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Cheap, Lethal Chinese Drones Are Filling Distant Skies

china-drones

Lower quality, but they get the job done.

Ryan Pickrell reports: Chinese drones are taking flight in skies beyond China’s borders in great numbers, filling a massive void in a multibillion-dollar industry left by the U.S.

“I believe this is the largest campaign we’ve seen that has been focused on drone technology. It seems to align pretty well with the focus of the Chinese government to build up their own drone technology capabilities.”

— Darien Kindlund, manager of Fireeye’s Threat Intelligence division

While the U.S. is recognized as a leader in the development and deployment of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), it keeps its drone technology close and its armed drones even closer, creating new opportunities for China, which is eager to play a role in the global arms trade.

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The U.S. only exports armed drones to a few select allies, such as the U.K., as part of a Department of State decision made early last year. Jordan, for example, requested permission to purchase U.S. drones in 2014 but was rejected.

The U.S. limits its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) exports, especially its armed drones, for two main reasons.

One, the U.S. is a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a multilateral partnership that prohibits the export of missile and UAV technology capable of delivering a 1,100 lb payload at a range greater than 185 miles. Two, some U.S. officials are concerned that regular U.S. drone exports would lead to an increase in drone warfare abroad, creating a less secure international environment.

[Read the full text here, at The Daily Caller]

Unhindered by international agreements and export restrictions, China is moving into the drone export business, creating cheap, yet effective alternatives for countries interested in purchasing drone technology.

Chengdu Pterodactyl I

Chengdu Pterodactyl I

China has been actively developing its drone technology, making great strides in recent years.

Early last month, China showed off its CH-5 Rainbow drone, which it claims can rival America’s MQ-9 Reaper, at an air show in Zhuhai.

[Read more here, at The Daily Caller]

The CH-5 “can perform whatever operations the MQ-9 Reaper can and is even better than the US vehicle when it comes to flight duration and operational efficiency,” Shi Wen, a chief designer of the CH series drones at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, explained to the China Daily a little over a month ago.

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“Several foreign nations have expressed intentions to purchase the CH-5, and we are in talks with them,” he added, signaling China’s interest in selling the new CH-5.

The CH-4referred to as the “AK-47 of drones,” preceded the CH-5. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Set to Approve Moon Mission by Commercial Space Venture 

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Startup Proposes to Land Payload of Scientific Gear on Lunar Surface Some Time Next Year.

Andy Pastor reports: U.S. officials appear poised to make space history by giving the green light to the first private mission aiming to go beyond Earth orbit, according to people familiar with the details.

The government’s endorsement would eliminate the largest regulatory obstacle to plans by Moon Express, a relatively obscure space startup, to land a roughly 20-pound package of scientific hardware on the Moon sometime next year. It also would provide the biggest federal boost yet for unmanned commercial space exploration and, potentially, the first in an array of for-profit ventures throughout the solar system.

The expected decision, said the people familiar with the details, is expected to set important legal and diplomatic precedents for how Washington will ensure such nongovernmental projects comply with longstanding international space treaties. The principles are likely to apply to future spacecraft whose potential purposes range from mining asteroids to tracking space debris.

Approval of a formal launch license for the second half of 2017 is still months away, and the proposed mission poses huge technical hurdles for California-based Moon Express, including the fact that the rocket it wants to use hasn’t yet flown.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

But the project’s proponents have considered federal clearance of the suitcase-size MX-1 lander and its payload as well as approval of a planned two-week operation on the Moon itself to pose the most significant legal challenges to the mission.

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After months of lobbying by Moon Express officials and high-level deliberations among various federal agencies led by the White House science office, the people familiar with the matter said, the company appears close to obtaining what it has called “mission approval.” Until recently, Moon Express faced a regulatory Catch-22 because there was no template for getting Washington’s blessing for what it proposed.

Official action coordinated through the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates U.S. rocket launches and is responsible for traditional payload reviews, could come as soon as the next few weeks, these people said. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Drone Delivering Asparagus to Dutch Restaurant Crashes and Bursts into Flames

 reports: A publicity stunt that involved using a consumer quadcopter drone to deliver vegetables to a restaurant in the Netherlands has literally crashed and burned.

“This is very, very sad because it was an amateur pilot, the owner of the drone, who organised this especially for me and brings his own toys. So this wasn’t supposed to happen of course.”

The De Zwann Michelin-starred restaurant in Etten-Leur, North Brabant in the Netherlands always puts on an exciting publicity stunt to mark the beginning of the asparagus season.

“Yeah, that wasn’t funny. You think you have a cool idea – with a drone – how original can you be? Picking up asparagus with a drone.”

— Peijenburg to Netherlands regional broadcaster Omroep Brabant after the drone crashed

In previous years, owner Ronald Peijenburg has used everything from a Formula 1 racing car to a hot air balloon and a helicopter to deliver the very first asparagus of the season, and this year he wanted to try flying a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

drone-carrying-asparagus-netherlands

Initially the journey from the asparagus farm started well, with the drone taking off carrying a metal can consisting of several asparagus stalks. In the interest of safety, the pilot followed in the back of a small pick-up truck, so the drone was always in line-of-sight, with the stunt being filmed by a local TV channel.

