It's not that the unpiloted aircraft that the Army flies aren’t already tricked out. Some of them carry the latest surveillance systems and powerful missiles. But some companies at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington D.C. figure that the drone fleet needs some upgrades.
The box in the photo? That’s a guidance system to make sure that a malfunctioning drone can land safely on the spot that a unit directs it—essentially, something that makes an unmanned plane really independent of human control. There’s also radar gear to give drones a better line of sight down to the ground for airborne spying. Need cellular coverage in the middle of nowhere? Hook a few pods up to the bottom of a drone, send it aloft, and start tweeting again.
The gray box is the brainchild of Dave Vos, a senior director of unmanned systems for Rockwell Collins. Vos created a bunch of tech known as Automatic Supervisory Adaptive Control, sensors and navigators weighing between five and six pounds that tell a damaged drone not to worry about mechanical failure and land at a pre-determined coordinate. "There’s no human intervention," he says.
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