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Robotic Aircraft To Supply Troops 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the battle-platform-soon-to-come dept.
Cowards Anonymous writes "PC World reports on a prototype driverless aircraft designed to shuttle hundreds of pounds of supplies to soldiers in war zones. Dubbed a flying Humvee by Frontline Aerospace's CEO, the robotic vehicle can fly 600 to 1,000 miles carrying a full cargo of 400 pounds. It's about the size of a large SUV, weighing in at 2,400 pounds and measuring 21 feet long and up to 26 feet wide."
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Robotic Aircraft To Supply Troops

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  • by BWJones (18351) * on Thursday June 19, 2008 @01:46AM (#23851399) Homepage Journal
    While unmanned aerial vehicles are the future of the military [utah.edu], there are some serious concerns in the defense industry about the company Frontline Aerospace that is making noise about this particular drone. Specifically, the CEO appears to be all over the place in terms of his interests and talents as well as some of his claims [wired.com] and there are some substantial criticisms of the packaging and design.

    Additionally, UAVs are principally successful because one of the first companies, General Atomics (GA), that produced the successful Predator and Reaper aircraft, developed the Predator design to a functional platform on their own dime and then asked the DOD if they were interested (they obviously were). Frontline Aerospace only has a concept right now and many folks in the defense industry are expressing a healthy skepticism at some of Frontline Aerospace's claims. Admittedly, the fact that GA essentially owns the show with Predator and Reaper does lead to some problems and the pilots are not entirely happy with all of the solutions from GA, but at least GA came to the game with a working system before making substantial claims about performance and capabilities.

    I'll be looking forward to what this design potentially has, but as of right now, my eyebrows are a bit raised.
    • by Tokerat (150341) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @02:01AM (#23851499) Journal
      But, there's like, 12 cup holders in here...
      • by bobdotorg (598873)

        But, there's like, 12 cup holders in here...

        Exactly - it's the ONLY way to ensure that the whole 12-pack makes it all the way back from the beer run.
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @02:17AM (#23851597) Journal
      On the other hand,

      1. from the same Wired page:

      Another issue, he warns, is that "V-STAR seems more like a packaging exercise than a true innovation and "none of the technologies is new."


      Seems to me to be:

      A) saying that it's reasonable possible to make it, since there are no big surprises to be expected from anything in it, and

      B) kind of a lame complaint. Innovation by combining existing elements is really the norm. The train was equally just an exercise in packaging a steam engine (which technically wasn't new, since it had been done before to pump water out of mine shafts) and a cart. Guns appeared as a packaging exercise between a bell and some funny powder used in fireworks. Nobel's dynamite was an exercise in literally packaging nitroglycerin and diatomaceous earth. Etc.

      Basically, I'm sorry, but the age of discovering something completely new and based on nothing that came before it ended, I dunno, in stone age or so. Ever since, all we make is built on stuff that came before it.

      2. Picking on the guy's credentials, again, I have some problems with it:

      A) I see no incredible claim in there. It just says that he was trained as an engineer and worked as a manager. Hardly "all over the place" or incredible. I see a dozen people every day when I go to work, which fit the exact same bill.

      B) they don't say that any of his claims are false. Did he lie about it? Did he get fired for incompetence from any of those companies? Does he have some history of not achieving what he promises? Or WTF is the problem? It should be easy to prove whether he actually was a manager at Intel or Toshiba, no? So tell me if he lied, not some lame attempt at making it sound ridiculous by itself.

      C) seems to me to be exactly what they need for the job, especially once they said that there are no obvious flaws with the idea. You need someone who can organize research, development and production, hence, a manager.

      D) it's, at best, an ad-hominem and as per points 2.A to 2.C a pretty lame one.

      Now I'm not saying they should necessarily give him money, but the Wired article is an exercise in journalistic stupidity at best.
    • by Macrat (638047)
      As it flies over the enemy, they toss a couple of timer based explosives on it so it will explode when it reaches the soldiers?
      • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:04AM (#23852113) Journal
        As an ex-AA guy, I can tell you that even hitting something that moves fast and low with a gun is hard enough, and requires sophisticated radars and computer-controlled guns. I.e. noone does it by turning cranks any more.

