Drones that swarmed U.S. warships are still unidentified, Navy chief says


The military is expected to deliver a report later this year to Congress on “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.”

April 6, 2021, 11:24 AM HKT

By Dan De Luce

Drones that hovered around U.S. destroyers for hours off the California coast remain unidentified more than a year and a half after the episode, the Navy’s top officer says.

Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, spoke about the July 2019 flights Monday at a Defense Writers Group event in Washington. Gilday said the incident — and other similar sightings — were still being assessed.

Asked if the Navy had identified the drones that flew near U.S. warships near the Channel Islands off Southern California, Gilday said: “No, we have not.”

“I am aware of those sightings, and as it’s been reported, there have been other sightings by aviators in the air and by other ships not only of the United States, but other nations — and of course other elements within the U.S. joint force,” Gilday said.

“Those findings have been collected and they still are being analyzed,” he said.

The admiral said there is “a well-established process in place across the joint force to collect that data and to get it to a separate repository for analysis.”

Gilday appeared to be referring to a pending report requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has asked the director of national intelligence, in consultation with the Defense Department, to provide a report by June 25 on unexplained sightings of advanced aircraft and drones documented by the military. The report is supposed to examine whether foreign adversaries are behind the unidentified aircraft.

Asked if the aircraft were “extraterrestrial,” Gilday said he had “no indications at all of that.”

The flights were first reported by The Drive website, based on ship logs and emails released under a Freedom of Information Request. NBC News has obtained the same documents.

As many as six drones flew around the warships at a time in often low-visibility conditions over a number of days, with the drones flashing lights and prompting security precautions onboard.

The drones were able to stay aloft for 90 minutes or more, surpassing the capability of commercially available drones.

According to ship logs, the drones were also able to fly at the same speed as a destroyer traveling at 16 knots in low-visibility conditions, which is defined as less than 1 nautical mile of visibility.

The episode raised the possibility of a serious security breach.

The drone flights took place near San Clemente Island, which is home to sensitive military facilities, including a Navy SEAL training site, a ship-to-shore live firing range and an airfield.

The mysterious drone flights prompted immediate inquiries from investigators and intelligence officers in the Navy and the FBI, including a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the FBI field office in Los Angeles and the director of the Maritime Intelligence Operations Center within the Navy’s 3rd Fleet, according to emails obtained by NBC News.

The emails made it clear that the issue was getting high-level attention, all the way to the office of the chief of naval operations.

Source: NBC “Drones that swarmed U.S. warships are still unidentified, Navy chief says”

Note: This is NBC’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean whether I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China experiencing a drone ‘revolution’ in agriculture


Farmers are becoming proficient drone pilots, as they monitor their crops, distribute seeds and fertilize more efficiently

By DAVE MAKICHUK

OCTOBER 26, 2020

Agricultural experts say a drone is 50 to 80 times faster than the traditional way of spraying pesticides on a farm. Credit: China Daily.

While China is leading the way in military uses for drones, it is facing a revolution of sorts in another sector.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones in agriculture is expanding in China at a speed unmatched in other countries thanks to advances in autonomous navigation technology and the presence of competent operators, Nikkei Asia reported this week.

Justin Gong, co-founder of XAG, a Guangzhou-based drone company that specializes in working with small-scale farmers, told Fortune magazine that his company’s drones help farmers monitor their crops, distribute seeds and fertilize more efficiently.

According to Gong, XAG now has 42,000 drones flying over 1.2 million flights every day.

“Drones are over 10 times more efficient than skilled manpower and they are cost-effective and environmentally friendly,” said Li Liping, a major grain grower in the county-level city of Xiangxiang in central China’s Hunan Province, Xinhua reported.

The 51-year-old farmer, who learned to fly the machine three years ago, said he no longer needed to wade through the fields to spray and fertilize since drones have replaced manual work.

“It was so exciting to see the drone taking off,” said Li as he recalled the first time he used the machine in the summer of 2018.

As the Covid-19 epidemic wanes across China, farmers are encouraged by local governments to expand their planting areas and increase their production input. The city of Xiangxiang, for example, is ready to see a bumper summer harvest of early rice.

Li has grown some 20 more hectares of early rice this year and expects to see a major rise in grain output with drones being a great help, Xinhua reported.

Xiao Jianliang, an owner of another major farmland in Xiangxiang, has also benefited greatly from the use of drones in agriculture.

Xiao said he acquired his drone license in late 2017 after a 15-day intensive training program, and the skill of flying drones has brought him additional income as the machine boosts the efficiency of sowing and crop-dusting.

Farmers like Li and Xiao are among a growing number of Chinese farmers who are introducing smarter and innovative ideas to boost their agricultural production, Xinhua reported.

