Civilian uses foreseen for unmanned aircraft

first_img“The need to collect data over day-night time cycles and over long distances in remote areas drives the need for a long-duration unmanned aircraft,” Cobleigh said. “Piloted aircraft are limited by crew duty requirements that generally restrict science flights to 10 hours or less. Unmanned aircraft are also more suitable for remote missions spanning open oceans or the polar regions.” Dryden and the U.S. Forest Service are working with the Federal Aviation Administration for approvals needed to operate Ikhana over the western United States to collect data on wildfires. Ikhana will be controlled by a pilot with a joystick in a ground station. Dryden personnel have been working with General Atomics at the company’s Grey Butte facility, east of Palmdale, to learn how to operate and maintain the aircraft. Global Hawk aircraft can be flown with preprogrammed missions or by computer mouse clicks on the ground. Both types of aircraft are capable of carrying about 2,000 pounds of sensors and research gear. james.skeen@dailynews (661) 267-5743160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Dryden is also looking at the possibility of using two of the original Global Hawks for research missions. NASA and the Air Force have agreed on the transfer of the two aircraft, but there is a key issue of how to maintain them. The two Global Hawks are demonstrators built to test the technologies needed for high-flying, long-endurance reconnaissance missions. The airplanes differ greatly from the production models being assembled by Northrop Grumman in Palmdale, so replacement parts are hard to get. “They are difficult to maintain,” Dryden spokesman Alan Brown said. “We are working with Northrop Grumman on their sustainability.” Ikhana and Global Hawks are capable of staying aloft for more than 30 hours at a time. Ikhana can fly at altitudes of 40,000 feet, while the Global Hawk can reach altitudes of 65,000 feet. A variety of atmospheric and remote sensing instruments, including duplicates of sensors on orbiting satellites, can be installed to collect data for up to 30 hours, Dryden officials said. EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE – The unmanned Global Hawk and Predator B aircraft would be used for civilian science and technology endeavors under a test program the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center has proposed. Dryden will take delivery this spring of a civilian version of the Predator B, which will be used to measure the Earth’s atmosphere and possibly to map wildfires, a valuable tool for firefighters. The aircraft has been named Ikhana. The Choctaw American Indian word – pronounced “ee-KAH-nah” – means intelligent, conscious or aware, Dryden officials said. “The name perfectly matches the goals we have for the aircraft,” said Brent Cobleigh, NASA Dryden’s project manager for Ikhana. “They include collecting data that allow scientists to better understand and model our environmental conditions and climate, increasing the intelligence of unmanned aircraft to perform advanced missions, and demonstrating technologies that enable new manned and unmanned aircraft capabilities.” last_img