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Unmanned Aircraft

BUSINESS
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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BUSINESS
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.
BUSINESS
July 1, 2012 | By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
Despite concerns about U.S.-made drones ending up in enemy hands, American military contractors are lobbying the government to loosen export restrictions and open up foreign markets to the unmanned aircraft that have reshaped modern warfare. Companies such as Northrop Grumman Corp.and other arms makers are eager to tap a growing foreign appetite for high-tech - and relatively cheap - drones, already being sold on the world market by countries such as Israel and China. "Export restrictions are hurting this industry in America without making us any safer," Wesley G. Bush, Northrop's chief executive, said at a defense conference this year.
BUSINESS
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.
BUSINESS
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.
NATIONAL
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.
WORLD
May 5, 2010 | By David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Reporting from Washington -- The CIA received secret permission to attack a wider range of targets, including suspected militants whose names are not known, as part of a dramatic expansion of its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan's border region, according to current and former counter-terrorism officials. The expanded authority, approved two years ago by the Bush administration and continued by President Obama, permits the agency to rely on what officials describe as "pattern of life" analysis, using evidence collected by surveillance cameras on the unmanned aircraft and from other sources about individuals and locations.
BUSINESS
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.
NEWS
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.
BUSINESS
March 28, 2012 | By Salvador Rodriguez
It seemed too delicious. Too exciting. Too good to be true. And that's because it was. Tacocopter, a faux Silicon Valley start-up, threw the Internet for a loop these last few days with a website that promised the delivery of tacos via unmanned drone helicopters that accepted orders from a smartphone app. That combination of the excitement of Terminator films with the flavor of the cherished Mexican meal and the efficiency of the...
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