Parfois, pour gagner une guerre, il suffit d’être un peu plus inventif et plus fou que ses ennemis. Alors que votre adversaire peut être préparé à toutes éventualités venant de votre camp, vous pouvez miser sur votre imagination concernant votre armement…et prendre votre adversaire par surprise.
Voici les armes les plus extraordinaires de l’histoire qui sont toutes réelles et qui ont fait leurs preuves !
LE PROJET ZVENO DE STALINE : UN AVION QUI TRANSPORTE D’AUTRES AVIONS !
Les Soviétiques étaient des pionniers dans le domaine de l’aviation, comme en témoigne leur lourd quadrimoteur, le Tupolev TB-3 armé de torpilles ou utilisé pour larguer des parachutistes ou pour transporter des appareils d’expéditions polaires ou de chars. Mais l’utilisation la plus insolite reste sans doute celle connue sous la forme d’un porte-avion dans le cadre de Samolyot Zveno. Ils lancent les premiers essais le 31 décembre 1931 avec un TB-1 bimoteur embarquant deux chasseurs I-4. Mais face à l’autonomie du bombardier insuffisante, dès 1935, ils passent au Zveno Z-2 composé d’un TB-3 transportant un Polikarpov I-5
L’idée de base était que le bombardier accompagne les petits avions vers une cible qui n’était pas à sa portée. Une fois dans le secteur de leurs cibles, les avions se détachaient du bombardier et se dirigeaient vers des réserves de pétroles en Roumanie ou des ponts allemands.
Une fois la mission accomplie, les pilotes avaient deux options : soit tenter de se rattacher au TB-3 en vol ou tout simplement d’atterrir sur un aérodrome à proximité.
LE MORTIER KARL OU CELUI QUI A LA PLUS GROSSE !
C’est au cours de la Seconde Guerre mondiale que les Allemands ont mis au point une quantité importante de mortiers pour faire face aux besoins qu’ils avaient. En 1939, une commande est passée pour créer le mortier Karl qui a vu le jour en six exemplaires. Il s’agit ici d’un monstre de 132 tonnes qui, une fois chargé, nécessitait 107 hommes pour sa mise en opération dont quatre pour le déplacer. Ce mortier était capable de démolir 2,5 mètres d’épaisseur de ciment et 45 cm de blindage d’acier.
Ne pouvant se déplacer qu’à 5 km/h, il devait être installé sur des chariots ferroviaires, un à l’avant et l’autre à l’arrière, comme pour le canon Leopold, pour effectuer de longues distances. Une fois arrivé à destination, il pouvait se déplacer par ses propres moyens. Lors des tirs, il devait être accompagné par un transporteur de munitions muni d’un cric pour charger les projectiles de 2,2 tonnes. Lors du siège de la place forte de Sébastopol, Von Manstein a fait appel à ce mortier pour venir à bout de l’ennemi. En 1943, les Allemands vont modifier son canon pour un baril plus long et réduire son calibre à 540 mm au lieu de 600 ce qui augmentera sa portée de 6800 à 10 500 mètres ! Le Karl restera l’arme au plus gros calibre jamais produite dans l’histoire. Aujourd’hui encore, il n’a jamais été dépassé.
LE FLYING COG : UN BATEAU AVION… OU AVION BATEAU !
Conçu en 1936 et mis en service en 1940, le Blohm & Voss BV 138 (ou Flying Cog) est un véhicule qui se cherche un peu entre le bateau et l’avion. Cet hydravion de reconnaissance maritime de la Luftwaffe était l’un des projets de la filiale Blohm & Voss. La version finale choisie fut celle composée d’une coque centrale et de deux travées de queue pour le soutien des gouvernails.
Le premier vol eu lieu en février 1939 et 25 exemplaires furent commandés. Après ces essais, les Allemands l’ont modifiés pour l’équiper de deux canons MG 151 de 20 mm dans les tourelles avant et arrière et d’une mitrailleuse MG 131 mm dans un poste de tir situé à l’arrière de l’appareil. Son armement offensif était constitué de trois bombes de 50 kg. C’est suite à ces changements qu’il est rebaptisé BV 138 B1.
Pendant l’hiver 1940-1941, les unités équipées de cet armement en Norvège furent utilisées pour des missions de recherche des convois en mer du Nord et dans l’Atlantique. Puis en mars 1941 le BV 138 C1, son successeur amélioré fut mis en production. Les BV 138 furent abandonnés et transformés en appareils pour chercher des mines. Mais cet appareil fut très opérationnel, robuste et en mesure de supporter des attaques ennemies et réussir parfois à sortir vainqueur dans des face à face avec des avions plus rapides et agiles.
LE DE HAVILLAND MOSQUITO, EN CONTRE PLAQUÉ !
C’est un avion multirôle britannique connu pour être un chasseur-bombardier. Grâce à sa construction en bois contre plaqué, il a une très faible signature radar ce qui en fait le premier avion furtif de l’histoire. Ses équipes l’ont d’ailleurs surnommé « the wooden wonder » (La Merveille en bois) en raison de ses performances incroyables.