        Throwing some satchel by hand, on the top of something that moves at 288 miles per hour... well, if you can do that, you're Superman.
    • by MrKaos (858439)

      Admittedly, the fact that GA essentially owns the show with Predator and Reaper does lead to some problems and the pilots are not entirely happy with all of the solutions from GA, but at least GA came to the game with a working system before making substantial claims about performance and capabilities.
      No-one seems entirely happy with the substantial claims made about ViSTAr's performance and capabilities.
    • by jdray (645332) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:43AM (#23855097) Homepage Journal
      As a guy who used to airdrop cargo and troops in the Air Force, I'm skeptical about the utility of this vehicle. 400 pounds is about one fully-loaded CDS (container delivery system) bundle, which is about enough stuff for a handful of troops for a day if it includes any munitions at all. To be useful, I believe a ton of cargo is a better target capacity.

      OTOH, 400 pounds is a nice package size for one clandestine operative and all his gear. Hmm...
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        OTOH, 400 pounds is a nice package size for one clandestine operative and all his gear. Hmm...

        Obviously, my knowledge of such stuff is less than yours, since I've never been in the military or done air drops ...

        One guy with 400lbs of crap? How clandestine can you be? Give me 400 lbs of crap in the middle of nowhere, and the enemy is going to hear me grunting and cursing for miles. :-P

        I guess it's enough that you could break it into smaller loads and move it. It just seems a lot of weight for one guy. Th

        • by scatters (864681)
          For SAS missions in Gulf War 1, (taken from information about the much publicized bravo-two-zero mission), the standard load-out was about 200lbs of gear per man. Add a 170lb soldier and you start getting pretty close to the maximum payload. Ammo (particularly 7.62mm link) is pretty heavy, so is water (need lots in the desert, obviously). The regular British infantry soldier carries about 60lb in a ruck-sack, 30lb of web gear, a 10lb personal weapon, plus whatever other crap they're issuing these days.
        • by jdray (645332)
          IIRC (twenty years between me and the USAF), a paratrooper with all his gear (chute, rifle, rucksack, etc.) came in at around 260#. Ramp that up a little for a guy with a extra specialized gear, and you're headed straight for the 400# limit of the aircraft. I'm just sayin', it seems like a better (or more likely) application of the technology, particularly because the plane is evidently quiet, small, and obviously expendable after delivering its cargo.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        One step at a time. Starship Troopers looks ever-more prescient...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Let me get this straight, it's more than 100X the cost of the (already USMC tested) Sherpa system, carries less than 1/3 the payload, is lower and slower... will be years till it's fielded.

      Much ado about nothing
    • Well, actually, you are much more interested in your eyebrows than I am. (Do you use eyeliner and rouge? Perhaps it's all the rage at the Oxford of the western world Utah.edu, with more Nobel Laureates than any other global university in ... well, Utah.) Utah is a mecca for aircraft design. Isn't it? Seriously, in fact, when you take a studied look at the design, it makes alot of sense. These people may or may not (but it's open to serious engineering not, blogger's eyebrows) have addressed some very
  • by kcbanner (929309) *
    Yea, its great that you can now drop bombs on unsuspecting "insurgents". Its great that you can level a city block in Iraq from your comfy seat in Nevada.

    I really am tired of hearing about all these new "safer" ways of killing people. Your still fucking killing people. Stop it you sick fucks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TornCityVenz (1123185)
      Perhaps this same technology could be used to drop aid in Burma....
    • Nah dude... Nah... You can't see the forest from the the trees, its all about home delivery applications [gourmetretailer.com] now that the R&D has been fruitful.
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @02:43AM (#23851775) Journal
      Well, while I might even join in lamenting about using them for offensive purposes, I'm afraid you don't really have that much choice about developing new weapons. Simply put, those who don't live by the sword, get to be at the wrong end of the sword.

      Or to put it otherwise, ask the USSR how they felt in 1941 about still having mostly old BT tanks and outdated aircraft. What saved them were the new and vastly superior T-34. Or ask Poland about how well their cavalry divisions did when attacked by tanks.

      Seriously, it's a bit of a prisoner's dilemma. Being a pacifist with no (modern) weapons only works if everyone else around is. Otherwise, well, you have to have the deterrent of being the guy with the biggest stick.

