Skip to comments.Troops Build Their Own UAVs
Posted on 05/31/2005 11:48:06 PM PDT by strategofr
Troops in combat zones are eager to get their hands on robotic vehicles, but the supply is limited. Fewer than a thousand UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles) have been sent to Iraq so far. So the troops have been improvising. Radio controlled (RC) cars and aircraft are readily available from hobby stores, or their web sites. Items can be sent via air freight to Iraq. The high end RC trucks cost several hundred dollars, but can be controlled from as far away as 200 meters. These are often carried by troops on convoy duty, for checking out items on, or alongside, the road that might be bombs. Just shooting at these objects doesnt always set them off. But run an RC car up to it, and ram the object, and you quickly know if it is heavy (and possibly a bomb), or light (and likely just some garbage.) These vehicles can also be equipped with wireless video cameras, perfect for checking out whats around the corner. RC aircraft, especially the high end ones that cost $500 or more, can also, with some effort, be equipped with a wireless vidcam. However, using off-the-shelf equipment, your transmission range is only a few hundred meters. Most RC aircraft can be controlled up to 500 meters away, and with more expensive commo gear, nearly twice that. But troops have gotten their own improvised UAVs into the air (and sometimes shot at as well.) The army calls these efforts field expedients, and they are one reason why the army (and the other services as well) are scrambling to get official versions of this gear into the hands of the troops. The government issue stuff is often little different than what the hobbyist troops are coming up with. The military versions are more expensive because they have to be built so that any soldier can quickly figure out how to use them. That takes a lot of effort, and runs the costs up. But for units that have some RC hobbyists in the ranks, you can make your own, crude but effective, recon UAVs for under a thousand dollars. The official versions cost $20,000 or more.
I'll make a bunch for $500 each to send to the troops in Iraq... if the Gov't pays me $20,000 each... lol
Making a model plane easy enough for a child to operate: $500, retrofitting with controls that your average flag officer can understand: $19,500.
"(developing an autopilot for a RC helicopter)"
How would such a program navigate (would it have sensory input? GPS?)
Model planes aren't exactly easy to fly around, they take a decent bit of training to know how to fly them and at best they may get 15 minutes of air time before the fuel is out. Landing is the hardest part of the whole job. Most of that additional cost probably goes into making military tough stuff that doesn't need much training to do at all. I saw an article posted here about just that a couple days ago. Apparently the planes are controlled by a laptop and its just point and click, with some light training in landing them.
"Landing is the hardest part of the whole job."
Sounds like a lot of these planes will never have to worry about that part. If needed, couldn't they just land in a bunch of pillows, or something?
From what I've read about the project earlier (they're re-organizing the project and website after a dormant year), they relied on GPS, accelerometers and gyros for flying and navigating. I think they used pocket PC's with 802.11 wireless LAN for communication with the UAV.
This is what you call COTS :)
I wish you would have ended it with the "... Priceless" commercial gag.
Rotomotion (with video snippets)
The latest Make uses a Balloon and a still camera. I think it would be very easy and cheap to convert those over to a digital camera. Interesting ideas though.
Dragon Eye (DE) Interim-Small Unit Remote Scouting System (I-SURSS)
Developer: Office of Naval Research (ONR) Science & Technology (S & T) Project under development by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in conjunction with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL)
System Description: The Dragon Eye is being developed as a small, fully autonomous, back-able, hand launched UAV to provide the Marine Corps an over-the-next-hill, or building tactical reconnaissance and surveillance capability. Dragon Eyes operating altitude is between 300 and 500 feet above ground level, and has a video link range in excess of 5 kilometers. The aircrafts payloads are capable of real-time high resolution day color, and low light black/white imagining. Dragon Eyes electric motors provide an extremely low noise signature, and the small wingspan make it very difficult to detect. The air vehicles battery provide up to 60 minutes of flight time, and the aircraft has a flight weight approximating 5 pounds. The air vehicle can be assembled and launched by a two man team in approximately 10 minutes. The aircraft is programmed via a seven pound rugged-ized handheld computer which is capable of flight planning, flight monitoring, and storage of air vehicle transmitted video. The aircrafts flight profile is GPS waypoint guided, each waypoint allowing for various linear, and orbiting search patterns and altitudes. The aircrafts flight profile has the ability to be updated or changed in flight.
|Weight w/payload:||5 pounds|
|Endurance:||30 60 Minutes|
|Cruise Speed:||35 knots|
|Mission Altitude:||300 to 500 feet AGL|
|Payloads:||Interchangeable day and low light EO imagers|
Program Summary: DE is being developed for employment by a Marine Company or smaller unit to provide a real time tactical reconnaissance capability. Anticipate transition from ONR S&T to DoD ACAT during FY02. PEO(W) and MCSC are dual MDAs with PMA 263 as PM and MCSC as the IPT Lead.
I suppose we could just call all of the sacrifice up to now a complete waste, and just hand Iraq back over to Saddam and his terror weenies.
I can think of no greater disrespect for those who have given so much.
But then, maybe the United States should be run out of Brussels too. We all know that the Europeans, with all of their sophistication and intellect are good at avoiding the loss of skyscrapers. /Sarcasm off.
Yes, actually it is. As we said back when I was in the Army ...
Adapt and Overcome, Soldier!
Our troops are innovating on the fly and civilians want to jump to rediculous conclusions because we get to see it all on the news?
"From a Nation that could fight two major fronts to one that has to use toys to fight Arabs... Arguably the most backwards savages on the planet."
That's a very "glass is half empty" kind of statement. We're so advanced that we can even combat them with our TOYS!
Alot of people need to go back and read their history. Our public schools are failing us if we have the idea that this kind of innovation and improvised adaptation is new. Invention on the fly has taken place in just about every war in history.
Doesn't anyone remember our boys cutting up the anti-tank obstacles from the Normandy beaches and welding them onto the front of their tanks as hedgecutters?!? Let's be just a little bit pragmatic here instead of emotionally over reacting to every one of these stories in the media please.
I just wonder why the bad guys haven't figured out how to do the same. If it's cheap and effective, they could easily build their own UAVs.
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