L’une de ses particularités est que le pilote et le navigateur sont assis l’un à côté de l’autre. Lors de sa conception, on remarque que l’ajout d’armement défensif réduit considérablement sa vitesse maximale. On décide de le redessiner. Ainsi, le Mosquito est décliné en plusieurs versions : bombardier de jour rapide, chasseur-bombardier, bombardier tactique, chasseur nocturne, avion d’intrusion ou encore avion de reconnaissance.
De leur côté, les Allemands entendent très vite parler du Mosquito et décident de s’en inspirer pour créer le Force Wulf Ta 154 Moskito, lui aussi construit en bois. Par la suite, les Alliés se serviront des plans de base du Mosquito pour mettre au point un chasseur lourd monoplace : le de Havilland Hornet.
LE FOKKER DR. I AVEC BEAUCOUP D’AILES !
Il s’agit ici d’un avion de chasse utilisé lors de la Première Guerre Mondiale. Construit par Anthony Fokker et utilisé par l’armée allemande entre 1917 et 1918, il est composé de trois ailes superposées qui lui permettent une portance adéquate et il peut aussi conserver une envergure limitée et ces deux facteurs font que cet appareil reste très maniable.
Cet avion fut produit à hauteur de 320 unités. L’appareil est devenu célèbre grâce au baron Manfred von Richthofen, plus connu sous le nom du Baron Rouge. Il a principalement volé avec la version Dr.Is numéroté 425/17 et qui était totalement rouge. La production de cet avion s’est achevée en mai 1918 et un modèle, le 152/17 a survécu à la Seconde Guerre mondiale et fut exposé à Berlin.
LES HOBART’S FUNNIES
Les Hobart’s Funnies sont un groupe de chars de combats modifiés par des ingénieurs anglais lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale et qui doivent leurs nom au major-général Percy Hobart. Essentiellement utilisés sur les plages où les soldats britanniques ont débarqué. Les chars DD amphibies arrivaient en même temps que les premières troupes débarquées.
Il existe plusieurs versions. Notamment le Crab qui n’était qu’un Sherman M4 modifié équipé d’un fléau à mines où était fixées 43 chaînes lestées et qui faisaient éclater les mines sur son passage. Un bouclier anti souffle entre le fléau et le char donnait une protection supplémentaire. On y apporta aussi des lames circulaires au bout du rotor pour couper des fils barbelés.
L’autre version très convoitée est le char DD qui était aussi un char amphibie Sherman M4 capable de flotter avec une jupe imperméable en caoutchouc et de se mouvoir d’une barge de débarquement jusqu’à la terre ferme à l’aide de deux hélices.
Lors du débarquement en Normandie, sur la plage d’Utah Beach, deux escadrons de DD devaient précéder le débarquement de l’infanterie, mais 4 des chars ont été détruits. Cependant, les 28 autres chars sont arrivés à destination. Par contre, sur Omaha Beach, presque tous les chars lancés en mer ont été perdus ce qui a eu pour conséquence de ralentir les progrès sur la plage.
L’ANTONOV-40,LE TANK VOLANT
Bien qu’ils fussent un concept étranger dans la guerre moderne, les planeurs militaires constituaient une part importante de la stratégie aérienne de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Ils ont été conçus pour être transportés en altitude par un avion remorqueur et largués près du territoire ennemi, ce qui a permis de livrer rapidement les fournitures et les troupes lors d’opérations aériennes. Parmi tous les modèles de planeurs de la guerre, les Soviétiques ont produit le plus inhabituel: le char aérien A-40.
La plupart des pays ont cherché des moyens de placer les chars sur le front rapidement et efficacement. Leur transport aérien par des planeurs semblait bien valoir le coup, mais les ingénieurs ont vite compris que les réservoirs étaient parmi les véhicules les moins aérodynamiques existants. Après d’innombrables tentatives visant à mettre en place un bon système de transport aérien des réservoirs, la plupart des pays ont tout simplement abandonné. Mais pas l’Union soviétique.
En fait, l’armée de l’air soviétique avait déjà enregistré un certain succès avec les chars d’assaut avant de développer l’A-40. Des petits chars tels que le T-27 ont été levés à bord de gros avions de transport et largués à quelques mètres du sol. Si la boîte de vitesses était au point mort, le réservoir heurterait le sol et roulerait jusqu’à s’arrêter. Le problème était que l’équipage du char devait abandonner séparément, ce qui diminuait considérablement l’efficacité du système au combat.
Le Saint Graal devait faire en sorte que l’équipage du char fasse voler le char jusqu’au sol et qu’il soit en état de combat dans quelques minutes. À cette fin, les concepteurs soviétiques se sont tournés vers les idées de l’ingénieur américain John Walter Christie, qui avait initialement développé le concept de char volant dans les années 30. Avec un char attaché à un ensemble d’ailes de biplan, Christie pensait que toute guerre se terminerait rapidement, car personne ne pourrait se défendre contre un char volant.
S’appuyant sur le travail de Christie, les Soviétiques ont assemblé un char T-60 doté d’énormes ailes de biplan et ont effectué les premiers essais en vol en 1942 avec le pilote brave (ou fou) aux commandes, Sergei Anokhin. Bien que la traînée du char ait forcé l’avion remorqueur à abandonner le planeur avant d’atteindre l’altitude du but, Anokhin a réussi à atterrir en douceur et a même ramené le char à sa base. Bien qu’Anokhin ait présenté un rapport enthousiaste, le concept a été abandonné après que les Soviétiques se soient rendus compte qu’il leur manquait des avions suffisamment puissants pour remorquer un char opérationnel (Anokhin avait utilisé l’essentiel de son armement et de son carburant). Malheureusement, l’idée d’un char volant n’a plus jamais vu le jour.
