Feeds

US deploys 1.8 gigapixel helicopter surveillance drones to Afghanistan

Boeing A160T Hummingbird carries upgraded spying eye

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The US Army will deploy Boeing A160T Hummingbird surveillance helicopter drones for the first time (officially at least) in Afghanistan by June 2012.

The 35 foot long Hummingbird can operate at a ceiling of 30,000 feet, has 2,250 miles of range and can fly at a maximum of 165mph, with Boeing claiming an endurance record in its class with an 18.7 hour flight time. The drones will be deployed carrying the Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance (ARGUS) 1.8 gigapixel imaging system developed by DARPA, which allows multiple video streams to be routed back to operators on the ground.

A160T Hummingbird drone joins the US Army

Let's hope this one stays up

"The ARGUS sensor suite has never been flown on this platform before so we have to make sure that the integration is complete,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Munster, product manager of UAS Modernization with the Army in a statement. “We are finishing that up now and adding some different types of antennas."

Boeing’s Hummingbird has been in testing with military units for some time now, both as a surveillance drone and a remote resupply unit. In the latter case it lost out in testing to the ATUAS K-MAX, which could outlift Boeing’s drone by 3,000lb to 2,500lb, but the design of the rotor system makes it more suited to surveillance work.

The Hummingbird is one of the first drones to use variable speed rotors rather than one fixed speed, allowing it to slow rotors during fast cruising and crank up the RPM of its four blades when hovering. This not only brings fuel savings and better adaptability for pilots, but can also be used to keep noise output to a bare minimum.

The Hummingbird has been tested (and crashed occasionally) using jungle-penetrating FORESTER radar, but the US is a bit short of enemies hiding in jungles for now, so the ARGUS suite will be carried instead. The unit, not to be confused with the German blimp of the same name, can will scan almost 25 square miles at a time and allow 65 different feeds to be displayed. It is currently being fitted and will be undergoing flight testing at the Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona early next year.

ARGUS surveillance camera output

Beware the all-seeing eye of ARGUS

Initially only three drones will be deployed for a year, allowing the Army to run a full combat test of the system in the tricky high-altitude Afghan flight zones. With the ability to hover at 20,000 feet, the drones should be quite handy, unless the Iranians really are capable of bringing them down occasionally. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'
PM urged to 'prioritise issue' after Facebook hindsight find
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
NSA mass spying reform KILLED by US Senators
Democrats needed just TWO more votes to keep alive bill reining in some surveillance
'Internet Freedom Panel' to keep web overlord ICANN out of Russian hands – new proposal
Come back with our internet! cries Republican drawing up bill
What a Mesa: Apple vows to re-use titsup GT sapphire glass plant
Commits to American manufacturing ... of secret tech
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.