      And we all tried forcing everyone to be peaceful and put a limit to their military. Like, you know, between the two world wars. Turns out that, as the only result, a bunch of people just lied about how big their ship were, or about what they're researching. Germany for example called their tank research and prototypes agricultural tractors for a while. (I guess you can't blame a guy for having guns in his tractor too. Just ask any mid-west farmer.;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by freedom_india (780002)

        What saved them were the new and vastly superior T-34

        Nope. What saved them was their ability to relocate the whole factories from behind enemy lines.
        Its true that Germans did not have T-34/76 equivalent during 1941. But there were not enough T-34 for the Germans to kill either.
        By 1943, The german Tiger and Panther were more than a match for T-34/76. And as the Battle of Kursk proved, the T-34 was inadequate to save the soviet butts.
        The Tiger's 88mm gun coupled with 88mm Flak battery was more than a match for the T-34.
        By 1944 the battle had swung in Soviet fa

        • by Moraelin (679338)
          The phenomenon was more complex indeed, but I'm just pointing at the weapon development aspect alone, not trying to write a whole analysis of WW2 in one message.

          And even that ends up pointing at weapons largely.

          E.g., yes, they relocated the industry. What did they end up producing with it? Thousands of T-34's, millions of SMGs, increasingly competitive aircraft which (combined with the Luftwaffe losses in the west and having half of it tied to defend against stragegic bombing) helped turn air superiority th
          • i wouldn't call panther a shameless t-34 copy. the tanks are vastly different. you'll see the difference at once if you have both standing before you. panther is huge, it is about twice the size and almost twice as heavy as a t-34, the main gun is bigger, the armour is superiour, there is internal radio and an infrared light on it. the suspension is totally different and allows panther to hit the targets sometimes while moving at slow speeds (ww2 tank guns were not stabilised so firing while moving would no
          • Panther was a shameless copy of T-34???
            Not really.
            Yes, the Germans towed T-34 back to Germany and did reverse engineer it.
            But apart from the slope armor, the Panther was as alien as it will be today when compared to Israel's Merkava.
            The Panther was larger, had IR, quick start Petrol engine (flammable), and better crew spaces was faster.

        • by rxmd (205533)

          By 1943, The german Tiger and Panther were more than a match for T-34/76. And as the Battle of Kursk proved, the T-34 was inadequate to save the soviet butts.

          Well the Soviets actually won the Battle of Kursk. That was firstly because they had large numbers of Ilyushin Il-2 ground attack aircraft, which did save the Soviet butts to use your vocabulary, secondly because they deployed far larger numbers of tanks that made their individual inferiority negligible, and thirdly because the newly-introduced Panth

          • Well the Soviets actually won the Battle of Kursk

            True, strategically Soviets won that battle.
            Tactically the Wehrmacht and SS Hitler Panzer divisions won every engagement fought in the battle at heavy cost, but strategically the Soviet Army won that battle front.
            As you have rightly pointed out 55,000 T-34s did make a statement. Stalin did make that memorable statement: "Quantity has a quality of its own".
            German panzer tactics were superior, but numbers ground them down.
            Luftwaffe Stukas did blast a two-kilometer wide hole in soviet ranks, but soviet aircra

      • by Anonymous Coward
        as opposed to the yanks that have always been truthful about their covert actions.. cough cough.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Deterrent? How much of detterent has anything the US has or had proved against Bin laden? Not just the 9/11 attacks, but the Stark and the embassies. Come on! The US could functionally nuke every square inch of the planet and what damned good does it do.

        Give peace a chance.
        • Nukes are such an overkill weapon, that nobody wants to use it. It's a bit like showing up with a grenade at bar brawl in a small bar. There's no real way to use it without (A) hurting yourself too, and (B) ending up looking like a bigger arsehole than goatse.cx if you even wave it around.

          You could bring a gun to that fight. That has some deterrent value. You can have a gun _and_ a grenade. That gets you a bit of a crazy arsehole reputation, but it's taken seriously. But if only option is to kill yourself t
    • by patio11 (857072)
      The verb phrase most likely to be applied by the US military to a particular city block in Iraq is "restoring power to". But you can pretend they're vicious indiscriminate killers if it makes you feel better. 'course, they'd be pretty darned incompetent vicious indiscriminate killers since they were able to level cities 60 years ago and, look, plenty of unleveled cities all over the place.