INTRODUCTION It’s a small plastic toy that we would once call a model airplane, but add the military veneer of “drone” and the toy becomes a lot more evolved than just a model I airplane. So when toys become sophisticated enough to be called drones, the name drone creates something that is currently conceived as a liability.
I have been flying for more years than I can remember, a skill that was rekindled when I brought my first Microdrone from Germany. Its simplicity of design and ease of control encouraged me to start a new division within the company BCB Robotics. For the past nine years I have been immersed in every aspect of aerial robotics, while watching my personal collection of purchased and handmade drones grow dramatically. Like so many others, I have fallen in love with drones. Build a Drone means just that; I built, calibrated, tuned, and flew the drone build in this book in less than three hours. For many people, the term drone seems to conjure images of military use and war weaponry. As a result, the mere thought of these futuristic flying devices tends to pose security and privacy concerns. While nothing could be further from the truth, years ago you could hardly hear the word drone outside of military circles; now it is spoken worldwide. Not because of the military but because of the explosion in the sale of model drones. Drone sales are not just hot, they are on fire. Forget the military use of drones for a moment; civilian drone sales are set to top $40 billion worldwide, creating more than 50,000 jobs in the US alone. The proliferation of unmanned aircraft is already outpacing the regulations that govern them; both the US FAA and the UK’s CAA are falling behind the rapid development in drone technology that is driven by hundreds of thousands of young innovators worldwide. This is despite the fact that the media seem to jump on the bandwagon every time some idiot with a private drone flies close to an airfield and puts people’s lives in danger, and despite the cries of attacks on individual privacy. Yet their advantages are numerous. A drone is an eye in the sky that can detect and help stop crime. Drones were used during the recent earthquake in Nepal for damage assessment. They can fly over areas where humans dare not venture, such as minefields. They have rescued children from flooding and have been used for search and rescue operations in several countries. When used with the right intentions, drones are good. If drones could let you know what they are good at (and that day is not far away) they would say they are designed for dull, dirty, and dangerous work. Dull may encompass looking at crop growth and making the farming industry more efficient so we can feed the planet. Dirty could mean going into places inaccessible to humans, and dangerous work might be assessing the radiation from a leaking nuclear plant. Drones can and will be extremely useful to society as a whole. For the moment, we only hear of military drones bombing some far-off target, or how some kid flew his drone over an airport, or about the idiot who used a shotgun to shoot down a drone. This is today’s news; tomorrow it will be different when drones start saving lives. One thing is for sure: drones are here to stay. So you are thinking about owning a drone? Well, you have a choice: buy one ready made, or purchase one in kit form—or you can follow the instructions in this book and make your own. Whichever path you choose, remember that with a drone comes responsibility; it may only be a “toy,” but it’s a toy that flies in the air. No matter what size or type of drone you possess, you have to take into consideration some basic truths. Drones can become an obsession and take over much of your free time. And owning or building a drone does not grant you an automatic pilot’s license—it is equally as important to learn to fly safely. The main aim of this book is to give you a step-by-step guide on how to build a drone without all the technical jargon (although you will learn some technical terms as you progress). Additionally, the book will show you how the basic drone can be upgraded so that you can fly autonomously, using way-points, or set the drone to Follow Me mode. You will also be able to improve the look of your drone, making it more professional. Build a Drone contains a vast amount of information about all forms of drones, from those used by the military and commercial markets to the models available for hobbyists. It also explains their use within society and how they will enhance mankind. Most of all, it highlights the vital aspects of safety required when flying a drone, mainly the FAA and CAA regulations that discipline its use. If you can read, then you can build a drone. You don’t need a degree in aeronautical engineering. True, there is some programming involved, and fine adjustments will make your drone fly better, but they are easy to understand. How much will it cost? To be perfectly honest, it is cheaper to buy a drone than to build one. Most new drones come out of the box almost ready to fly after some basic assembly and charging the battery. However, if you want to understand the drone, you are better off building your own—added to which is great fun. The basic drone shown in this book will cost you around $300, but if you want to remodel, adding more sophistication such as telemetry and LIDAR, you can count on doubling that. Build a Drone contains insight into all the types of drones available and what they are used for. It is also a guide to the advantages of buying versus building. For those that choose the latter, the book explains the mechanical parts required to keep a drone stable in the air and how they control its actions and functions in flight. Build a Drone is more than a simple step-by-step guide. It explains how to put the parts together, calibrate, and adjust settings to get your bird into the air safely. The book covers every aspect of obtaining your own drone, from simple construction to the workings of a Ground Control System, and using software to control it. It also shows how to take your basic drone and turn it into a thing of beauty by designing your own airframe. To build a drone, you only need to know how to read; the rest will come naturally. If you learn what a component does and grasp its function within the drone’s structure, slowly but surely you will understand what makes a drone fly stable in the air. You need only to gather your component parts and assemble them, adding the firmware and software to make it fly and carry out your commands. None of this requires programming skills or advanced knowledge of electronics. Why would you want a personal drone? Well, there are many possible reasons for having your own drone. Most of us love things that fly, and up until a few years ago this would mean going to an aero-model club and learning to fly a fixed-wing aircraft or a helicopter. Now we