They are skilled drone pilots, capable of designing the most efficient flight routes and heights, analyzing the flight path to fill the gap and calculating the precise amount of fertilizer and pesticide for the land.

“A revolution in agricultural production is taking place because of mechanization and intelligent intensive farming, especially in pioneering areas like Xiangxiang,” said Li Xiangping, an agricultural expert in Hunan.

As the demand for the machine is predicted to rise in the coming years, farmers including Li and Xiao also expect more intelligent and economical drones equipped with longer battery life. Fierce competition is also making drone prices plummet.

As part of the nation’s efforts to boost smart farming, drones are coming to be more involved in the sector. Moreover, an intense competition in the agricultural drone market is making the drone prices plummet, CGTN.com reported.

He Guozhu, a 58-year-old farmer in south China’s Guangdong Province, says the warm climate in this part of the country enables farmers to grow two rounds of crops annually.

He switched to the new technology to spray pesticides for the first year, as agricultural drones are no longer some rocket science for many Chinese farmers.

“I started using drones in March. We used to use the traditional way of spraying pesticides, carrying a tank on our backs,” he told CGTN.com.

“Using a drone can be a bit more costly, but farmers won’t breathe in toxic pesticides while working. It’s hard to find farm laborers, and most are old right now, as young people leave for cities,” said He.

He feels the pinch brought by the exodus of young people to big cities, part of the ramifications of China’s urbanization.

He himself manages a land that measures nearly eight hectares, as his children – like many other youngsters in his village – have left for city for a different life. The drone is capable of spraying his patch of field in about an hour, which used to be a week with eight people., CGTN.com reported.

“A drone is 50 to 80 times faster than the traditional way of spraying pesticides,” said Luo Xiantian, an agricultural drone operator.

Two big drone making companies in China, including DJI and XAG, take up some 80% of the Chinese market shares. Further, both companies have extensive networks abroad, with DJI focused on making camera drones and XAG on agricultural drones.

In September of last year, DJI unveiled a new drone model dedicated to agriculture, which is believed to be the world’s first fully integrated multi-spectral imaging drone built to power farming and enable an efficient environmental land management.

“These drones are very effective if large-scale plant diseases and insect plagues happen, which is the reason why they have been widely used in China in recent years, especially since 2017. Drone technologies have been growing fast, but the fierce competition in the drone market is driving the prices lower,” said professor Lan Yubin from South China Agricultural University.

According to DroneFromChina.com, DJI plans to further invest 10 million yuan in agricultural drones and on cultivating drone operators — it will also open 1,000 brick-and-mortar retail stores, train over 20,000 professional drone operators and establish more than 600 training branches across the nation.

Source: Asia Times “China experiencing a drone ‘revolution’ in agriculture”

Note: This is Asia Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


This Experimental Drone Could Change America’s War Strategy


Is the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie the future of combat aircraft?

BY ALEX HOLLINGS

MAR 17, 2020

Photo XQ-58A

© AIR FORCE/SENIOR AIRMAN JOSHUA HOSKINS

For nearly 20 years, the United States Air Force has been focused on anti-terror operations in uncontested airspace. Now, as America transitions its focus away from the War on Terror toward potential near-peer conflicts, the U.S. is looking to pull a page out of its own World War II playbook by building inexpensive combat aircraft that can overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses through sheer numbers.

The Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, an unmanned and experimental combat aerial vehicle, is tough to spot on radar and could be directly linked to the F-35 through an encrypted data connection to serve as a wingman under the pilot’s control. But even with these pros, it’s the cost of the Valkyrie, not its capabilities, that could change America’s aerial warfighting strategy.

Photo fb-22

© THIAGO ISVAMSINSK VIA FLICKR

While there’s no question the U.S. boasts the largest air force in the world in terms of total military aircraft, the makeup and size of that force has shifted dramatically since the final days of World War II. At that time, the U.S. boasted some 300,000 combat aircraft. Today, the nation has only around 13,400, spread out across its various military branches.

The reason for this change is the steady progress of technology, which has dramatically increased the combat capabilities and the cost of each aircraft in service today. These parallel developments in aviation production have resulted not only in a leaner, more capable Air Force, but a change in combat strategy altogether. Gone is the World War II mindset that called for superiority through volume. On today’s battlefield, it’s technology, not numbers, that makes the biggest difference.

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But the capability gap offered by technology alone is difficult to maintain. As near-peer level opponents like China and Russia field more advanced air defense systems, America’s aircraft face the possibility of a more contested battle space than ever before. With American fighters costing upward of $80 million each, regardless of whether or not they possess stealth capabilities, each and every loss would be truly felt in a large-scale conflict. That’s why the strategic scales may be tipping back toward a force reliant on a high volume of aircraft, rather than the amount of tech that can be crammed into each one. And that’s where the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie could really shine.