The drone landed safely during the journey to get its battery changed before taking off again, however, on the second take off, the drone crashed onto a thankfully quiet country road, and both the drone and the asparagus it was carrying went up in flames. Read the rest of this entry »


Secret Service Agents Investigated For Crashing Car Into White House Complex

keystone-cops

The Secret Service is investigating two senior agents after a car crash at the White House complex

Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback says recently appointed Director Joseph Clancy has been briefed on the March 4 incident. The investigation has been turned over to the Homeland Security Department’s Inspector General’s office.

Hoback did not provide additional details.

The agency says the two agents have been reassigned to non-supervisory, non-operational jobs. Read the rest of this entry »


GLOBAL PANIC OF JULY 2014 STRIKES SEATTLE: Space Needle Still Standing After Reported Drone Strike

space-needle

For Seattle Police Blotter reports: Seattle’s famous sky-high tourist attraction is still standing after police received reports of a drone crash Tuesday at the Space Needle.

Space Needle security called police just before 8:30 PM after several guests reported seeing a small drone buzznow-panic-and-freak-out_i-g-61-6183-1f81100z the top of the Needle, and possibly crash into an observation Deck window. Witnesses then saw the drone—described as a white, quad-propeller unmanned aerial vehicle, equipped with a camera—glide to a hotel two blocks east of the Needle, where it landed inside a fifth floor room.

Police found no signs of damage to the top of the Space Needle

Security staff pointed out the fifth floor hotel room where the drone had landed, and officers went and contacted a man inside. The man told police he’d just flown his drone past the Needle, but disputed he’d struck anything.

Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Spends Afternoon In Garage Restoring Classic Drone

President Obama says he can’t wait to take the custom rebuilt drone out for a spin.

President Obama says he can’t wait to take the custom rebuilt drone out for a spin.

WASHINGTON—Taking his time to thoroughly clean a pair of replacement carburetors and install them on a turbocharged Rotax engine as classic rock tracks blared from a nearby transistor radio, sources confirmed that President Barack Obama spent most of Wednesday afternoon in the White House garage continuing his restoration of a vintage military drone.

Pausing every so often to admire his work, the president, dressed in jeans and a grease-stained Champion sweatshirt, explained that he has been tinkering with the 1995 RQ-1 Predator since acquiring it from a military scrapyard two years ago. The commander-in-chief said he considers the salvaged unmanned aerial vehicle a prized find, as the United States only produced 12 of the classic airframes for their inaugural deployment in the Bosnian War.

“Now this baby right here is 1,300 pounds of pure American muscle,” Obama said as he tossed a socket wrench aside and wiped the oil from his hands. “From the single rudder steering to the inverted V-tail at the back, it’s all classic General Atomics engineering. Real beaut, isn’t she?”

“I mean, look at this pretty little antenna dome,” he continued, buffing the drone’s satellite communication housing with a shammy cloth. “They just don’t make UAVs like this anymore.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Report: Russia Claims Intercepted U.S. Drone Over Crimea

A US predator drone takes off for a surveillance flight near the Mexican border on March 7, 2013 (AFP Photo/John Moore)

A US predator drone takes off for a surveillance flight near the Mexican border   (AFP Photo/John Moore)

Moscow (AFP) – A United States surveillance drone has been intercepted above the Ukranian region of Crimea, a Russian state arms and technology group said Friday.

“Judging by its identification number, UAV MQ-5B belonged to the 66th American Reconnaissance Brigade, based in Bavaria”

“The drone was flying at about 4,000 metres (12,000 feet) and was virtually invisible from the ground. It was possible to break the link with US operators with complex radio-electronic” technology, said Rostec in a statement.

The drone fell “almost intact into the hands of self-defence forces” added Rostec, which said it had manufactured the equipment used to down the aircraft, but did not specify who was operating it.

Read the rest of this entry »


US Army mounts high energy laser on a big truck for anti-mortar and anti-drone defense

The Army's High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator successfully engaged 90 mortars and several Unmanned Aerial Vehicles during tests over the past month, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The Army’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator successfully engaged 90 mortars and several Unmanned Aerial Vehicles during tests over the past month, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The Army used a vehicle-mounted high-energy laser for the first time to successfully engage more than 90 mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles in flight.

The Army High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD, underwent multiple test events between Nov. 18 and Dec. 10, at White Sands Missile Range.

This was the first full-up demonstration of the HEL MD in the configuration that included the laser and beam director mounted in the vehicle, according to officials of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command. They said a surrogate radar, the Enhanced Multi Mode Radar, supported the engagement by queuing the laser.