have drones and things are much simpler, especially when it comes to flying. Additionally, you may want to use your drone for a more commercial application like aerial mapping or photography and become a professional flyer earning your living from flying drones. No matter the reason for wanting a drone, Build a Drone will help you decide what is best for you personally. To build or buy your own drone means investing in some serious equipment and personal time, both of which can be expensive. When you finally have your drone, learning to fly it is the key element to minimizing costly crashes and damage. Although quad-copters can literally fly themselves when in automatic mode, if they’re not calibrated correctly and you have not installed a range of fail-safe protocols, you could still lose your drone. Worse still, it could cause damage to people or property. Learning to fly safely is paramount to protecting your drone investment. Another worry is where to fly your drone; you may well own one but is it legal to fly? Even when it is legal, there are considerations such as privacy and trespass. Aviation law on flying a drone is different around the world and even from state to state in America, so you are best advised to consult the law in your area. Visit a local flying club and ask the advice of those who have been safely flying for years. As you read through Build a Drone, the answers to all of the above questions and advice will become clear, especially regarding construction. The one thing you might find a little confusing is all the acronyms throughout the book, such as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). Don’t worry too much, as most are explained throughout the book and those that are not can be found in the Glossary. Additionally, I would advise all those truly interested in any form of aerial robotics to search through the brilliant ArduPilot website: ardupilot.com/ In a world that is rapidly changing, I personally find that designing and building a drone is very relaxing and extremely satisfying. So enjoy your drone build and get it flying safely. It is a new and exciting hobby, one that reaches out to advanced technology in a way that all of us can understand. You may have been building model aircraft and flying at your local club for years; you may be an engineer with an interest in drone technology; or you may have purchased a drone for a hobby. No matter what role you play, you are a partner in the drone revolution. The day when drones are common in the skies overhead, you can say to your grandchildren, “I built one of those.”
Chapter 1 WHAT IS A DRONE?
Iwatched the news this morning as they announced the death of Jihadi John,
believed killed in an American drone strike. Real name Mohammed Emwazi, he
become prominent after appearing in a series of gory propaganda videos showing the
beheading of several British, American, and Japanese captives. Jihadi John was
targeted in a vehicle as he left the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in eastern Syria. Imagine
a flying machine, which could have flown from the United States, able to locate and
kill a man thousands of miles away. Actually, I believe the drone may have been
launched from the Ali Al Salem air base in Kuwait. The funny thing is, drone strikes
are such a regular occurrence today that it’s no longer considered news. Yet, by
contrast, in the same month, a British filmmaker was fined $1,350 (£1,200) for flying
his model drone over Hyde Park in London.
Less than a week later, 129 people were killed in a massive attack in Paris, France.
The attacks were carried out by suicide gunmen who, after shooting down many of
their victims, detonated their suicide vests killing even more. France was quick to
respond, sending fighters to bomb some of the ISIS strongholds in Syria. Within a
week, the UN Security Council unanimously approved an action that nations should
take all necessary measures in the fight against ISIS. The US increased its drone
Surprisingly, drones have been around for some time, but the word drone seems to
have suddenly been transformed into the Prince of Darkness … well maybe not quite
that bad, but in the happy days of model making, building and flying a model plane
was something done for pleasure. So let’s step back a little in time before all the
media hype about flying objects invading your privacy and how killer drones roam the
skies looking for trouble. In reality, there is more of a risk from bird strikes on manned
aircraft than any serious danger from drones, but bird strikes do not make headline
I have always called my personal drones Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
However, in September 2015, I attended the conference at the main Naval Air Base
in Cornwall, UK. Everyone was there, including the people who designed ScanEagle
in America and the British police, who displayed a DJI Inspire. It was without doubt
the best “across the board” drone conference I have ever attended. I was impressed
with the open debate but silently amused to hear that the official word for any UAV
was now drone. Military or civilian, large or small, in the UK it’s a drone. Likewise, it’s
not autonomous flying, it’s now called automatic, and so I will stick with these terms
for the moment.
Author’s Note: Throughout the book I may refer to “your drone” and “your quadcopters”
in the same sentence. In both cases they are one and the same.
The use of drones can be classified into three different areas: military, civilian, and
hobbyist. Although the use of drones in the military has been around for a long time,
recent innovations in communication have rekindled the possibilities and benefit of drones upon the battlefield. As the face of war has changed, so has the weaponry designed to wage it. In the UK, for example the British military has drones at its disposal, the largest of these being the American-made Reaper. Britain also has the Watchkeeper, the Desert Hawk, and the small Black Hornet—the latter is just 18 grams (0.63 ounces). On the civilian side, drones have a very good future, but not in the present form as most people are led to believe. The media shows parcel delivery by drone, and a hot meal being placed on a table by the flying restaurant service. Trust me, that is not going to happen—well, not for a long time yet. And why not? It’s because of the “what if” factor. For example, our food delivery drone is working perfectly with thousands of flights a day to happy customers. Then one day some idiot on the table decides it would be fun to put a fork up into the propellers just to see what would happen; obviously the drone would lose balance and crash wildly causing serious damage to anyone in close proximity. Our intention was to deliver food, but we did not anticipate the “what if” factor—the idiot sitting at the table. So it will be a long time before drone delivery flights are considered totally safe.
