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NASA Exploring $1.5 Million Unmanned Aircraft Competition

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the if-you-build-it dept.

NASA 38

coondoggie writes "NASA today said it wants to gauge industry interest in the agency holding one of its patented Centennial Challenges to build the next cool unmanned aircraft. NASA said it is planning this Challenge in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Research Lab, with NASA providing the prize purse of up to $1.5 million."

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I think we all know what this means... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690003)

Natalie Portman naked and petrified.

The next cool unmanned aircraft (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 2 years ago | (#41690027)

Whatever you do, don't call it Shirley.

Re:The next cool unmanned aircraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690067)

Your comment is mildly amusing, at best.

Slashdot logo - elvish gibberish (0)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 2 years ago | (#41690947)

Hey, slashdot rulers. You're idiots, do you know why? Because what you've accepted as "elvish" spelling of "slashdot" is just gibberish. Don't believe me? Check here: http://tengwar.art.pl/tengwar/ott/start.php?l=en [tengwar.art.pl] Idiots. And to the author of said "logo" - hand in your nerd card.

Re:Slashdot logo - elvish gibberish (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 2 years ago | (#41690993)

Here's what it would sound like: "ngykhngykhkhwm" - all consonants.

Car shaped? (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 2 years ago | (#41690091)

Or otherwise we'll never get it....

Re:Car shaped? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690207)

Or otherwise we'll never get it....

Given the number of morons I've seen who don't seem cognizant of the fact that stop signs apply to themselves, I hope that's the case.

It's one thing to have an effectively infinitesimally small number of pilots buzzing about. It'd be another to have every dumbass in the country with a flying car in their garage - or more likely, in your roof.

Re:The next cool unmanned aircraft (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41690149)

"Shirley"? you jest...

Unmanned and still unnamed (1)

srussia (884021) | about 2 years ago | (#41690349)

Whatever you do, don't call it Shirley.

I propose they call it the Tereshkova. Well, either that or "Larry" Wachowski.

Re:The next cool unmanned aircraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690521)

shirley? you can't be serious

Re:The next cool unmanned aircraft (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#41691063)

Leverne it is then.

I've probably spelt that wrong.

/me Opens Freezer Door (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41690143)

/me Removes and Tosses the Paper Airplane.
BONSAI!!

Who will we be killing today? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690269)

A while back when I used to work on drone imaging systems, they said it was so the war-fighters could map the battlefield and save lives. Now they use drones to blow away anyone the president wishes to target. I am _so_ done with drones.

I am become death...and I shall not be fooled again.

NASA doesn't do the war fighting stuff ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690321)

Actually I expect you to be fooled again. Its probably a recurring thing in your life.

Clue: NASA doesn't do the war fighting stuff. They do the civilian aviation stuff. Aviation and safety research, keeping track of accidents and incidents, etc. See: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov

Re:NASA doesn't do the war fighting stuff ... (3, Interesting)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 2 years ago | (#41690503)

Actually I expect you to be fooled again. Its probably a recurring thing in your life.

Clue: NASA doesn't do the war fighting stuff. They do the civilian aviation stuff. Aviation and safety research, keeping track of accidents and incidents, etc. See: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov]

Clue: That in no way means any tech innovations won't be immediately adapted/adopted by the military for their use. Or by DHS for domestic civilian population monitoring/control and suppression of dissenters, for that matter. New tech/discoveries/etc have always been shared both ways between NASA and the military throughout NASA's history.

You can rest assured anything NASA and/or groups working with NASA develop that the military/DHS/TLAs think might be useful they'll use.

Besides, the government isn't the only one that can build drones. If it came down to it, drones could be built in a garage that could intercept/down things like the Predator-class drones.

Take a look at this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTHWBSluUjU [youtube.com]

It was laser-clocked at 586KPH/366MPH.

That's not even the largest engine the maker, JetCat, produces. They've got one that's rated for 52 lbs thrust.

http://www.sitewavesstores5.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=JetCat&Product_Code=P200-SX&Category_Code=TURB [sitewavesstores5.com]

Have it power a drone carrying a pound or two of HE, and a simple guidance system tuned to the opposing drone's uplink frequency. Launch it straight up to ~60K ft altitude so it's above the opposing drone (to be in the satellite uplink signal path from the other drone) and have the guidance system kick in when it acquires the signal and guide it straight to the other drone.

No more Predator-class drone.

Of course, bringing down an autonomous drone would be more difficult and require a different type of interceptor-drone, possibly one with remote-video and a remote pilot.

Strat

Re:NASA doesn't do the war fighting stuff ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41691429)

This is not "insightful", it is "ridiculous".

As if hitting a target that moves at several kph with another thing that itself moves at several kph was as easy as the above poster makes it. And this is not even connecting the "frequency locate thing" to the "steering thing" of your craft with the required precision (note both crafts move fast).

And even all the technical difficulties aside, something that costs 4k for the engine alone, not counting the 100s of workhours that go into the rest (or even the design of the autonomous stable flying system, not even speaking of the targetter).

Yes, some drone-killer that comes a predator as close as a few meters (for your HE-frag-bomb to kick in) could probably get built in a garage for ~10.000 in reasonable time. But the proposal above is still ridiculous in pretending how easy it was.

Clue: Drone designers are not stupid and in five years we'll see a level of autonomity we have not even nightmared of today. The drone will have no continuous connection at all, it will fly off and radio in when it thought it found something (according to several patterns) the current Mr. Whitehouse thinks that needs to get blown up, else it just comes home. This will come even faster should it turn out drone-kill vehicles are as easy to build as proposed (which they are not, and which they very probably are never).