The HEL MD is being developed to show directed-energy force-protection capabilities against rockets, artillery and mortars, known as RAM. It is also intended to protect against unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVs, and cruise missiles.

Read the rest of this entry »


Secret New Drone Project: RQ-180 Shows Stealth, Efficiency Advances

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Aviation Week’s Amy Butler and Bill Sweetman report: A large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman is now flying—and it demonstrates a major advance in combining stealth and aerodynamic efficiency. Defense and intelligence officials say the secret unmanned aerial system (UAS), designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, is scheduled to enter production for the U.S. Air Force and could be operational by 2015.

RQ-180 coverFunded through the Air Force’s classified budget, the program to build this new UAS, dubbed the RQ-180, was awarded to Northrop Grumman after a competition that included Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed, and under wide debate, since retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1998.

Neither the Air Force nor Northrop Grumman would speak about the classified airplane. When queried about the project, Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy said, “The Air Force does not discuss this program.”

The RQ-180 carries radio-frequency sensors such as active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and passive electronic surveillance measures, according to one defense official. It could also be capable of electronic attack missions.

This aircraft’s design is key for the shift of Air Force ISR assets away from “permissive” environments—such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where Northrop Grumman’s non-stealthy Global Hawk and General Atomics’ Reaper operate—and toward operations in “contested” or “denied” airspace. The new UAS underpins the Air Force’s determination to retire a version of the RQ-4B Global Hawk after 2014, despite congressional resistance. The RQ-180 eclipses the smaller, less stealthy and shorter-range RQ-170 Sentinel.

Read the rest of this entry »


Unmasked: Area 51’s Biggest, Stealthiest Spy Drone Yet

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Zach Rosenberg writes: The drone that spied on bin Laden and on Iran’s nukes was just the start. Meet its bigger, higher-flying, stealthier cousin, the Northrop Grumman RQ-180. It’s probably been flying for a few years now, but you weren’t supposed to know that; the existence of this secret project, based out of Area 51, was revealed Friday by Aviation Week.

The existence of the RQ-180 has been long rumored. Cryptic public statements by U.S. Air Force officials indicated a secret high-altitude reconnaissance drone, and Northrop officials frequently reference the broad strokes of the program. For that matter, it is likely not the only classified unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV. Other companies, including Lockheed and Boeing, also have a stable of smaller secretaircraft.

The RQ-180 is likely flying from the secret Air Force test facility at Groom Lake, Nevada, widely known as Area 51. Its exact specifications, including such crucial details as the number of engines, is unknown, but Aviation Week suggests a wingspan of over 130 feet, based on hangar construction at Northrop’s Palmdale, California facility. The number of aircraft built is also unknown; however, a flight test program, relatively quick entry into service and open budget documents suggest a small fleet are flying routinely. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan will Shoot Down Foreign Drones

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Ankit Panda writes:  Japan’s Defense Ministry has received approval from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for its plans to intercept and shoot down any foreign drones that ignore initial warnings to leave Japanese airspace. Abe’s approval of the plan asserts Japan’s readiness to respond unilaterally to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The move is the latest in a series of pronouncements and provocations by both China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu territorial dispute. Japan controversially purchased some of the islands in 2012, which thrust the long-unsettled dispute to the forefront of China-Japan relations, which have been strained ever since.

On Sept. 9, a day after manned Chinese bombers flew near Okinawa, a Chinese military drone was observed nearby. The Japanese Defense Ministry dispatched fighters to shadow the manned bomber aircraft, which refrained from entering Japanese airspace. It used a similar procedure for the drone, which is believed to have been a Chinese BZK-005. In late September, The Diplomatnoted that Japan’s Defense Ministry had been studying a plan to shoot down foreign drones over its airspace in response to this incident. Read the rest of this entry »


The Social (Drone) Network

 writes:  The word drone didn’t always have the negative connotation it has been saddled with through frequent news coverage of U.S. military bombing using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). There are many benign uses of drone technology, and these are pretty far removed from what you see on the news. Many hobbyists and some commercial photographers are using small camera-carrying drones for fun or to make money.

One group of enthusiasts seeks to change how people view drones. According to the Drone User Group Netowork (DUGN) website, the organization “seeks to foster interest in the use of civilian unmanned aerial technology and demonstrate its positive potential for humanity.” Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. documents detail al-Qaeda’s efforts to fight back against drones

Eric Gay/AP - Details of al-Qaeda’s efforts to fight back against U.S. drones are contained in a classified intelligence report obtained by The Washington Post.

Eric Gay/AP – Details of al-Qaeda’s efforts to fight back against U.S. drones are contained in a classified intelligence report obtained by The Washington Post.

By Craig Whitlock and Barton Gellman

Al-Qaeda’s leadership has assigned cells of engineers to find ways to shoot down, jam or remotely hijack U.S. drones, hoping to exploit the technological vulnerabilities of a weapons system that has inflicted huge losses upon the terrorist network, according to top-secret U.S. intelligence documents.

Read the rest of this entry »