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Unmanned Aircraft

September 12, 2010 | By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
Southern California's unmanned aircraft legacy shares deep roots with another of the region's economic mainstays — Hollywood. One of the first pioneers to bridge the two worlds was Reginald Denny, a British actor during the silent era who starred as a swashbuckling leading man in steamy romantic films such as "The Price of Possession" and "Tropical Love. " A former World War I fighter pilot, Denny kept his passion for flight alive by running a model plane shop on Hollywood Boulevard in the 1930s, where he sold radio-controlled aircraft.
November 5, 2011 | By David S. Cloud and David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
On the evening of April 5, a pilot settled into a leather captain's chair at Creech Air Force Base in southern Nevada and took the controls of a Predator drone flying over one of the most violent areas of southwestern Afghanistan. Minutes later, his radio crackled. A firefight had broken out. Taliban insurgents had ambushed about two dozen Marines patrolling a bitterly contested road. The Air Force captain angled his joystick and the drone veered toward the fighting taking place half a world away, where it was already morning.
July 2, 2010 | By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
Northrop Grumman Corp. has been awarded a $33-million Pentagon contract to transform its unmanned, long-range spy plane into a roving robotic aerial refueling tanker. The plane, dubbed the Global Hawk, is used for high-altitude reconnaissance missions over Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. military. Northrop plans to retrofit the plane so it can carry 1,000 gallons of jet fuel in its fuselage and demonstrate it can autonomously refuel another Global Hawk in midair by next year. "This technology has the potential to be revolutionary," said Mark Gamache, director of Northrop's advanced concepts and technology division.
October 12, 2006 | From Bloomberg News
Boeing Co. said it would stop research and development on its Little Bird unmanned aircraft in favor of a newer program. Little Bird, an update of a utility helicopter used in Vietnam, is an older technology that had largely been funded by Boeing. The company instead will focus on its new unmanned aircraft, the A160 Hummingbird, which has received more government funds, Boeing said this week.
October 27, 2011 | By Brian Bennett, Washington Bureau
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.
January 31, 2012 | By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
New rules for operating small drones in U.S. airspace have been delayed by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been weighing for years how to regulate these unmanned aircraft over populated areas. Currently, drones are not allowed to fly in the U.S. except with special permission from the FAA. But as demand increases for using drones in the commercial world, the agency plans to propose new regulations on small remotely piloted aircraft, a move seen as the first step toward opening the nation's skyways to drone aircraft.
March 8, 2012 | By Brian Bennett
The Federal Aviation Administration has taken the first concrete step toward allowing drones to fly alongside passenger airplanes in the United States. As required by a law signed by President Obama in February, the FAA is moving forward with a plan to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace by 2015. In a notice to be published Friday, the FAA is seeking advice on how to select six places across the country that will be used for testing how to safely fly drones in the same area as traditional planes.
May 4, 2011 | By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
A sleek, delta-winged robotic jet took to the skies for the first time above the Mojave Desert at Edwards Air Force Base. Boeing Co.'s experimental drone, dubbed Phantom Ray, flew to 7,500 feet and reached speeds of 205 mph in its first flight. The 17-minute flight took place April 27, but Boeing officials did not confirm details until Tuesday. The Phantom Ray, which resembles a giant boomerang, is being developed by the Chicago company for a variety of missions. Its stealthy design could enable it to slip behind enemy lines to knock out radar installations, clearing the way for fighters and bombers.
April 26, 2009 | Lolita C. Baldor, Baldor writes for the Associated Press.
Leaps in unmanned aircraft technology have military authorities clamoring to use drones for everything from coastal patrols and border surveillance to tracking natural disasters. But fears of midair collisions are slowing any broad expansion of their domestic use. Federal Aviation Administration officials made it clear in a recent closed government conference that until the pilotless aircraft gain the high-tech ability to sense and avoid commercial aircraft and other airborne objects, the government is unlikely to allow them to operate much more freely in congested airspace.
May 9, 2011 | By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
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.
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