results will likely result in a hollow victory at best. But there is a problem: there’s no evidence that drone strikes work. On the contrary, ample evidence shows drone strikes have not made Americans safer or reduced the overall level of terrorist capability. The strikes amount to little more than a waste of life, political capital, and resources. Drones cannot deliver victory over ISIS, but in any event, lacking a cohesive, articulate political strategy for governance and post-ISIS reconstruction, no military solution can produce the results we’re looking for. Lacking the political strategy, more of the same in Syria promises no better.

  • Counter-drone technologies demonstrated at DoD’s Black Dart event

    Small, unmanned aircraft systems (UASs, aka UAVs, for unmanned aerial vehicle), or drones, are easy to obtain and launch and they are hard to detect on radar, making them of particular concern to law enforcement and the Department of Defense. Earlier this month DHS circulated an intelligence assessment to police agencies across the United States warning about drones being used as weapons in an attack. DOD says that Black Dart 2015, which began 26 July and ran through 7 August, is the Department of Defense’s largest live-fly, live-fire joint counter-UAS technology demonstration. One of the innovative developers of counter-UAS technologies is SRC Inc., a not-for-profit company formerly affiliated with Syracuse University. The company showed its SR Hawk surveillance radar, which is integral to its layered approach to defending against UASs.

  • Sound waves disable drones by disrupting the drone’s gyroscope

    Hobbyists’ drones are becoming a growing national nuisance – violating people’s privacy, breaching security-sensitive airspace, disrupting attempts by firefighters to bring wildfires on the West Coast under control, and more. South Korean scientists report that sound waves could offer an effective protection from drones.

  • New air traffic management system to make drone air traffic safer

    Researchers are now working on a new, low-altitude traffic management system to keep fast-moving flyers safer as they cruise through increasingly crowded skies. A handful of organizations are participating in the first phase of the NASA Ames Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management project to enable safer use of low-altitude airspace, of 500 feet and below, where autonomous aerial vehicles, helicopters, gliders, and other general aircraft are operating.

  • DHS warns local law enforcement to watch for drones used by terrorists, criminals

    DHS has circulated an intelligence assessment to police agencies across the United States warning about drones being used as weapons in an attack. The bulletin went out Friday and warned state and municipal law enforcement agencies that terrorist and criminals may begin to use drones to advance their goals. “Emerging adversary use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems [UAS] present detection and disruption challenges,” the intelligence bulletin warns.

  • FAA investigating teen’s gun-toting drone

    An 18-year-old Connecticut man may have run afoul of federal aviation regulation after posting a video on YouTube showing a small drone hovering about ten of fifteen feet above ground in a wooded area while a gun strapped to it was firing shots. The FAA said Tuesday it was investigating whether Austin Haughwout of Clinton violated the agency’s regulations, which ban the careless or reckless operation of a model aircraft.

  • Drones contribute to improving crops

    Researchers have used a drone to measure the temperature, humidity, luminosity, and carbon dioxide concentration in a greenhouse. The capacity of an aerial vehicle to move in three-dimensional space, and the possibility to place the sensor at any point, have clear advantages compared to other alternatives such as sensor networks. By building maps of environmental variables, the drones could help achieve optimal conditions for plant growth.

  • Fighting fires in California hobbled by hobby drones

    A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service said last Thursday that private drone flights in restricted airspace around forest fires have impeded the efforts of firefighting crews to deal with a blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains. The incident has increased the fears of fire and aviation officials that the growing national use of hobby drones could seriously disrupt traditional air traffic and put lives at risk.

  • Making space safer by spotting, removing space debris

    Scientists estimate that there are now some 20,000 particles of space junk measuring more than ten centimeters in diameter hurtling around Earth at an average velocity of 25,000 kilometers per hour, not counting the 700,000 or so particles with a diameter of between one and ten centimeters. Although small, these items of space debris are traveling so fast that they could easily damage or destroy an operational satellite. A new German space surveillance system, scheduled to go into operation in 2018, will help to prevent such incidents.

  • UAV in test flights to detect mock pipeline hazards

    Unmanned aircraft researchers associated with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech tested new sensor technology designed to detect potentially disruptive activities along energy pipeline routes. The flights last week near Farmville, in rural Virginia, involved a fixed-wing RS-20 unmanned aircraft flying beyond the visual line of sight of ground observers. The aircraft had a wingspan of more than seventeen feet and was equipped with optical and infrared sensors designed to detect threats to pipeline integrity. A piloted chase aircraft, with a visual observer onboard, followed behind the UAS [unmanned aerial system] to ensure safety.

  • Giant surveillance blimp to protect Capitol building

    Lawmakers want to make the Capitol building more secure after existing security measured failed to detect or stop Douglas Hughes who, on 15 April, flew his gyrocopter into the Capitol manicured lawn. Some of these lawmakers want to deploy the Tethered Aerostat Radar System, or TARS – a giant blimp carrying 2,000-pounds radars that can spot an aircraft at a distance of 200 miles. Several TARS are already deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border, and along a 340-mile stretch of the Atlantic coast stretching from North Carolina to Boston. The blimp loiters at about 10,000 feet – but in order not to mar the Washington, D.C. skyline, lawmakers suggest acquiring a blimp which can hover at a higher altitude.

  • Lawmakers pledge to continue supporting Center of Excellence for drone research

    Lawmakers pledge to continue support for FAA Center of Excellence (COE) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selected the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE), a consortium of universities headed by Mississippi State University (MSU), to lead the UAS COE. The FAA expects the COE to begin research in 2015 and be fully operational in 2016 in its exploration of evolving new technological developments regarding unmanned aircraft and their uses, including detect-and-avoid technology, low-altitude operations safety, privacy safeguards, and other areas. Research will also involve the deployment of UAS for emergency response, biofuel and clean fuel technologies, law enforcement activities, and agricultural and environmental monitoring.

  • Drones could reach one million U.S. flights a day in twenty years

    The United States will reach one million unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flights per day within the next twenty years, given the right regulatory environment, according to new economic research. Only hobbyists and the do-it-yourself community now are allowed to fly UAS in the United States, enough to fuel a robust U.S. consumer market with the potential to reach $250 million by 2018. However, if the FAA remains on track to complete its line-of-sight rules for commercial operators within three years, the research foresees another $200 million in growth. Additionally, with the continued development of “sense and avoid” technology and FAA rules that foster “beyond-line-of-sight” operations, the U.S. UAS industry could become a $1 billion market.

  • U.S. Navy successfully demonstrates autonomous, swarming UAVs

    A new era in autonomy and unmanned systems for naval operations is on the horizon, as U.S. Navy officials last month announced recent technology demonstrations of swarming unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — part of the Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) program. LOCUST can launch swarming UAVs to autonomously overwhelm an adversary.