ROBO-COPTERS GET MEAN

For those of you worried that the Defense Department might have decided to bail on the idea of building an armed, robotic helicopter, don't fret. The dream of unmanned killer copters is still alive, at least in some corners of the Pentagon.itf_UAV2.jpgThe U.S. military's highest-profile robo-copter project, the Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft (UCAR) program, crashed and burned a few months back, after the Army decided to pass on funding the UCAR's next, $160 million phase.But some smaller efforts are continuing. The Army recently test-fired a set of rockets from one of its Vigilante unmanned copters. The December trial marked the first time a first rotary-wing drone let loose such weapons. In the not-too-far future, the modified UH-1 "Huey" is expected to make the step up to launching guided missiles, like the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS).Meanwhile, Boeing is turning one of its special forces copters, the Little Bird, into an unmanned killer, too. In a press release, Boeing said it sees the drone as being "uniquely suited for precision re-supply; communications relay using large, heavy packages; airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; downed pilot recovery, and weapons delivery."With a $1.6 million Army grant, the company is expecting to try out a whole bunch of weapons systems on the Little Bird drone, too. Those include the APKWS, the Hellfire missiles now aboard Predator drones, as well as the GAU-19/A gatling gun, which soldiers on manned helicopters have long used, to deadly effect.THERE'S MORE: Paris Hilton, watch your ass. Check out Gizmodo's take on the robo-copter.

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