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U.S. Army researchers are developing a pocket-sized aerial surveillance drone for soldiers and small units operating on unfamiliar ground.

“The Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance program, or CP-ISR, seeks to develop a mobile soldier sensor to increase the situational awareness of dismounted soldiers by providing real-time video surveillance of threat areas within their immediate operational environment,” officials at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center maintain.

Larger systems have been used to provide over-the-hill ISR capabilities on the battlefield for almost a decade, but none of those have delivered it directly to the squad level, where soldiers need the ability to see around the corner or into the next room during combat missions.

“The Cargo Pocket ISR is a true example of an applied systems approach for developing new soldier capabilities,” said Dr. Laurel Allender, acting NSRDEC technical director. “It provides an integrated capability for the soldier and small unit for increased situational awareness and understanding with negligible impact on Soldier load and agility.”

NSRDEC engineers investigated existing commercial off-the-shelf technologies to identify a surrogate CP-ISR system.

Prox Dynamics’ PD-100 Black Hornet, a palm-sized miniature helicopter weighing only 16 grams, has the ability to fly up to 20 minutes while providing real-time video via a digital data link from one of the three embedded cameras and operates remotely with GPS navigation. Tiny, electric propellers and motors make the device virtually undetectable to subjects under surveillance.

The size, weight and image-gathering capabilities of the system are promising advancements that fulfill the burgeoning requirement for an organic, squad-level ISR capability, but more work still needs to be done, Army officials maintain.

Several efforts are underway to develop three different aspects of the technology to ensure it is ready for the soldier and small unit.

The first of these efforts is focused on a redesign of the digital data link to achieve compatibility with U.S. Army standards. The second focuses on developing and integrating advanced payloads for low-light imaging, allowing for indoor and night operations.

Lastly, researchers are continuing to develop and enhance guidance, navigation and control, or GNC, algorithms for the CP-ISR surrogate system. This will allow the airborne sensor to operate in confined and indoor spaces, such as when soldiers advance from room to room as they are clearing buildings.

In November 2014, NSRDEC will collaborate with the Maneuver Center of Excellence, the Army Research Laboratory and other organizations to support the Army Capabilities Integration Center’s Manned Unmanned Teaming (Ground) Limited Objective Experiment, or LOE, by demonstrating the current capabilities of mobile soldier sensors.

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malaysia-417-600x400Europe is in a hurry to pick up an unarmed drone for use over Ukraine, where a separatist group this month shot down a commercial airliner, killing everyone on board.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has posted on its website a solicitation for a “turnkey” solution to monitoring the area. The UAV would be deployed under the authority of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine at the request of the Ukrainian government.

“The (OSCE) monitors are to contribute to reducing tensions and fostering peace, stability and security,” according to the group’s website.

[Continue reading…]

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robot-challengeThe Pentagon is giving more time and money to companies that have shown promise in fielding a humanoid robot.

Eleven of 16 firms that put their robot prototypes through their paces in June at have now been given an additional six months and $1.5 million each by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to continue their work, the Pentagon said on July 15.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge, or DRC, was originally scheduled to end with a winning robot in December, but has now been pushed back to June.

[Continue reading…]

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MH17 ShrapnelThe Financial Times posted a photo of what appears to be wreckage from the Malaysian Airlines jetliner peppered with shrapnel damage from an anti-aircraft missile.

The international community has pressed for an investigation into the cause of the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 crash, However, many, including U.S. officials, have said the evidence points to pro-Russian separatists shooting down the passenger jet with an advanced surface-to-air missile system capable of hitting an aircraft flying at 33,000 feet.

The photographed wreckage above adds to that mounting collection of evidence.  [Continue reading…]

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120716-N-TG831-111Navy researchers are working to create nanofiber coatings for surgical implants and wound dressings that would help promote healing and also combat infection.

The work is being done by the Naval Medical research Unit, San Antonio, according to a report in the July issue of Naval Medical Research and Development News.

In one research area, the report states, scientists “plan to integrate [biocompatible] nanofibers into coatings for use on medical materials, such as titanium implants, to improve treatment for craniofacial injuries.”

Nanofibers bonded to the surface of implants could contain antibiotics to be released directly in the treatment area over a sustained time. Researchers believe this would reduce instances of postoperative bacterial infection and implant rejection resulting in further surgery. [Continue reading…]

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