Photo f-15e

© BOEING

The Valkyrie has an internal weapon payload capacity of at least two small-diameter bombs and boasts a flight range of more than 2,000 miles, but more importantly, the Department of Defense (DoD) has a plan to connect these unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) to F-35s and the new F-15EXs via encrypted data links to serve as support drones—an initiative known as the Skyborg program. These links, coupled with on-board artificial intelligence, will allow pilots of manned aircraft to control their drone wingmen, even sending them out ahead to relay sensor information back to the pilot.

That means the Valkyries would be able to engage ground targets on behalf of a manned fighter and potentially even sacrifice themselves to protect manned aircraft from inbound missiles.

We can take risks with some systems to keep others safer,” Will Roper, Ph.D., assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told Defense News reporter Valerie Insinna last year.

Currently, combat aircraft rely on their own sensor suites to identify targets and potential threats, but with the Skyborg Program, unmanned aircraft could fly ahead to spot targets and relay data back to pilots. That would allow fighters to engage threats from further distances or avoid them all together.

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The Panthera has retractable landing gear and a sexy, aerodynamic shape. A glass cockpit and extra-comfy seats make long journeys feel luxurious. panthera-aircraft.comPIPISTREL

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The manufacturer notes that this plane is such a quick build, you’ll “be sitting in the fuselage within a few hours of opening the kit.” For those who can’t wait to play with their new toy. azaleaaviation.com

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The SuperSTOL has low-speed capabilities that allow it to land on short runways or small clearings. It just needs 150 feet of runway to take off. justaircraft.com

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Darkaero claims this is the longest-range aircraft you can build—1,700 statute (land) miles at 275 mph cruising speed. That can fly you from Boston to Houston. Production begins in 2020. darkaero.com

In the future, we can separate them out, put sensors ahead of shooters, put our manned systems behind the unmanned. There’s a whole playbook,” Roper told Defense News.

BY USING DRONE SWARMS, THE U.S. HOPES TO OVERWHELM DEFENSIVE SYSTEMS.

All that capability comes with the tiny price tag (for jet-powered combat aircraft) of around $2 million per plane. Considering Raytheon’s single-use Tomahawk cruise missiles ring in at an estimated $1.4 million each and combat drones like the RQ-4 Global Hawk cost over $120 million apiece, $2 million for a reusable combat aircraft like the Valkyrie’s is a steal.

The Valkyrie’s low price tag lands it squarely within the DoD’s “attritable aircraft” concept—planes that are so cheap to replace that commanders can take greater risks with them without fearing their loss as much as they would a manned platform or even a high-dollar drone. As Kratos points out, the Valkyrie also offers “open architecture” that allows them to modify the aircraft to suit different mission requirements with different payload options. This dramatically increases the number of mission types these drones can support, including air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements.

A shift toward producing a large number of these “attritable” platforms could offer a huge boost in America’s air power capabilities by returning to overwhelming force through volume. That’s important, because despite how advanced air defense systems have become, they still have a limited magazine. By using drone swarms, the U.S. hopes to overwhelm defensive systems, which is a big part of why the Air Force is emphasizing the “attritable” part of its drone program.

“Swarming allows you to build large numbers of low-cost expendable agents that can be used to overwhelm an adversary,” Paul Scharre, from the Center for a New American Security think tank, told BBC News’ Thomas McMullan last year. “This reverses the long trend of rising aircraft costs and reducing quantities.”

Unlike in the days of World War II, however, the value of all those aircraft can be bolstered further by the advanced data collection and leveraging capabilities of flying supercomputers like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

A decision on whether the Pentagon wants to move forward with mass production of the Valkyrie is expected to come as soon as 2021. (Since it’s a new platform that’s still in testing, there’s always the chance that new problems will emerge.) But regardless of that decision, it looks as though the future of air superiority will likely look an awful lot like this new Kratos drone.

As air defenses continue to mature, stealth won’t be enough to dominate the airspace above a battle, and that’s where old fashioned arithmetic may be the only route to victory. By sending more low-cost and unmanned aircraft at a target than the surrounding defenses can effectively engage, Skyborg drones can assure victory even when stealth can’t get the job done.

With both Russia and China reportedly developing their own “wingman” drones, the wars of the future may well be won through overwhelming air defense systems with swarms of armed UCAVs taking their cues from nearby human pilots.

Source: Popular Mechanics “This Experimental Drone Could Change America’s War Strategy”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


The Air Force Isn’t Dominant Anymore … Says Air Force Chief of Staff


The top officer warns of World War II-level casualties against China or Russia if the U.S. doesn’t act fast.

BY KYLE MIZOKAMI

SEP 9, 2020

General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., the new head of the U.S. Air Force, warned casualties will be heavy in a future war.

