AUVSI: Northrop Grumman remains bullish about unmanned market
The 'Unmanned Revolution' will continue despite the current downturn in the defence market and 'budget turmoil', according to Paul Meyer, Northrop Grumman VP and general manager for Advanced Programs and Technology Division.
Addressing the media at the Unmanned Systems North America in Washington, DC on 16 August, Meyer remained adamant that the market would continue to develop: 'The budget turmoil does cause some concern but I believe the unmanned revolution will continue. We don't think the drive for innovation will stop,' he stressed.
'US forces have made unmanned aircraft fundamental to military operations,' he continued while describing how a combat military capability in wartime was now being extended into the peacetime environment. '[Northrop Grumman] has become more comfortable with armed forces regarding the employment of including sophisticated weapons and sensors,' he stated.
'The market has grown from hand-throwns to the [US] navy UCAS demonstrator which is operationally relevant,' he said while describing how Northrop Grumman's X-47B prototype would be substantiated in 2013 with carrier landing tests.
'Autonomy continues to grow as we continue to define the sophisticated technology, especially for denied airspace operations. Automation capability comprises key elements that will change the game as we begin to integrate UAVs as they begin to counteract with their manned counterparts,' he continued.
In addition, Meyer described a 'doubling of opportunities' in international markets and highlighted Germany and South Korea as specific examples.
More specifically, Meyer said Northrop Grumman's Firebird OPV would 'solve the problem of operating [unmanned] systems once they had returned from overseas conflicts to civil airspace'.
He also highlighted DARPA's KQ-X programme which is looking into autonomous air-to-air refuelling capabilities involving precision navigation. He described plans for X-47B to undergo such tests in 2014 from a manned refuelling platform, which he said, would provide 'versatility for continuing endurance'.
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