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L-3's 'Optionally-Piloted Aircraft' Mobius

...and I thought it was the name of an electronic rock band...

Trolling through the booths at this year's Air Force Association convention in the DC area, a new UAV, or shall we say, OPA, caught our eye.

The L-3-made Mobius unmanned -- or, umm, manned -- aircraft is a swept-winged, push-motored prop plane that industry officials claim will horn in on the medium altitude, long-endurance UAV mission.

One might wonder what's the point of making a UAV capable of hosting a pilot...

Well, industry officials say the pilot option is a good one for flights through restricted airspace and areas where the FAA hasn't quite figured out how to accommodate UAVs in general. If a mission needs to be flown through those types of places, throw the stooge behind the stick and leave the AI at home.

Proponents of the system also argue the Mobius is a more cost-effective option than current UAVs like the Predator, which they claim cost about 40 percent more than the optionally-piloted aircraft. And that's a theme we heard quite a bit from the ever-growing UAV market at this year's AFA...price competition with existing UAV platforms.

It might be that the dominance of the Predator/Reaper and Global Hawk which ushered in the modern battlefield UAV era in the US market could be eroding.

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