Brown believes the U.S. will face World War II-level losses against an advanced adversary like Russia or China.

The general believes his service must “accelerate change or lose” the next war.

The new U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff is warning his service it faces stiff competition in a future war, involving aircraft and personnel losses not seen for 80 years. General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. believes the Air Force must work to accelerate change, adapting to new technologies faster than its potential adversaries. Brown warns that “good enough today will fail tomorrow,” with grave implications for the entire country.

In his first new statement as Air Force Chief of Staff, Brown warns the Air Force, its ability to maintain air dominance, and the success of any future war is in serious jeopardy. Writing in Accelerate Change or Lose, Brown dumps a cold bucket of water on his service, saying the Air Force can longer count on the dominance it has enjoyed since the early 1990s, and that threats to the nation won’t always be faced thousands of miles from the country’s borders. Brown also notes U.S. adversaries are equipping themselves with new tech as quickly as the Pentagon is, if not sooner.

The Air Force has essentially been the supreme air force on the planet since 1991. The destruction of the Yugoslav Air Force in 1999 marked the beginning of more than 20 years of virtually uncontested air operations for the service lasting to this day. Since then, combat operations over Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere have largely been uncontested.

Air Force fighters, bombers, attack aircraft, tankers, and surveillance planes fly wherever they want and bomb whoever they want, largely without concern of being shot down. With the exception of a handful of several uncrewed drones, most aircraft losses during this time period were due to pilot error or mechanical issues.

Adversaries like the Taliban and ISIS don’t even have air forces, but the Russian Aerospace Forces in the near future will likely operate advanced aircraft such as the Su-57 “Felon” stealth fighter and S-70 Okhotnik attack drone.

Brown believes a future war will require airmen to think differently about how to fly, fight, and win. Russia and China, with their large air forces and capable air defenses, are a world away from land power-only forces like the Afghan Taliban and the fighters of ISIS. These fully modern air forces, armed with weapons on par with those used by the U.S. Air Force itself, will inflict serious losses. Brown writes:

“Airmen are more likely to fight in highly contested environments, and must be prepared to fight through combat attrition rates and risks to the Nation that are more akin to the World War II era than the uncontested environment to which we have since become accustomed. The forces and operational concepts we need must be different. Our approach to deterrence must adapt to the changes in the security.”

The U.S. Army Air Force lost over 40,000 aircraft in World War II, a number greater than the total number of planes in the current U.S. Air Force many times over.

How will the Air Force do this? Drones, drones, and more drones.

Manned military aviation has been in a death spiral for some time. Technological complexity leads to increasingly sophisticated aircraft that require more time and money to develop. As a result, planes like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter require two decades to develop, cost $90 million each, and require months to build. The result is a smaller air force where even brand-new fighter jets feature 20-year-old technology, which isn’t capable of making up for World War II-style losses.

Drones, on the other hand, promise to break this death spiral. Uncrewed drones are easier and faster to develop, cost less, and can be built faster than crewed aircraft. Drones can also be stockpiled in larger numbers to quickly replace wartime losses. A shorter development time means new technology can be more quickly integrated into an uncrewed platform, and a modular capability means a single drone can be adapted to a multitude of tasks simply by swapping out the drone’s payload.

Source: Popular Mechanics “The Air Force Isn’t Dominant Anymore … Says Air Force Chief of Staff”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Maritime version of China’s CH-5 drone makes first test flight


By Deng Xiaoci and Liu Xuanzun Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/16 19:44:48

A maritime version of CH-5 drone. Photo: Sun Jing

A maritime version of CH-5 drone. Photo: Sun Jing

A maritime version of CH-5 drone. Photo: Sun Jing

A maritime version of CH-5 drone. Photo: Sun Jing

China recently conducted the first flight test of a maritime version of the domestically developed CH-5 drone, its developers said on Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, the development team of the CH UAV company revealed that the new version of the CH-5 drone is a medium-to-high altitude, long-endurance large drone system that can cope with complicated and dynamic oceanic conditions.

The drone system could host various payloads, including photoelectric devices and wide-region search radars, and is capable of carrying out surveillance and monitoring missions at sea, the developer said.

The linkage testing of the radar systems was completed in the test, said the development team, who also said that the drone will be deployed next to genuine sea environments for further tests.

Compared to the standard version of the CH-5, the maritime version was improved to cope with high-temperature, humid and salt fog situations at sea. For instance, connectors of parts were replaced with titanium to adapt to maritime environments, the company said.

The primary tests of the drone provided a good foundation for future experiments, they noted.

The standard version of the CH-5 is a medium-to-high altitude long endurance armed reconnaissance drone with a fully automatic flight control system, jam-proof data chain and all-weather payload, according to a separate statement the company sent to the Global Times.