      Its almost like they were TRYING to not hit any of the civilians this time...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      China is producing 2-4 new nuclear subs EACH YEAR. They admited to one/year (1 ssbn every other year). It appears that they are ramping up to 4-6 subs/years.
      THey have fired a laser at American Sats in an attempt to blind it or destroy it.
      They have knocked out a weather sat, and never explained it
      They are putting in place OFFENSIVE weapons, and trying hard to steal ideas/knowledge of offensive weapons.
      When asked about being open about what they are doing, they do not want it.

      Those are the actions of a
      • by BobMcD (601576)
        You forgot about the sub that surfaced within attack range of that carrier battlegroup, and the shenanigans with refusing our ships harbor access.

        All that aside, however, I don't blame them one bit. This economy is about to fail. Everyone can see the writing on the wall. When it does, there is a strong possibility of the US using another 'war' as a stimulus. If I were China, I would want to make sure those hairy barbarians pick someone else to bully...
        • by waldo2020 (592242)
          yep. when America falls, they'll owe a shedload of money to China. Enough to make "war or terrah" expeditures look like pocket change. What happens in the US when you lapse you car payments? Repo man! And trust me, yanks don't want the Chinese repo man on their soil, or taking over Wal-marts.
  • by inflex (123318) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @02:09AM (#23851555) Homepage Journal
    Anyone bothered to look at the massive composite photo they created with a few soldiers running out to the CG generated drone? You'd think for $4 million a pop they'd at least spend another $1000 to make the photos -look- realistic.

    I see quite a lot of these sorts of getups happening, someone gets some specs, waves their hands about, generates some crappy CG and utters a price of a few million. Couple of years later there's nothing really to show for it except some rudimentary framework and an empty office.

    Only wish I had gotten in there first ;)
  • Carryall (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tripman (88428)
    Reminds me of a Carryall from Dune.
  • Now all we need is to replace the soldiers themselves with robots that look like Arnold Schwartzenegger and we've got it made.
  • Poor Design (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wagnerrp (1305589) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @02:43AM (#23851779)

    The entire design of this craft baffles me.

    First, ducted fans are inefficient compared to rotors. You get a lot more force out of a large diameter and small exit velocity. Its why props are more efficient than turbofans, which are in turn more efficient than turbojets. The ONLY advantage is that the fan is out of the airstream, so high velocities are achievable.

    Second, it has very low wing area, meaning you have very high wing loading (bad for fuel economy). Alternatively, they could be using a lifting body (also bad for fuel economy). Considering they have the big fan duct running through the center of the body, the body cannot provide much lift anyway, leaving the fan (even worse fuel economy).

    Third, they chose a joined box wing. Box wings can considerably reduce losses from the tip vorticity, but there is so little lift coming off those wings, there's no purpose. The only purpose to joined wings is that they provide structural rigidity to large, light, high aspect ratio wings for high altitude, long endurance craft. This is obviously not the case here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dave1791 (315728)
      >The entire design of this craft baffles me.

      If it scores DARPA funding, it will have served its purpose ;) It does not have to be practical and it does not have to work
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)
      It looks like an artists impression of a ground effect vehicle. The louvers in the fuselage look like a moller air car ducted hovercraft kind of thing.

      The ducted fan might be safe to operate from a dirt road because it is mounted high and somewhat unable to suck stones into the works.

      The idea seems to be to set up camp along a country road or remote strip. Call in the UAV, load/unload and relaunch it for a fast low altitude sprint to the next camp.

      Landing and takeoff would happen stalled at low spe
    • Re:Poor Design (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Serpentine (204075) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @05:37AM (#23852705)

      First, ducted fans are inefficient compared to rotors. You get a lot more force out of a large diameter and small exit velocity. Its why props are more efficient than turbofans, which are in turn more efficient than turbojets. The ONLY advantage is that the fan is out of the airstream, so high velocities are achievable.
      It's designed to ferry cargo to troops under fire: with ducted fans you don't have to worry about clonkin' yer rotors on the sides of buildings and the blades can given some protection from small arms. Besides, I doubt a military that sticks jet engines in its tanks cares much for fuel efficiency =P
      • The thin aluminum shrouds they are using would not stop any small arms. HUMVEEs need extra armor just to stop AK rounds and they are made of steel and designed to roll, not fly. The article suggests that the vehicle is quieter than one with exposed rotors which is helpful. I imagine it also has to do with safety. No one wants a programming error to turn a UAV into a troop blender.

