Europe presses ahead on UAS development

March 4, 2013 at 5:15 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 4 (UPI) -- Despite constrained economic conditions, the U.S. and global market for unmanned aerial systems is forecast to experience strong growth over the next 10 years.

Europe, Japan and China are expected to be particularly active in UAS programs, the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense market intelligence and analysis company, said.

The group, cited by the U.S. Congressional Research Service, said in a recent report that spending worldwide on research, development, testing and evaluation and procurement of unmanned aerial systems will rise to $11.6 billion annually in 2022 from $6.6 billion this year.

Total spending on UAS programs for the next 10 years is expected to be about $89.1 billion.

The United States is the leader in the military sector of the market for unmanned aerial systems, with Israel becoming increasingly competitive.

European aerospace manufacturers, however, "appear to be focused on potential sales to non-military government and commercial customers," the CRS report said.

The report didn't directly tie U.S. export policies to Europe's UAS programs but did mention that some UAS are classified as weapons under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and require an export license approved by the U.S. government.

One of the European aerospace companies conducting research and development of unmanned aerial systems is the Spanish subsidiary of Cassidian, which recently flew its Atlante UAS.

The aircraft is being developed as part of Cassidian's participation in Spain's Atlante program, started by the Spanish Center for Industrial Technological Development, which is promoting Spanish technology in the UAS field.

"The Atlante now the most important industrial and technological initiative in Spain in the UAS sector," Cassidian said.

Cassidian said it is the driving force in the effort, together with its venture capital partners -- Indra, GMV and Aries.

More than 140 Spanish subcontractors and suppliers are involved in the program, it added.

The Atlante UAS -- designed for both military and civilian use -- features state-of-the-art automation, sensors and protection systems from Spanish industry. It has been designed to standards required for operating in civilian airspace and can take off and land from runways or be launched from a catapult.

Cassidian said it foresees the aircraft performing missions such urban surveillance and natural disaster monitoring.

"Today is a very special day for Cassidian and the Spanish industry," said Pilar Albiac Murillo, chief operating officer of Cassidian and chief executive officer of Cassidian Spain. "Atlante's first flight is a milestone that demonstrates our technological and human capabilities in program development.

"We have the best team needed to ensure that Atlante is a success in the export market in the coming years."

In other UAS-related news, the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division report that its engineers recently demonstrated new technology for interoperability between UAS.

The demonstration, which also involved U.S. Army personnel in another U.S. state, validated a government-developed software and hardware to enable Navy UAS to communicate with Army unmanned aerial systems.

"In today's operating environment, every UAS speaks a different language, making it impossible for the systems to communicate," said Navy Capt. Don Zwick. "NAVAIR ownership and management of the interface not only reduces the effort required to make two systems interoperable, but it also develops a workforce skilled in how UAS, which are essentially flying robots, work internally."

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