With a wing span of 21 meters and a ceiling of 8,300 meters, the standard CH-5 has a maximum endurance of 35 hours, a top speed of 300 kilometers an hour, a maximum takeoff weight of 3,300 kilograms, and a payload weight of 480 kilograms.

The standard CH-5 can conduct short takeoff and landing in plateau regions and is easy to use, reliable and cost-effective, the company said, noting that it can be customized with additional equipment, including fire control radar, electronic countermeasures and jamming devices.

It also has civilian applications, like airborne geophysical exploration, the statement said.

Source: Global Times “Maritime version of China’s CH-5 drone makes first test flight”

Note: This is Global Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Elon Musk Says the Fighter Jet Is Dead


Maybe…but not the way he thinks.

By Kyle Mizokami Mar 3, 2020

Elon Musk says the manned fighter jet is dead and will be replaced by drones.

Manned fighters aren’t dead yet, and modern air combat would thrash proposed drone fighters.

Drones may not force the end of manned fighters but instead technologies such as lasers weapons.

Last week Elon Musk sat in front of an assemblage of U.S. Air Force officers and declared that the era of the fighter jet, “had passed.” Musk, interviewed by U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, said that the future of air warfare belonged to drones and that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would have “no chance” against a drone fighter.

The fighter jet era has passed,” Musk said, according to CNBC. “Drone warfare is where the future will be. It’s not that I want the future to be – it’s just, this is what the future will be.”

Musk’s fighter-killer drone seems to be a remote-controlled fighter, but one whose dogfighting ability is enhanced through the use of autonomy. That’s actually an interesting point: an artificial intelligence might be able to pull together data about two aircraft in a dogfight, from airspeed to weapons loadouts, and then come up with an ideal course of action to shoot down the other aircraft.

It could possibly do this faster than a human, the same way supercomputers can calculate possible chess moves faster than a human chessmaster. While the technology doesn’t exist at this point, it’s still possible.

The problem is this ignores a fundamental difference between older fighters and fifth-generation stealth fighters such as the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. For approximately 70 years, air-to-air combat was a mid-air brawl, with planes mixing it up in the skies. The advent of the air-to-air missile was briefly thought to have ended the dogfight, but that was proved wrong during the Vietnam War, and fighter planes built to rely on missiles suffered as a result. Until very recently, dogfighting was the inevitable endgame of opposing fleets of fighter planes

The introduction of stealth in the 1980s marked a major change in aerial warfare. Stealth enabled aircraft to stay off enemy radars while at the same time observing the enemy. The U.S. Air Force quickly learned that this bought time for any stealth fighter pilot. In an engagement with non-stealthy enemy jets, stealth gave a fighter pilot time to set up an ambush the enemy couldn’t anticipate.

The F-22 and F-35 fighters are designed to be assassins, not brawlers. The twofighters are designed to detect enemy aircraft first and then set up a series of ambushes designed to whittle the enemy force down. Typically this will involve fixing the position of enemy forces by fusing together sensor data from different sources, including nearby AWACs-type radar planes and the fighter’s own radar.

Next, F-22 and F-35 pilots will use the fighter’s speed and agility to gain a superior position over the enemy. Finally, the fighters execute the ambush, launching AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles at targets that don’t even know they are there. Both jets would shoot down Musk’s proposed drone fighter before it entered dogfighting range.

Musk could be right about the age of manned fighter jets coming to a close—but it won’t be because of drones. Advances in counter-stealth technology erodes a fighter jet’s advantage and a proficient laser weapon system would change aerial warfare drastically.

Lasers have several advantages over traditional guns and missiles. A laser weapon is powered by a fighter’s onboard electrical system, theoretically giving it an unlimited number of shots. Lasers travel at the speed of light and can inflict damage from miles away, depending on the strength of the beam. Lasers can’t be dodged or diverted away from their targets, and they’re much easier to aim than guns. The effect of lasers on air warfare, coupled with a reduction in the effectiveness of stealth, could be so profound aerial warfare simply becomes too dangerous for human beings.

Elon Musk might be right about the future of fighter pilots, but wrong about why robots will take their place. It won’t be because they’re inherently better—it’ll be to save the pilot’s life.

Source: Popular Mechanics “Elon Musk Says the Fighter Jet Is Dead”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Will Flying Cars Help the US Beat China? The Air Force Hopes So


By Patrick Tucker

February 25, 2020

Service officials say giving American manufacturers first-mover advantage is just as important as the military benefits of vertical-lift buses.

The U.S. Air Force wants flying cars. But more than that, it wants to give U.S. manufacturers a head start in a hot future market.