While the general public might refer to all drones in the same voice, the authorities see them quite differently, and as such classify them. In both the hobbyist and commercial worlds, size is the determining factor. A drone is classified in (mm) with the frame size being represented by the greatest point–to-point distance between two motors on a drone; yet you will often find that most propellers are sized in inches. However, when it comes to the government, both the UK and the US classify
the type of drone by weight: 7 ounces (200 grams) or less is called Nano 7 ounces (200 grams) to 4½ pounds (2 kilograms) is called Micro 4½ pounds (2 kilograms) to 45 pounds (20 kilograms) is called Mini 45 pounds (20 kilograms) to 330 pounds (150 kilograms) is called Small After this we move into the larger military drones, normally called Tactical, Male, and Hale, which is anything 330 pounds (150 kilograms) and above. More recently there has been a review of drones, and the military now classifies a drone according to its potential. For example, a 200 gram Nano quad-copter would not be so harmless if it had the ability to deliver an explosive device or become weaponized; then it would be classified right up there with the Predator.
So why have drones become so newsworthy? I personally think it’s the sudden and rapid development of unmanned aviation. The driving force and contributing factors could be the technical innovations in aviation: the autopilot, the inertial navigation system, and data links to name a few. In the past, drone development was hindered by technological insufficiencies through most of the twentieth century; however, concentrated efforts in various military projects overcame the basic problems of
automatic stabilization, remote control, and autonomous navigation by the sixties. Microprocessors have become ever more capable in their ability, and are now smaller and more lightweight. Nano sensors and GPS were used to convert the mobile phone industry into a worldwide network, producing a handheld communications device that your could slip into your pocket. What has this got to do with drones? Well a smartphone and a drone share many similarities, minus the motors and propellers. Today’s autopilots have a main processor, GPS, magnetometer, gyroscope, and accelerometer just like the phone in your pocket.
DRONE USAGE The one thing about drones is that they use the open sky above and, for the most part, are out of reach and without hindrance; the major drawback is if they fail, they fall to earth. So, until we can develop drones that are considered totally safe, we must restrict them to areas where, if they fail, they will do no damage and cause no injury. Strangely enough, this still leaves us with lots of possibilities: • Flying a drone over a wilderness searching for a missing person. • Damage assessment of a devastated area after an earthquake. • Search and rescue at sea. • Helping farmers control the growth of crops. • Checking landfill sites for leaking gasses. None of those activities poses a problem should the drone crash and fall to earth, yet these areas account for most of the planet’s surface. Once the media hype has died down, drones will become more widely acceptable. People may complain about the noise, but cars make more noise; it’s a matter of acceptance. The old saying “what the eye does not see the heart does not grieve over” is very apt for drones. If our drone is flying high enough not to be heard, then almost certainly no one will bother; it’s only when the drone is low enough for people to hear that they will look up.
Safety and media hype behind us for the moment, let us look at how we arrived at
present-day drones. On August 22, 1849, Austria used balloons to drop explosives on Venice. While the city was under siege, one bright artillery officer had the idea of sending balloons with a bomb attached that would explode when over Venice. As the prevailing winds were from the sea, the balloons were actually launched from a ship called the Volcano. Many of the balloons did explode over Venice with devastating effect, not just in collateral damage but by terrifying the people, as the bombs were filled with shrapnel. In the American Civil War, both sides used hot-air balloons to monitor each other’s movements and occasionally to direct troops or adjust artillery fire. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the US used a kite with a camera attached to it, thus creating the first aerial surveillance. Both British and German planes of the First World War used cameras to take excellent imagery of enemy positions. However, the first true drones appeared around 1941, when German scientists experimented with radio-controlled missiles during World War II, bombarding both British shipping at sea as well as strategic locations inland. They developed a method of dropping the missile from an aircraft, after which the pilot guided it to its target. During 1941, the Naval Aircraft Factory developed an early unmanned combat aerial vehicle, called the TDN, referred to at the time as an “assault drone.” It was tested in early 1942, and by March the government had ordered ten units. Expensive to build, the TDN was quite sophisticated, with a television camera in the nose, and could be flown by remote control by pilots aboard chase aircrafts. It proved only partially successful, although the TDN did destroy some Japanese shipping in thePacific. The final mission was flown on October 27, 1944, with a total of some 50
drones having been expended, of which 31 reached their target successfully.
They were, in fact, the drones of their day. In the fifties, America and Russia were
competing to conquer space; the scientists on both sides had to figure out how to fly
a rocket without a human on board, launching satellites, and remotely controlling the
path of rockets and missiles. In this era, three prime technologies had to be
• Flight power source
BEKAA VALLEY, LEBANON
I think it is true to say that the birth of modern drones evolved out of the Israeli
desert, when someone had the bright idea of flying a fixed-wing model aircraft with a
camera strapped to it—this might also explain why Israel has such a grip on the UAV
market. Nevertheless, it did not take long for the American intelligence world to
realize that here was a novel way of obtaining information over enemy occupied
territory. That’s when the growth in modern unmanned war planes really began.
