Friday, July 19, 2013

Robot Rumble

I was thrilled when I read that the Navy had finally gotten their drone to successfully land on a carrier (twice!). That's why this article indicating that it had to abort and land at Wallops was a bit of a let down. Reading through the article, I saw where the reason for the abort was that it was directed to seek an alternate landing site when it detected a hardware anomaly. To put it another way, the program management decided that rather than risk a crash into a carrier if was not going right, the drone would instead land someplace safe.

The larger question is what does this say about an operational role? If that 4 acres of friendly territory is the only place to land for a million dollar drone having difficulties, what will the operational scenario be then? For other drones operating in other hostile environments, the answer is easy. If they can get back to base, let them try to land and clean up the mess if they can't. This question is a bit more complex when the base is the volatile deck of a carrier. 'Cleaning up the mess' just got a little more costly. I suspect this is why the Navy has been so careful in their adoption of drones for use on carriers.

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