On Tuesday, service officials released a request for proposals for the Agility Prime program, which seeks a highly modular vertical-lift aircraft that could play a variety of roles. The service dubs them ORBs, for organic resupply buses.

Given their flexibility, an ORB could act as an organic resupply bus for disaster relief teams, an operational readiness bus for improved aircraft availability, and an open requirements bus for a growing diversity of missions. ORBs could enable distributed logistics, sustainment, and maneuver, with particular utility in medical evacuation, firefighting, civil and military disaster relief, installation and border security, search and rescue, and humanitarian operations,” the request said.

Will Roper, the service’s assistant secretary for acquisition, said last week that that program is much broader than just building a flying bus. He’s looking to create the circumstances by which the industry can take off in the United States before it swims to China.

Roper made his remarks to a handful of Pentagon reporters, but he could have been speaking to an international crowd of policy-makers and Fortune 500 CEOs in Davos or Munich. Helping to launch a flying car market in the United States is “equally” as important as acquiring them for the Air Force, he said.

DOD provides about “20 percent of the [research and development] funding in this country,” he said. “Twenty percent is not going to compete with China long-term, with a nationalized industrial base that can pick national winners.”

A January report from data analytics company Govini supports that view. Govini found that while the U.S. government and U.S. businesses are spending more on research and development than China, the pace of China’s investment is surpassing that of the United States.

Among the tech winners that China has been able to poach from the United States is the consumer drone market. Roper described it as a cautionary tale for what could happen with flying cars. “The Pentagon didn’t take a proactive stance on it and now most of that supply chain has moved to China. If we had realized that commercial trend and shown that the Pentagon is willing to pay a higher price point for a trusted supply chain drone,” the drone market would be different, and the U.S. military would be the direct beneficiary.

We probably could have kept part of the market here and not have the security issues we do now when someone wants to use a foreign-made drone at an air force or service event.”

Agility Prime is saying, ‘we’re not going to let that happen again and we’re going to be part of the global tech ecosystem.’”

The Air Force has created a venture arm, Air Force Ventures, to persuade the venture capital community to invest in projects with military relevance. Roper said that partnering with the big-money houses of Silicon Valley has already helped to bring $400 million in private investment into companies working on defense problems.

The Air Force has also introduced processes meant to get more money to companies that aren’t traditional defense contractors. In the beginning phase, there’s AFWERX, which the Air Force created in 2017 as a seed investor. AFWERX is making investments of roughly $50,000 in small companies as part of the Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, program. Companies that make it to phase II of the SBIR program could get $1 million. Finally, the Air Force is looking to match the investment of private venture capitalists for bigger bets.

That’s a big departure from the way defense contracting happens traditionally, with a known defense contractor snagging a big multi-year contract and then working it until it’s canceled. “We’re not going to get a new defense prime. It collapses every year through mergers and acquisitions. Trying to recreate the 20th century industrial base is a losing strategy,” Roper said.

Early-stage investments in technology that could have dual military and civilian use, Roper said, is the only way the United States is going to stay competitive with China. But the military has a lot of other assets it can bring to bear on tech innovation that the private sector can’t, such as testing ranges for experimental aircraft.

The acquisitions program for Agility Prime would feature a “challenge-based acquisition plan. We’ll have different durations of flight and payloads that have to be carried. And if you pass the hurdle, you will move further down the wickets of getting safety certified and moving onto a procurement contract. We’re working with our operators right now on what missions” that might entail, he said.

Roper hopes that certifying companies to produce flying cars for the Air Force will go a long way to convincing other federal authorities to give their stamp of approval. “The companies that are able to make it to that point are able to go to domestic certifiers and say, ‘You should trust that I am able to fly commercially,’” he said.

Peter W. Singer, a strategist at New America, said, “Pentagon leaders are putting far more thinking into supply chains than they were in the past, in both already established programs of record as well as what might be the programs 20 years from now. So I am supportive of this kind of thinking. A challenge, though, is in areas where the consumer side might take off, pun intended. The Pentagon’s buying power might be enough to aid a startup at the early stage, which is obviously valuable. But the long term prospects of a firm selling into a mostly civilian market are going to be decided outside the E-Ring.”

Paul Scharre, a senior fellow and the director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said, “I think it’s good that DoD is thinking about supply chain security and how commercial markets evolve. Keeping a demand signal in the marketplace for trusted suppliers is important for shaping how an industry evolves.”

Stephen Rodriguez, a senior advisor at the Atlantic Council, said “China came to dominate the commercial drone market not only by investing heavily out of their federal coffers but also, and probably more importantly, coordinating their industrial policy with commercial technology developers. This enables Beijing to clearly see what technology they need to buy or build and what technology wasn’t important. We still wrestle with this paradigm. Whether we have a ‘trusted market’ or not, Washington still needs to understand what technologies are truly game-changing on an ongoing basis, and then building programs around that policy.”