During the seventies, and through its checkered military history, Israel Aircraft
Industries (IAI) developed into one of the world’s leading drone manufacturers. During
this time, the Israeli military was becoming progressively more interested in using
UAVs for military purposes. The American-made Chukar target drone was used during
the Israeli counterattack against Egypt in 1973. Its main aim was to get Egypt to
reveal its radar sites.
One of IAI’s more successful drones was the Scout, which first operated combat
missions in Angola by the South African Defense Force. In 1982, the IAI Scout drone
was used to combat the threat by Syrian surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) positioned in
the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Using the same techniques and lessons Israel had
developed fighting Egypt, they used these drones to flush out the Syrian SAM site
locations. All 28 SAM sites in the Bekaa were destroyed. The American military was
quick to learn from the Israeli battlefield success of deploying UAVs and, by1984, had
embarked on a massive program. While the American military is highly reluctant to
purchase its hardware from foreign countries, initially it formed cooperative
companies that worked closely with counterparts in Israel. While the US has gone on
to develop its own family of drones, Israel remains at the very forefront of the UAV
Drone technology increased dramatically during the 1996 war in Bosnia, when
Predators flew over six hundred missions. This gave way to improved command and
control of operating unmanned drones in a manned aircraft environment. Today these
large drones navigate the skies on the prowl for enemy locations and can deliver an
instant unseen retaliatory strike if required.
The debate about drones in both America and Europe for military purposes continues unabated, focused largely on the morality of drone warfare. Are they an unacceptable moral hazard, or are they a tool to combat terrorism? The number of innocent civilians killed (collateral damage) is a major factor and one that cannot be ignored even by the pro-drone vote. There has been a call on the Obama administration to reduce the dependence on drones, but for the moment it seems they are the weapon of choice. Despite all the rhetoric, drones have done their job with great efficiency by successfully killing terrorist commanders in places hereto not accessible. They have penetrated deep into the terrorist refuges of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria, scourging organizations like al Qaeda and ISIS. They have done so without putting allied soldiers in harm’s way while reducing the overall cost of warfare. However, being on the receiving end of a drone strike is not much fun. A bomb released from a Reaper drone will damage everything within a 200-meter radius. So, imagine a football field full of people and when the bomb hits you have a 5 percent chance of living, albeit with critical injury. There are claims that drones kill thousands of innocent civilians, which sets a dangerous precedent as much of this criticism is valid.
At lot of work has been done to minimize the collateral damage and reduce civilian casualties. There have been a lot of improvements in re-configuring the Hellfire antitank missile to fit onto a Predator and Reaper drones, which is the type of missile we see taking out a moving vehicle. There has also been a change in the targeting scenario, making sure the weapons fired are equated to the target they are attacking. Another problem, not widely published, is the number of drones that crash for one reason or another. Up until January this year, the US has lost or crashed at least 85 drones, with an average cost of around $1 million each. Some go down due to lost data-link communications or flying in extremely poor weather, while human error has also been reported. Yet neither collateral damage nor crashes have put a stop to the use of drones; if anything their use has expanded. MQ-9 REAPER The MQ-9 Reaper is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. Reapers can do just about anything: gather intelligence, carry out surveillance, and hit a designated target really hard, as the MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft. It can carry a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II, and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. In addition to its many other highly robust sensors, it can employ laserguided munitions like the Paveway II. It’s known as the Find, Fix, and Finish drone. The MQ-9 can be packed into a single container and shipped by C130 Hercules transport aircrafts anywhere it’s needed. It can take off and land using local line of sight (LOS) communications and, once airborne, it switches to Predator Primary Satellite Link (PPSL) during its 1,000 nautical mile flight range. It requires two pilots:
one to fly the drone and one to act as sensor operator.
Reapers are not the kind of drone you would want to crash, as they cost some $64.2 million each with sensors but excluding munitions. Between the US and the United Kingdom, there are over a hundred in use; most fly out of Creech AFB in Nevada or RAF Waddington in Lincoln, UK. Power plant: Honeywell TPE331–10GD turboprop engine Wingspan: 66 feet (20.1 meters) Length: 36 feet (11 meters) Height: 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) Maximum takeoff weight: 10,500 pounds (4,760 kilograms) Payload: 3,750 pounds (1,701 kilograms) Speed: cruise speed around 230 mph (200 knots) Range: 1,150 miles (1,000 nautical miles) Ceiling: Up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) COMMERCIAL CIVILIAN DRONES The best civilian use of drones for the foreseeable future is where they pose the least amount of threat to human life. Rescue at sea, search and rescue in remote areas, and farming land all fall into this category because, if there is a failure and the drone falls from the sky, there is little or no possibility of it hurting anyone or causing much damage. They are also extremely useful in areas of great danger to humans, such as detecting and dealing with nuclear radiation or leaking toxic gasses. Somewhere in between the larger military drones and the small hobbyist playthings is a whole new field of drones being developed. While the media reports military drones striking some terrorist group or some idiot flying his newfound toy near an airport, there are a lot of smaller drones hard at work doing what they do best: “dull, dirty, and dangerous” assignments. This is where the real innovation is being developed—inspired ideas to use drones to make our lives easier and more productive, or to offer assistance in the event of a disaster. Today, drones are being successfully deployed in police work, the film industry, farming, fighting wild fires, searching for victims after an earthquake, and a great deal of other uses. This “Drones for Good” crusade is growing in strength, aided by people who share a dream whereby drones save and improve lives.
