Category Archives: UAV

Collision Course

The WSJ explains that the some model airplanes and UAV’s have a lot in common. Unfortunately, this may be the model hobbyist’s undoing

Mr. Snyder’s trainer, an L-39 Albatros, was powered by a small but real jet engine. Other planes at the competition had gasoline engines big enough for a motorcycle. Some can ascend thousands of feet, travel at 200 miles an hour and have wingspans of up to 20 feet…Proposed (FAA) rules could prohibit jet propulsion, set a 100 mph speed limit, maximum altitude of 400 feet and top weight of 55 pounds. If those standards were enacted, modelers who flouted them could face fines or other sanctions.

A friend of mine has built two beautiful models with painstaking detail. One, a T-34   the other, a DC-3. I went over to an “airport” built specifically for this purpose (including a paved runway) to watch his models in action. Some take over a year to build, so it was small wonder that the entire crowd gasped when a wing disintegrated on a bi-plane, the spectators silent as it spun into the corn field. Finding a downed RC plane in a cornfield is like finding a needle in a haystack but find it they did, in small pieces.

Some of these planes are enormous, like this SR-71 jet (see the video clip). The lines blur between RC planes and UAV’s when you witness the size and speed,. Not much difference, except models are flown within line-of-sight while drones are guided by pilots at remote locations.

There may be good reasons to regulate them too. The NTSB blamed the operator of a large RC model for a collision with a full-size biplane at a fly-in last August. The biplane’s lower wing was damaged but the pilot was able to land. The RC model was destroyed which shows that it can a lot of fun until it isn’t. Here’s hoping you never see any unmanned planes at your altitude. It could ruin your day.

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Point Click Kill

MQ-8B Fire Scout

Last August, I highlighted a helo drone gone awol in DC restricted airspace, a scenario that should strike fear in the most devoted UAV proponents. Nonetheless, UAV’s are here to stay. They’re much less expensive then manned systems with long loiter times. This one has seven hours.  
I thought a  helo drone was intended only for recon when it was introduced years ago with a payload of 200 pounds. That’s not much. The MQ-8B Fire Scout can bring hellfire and brimstone to a neighborhood near you. Or at least to a bad guys hideout. It’s pretty small with VTOL capability which is mighty handy in tight spots. Those pods carry the fire-and-forget AGM-114 Hellfire missiles,, the laser/GPS-guided GBU-44/B Viper Strike missile, and the rather cheerfully named Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System. When the Navy decided it wasn’t for them, Army jumped all over it since attack helicopters are very much an Army thing. Once the Army committed, the Navy reconsidered and now both service braches will fly it.

Flights of the Army variant take place this month. Another addition to the growing arsenal of unmanned vehicles, a trend that shows no sign of abating. Makes you wonder about the future role of manned vehicles whether it fixed or rotary wing.

Will it evolve to commercial activites? What happens when your engine sucks in a flight of sea birds as happened to Chesley Sullenberger? Who or what will tell the aircraft that the safest/ best place to land is the Hudson River?

h/t to Ed for the photo