Source: Defense One “Will Flying Cars Help the US Beat China? The Air Force Hopes So”

Note: This is Defense One’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


US Officials ground Drones fearing Chinese Espionage


By Sean –

Jan 22, 2020

Following Huawei being caught in the crossfires of the US-China trade disputes, drones have now become another area that is facing scrutiny by the US Government. Allegedly, Drones that are manufactured or belong to Chinese brands could potentially be used to spy in the US, according to Government officials.

Drones have been increasing in popularity in the US and it is not just limited to cinematography or plain entertainment. They can be highly useful in real world scenarios as well. The best example being the volcano eruption in Hawaii back in May 2018, where a drone was used by US scientists to save a man from the lava by asking him to follow the drone to make it out of a jungle.

A drone from DJI, a renowned brand in unmanned drones and videography equipments

Examples such as these are indicative of the wide range of application and usefulness unmanned drones bring to the table. However, what about “espionage?” is the question the US Government is asking. With the increasing rivalry between the US and the east, namely China, the western nation is scrutinizing every avenue that the Chinese have a foothold in. One of these is the commercially available drones that are widely sold in the US.

DJI or Da Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Company is one of the market leaders in videography equipment and unmanned drones. Its offerings are used both for entertainment and to access areas for scientific research as well. But the company isn’t alone as even more Chinese drone manufacturers are seeking to enter the US market in the near future. These drones are also seeing an increase in adoption in various Government departments and have become a cause for worry for David Bernhardt, the Head of a Federal agency.

DJI Mavic Pro OcuSync

According to Bernhardt, these drones are currently under evaluation and review, which is an effort being made to deem their safety for being used in the nation. Furthermore, during this process, all drones made in China are grounded, as reported by the BBC network. Notably, crucial areas like drones used in fire fighting and to help rescue people are still allowed to fly.

Chinese analysts see US policies that hamper the operations of companies from China as a form of protectionism. In other words, the US is actively against foreign MNCs gaining a large market share within its nation. However, despite all of these allegations and friction, the US and Chinese leaders are well on their way to sign a trade deal to recuperate the ailing relations between the two.

Source: GISMOCHINA “US Officials ground Drones fearing Chinese Espionage”

Note: This is GISMOCHINA’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Report on 537 Anti-Drone Systems Shows How Wild the Market Has Become


From jamming rifles to ground installations that fire nets, a new report lays out the expansive Wild West of anti-drone tech.

by Matthew Gault

Dec 14 2019, 2:55am

Drones are everywhere. Military drones buzz war zones dropping missiles; surveillance drones hover above neighborhoods, looking for anything out of place; even now, commercial drones hide in holiday wrapping, waiting for excited enthusiasts to fly them in a park.

As the market for drones has grown, so too has the market for tools to take them down. There’s jamming rifles, spoofing software, and hundreds of other solutions for downing a drone. But what to buy the budding enthusiast?

This week, the Center for the Study of the The Drone at Bard College published a research paper on counter-drone technology that includes a list of 537 counter-drone systems displaying jaw-dropping diversity, from hand-held guns that detect a drone’s radio-frequency and blast it with microwaves to ground installations that listen for drones and fire a net.

According to the report, which covers the legal framework for these tools as well as their effectiveness, not all drone downers are created equal, however. Jamming a drone might work great on the playground, but could get you arrested at the airport. And more advanced drones are immune to older counter-measures, the report found.

People need to be aware of the products that are out there and also be aware of the significant challenges in the use of those products,” Arthur Holland Michel, founder of the Center for the Study of the Drone and author of its report, said over the phone. “This is an immature and dynamic industry. There’s a lot of room for growth.”

Michel said there’s no one method is better for downing a drone than any other. “Jamming is the most common and seems to have some level of effectiveness,” he said. “The caveat, and it’s a big caveat, is that jamming systems are not going to be effective [against] drones that do not have a communication or navigation link.”

And just because one method is effective, that doesn’t mean you’ll want to use it. “There’s a complex matrix when it comes to effectiveness that takes into consideration costs, and the environment, and safety,” Michel said. “You may have a system that is extremely effective, but it’s either too expensive or too dangerous to use in a particular environment.”

Michel offered an example of a jamming device that is effective in a 25 km radius. “If you install that in an airport, you’re probably going to disrupt a lot of legitimate communications and cause a lot of headaches,” he said.

The report illustrates how the field of anti-drone tech is an arms race. Companies make counter-drone technology, and drone makers create methods to circumvent it. Michel said some manufacturers are programming autonomous drones to fly in unpredictable patterns, and designing stealth technology that makes drones harder to spot.

There are also advances in commercial drone technology intended, somewhat ironically, to make drones safer,” he said. “This will also have the effect of making these drones harder to counter.”

