When I wrote with some skepticism about the BattleHog attack drone last week, American Dynamics -- the enigmatic makers of the unmanned combat aerial vehicle, or UCAV -- responded with a huffy comment, a link to their website, and an invitation to visit. After e-mailing and calling them, the drone-builders still remain as mysterious as before.The question remains: can an unknown outfit really come up with a world-beating UCAV? You don't have to be Boeing or Lockheed, of course, to dream up a brilliant design, or to build an advanced aircraft. But you have to be more than a mom-and-pop outfit, too.In their comments, "Mark K." from American Dynamics says the company is more substantial than it might initially appear. The fact that the phone company lists the business as a "home security and technology services consultancy" -- that's Verizon's description, not Mark & Co.'s. Further, the company has signed an agreement to buy Eagles Nest airport in April. The airport continues to serve Atlantic City and Long beach Island, but part of it is now used as a flight testing area for American Dynamics aircraft. This was apparently the site of the BattleHogs debut flight - but we have not seen any photos yet.The company web site mentions American Dynamics' previous work on high-speed hull suspension systems for boats, as well as the BattleHog 100X drone and the WorkHog, a civil version for anyone wanting a 3,000 lb spy plane.But theres more: an "advanced hybrid power platform" for ground vehicles, and an even more ambitious drone, the S1K UAS "a large payload, deep strike Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle." Given that the larger BattleHog 350Xis a stealthy attack craft carrying 10,000 lb internally, the S1K must be a real monster.Even the sky is not the limit for American Dynamics. Since 2001 they have been working on a Single Stage Orbital Vehicle, inteded to repalce the multi-stage rockets used for putting satellites into orbit today. You couldn't accuse them of failing to think big.They have a down-to-earth side, too -- with "Integrated Smart Home Systems" which will
help make your home into an active partner in managing your busy lifestyle through the use of automated lighting controls, environmental controls, auxiliary device controls, home theater controls, home security controls, home computer networking, and more.Its quite a portfolio for a small and obscure company, but little of it has actually made it to the production stage. The only actual product is the suspension system, as far as we know, and the space rockets and stealth planes remain on the drawing board.As for BattleHog - we're still waiting to see the evidence. Over to you, American Dynamics...-- David HamblingUPDATE 1:40 PM: Thanks to Todd in the comments for digging up the pic.