December 5, 2011 |
The chief of the Homeland Security Department's drone aircraft program is facing an ethics investigation for joining the board of directors of the largest industry group promoting the use of unmanned aircraft, officials said Monday. The internal affairs office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is reviewing whether Tom Faller, director of unmanned aircraft systems operations, violated internal rules when he took an unpaid position as a board member of the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International on Aug. 16. Faller oversees eight Predator B surveillance drones that are chiefly used to help search for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers on the northern and southwestern borders.
October 27, 2011 |
The Homeland Security Department is adding three surveillance drone aircraft to a domestic fleet chiefly used to patrol the border with Mexico even though officials acknowledge they don't have enough pilots to operate the seven Predators they already possess. The new drones are being purchased after lobbying by members of the so-called drone caucus in Congress, many from districts in Southern California, a major hub of the unmanned aircraft industry. "We didn't ask for them," said a Homeland Security official who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak frankly.
October 14, 2011 |
Concerns last week that combat drone aircraft were compromised by a computer virus were dismissed by the U.S. Air Force. In a rare disclosure, the Air Force revealed that computer systems involved in its drone program were infected with a virus, but it did not hinder flight operations in any way. "It's standard policy not to discuss the operational status of our forces," Col. Kathleen Cook, spokeswoman for Air Force Space Command, said in...
May 9, 2011 |
Aerospace giant Northrop Grumman Corp. has quietly developed a new spy plane that can listen in on phone conversations, use high-powered radar and shoot live video footage as it flies at 30,000 feet above the Earth. And the spy plane, expected to be unveiled Monday, would operate with or without a pilot sitting in the cockpit. Until now, U.S. military aircraft have been designed to either have a pilot on board or be an unmanned drone. But Northrop's new plane, dubbed the Firebird, can switch from being a traditional aircraft to a drone with just a few modifications.
September 12, 2010 |
The cars begin rolling through the security checkpoints before dawn. Here, in a sprawling complex amid the craggy rock outcroppings of north San Diego County, 3,300 workers are building a new generation of weapons central to the military's vision for modern warfare. This is where General Atomics Aeronautical Systems makes the Predator and Reaper drones, robotic planes that can thread the rugged mountains of Pakistan, capture video images of terrorist hideouts and launch 500-pound Hellfire missiles to blast them apart.
July 6, 2010 |
The U.S. military often portrays its drone aircraft as high-tech marvels that can be operated seamlessly from thousands of miles away. But Pentagon accident reports reveal that the pilotless aircraft suffer from frequent system failures, computer glitches and human error. Design and system problems were never fully addressed in the haste to push the fragile plane into combat over Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks more than eight years ago. Air Force investigators continue to cite pilot mistakes, coordination snafus, software failures, outdated technology and inadequate flight manuals.