One of the most common uses for potential drone activity is the desire to reduce costs for industry and make things more efficient. The general perception is that drones are either military destroyers or big boy toys. This is not the case; somewhere in the middle is the drone built using advanced manufacturing techniques, with commercial off-the-shelf components. The economics of civil-use drones has been improved dramatically; consequently, this has opened up a new commercial market full of potential. Some examples: • Fishing fleets: Monitoring of illegal fishing or fish stock location • Environmental: Oil spills, pollution monitoring, iceberg surveillance • Disaster relief: Governmental and charitable organizations • Land surveying: Geo/Digital mapping • Infrastructure security: Ports, nuclear power plants, wind farms, oil rigs • Cross-border immigration control • Anti-piracy • Search and rescue including a life craft/jacket deployment • Meteorology • Agricultural surveying and sampling • Communication relaying • Forestry management Our planet needs food, and as the population grows so does the demand on farmers. Farming is tough, and drones are making it easier. With their aerial abilities, drone can now help farmers see if their irrigation systems are working, how their crops are growing, and even detect whether any of the plants are sick by using infra-red technology. This enables farmers to make critical decisions about where and when to fertilize, plant, or water. When you couple a drone with automated farm machinery, you take the human error out of the equation. The end result: better crop yields at a better cost. Take the film industry. The use of drones allows directors to take footage from incredible angles, achieving effects that otherwise would be done by wires, cranes, and more traditional apparatuses to a limited effect. Drones can get high above the scene, keep pace with a running man, and fly over water or clifftops. They are a key innovation in the film industry. For the media, drones can cover a news story without getting in the way of emergency services. Drones can help firefighters by tracking the fire’s movement as well as locating firemen that may have become cut off and offer them a safe escape route. By the same inference, drones can help search for survivors after an earthquake or tsunami using thermal cameras to detect body heat. Natural disasters and other types of emergencies call for timely distribution of medication and aid. Drones are ideal for this and can do it efficiently.
“Last year, some eight hundred teams from nearly sixty countries registered for the
Drones for Good” competition, which was rounded down to five ideas that made it through to the finals. There was a great deal of innovative thinking on how to use drones for humanitarian reasons including saving lives at sea. The competition proved so popular that it is being repeated in 2016, and with a purse of $1 million, there will be no shortage of competitors. THE MARID Not being one to miss out on a prize of $1 million, I entered my own team this year. We have developed a heavy lift drone capable of operating at sea or on land; it’s called the Marid. Its main function is lifesaving, damage assessment, and delivery of emergency equipment or supplies. Six prototypes were originally built and given to MIT in Boston for its Waterfly project. These drones were flown at the 2015 Drones for Good by MIT, using its own electronics. The new Marid is three times larger and capable of carrying and delivering the newly developed Seapod. The Marid has a flight duration of 40-plus minutes, with super long range, and is capable of automatic search patterns. The Seapod is a totally new innovation, capable of saving lives among those in
danger of drowning at sea, such as those escaping the conflict in Syria and seeking a
better life in Europe. Once dropped from the Marid, the Seapod automatically deploys when it touches the water. The design is advanced, allowing even small children to crawl onto it. The Seapod can accommodate up to eight people and carries lifesaver equipment to produce water and sustain life for up to four weeks. It also has an emergency location beacon.
The Marid can also be used over land, responding to a natural disaster scenario. The drone can be a source of valuable information by carrying out an immediate damage assessment, while at the same time searching for survivors. Its secondary
role is to aid those survivors by providing emergency supplies to inaccessible places. An early damage assessment is one of the most important factors in responding to an earthquake, typhoon flooding, or a tsunami. It takes 875 man hours to search one square mile, whereas an autonomous drone can do it in 40 minutes. Using thermal cameras a drone can detect heat signatures in rubble and get medical aid and survival equipment to those that need it rapidly. Best of all, a drone can work in any dull, dirty, or dangerous environment. The drone itself is a VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) which presents a new standard in aerodynamics, flight stability, payload capacity, and flight time. It is designed to operate in high winds and adverse weather (35 kmh wind burst) while carrying a massive 10-kilo payload, using an ultra-light carbon gyro-stabilized gimbal with visible and thermal infrared cameras that can be utilized both day and night. Using the new UX400 purpose-designed Ground Control System, the Marid can be safely flown after a few hours’ instruction, although a week’s course is recommended. The UX400 not only allows for rapid autonomous flying, but also outputs the video downlink to any authorized person worldwide. As it provides a vast amount of exceptional visual information, it prevents collision accidents by scanning the skies for other aircraft at a distance of up to 200 miles.
Marid Features and Capabilities • Capable of deploying the new self-inflating seapod • Highly stable auto hovering with medical, location, and survival package drop • Autonomous navigation—way-points and search pattern based missions • Automatic takeoff and landing • Bidirectional data link with 7½ mile (12 km) range • Auto stabilized camera payload (pan, tilt, and roll gimbal) • Digital encoded video link for worlwide distribution • Visible, thermal, and NIR cameras • Automatic target lock system • Advanced flight and NAV control system • Autopilot black box By hobbyist drone, I am referring to all those we now see in the stores or online—the ones that your significant other or child wants for Christmas. A top FAA official predicted that as many as one million toy drones could be sold during the 2015 Christmas holiday. It’s not just the US that’s under drone attack: in the UK almost every major outlet is offering at least ten different varieties. Drones have indeed caught the imagination of many. They range in price from $100 to $4,000 at the top end, and although the cheaper end will simply fly—albeit in a rather ungainly fashion— the top end offers extremely smooth flight control, with functionality and a video
downlink quality even the military would find difficulty to match.
