Marine Corps Captains Derek Snyder and Dino Cooper, who recently graduated from the Systems Engineering course at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, have designed an unmanned aircraft that is effectively a glider that can fly indefinitely.
The planned aircraft was developed as thesis projects by Snyder and Cooper. It is dubbed Project TALEUAS (Tactical Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial System) and is a glider that can be hand-launched from the ground or by using a small electric motor with a folding propeller. It will have a sensor that seeks out rising thermal air currents, and solar panels on the wings to power the electronics aboard the glider.
“It can ride thermals all day,” says Kevin Jones, a research associate professor at NPS. With solar panels installed, it could fly for days, possibly weeks, at a time. Gliders have been flown at Camp Roberts near Paso Robles along with powered unmanned aircraft to test communication between the unmanned aircraft and to gauge their potential uses, he said. So far, none have solar panels, Jones said, but “solar technology is improving a lot. There are panels as thick as a piece of paper.”
The military is moving toward automated recon and combat systems — robot ground troops and aircraft — some as small as houseflies. The smallest armed UAS available weighs about 2,000 pounds and requires a runway to take off, according to Jones’ researchers. But the two Marine captains were looking for lighter, more manageable systems that could be carried and used by troops in the field.
Snyder’s project was geared toward the development of a small-arms kit for light UAS, and Cooper’s was to make them capable of spreading chemical “taggants” over an area where insurgents would travel to mark them as they passed through.
Among the ammo tested was a paintball gun, Jones said. The taggants “look like sand, but they’re really hollow capsules with chemical markers inside. When someone steps on them or a vehicle rolls over them, the chemicals stick on.” Such drone-borne taggants, he said, could be used by police to mark vehicles in traffic.
NPS scientists are working toward simplifying unmanned aircraft operations and durability to make them soldier-proof in the field. Currently, Jones said, unmanned aircraft operators are highly trained specialists. NPS researchers want to make them so anyone can run them with a minimum of training.
Jones joined NPS in 1994 as a researcher and has been employed by the Navy school since 1997. Among other projects, he helped develop a miniature flapping-wing aircraft that may eventually become the platform for tiny robot spy planes that could fly in swarms into buildings and caves, armed with cameras and sensors.
Source: Monterey Herald