The Pentagon came out the other day with its "Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2005-2030." It's the Defense Department's once-every-few-years wrap-up of everything it's doing in drone-land. And there are, of course, a number of interesting tidbits. I'll share 'em with you here, as I make my way through all 213 pages.But here's something that caught my eye right away: a breakdown of the robo-planes being used by (or in the works for) Special Forces. Two of 'em I had heard of before -- the Snow Goose and Onyx delivery drones. The rest were new to me.BATCAMlength: 24". weight: .84 lbs. endurance: 18 mins. 46 plannedFirst flown in 2003, the Battlefield Air Targeting Camera Micro Air Vehicle (BATCAM) will be a recoverable/attritable asset for the Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Force Battlefield Airmen. The BATCAM w provide the ability to covertly navigate, reconnoiter, and target objectives, ultimately enhancing situational awareness, reducing fratricide, increasing survivability, and mission success rates.Neptunelength: 7 ft. weight: 20 lbs. endurance: 4 hrs. 5 delivered/27 plannedNeptune is a new tactical UA [unmanned air] design optimized for at-sea launch and recovery. Carried in a 72x30x20 inch case that transforms into a pneumatic launcher, it can be launched from small vessels and recovered in open water. It can carry IR or color video sensors, or can be used to drop small payloads. Its digital data link is designed to minimize multipath effects over water. First flight occurred in January 2002, and an initial production contract was awarded to DRS Unmanned Technologies in March 2002.XPV-2 Makolength: 9 ft. wieght: 130 lbs. endurance: 8.5 hrs. 30 deliveredMako is a lightweight long endurance versatile unmanned aircraft capable of a variety of missions, yet of sufficiently low cost to be discarded after actual battle, if necessary. It is a single engine, high wing, Radio Controlled or computer assisted autopilot UA capable of daylight or infrared reconnaissance and other related missions. Although it is a relatively new aircraft, the recent modifications that included the addition of navigation/strobe lights, a Mode C transponder, dual GCS operational capability, and a new high resolution digital camera, made it a success during support to OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom].Monday: experimental drones. Stay tuned.
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