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Invisible Unmanned Aircraft 241

Posted by kdawson
from the what's-that-noise? dept.
MattSparkes writes, "A Minnesota company, VeraTech, has applied for a patent on an unmanned drone that is nearly invisible to the naked eye. The Phantom Sentinel takes advantage of the phenomenon where fast moving objects appear as only a blur, so it fades out of view once it speeds up. This is achieved by rotating the entire craft. The center of gravity is in open air between two of the blade-like wings. There are some videos of a prototype in action on the VeraTech site." The company says you could get usable video of the terrain by processing the images from a spinning camera. One version of the drone is small enough to launch by throwing it like a boomerang. And it folds for travel.
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Invisible Unmanned Aircraft

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  • Hmm (Score:3, Informative)

    by Crazy Man on Fire (153457) on Monday October 02, 2006 @03:49PM (#16282271) Homepage
    I see three poor quality videos that have been edited to make the craft blur out.
  • Wow! (Score:3, Informative)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday October 02, 2006 @03:53PM (#16282349) Homepage Journal
    I opened the video in Kaffeine, and all I saw was a huge black square! Wow! These things are _really_ invisible!
  • Has it's Ups & Downs (Score:3, Informative)

    by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Monday October 02, 2006 @04:57PM (#16283487) Homepage Journal

    First off its pretty clear this is an RPV (Remotely Piloted Vehicle), so no need to worry about anyone yakking up dizzy in the cockpit. Next it wont be invisible, itll be blurry to the eye. Thats still a good thing, itll make it harder to track, shoot, and be sure of what it has been up to.

    What it wont be is unobtrusive. Its gonna be noisy, have a RADAR/LIDAR signature, and be putting out a fair bit of heat. So unless it is pretty high up folks will be aware it is around, unaided have a general sense of where, and with equipment (including IR goggles) probably be able pinpoint it fairly quickly.

    As for images, yeah, crazy-spinning-photo-pans will probably be able to be reconstructed into something recognizable, but thatll require some significent processing power & are as likely to miss points of interest as they are to pan over them a few times.

    However there are other missions where other sensors would be useful, ones not dependant on a specific field of view. Audio mapping. Radio mapping. Radiation sensing. Specific chemical tracing (mmm... smells like high explosives by that warehouse!)

    Also dropping off small payloads could solve much of the in-motion issues, and if the craft is hard to see itll also be hard to figure out exactly where it has dropped off a suitable minituraized payload. Imagine what dropping your cellphone transmitting live audio & video into the middle of an armed camp would tell you. Next imagine if it was a device built to just do that, resembles a rock, and nobody is sure just where the drone was... Could it be found? Sure, eventually, after much disruption.

    The device may be being heavily hyped, but it is a clever hack nonetheless and could have some real applications. And the next time I hear the annoying musquito-on-steroids whine of a model helicopter nearby I wont be so confident if I cant see it/it cant see me.

  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday October 02, 2006 @05:21PM (#16283933) Homepage
    All anti-air weapons come with radars these days, you're not going to hit a UAV with an AK-47 no matter how good of a shot you are.
    Incorrect. As my sibling poster noted, man-portable SAMs are strictly eyeball acquisition, passive IR seek*. Engage you brain for a moment and consider how much electricity a regular old microwave oven needs-- 700 watts, at least. Well, a search radar system would require more electrical power than that, not to mention it would also be larger and quite a bit heavier. The SA-8 Gecko [fas.org] is about the smallest radar guided SAM system you'll find, and it weighs 9000kg, has six wheels, and moves about by means of a diesel engine. I guarantee "terrorists in caves" aren't hiding a single one of these or anything like it.

    * The SA-16 GIMLET [fas.org] uses a combined "two color" IR and UV seeker, but is little more than a minor evolutionary dead end designed to overcome flares. Higher definition image-based IR techniques have proven more effective.
  • Re:Videos? (Score:3, Informative)

    by WowTIP (112922) on Monday October 02, 2006 @05:48PM (#16284351)
    Download the .asx file

    Open .asx file with text editor

    Copy the URLs starting with http and ending with .mpg

    (.asx is a (microsoft?) wrapper format...)
  • Re:Videos? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pentavirate (867026) on Monday October 02, 2006 @05:50PM (#16284381) Homepage Journal
    The biggest problems of small and micro-UAVs are:

    1. Requires line-of-sight to control them. This requires that a man often has to be in enemy territory in order for it to be useful.

    2. Too small for larger payloads. This restricts their use to low-end optical cameras.

    3. Fly close to the ground. This increases the likelyhood of them being seen by the enemy though being invisible would help in this case.

    4. As mentioned above, getting a real-time feed of the cameras.

    While it's a lot easier and cheaper for smaller companies to get into the micro-uav industry, it's the large UAVs that are the most practical. They can be controlled by sat links from anywhere in the world. They can broadcast the imagery over the same links to anywhere in the world from a small groundstation or the President's desk. They can carry large payloads allowing multi-spectrum cameras with super high resolution or Synthetic Aperature Radars (SAR) or even hell-fire missiles. They also can fly for 24 hours at a time from heights of 30,000 feet which essentially make them every bit as invisible as this micro-uav. In the end, it's the large UAVs like the Predator [uav.com] that are making the biggest difference in military actions as well as law enforcement and border control.

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