For example, Michel said, a big problem with commercial drones is that the signal between the controller and the drone can weaken, causing the drone to fly away on its own. Making that signal more robust against interference also makes it harder to take down the drone.

Michel’s report is a list of various counter-drones technologies but it doesn’t make recommendations for what to buy. The report is academic research, not a Sears catalog for the cyberpunk dystopia. Ultimately, what it highlights is that

drones, counter-drones, and counter-counter-drones (they exist) are the Wild West. “As the drone technology gets harder to shoot down, the counter drone technology gets more advanced and more capable that in turn will drive further advances in drone technology itself,” Michel said. “This feedback loop will speed up in the years ahead.”

Source: vice.com “Report on 537 Anti-Drone Systems Shows How Wild the Market Has Become”

Note: This is vice.com’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Chinese drones are doing amazing things


In addition to helping to restore Notre Dame Cathedral, Made in China drones are also helping to save lives and aiding in many industries

By DM Chan

The Chinese-made drones are an “incredible story of modern technology,” said Benoit Guillot, program director of the French drone company Artelia.

At the AirWorks conference in Los Angeles, Guillot recalled how his team used three drones to capture footage of the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral after the devastating fire this April.

The event is an annual gathering of technology experts and policymakers initiated by Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd. to drive the commercial drone industry forward, China Daily reported.

Guillot’s team used Phantom 4, DJI M210 and Mavic Pro thermal, all manufactured by DJI, to map the church’s outside and inside vault and the cathedral’s 3D shell.

They also mapped the ground damage and rubble when its roof was in danger of collapsing, which saved photographers from taking risks. Their work will help investigators and architects determine the extent of the damage before undertaking reconstruction.

Those drones perform well and work accurately in every situation,” Guillot told Xinhua News Agency. “They are all in one package, and precise and accurate.”

Andre Finot, Notre Dame’s communication director, said he was blown away by the technology. “It was totally surprising to see them flying so quickly and hovering at this location.

I realized that it was not just a simple gadget for TV production. It can also be used to save a building like Notre Dame and also save lives,” Finot said.

The Notre Dame rescue was just one of many stories recounted at the three-day event, the report said.

The annual conference sponsored by DJI drew about 700 attendees and offered 60 educational workshops spanning five core industries — agriculture, construction, energy, infrastructure and public safety.

We are engaging in a dialogue with a number of leaders in the industry, public safety, government, commercial businesses, and energy transportation companies to have a complete discussion of what the market is today and what it’s going to be tomorrow,” said Mario Rebello, DJI’s country manager for North America.

The drone market is turning into an ecosystem in which Shenzhen-based DJI is taking the center stage. According to Skylogic Research, a drone analysis company, the Chinese drone manufacturer holds more than 70 percent of the worldwide civil drone market share, the report said.

Like Google’s Android to app developers, DJI drones are becoming a platform where hundreds of startups and end users with their specific demands apply drone technology to their own industries.

They are getting value and now they’re helping businesses reduce their costs and actually saving people’s lives,” said Rebello.

FLIR Systems, a thermal imaging manufacturer based in Oregon, is a partner of DJI. FLIR launched at the conference its first multi-gas detector built for unmanned aerial systems, which is compatible with the DJI M210 and can help first responders to locate and identify chemical gas hazards, the report said.

DJI is looking for the best technology at the most affordable price, so we put our payloads on those most popular airframes,” said Chris Bainter, FLIR’s global business development director.

At the conference, the Los Angeles Fire Department also showcased how DJI drones were used to conduct aerial mapping for wildfire response and for swift water rescues, hazmat operations and urban search and rescue missions.

The drone gives customers a tool and then they are developing customized solutions that are software-based or at times they are adding more hardware to our drone,” said Rebello.

Along with the Chinese drone maker’s rapid expansion, misgivings over data security also loomed. Earlier, some US senators launched a bill that may stop the federal government from buying drones from China.

It came after the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned in May that the Chinese-made drones contain components that collect operation and customer data for intelligence use.

DJI then submitted a letter to the Senate denying speculation about the company’s data security practices. According to the letter, DJI drones do not share flight logs, photos or videos, and do not automatically send flight data to China or anywhere else.

Rebello said that one announcement would be far from enough to avert misinformation and dispel security concerns, while emphasizing the willingness of DJI to build trust with its customers.

We’ve got to show them that there is no security vulnerability. So what we’ve done with a number of federal agencies is we’ve worked with them,” Rebello said.

They tell us what they need, we develop the solution and then they have a third party, a security agency or security expert, come in to review the software code and the hardware and make sure what we said is true.”

Source: Asia Times “Chinese drones are doing amazing things”

Note: This is Asia Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.