        It seems to me like a GPS steerable parachute drop from a C-130 would be a better use of resources. The C-130 can carry a lo
    • "HUMVEE of the air" http://www.defense-update.com/products/v/vstar.htm [defense-update.com]

      A humvee hauling military cargo wouldn't put 400 lbs in the trunk per trip, it'd put 1500 lbs on a trailer.

      These are the beginnings toward a good concept since cargo hauling is dull, dirty & dangerous. But VSTAR needs to scale up considerably instead of racking up expensive flight hours with 4 round trips when comparing to a Humvee's operating cost. The key is not the round trip speed but its servicing to keep it flying.

      "Sc

    • Re:Poor Design (Score:5, Informative)

      by Migraineman (632203) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:21AM (#23854581)
      I worked on a UAV program in the 1980s (back when they were called RPVs.) We went through several iterations of wing configurations. Joined wings, of almost any configuration, had absolutely bizarre aerodynamic interactions near the intersections. It's very complicated to get right, and usually doesn't provide an overall benefit - one particular aspect, like max cruise speed, may be improved, but at the expense of *everything* else.

      The wings on this aircraft don't seem designed for the mission profile described. Supporting forward infantry is a short-range low-speed mission profile. I expect the wings to have a low rake angle, and to be fairly chunky across the airfoil section. Low-speed wings are blunt and fat; high-speed wings are angled and skinny.

      At best, this is an "artist's misconception" drawing. Avionics, engine and fuel are going in the fuselage, as there's no room internal to those wings for anything but structure. Where did the payload go? Oh, "inside" ... with everything else. (The main site is slashdotted, so I'm working off an article from an Australian site.)
    • by tweak13 (1171627)

      First, ducted fans are inefficient compared to rotors. You get a lot more force out of a large diameter and small exit velocity. Its why props are more efficient than turbofans, which are in turn more efficient than turbojets. The ONLY advantage is that the fan is out of the airstream, so high velocities are achievable.

      That isn't the only advantage. You're completely ignoring the interaction between the inflow and the shroud, which can provide additional thrust. That combined with tip loss reductions and less problems with high velocity mean shrouded fans can typically be smaller for the same thrust. Depending on the shroud design it may save weight (when rotors start getting really big they get HEAVY) or the advantage may just be you get something more compact. Heck, reducing the tip vortices reduces noise, maybe

    • I think the design suits the purpose...

      1) Get Taxpayer $$s to design a vulnerable piece of shit
      2) Charge more $$s to manufacture said VPOS
      3) VPOS gets shot down --> more orders
      4) Profit (more)...

      Don't forget to patent blindingly obvious things too - like "container for transporting items", just to make it hard for anyone to invent anything worthwhile.
  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @03:02AM (#23851873)

    I seem to recall that they had something like this before. Quite a bit faster. Very good at getting its cargo to the waiting soldiers. A bit rougher on the payload, perhaps (and the soldiers).

    I believe it was called a Cruise Something-or-other.

    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      I believe it was called a Cruise Something-or-other.

      A Tom Cruise Something-or-other? Uh oh, there's a group of religious whackjobs at my door...

  • cargo of 400 pounds [...] weighing in at 2,400 pounds

    So it can carry 1/6th of its weight in cargo? Damn that's lousy...

    With aircraft, weight is huge. Every pound of weight you have to lift dramatically increases the amount of fuel you're going to burn. And when you're starting off with a heavier than hell plane, which can only haul a tiny amount, you're just throwing away fuel. And guess what? Bringing in fuel for equipment is just as much a logistical problem as getting supplies to troops in the field

    • by byennie (1126011)
      A marching soldier needs 4 gallons of water per day?
      (4 gallons =~ 33 lbs)

      I think your point may be valid, but your math a little off. If marching soldiers needed 4 gallons a day each, they'd all be dead pretty quick.
      • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:43AM (#23852325) Journal

        A marching soldier needs 4 gallons of water per day?

        Well, actually, that's a fairly conservative estimate...

        "a person performing hard work in the sun at 43 degrees C requires 19 liters of water daily." http://www.aircav.com/survival/asch13/asch13p02.html [aircav.com]

        "A general guide for planning to meet the water requirements in an arid zone is 3-6 gallons per individual per day" http://www.cs.amedd.army.mil/dphs/EQB/doc/Instructor%20Manual/L004LP%20Water%20Supply%20LP.doc [army.mil]

        If marching soldiers needed 4 gallons a day each, they'd all be dead pretty quick.

