West Virginia University displayed its expertise in developing a new class of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) that can expand a battlefield soldier’s ability to detect out-of-sight threats during a special event in the Nation’s Capitol.
UAVs are essentially airplanes without pilots and are sometimes called drones. They offer a variety of advantages over traditional aircraft. They can be deployed without endangering pilots and are less expensive to operate than traditional aircraft because they can be much smaller.
UAVs have been used for scouting missions and communications and, because of their small size, can often pass completely undetected.
WVU is currently conducting research and development on hybrid-projectiles – a new class of UAV called micro-aerial vehicles. The new technology will allow soldiers to launch micro UAVs using existing gun systems from 40 mm to 155 mm. The unique low-cost projectiles will have the capability to look and behave like standard ammunition, or transform into a UAV that can be guided to the target.
Mridul Gautam, associate vice president of Research and Economic Development, and Wade Huebsch, Shanti Hamburg, Patrick Browning and Brad Seanor, all of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, represented WVU at the 2010 Technology Fair sponsored by the Congressional Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus and displayed examples of their work.
“The work being done at WVU will provide soldiers with an unprecedented ability to identify threats beyond-the-line-of-sight battlefield situations,” Gautam explained. “Recent advances in technology make these hybrid projectiles possible at a fraction of the cost compared to standard guided projectiles. The new designs will be based on the extensive modeling and simulations conducted at WVU.”
The fair consisted of 19 different exhibits featuring the best of industry technologies. Throughout the fair, visitors saw flight demonstrations, interactive displays, and hands-on education opportunities.
The event was held in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building and featured a full spectrum of unmanned systems examples and applications targeting end-users in defense, law enforcement and the scientific community.
WVU representatives offered a display and examples of its work in the areas of UAV education, research, design, and development programs.
Gautam said WVU was in excellent company at the technology fair. The rest of the show was made up of presentations by top companies and federal agencies.
For example, NASA representatives demonstrated how they were using UAVs to chart and predict weather patterns. Boeing brought a Scan Eagle UAV which has been providing information to units in Operation’s Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom since 2005. Northrop Grumman debuted test footage of the Unmanned- Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), expected to be the first naval UAV based on an aircraft carrier.
Another highlight was a demonstration of the Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicle by creators AirRobot US and the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Department who demonstrated how small UAVs can be used by law enforcement to survey a neighborhood before serving a high-risk search warrant, ensuring the safety of police officers in a potentially dangerous situation.