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Soldier launching a Raven
The Air Force and Army continue to rely heavily on UAVs

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) remain a reliable staple in the U.S. Military's winged arsenal. The use of remote drones not only puts less expensive machinery in the air, but it also takes American pilots out of harm's way.

According to the Associated Press, the Air Force's use of UAVs doubled between the months of January and October. During that same time period, the Air Force’s use of the Predator drone increased from 2,000 hours per month to 4,300 hours per month.

The Army also saw its UAV usage increase during the past year. The Army's 361 unmanned Ravens, Shadows and Hunters combined for a total of over 300,000 hours of service through the first ten months of 2007. The Raven, the Army's air surveillance workhorse, is expected to rack up more than 300,000 hours of flying time during 2008 alone -- more than double the figure from 2007.

"I think right now the demand for the capability that the unmanned system provides is only increasing," remarked Army Col. Bob Quackenbush, deputy director for Army Aviation. "Even as the surge ends, I suspect the deployment of the unmanned systems will not go down, particularly for larger systems."

"The demand far exceeds all of the Defense Department's ability to provide (these) assets," added Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Gurgainous of the Air Force's unmanned aircraft task force. "And as we buy and field more systems, you will see it continue to go up."

UAVs saw extensive action in both Afghanistan and Iraq during 2007. A Hunter MQ-5B/C UAV dropped a bomb on two suspected enemy insurgents in early September. The Hunter MQ-5B/C has the ability to loiter in the air for 15 hours and can carry up to 260 pounds of ammunition.

Boeing also gave UAVs a boost with the announcement of the High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV. The HALE uses a hydrogen-based Duratec 23 four-cylinder engine to power the aircraft to 65,000 feet and stay aloft for up to one week.



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hydrogen combustion engine?
By Chubbbs on 1/2/2008 3:49:32 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't know there was such a thing as an hydrogen combustion engine, but apparently it's possible to "base" a hydrogen engine off a gasoline engine. If this is true, then why is everybody investing in those ridiculously expensive PEM fuel cells?

It seems like battery-electric drive should be the solution of choice for these smaller vehicles. By the time you consider the high-pressure tank and the combustion engine, the gravimetric energy density is better with lithium-ion and polyphase induction unless we're talking about capacities of over 100KWh. It would also be quieter and cooler in operation, which helps with stealth.

The military ought to put a lot more focus into unmanned ground vehicles. I don't understand why everybody has the urge to make the ground vehicles autonomous. Just make them remote control and have real humans operating them from a safe location. We'd lose a lot less soldiers if we could have unmanned supply convoys driven by remote control. No fancy weapons systems or automated battlefield logic. Just some remote control trucks with some cameras that can move stuff from A to B without risking our troops.

This isn't very difficult technology, and it should have been standard operating procedure from the beginning. This is certainly not the first war where attacking convoys is an important strategy. Our leadership acts as if no one could have foreseen the impact of IEDs in Iraq. I don't know whether to be extremely incredulous or embarrassed.




RE: hydrogen combustion engine?
By Keeir on 1/2/2008 4:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I didn't know there was such a thing as an hydrogen combustion engine, but apparently it's possible to "base" a hydrogen engine off a gasoline engine. If this is true, then why is everybody investing in those ridiculously expensive PEM fuel cells?


For a few reasons. The basic problem is that a Hydrogen Internal Combustion engine is basically still an ICE with all the problems that entails. Additionaly, the relatively low density of hydrogen (gas) means that a Hydrogen engine is usually more intricate and lower power than an equivelent gas engine... in short, for car travel, an hydrogen combustion engine just doesn't work economically. (Although BMW has a 7-series with a liquid hydrogen engine).


RE: hydrogen combustion engine?
By FastLaneTX on 1/2/2008 7:11:09 PM , Rating: 1
Mazda made a Miata with a H2 ICE for a while. Two problems: ICEs are inefficient, and the compression means you're also creating NOx and SOx, which cause acid rain.

The reason for all the development in autonomous systems is that a centrally-controlled fleet is vulnerable to hacking and jamming. OTOH, dumb vehicles should be cheaper and more reliable, which means there's a place for them too. It all depends on how sophisticated the enemy is.


RE: hydrogen combustion engine?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 1/3/2008 11:16:19 AM , Rating: 3
Hydrogen ICEs only produce oxygen and water, not NOx and SOx.


By FastLaneTX on 1/3/2008 1:23:00 PM , Rating: 2
All ICEs produce NOx and SOx if they use atmospheric air instead of pure O2. An ICE doesn't just burn the fuel; it also burns (some of) the non-oxygen molecules in the air it takes in -- and N2 molecules far outnumber O2 molecules.

The compression and heat of that air in the ICE's cylinders causes those other gases to react with some of the O2 to form NOx, SOx, etc. The particular fuel that the ICE is burning has little effect on this problem, since the fuel is not the source of those gases.


By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 1/3/2008 11:21:51 AM , Rating: 2
This seems to be contradictory: "The military ought to put a lot more focus into unmanned ground vehicles. I don't understand why everybody has the urge to make the ground vehicles autonomous." Which did you mean?

The reason for autonomous ground vehicles is to set the convoy and forget it. Convoy work is less dangerous than most battlefield jobs, and if you still need a driver for each truck, just send them out with the truck. The idea is that now you need one programmer and no drivers and can send a convoy a mile long out on its own. If a truck or two is lost, send more out. No loss of life, and no battalion of drivers needed to supply the combat troops.

The trend here is that, if not as many people want to go into the military, and you need every man you have, then automate the repetitive tasks and make everyone a grunt. That is a tactical decision.


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