        Interesting... Because most of them appear to be quite alive...
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by byennie (1126011)
          What I should have said - if every soldier needed 4 gallons of water *airlifted* in every day, they'd all be dead. Yes, the water needs to come from somewhere - and you certainly can't assume that all missions are in 110 degree mean temperatures (= 43 celsius). Yes, it happens. So really, we're talking about a variety of factors, and not every mission is going to be in Iraq in July.

          Laugh all you want at 400 lbs of cargo space, but if that can deliver even 30+ lbs of critical equipment to 12 soldiers who wou
          • I used to work on a missile project, where it was proposed we remove the warhead and replace it with an empty canister where we could put in consumables. We're talking tens of pounds here. Then fire it near a stranded group of soldiers in need of specific gear, food, etc. "Beans and Meds" to people who were not easily accessible in a timely manner.

            This is an order of magnitude more capability. I can see why they'd want this.
          • The point isn't that 400 lbs is that much per se, the point is that 400 lbs of ADDITIONAL cargo could be a big deal if it requires zero man power to get it there and arrives quickly.

            Your zero manpower is like the zero pollution vehicle. It's not counting the pilot (this is a remotely controlled vehicle, not an autonomous robot), the maintenance guy, the fuel handler, the cargo loaders, the guards at the air field that's set up for it etc. I'd be surprised if a unit handling these would have less than 10 man per flying vehicle.

          • by evilviper (135110)

            if every soldier needed 4 gallons of water *airlifted* in every day, they'd all be dead.

            That's some impressive backpedaling there...

            you certainly can't assume that all missions are in 110 degree mean temperatures (= 43 celsius).

            "Mean" temperatures don't matter much. Soldiers are either marching in the heat (during the day) in which case they'll be on the high end of that water consumption regime, or they're not.

            not every mission is going to be in Iraq in July.

            Iraq averages triple-digit (F) temperatures thr

            • by byennie (1126011)

              That 400 lbs of cargo isn't flown in by magical faeries.

              Really?

              Hauling in a truck-load of fuel, to move 400 lbs of water, to supply a few soldiers for a day or two, is going to kill FAR more people than just having someone transport supplies to those soldiers by traditional means, or avoiding putting those soldiers so far out there in the first place that they get cut off.

              1) Your truck load of fuel can be up to 1000 miles away from your soldiers. Kind of a big deal when you are worried about the danger of "

              • by evilviper (135110)

                1) Your truck load of fuel can be up to 1000 miles away from your soldiers. Kind of a big deal when you are worried about the danger of "forward positions".

                As distance increases, fuel requirements go up exponentially. Even with the most EFFICIENT existing commercial cargo aircraft, a cargo flight of that distance is going to burn twice it's weight in fuel. With this thing, I wouldn't be surprised if it's many, many times that.

                2) You're the only one saying this is just going to carry water. It's not.

                The am

  • Yet another way to shell out money on military projects. Sure, they may have some other uses later, but at the moment it's still purely military. And yes, I know military technology has the ability to drive technological progress

    Every time I read stories like this I get an uncomfortable feeling. Currently the US is spending an estimated 2 billion dollars a week on weapons and warfare. Money that serves no durable purpose. Oil prices even went up and terrorism is at an all time high (or it just gets more m
  • by Agent__Smith (168715) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:38AM (#23852289) Homepage
    Well, I for one would like to welcome our new automated remote controlled food toting flying overloards...
  • Finally a legitimate use for my neighbor's Hummer! Glue wings on it and throw it out the back of a C17. And think of the great mileage it'll get on the way down.
  • The damn image won't load but I've already seen a delivery vehicle demonstrated. It's based off of the current batch of chopper-style UAV's. I think the pure navy version is called the Firebat, already demonstrated unassisted self-controlled landing on a ship. It's in the very advanced prototype stages, getting real-world trials. The original purpose is surveillance but a secondary use proposed was cargo delivery. It can fly to a designated GPS coordinate and land. Soldiers would then run up, offload the se
  • Large SUV ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's about the size of a large SUV ... measuring 21 feet long and up to 26 feet wide.