Re:NASA doesn't do the war fighting stuff ... (1)

Crosshair84 (2598247) | about 2 years ago | (#41698427)

It's stupid easy to hit such an object from a guidance standpoint, heck, Iraqi air defenses in the Saddam years swept them from the sky with ease. UAVs largely fly in straight predictable patterns, they are not made to be maneuverable like a fighter jet. Any SAM that can physically reach them will blow them out of the sky.

A SAM is a UAVC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41698985)

think on that one for a while.

Re:NASA doesn't do the war fighting stuff ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41691443)

At 400MPH+, you wouldn't need HE to bring down another drone. All you need to do it hit it. They'll destroy each other and fall to earth. HE would only be required if you wanted proximity detection, which would increase complexity a bit.

Re:NASA doesn't do the war fighting stuff ... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41692917)

You can rest assured anything NASA and/or groups working with NASA develop that the military/DHS/TLAs think might be useful they'll use.

The same holds for anything made by anyone with possible military application. The real question is whether this research was done with at least partial intent that it be used by the military?

Re:NASA doesn't do the war fighting stuff ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41693175)

Or replace the HE part with an modified solenoid operated upper reciever from a semiautomatic weapon and a live video feed. (Also if you're clever enough to go that far, develop a ballistic profile for that gun, use a micro-gyro and some basic range finding with a simple computer and you could have a pretty accurate inertial "pipper" type sight for targeting on your video feed.) No reason why an anti-drone drone only has to be good for a one-time use. Most surveillance drones are made to be expendable so they don't have anything like armor, and once up close, light arms are plenty to do the job. Just drop in from behind and it's pretty much an easy turkey-shoot for an anti-drone drone.

Maybe this is an additional reason why they want aircraft avoidance built in? But will it still be able to detect other and possibly smaller hostile drone aircraft with an intentially low signature?

Great idea (0)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41690305)

Hijack this one then Muzzie

For those who don't know... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690375)

An unmanned aircraft is *much* easier to program than a unmanned car.
No bumpy road, no complex wheel behavior, no forced curves, barely and obstacles, and nothing that can occlude them (assuming your sensors obviously go through clouds)... and you have only one axis to care for.

Every big plane already has automated cruising and landing for emergencies.
The navigational aspects also are already mostly automated away in regular planes.

Once you have the flaps and engines abstracted away, and have a working radar, a child could do it.

With all those automated drones out there, I wonder what's the big deal about this anyway?
Probably tested and guaranteed passenger safety.

Re:For those who don't know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690599)

Currently UAS are not allowed to fly inside controlled airspace without a waiver. There is a big debate over how to introduce UAS into the air traffic system.

This competition is looking at how good one of these can handle a number of equipment failures. GPS spoofing, ADS-B spoofing, and GPS failure, not just GNC.

You can't just put a radar on an aircraft and call it good. For one, most of these systems are much too small to carry any kind of radar. Most aircraft don't even have radar. Only passenger jets and some turboprops and then they're only for weather, not detecting other aircraft. That is the job of ATC and pilots own eyes. A UAS will need to replace both with its own sensors.

Once the competitions are completed, there will be regulations drawn up and laws passed to allow UAS inside the air traffic system. That is the near term goal.

Re:For those who don't know... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#41691391)

With all those automated drones out there, I wonder what's the big deal about this anyway?

Given how long it took to develop and deploy those drones... maybe it's not "child's play" as you seem to think.

Re:For those who don't know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694217)

I think you may have forgotten about the take-off and landing portion of the software which does have to deal with things like bumpy runways, complex wheel behavior and additionally wind forces.

Patented (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 2 years ago | (#41690683)

patented Centennial Challenges

A quick search of uspto shows that no such patent exists under that name...

How about taking another 150 million... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690733)

... from the military budget? I am very sure there is a possible dual use (this time civilian -> military) of easily and cheaply getting a payload very, very high...

While I do not want Space Warfare, Rods From God, or even only Very High Altitude Bombing... if those are the price I have to pay to get 1 or 100 billion more into the research of a civilan space program then at least I am willing to pay it.

Re:How about taking another 150 million... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41691641)

NASA versus military is a silly argument anyway because most of NASA work is developing technology the military can use already. Why do you think the current administration is cutting it?

I bet the AOPA is pissed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690837)

Maybe they'll stop cashing their paychecks in protest.

No such thing... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41691041)

As a "cool" unmanned aircraft.

True fact.

Prior art (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 2 years ago | (#41691221)

... one of its patented Centennial Challenges ...

Patented? I understand the journalistic need for spicing up stories (hell, I was an admin on Fark) ... but even if this was a patentable idea and doesn't fall as a "buiness method", NASA had to go through hoops to even be allowed to do it. (I guess there's no room for earmarks when you can't be sure who's going to get the money).

The NASA program didn't start 'til 2005, and was modeled after the Ansari X Prize (which was *awarded* in 2004, after years of effort by multiple teams). But even then, that was likely modeled after the Orteig Prize, which some guy you've probably never heard of (Charles Lindburg) won in 1927.

Hey NASA (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 2 years ago | (#41691867)

How about building a manned mission beyond LEO?

Re:Hey NASA (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#41694823)

How about building a manned mission beyond LEO?

The first A in NASA is for Aeronautics. This is entirely within their scope.

An idea (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about 2 years ago | (#41693525)

The first drone to assassinate the president wins the competition.

The See and Avoid problem (1)

cockpitcomp (1575439) | about 2 years ago | (#41696757)

Figure out how to do See and Avoid reliably and bank millions. DOD ha been trying to figure this out for years.

So, uh, is anyone actually working on this? (1)

rwa2 (4391) | about 2 years ago | (#41697019)

... and are you hiring? :-D

Otherwise, I think I'll just slap an android phone onto an ARF R/C plane and go to town... it'd be funny if the platform ends up costing less than half of the $800 ADS-B receiver it has to carry :P

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