While most drone sales will be of the smaller cheaper “toy” models at the other end of the spectrum, the DJI Phantom 3 and the 3DR Solo can be purchased for around the $1,000 mark—and I can assure you these are extremely professional drones. Trust me when I say that some of the newest drones are incredibly sophisticated— not just in their functionality but also in the aerial imagery they can produce. Many now use 4K camera systems with boosted communications out to a range of 3 miles (5 kilometers). Given the average size of a hobbyist drone, that is way out of human sight, therefore control is via the camera and the telemetry mapping. I have been in this industry for many years, and the ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. From an object and climb up the object as it does so, the ingenuity still blows me away. DRONE MANUFACTURING Globally, the total drone market is expected to more than quadruple to be worth over $4 trillion in the next eight years. This market is driven and currently dominated by military and commercial users, but the hobbyist market is closing rapidly. The current market in the US is worth $36 billion; in Western Europe, it is worth $9.9 billion; and in China, $9.8 billion. Over a third of the drones in the world are made in the US. The second-largest known manufacturer is Israel, with approximately 16 percent of the market share. Many of the Chinese and Russian military drone programs remain secret.
The staff of BCB Robotics at EU headquarters demonstrating a model of the seagoing border protection drone, similar to that supplied to MIT. In the US, it is anticipated that the US Department of Defense will nearly double the number of unmanned aircraft in its fleets by 2021. Meanwhile, the use of drones is increasingly becoming accepted doctrine within the European armed forces and civilian authorities alike, in a context of increased sensitivity to risking human life combined with cost-efficiency requirements. Drones have demonstrated their benefits, advantages, and strategic potential that could constitute a valuable asset for the requirements of European missions. Although remotely piloted drones can perform tasks that manned systems would not be able to perform and go on missions where the lives of the pilots would be put at risk, there are some considerations that need to be addressed. These include: • Lack of airspace regulation that covers all types of drone systems • Liability for civil operation • Capacity for payload flexibility (the heavier the drone, the more damage on crashing) • Lack of secure nonmilitary frequency for civil operation • Perceived reliability (vehicle attrition rate versus manned aircraft) • Operator training issues (who needs permission to fly what) • Recognition/customer perception (Drones for Good) • Safety (drone safety record must be higher than manned aircraft)
In the years I have been flying, there has been a massive shift in technology. True, in the seventies I had a radio-controlled plane which I could fly around 200 meters. However, in the past eight years since drones entered the arena, there has been a massive leap in technology, especially in the commercial and hobbyist markets. The Hycopter is an “H” configured quad-copter that is currently being tested using ultra-light fuel cells created by Horizon Energy Systems. It is hoped that the drone will fly for at least 2.5 hours while carrying a payload of 2 pounds; if this works it will be a massive leap forward in flight duration. Using new materials for the airframe, improved communications, and better propulsion systems, drone technology has improved dramatically. One of the biggest physical restraints on smaller drones is power supply. Batteries can only hold so much energy, and because adding more batteries to a drone also increases the weight of that drone, there are finite limits on how long quad-copters can fly in a single flight. Most of the smaller commercial drones are powered by lithium polymer batteries, but it seems this technology has reached its peak and a new energy source is needed. Hydrogen fuel cells may be the answer. Fuel cells, which create an electrical current when they convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, are attractive as energy sources because of their high energy density. Tests using hydrogen fuel cells to power fixedwing aircraft have been highly successful, resulting in a dramatic leap in flight duration. Possibly the hardest technological challenge to meet is the need for long-range communications between the pilot and the drone. Traditional frequencies for this task have been pushed to the limit, and while good ranges have been established for radio control and telemetry, the bandwidth required for transmitting video remains an issue. Although the military has dedicated satellite communications for the control and transfer of data on its larger drones, the rest of the industry is left to rely on ground communications. However, there is a shift in thinking taking place. The problem is the type of communication being used to fly the drone and the length of time required for instructions and data to be passed between the ground control station and the
drone. Latency and missed messages can cause the drone to fly off course or do things it should not. Long-range communications are improving rapidly, and no doubt some bright engineer will develop a solution.
SUMMARY The rise in the usage of drones and the numbers being manufactured clearly indicate they are here to stay. Although there can be no doubt as to drones’ effectiveness within current society, there are still many issues to be addressed for all types of drone. Should we use military grade drones to monitor our borders? Should we try and weaponize many of the smaller drones for use in war? The answers to these questions are mainly out of our hands; but the use of drones for peaceful purposes is certainly within our reach. In the latter case, we are only barred by law concerning where we can fly and the restrictions placed upon us. The path of parcel delivery by drone is subject not just to the “what if” factor previously mentioned, but to weather conditions. For areas of low human population and where human life is at risk, commercial drones will most certainly come into their own. As technology and safety advance, so will the functionality and usage of drones.