    Yes, that's exactly the size of my Jeep.
    • by egandalf (1051424)
      Glad I checked to see if anyone else commented on this before I posted. That's one helluva SUV.
    • My house is 26-feet wide. I'd expect more than 400 lbs of payload capacity out of a vehicle that size.

      For comparison, a Cessna 152 [wikipedia.org] is generally the same size, and has a 500+ lb payload capacity. I'd rather see a fleet of autopilot 152s doing forward support.
      • Most 24-28 foot wide homes (aka "doublewides"), in my experience, hold payloads of quite a bit more than 400lbs. (I live in southwest Virginia; we've got a lot of them)

        Then again, most doublewides won't lift of with their payloads, unless of course you live in the midwest. In that case, they take off quite frequently in tornado season.
        • My 1950s-era tract house does not have axles, and is quite permanently affixed to it's foundation. I'll thank you to refrain from calling it a "doublewide," in spite of the dimensional similarities. Sheesh, some people.
  • Just think, soon the ruling elite won't have to worry at all about the fickle consciences of the troops that carry out its wishes.
  • When it starts to deliver war factories and power plants to the front lines, then we have a problem.

    Just remember to build a barracks first, and watch the tank rush...
  • From the Intro:

    "the robotic vehicle can fly 600 to 1,000 miles carrying a full cargo of 400 pounds"

    What if the troops are less than 600 miles away? Does it circle above O'Hare for an hour or two until it reaches its magic 600 mile threshold?

  • The logistics for combat forces are key...and transportation is the most important component of logistics. Flying the freight is extremely expensive and can never be sustained for long...even for a country as wealthy as the US used to be. If you cannot control the ground (and air) sufficiently to transport your supplies by truck, rail, ship, and pipeline, you are not winning...and the flying vehicles would be good only to give you enough supplies to beat a retreat. Unmanned flying vehicles might reduce t
  • All Stealth Bombers were upgraded with Cyberdyne Systems computers, becoming fully unmanned. Afterward, the Stealth Bombers flew with perfect operational records, and eventually the Skynet Funding Bill was passed. The system originally went online on August 4th 1997. Human decisions were removed from strategic defense. Skynet began to learn at a geometric rate. It originally became self aware on August 29th 1997 2:14 am Eastern Time
  • Having met many former aerospace engineers, we have uncovered the standard aerospace career path 4 U.

    Aerospace -> unemployment -> Web 1.0 startup -> unemployment -> special effects -> poverty -> computer games -> more poverty -> Web 2.0 startup

    They certainly don't give out pictures of their concept vehicles.
  • They haven't built the thing! Look at this photo - it cracked me up! http://www.frontlineaerospace.com/images/stories/press_images/VSTAR_Resupply_1.jpg [frontlineaerospace.com] Someone has copypasted a 3DSMAX model, at that textured by someone who clearly doesn't know how to use the UVW Wrap function. Look at the sides.
  • It's about the size of a large SUV, weighing in at 2,400 pounds and measuring 21 feet long and up to 26 feet wide.

    I know you Americans have been building large cars but 21x26 feet? Really?
  • For anybody here who actually designs airplanes for real companies ... Always interested in innovation and good design. This V-STAR dealy looks very interesting. My "gold standard" is Jane's Defence Weekly, which is taking it serously. Most of the hacker-blogger comments here are fun but I'm not convinced a guy who looked at "RPVs" over a quarter-century ago or a guy who's former company couldnt solve joined-wing problems are the best standard. The company's own propoganda is at www.frontlineaersopace.
    • Boeing @!!!! Gimme a break. Are we talking an airliner here? Or we talkin the Skunkworks wannabes who don't have one fricken aircraft in anybody's serious fricken inventory. Innovative?!!! They ain't done crap. Gimme a break. Unless yer talkin a great big goosy airliner -- all the Boeing Boeing guys can claim is innovating their puds. Dream on ...
    • Good insights. Let me offer a brief reply as CEO of Frontline Aerospace, Inc. To begin with, I am a Cal Poly-trained engineer with extensive background in technology start-ups. (For all you other engineering grads from other schools, I tip my hat, and hope you will repay the courtesy.) My interests have, in fact, crossed domains -- some in professional circles where I am grateful for modest success and some in areas where anyone with an inquiring and honest mind can travel. Please find below my reply t
  • Is that a Funvee or a Humdrumvee?

Algol-60 surely must be regarded as the most important programming language yet developed. -- T. Cheatham

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