Wednesday, January 23, 2008
... and if Helen Greiner is excited, so am I.
She's the Chairman and Co-founder of iRobot, not the Will Smith adventure movie, the Burlington, MA based robotics firm supplying our Armed Forces with hundreds, and probably thousands, of bomb-disposal robots over the next several years.
The "game-changing" partnership is with Advanced Scientific Concepts (ASC) of Santa Barbara, CA. ASC makes a laser camera that will allow robots to "see" more effectively, mapping areas with a single laser flash.
Greiner and iRobot believe this will enable robots to make navigation decisions in near-real-time and facilitate much more advanced applications (she's picturing unmanned HUMVEEs, tanks... NYC cabs... you get the point)
"they're not on robots yet"... and I guess that's the sticky point, because you've still got to design the Artificial Intelligence, the "brain" that enables a bunch of nuts and bolts to utilize this great set of "eyes".
At least with all the money the Army is spending to procure the iRobot FCS SUGV, the company should be able to fund a bunch more R&D. We're looking forward.
I am especially curious about the price quoted in the article. According to a Northrop Grumman executive... "Pledger said modification of the sixteen jetliners would cost between $300,000 and $400,000, a modest amount well worth spending."
I think he's been misinterpreted, or perhaps we're being purposely led astray. The critical word they've left out is "each". $300K-$400K per aircraft. Right? Also, how many units produced would achieve that price point? Certainly not 16! Previous price quotes all dealt in terms of the "thousandth unit produced", so the quote seems misleading in a few ways....
Not surprising, coming from TradingMarkets.com... let's all put a "Strong Buy" on NOC and its bargain basement C-MANPADS solution :-/
Monday, January 21, 2008
The commitment had been agreed upon in October 2006, and it's not entirely clear that the objective requirements are all met. In the original release BAE expected aircraft with usuable payload as low as 15 pounds to carry the sensors... in the current release BAE indicates it will be limited to aircraft with usable payloads of at least 35 pounds. Of course, development is an on-going process...
The technology is expected to reduce burden on the warfighter in asset-locating, targeting, search & rescue operations, etc. The "latest and greatest" ISR tool.
Hyperspectrals analyze refracted light from everything within their field of view, across a much broader spectrum than the visible bands (about 15-18 times as many, as I understand) and use this information to identify particular points of interest (without having to rely human eyes). Hyperspectrals use three methods of analysis:
- Identify anomalies within a particular field-of-view
- Identify a pre-programmed signature
- Identify change, in comparison to a previous analysis of the same field-0f-view (the system is outfitted with GPS)
I am curious. The usefulness of the second two functions seem dependent on either knowing what composition you are searching for, or, having a previously mapped record to compare with.
How many pre-programmed signatures can you utilize at once? How many does the Army need?
How can you effectively utilize the change detection function (we have to pre-map all the areas we think Iraqis and Afghanis are going to hide weapons? Or all the places we think our sailors or airmen will go missing?)
Someone please clarify.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
From the Telephonics release:
Eletronic Systems Division was awarded a $14.5M contract from the U.S.
General Services Administration on behalf of U.S. Customs and Border
Protection MSS provides, for the first time, a fully integrated system
including Ground Surveillance Radar, EO/IR sensors, accurate GPS
location data along with a Common Operating Picture"
Boeing is noticeably absent in the press on this award. Did DHS bypass Boeing to award this to Telephonics, or is that a mispeception?
Telephonics is owned by Griffon Corp, and appear to have been part of Boeing's SBInet plan for some time; they were one of four companies Boeing lists as contractors for short/long-range ground surveillance radar (Boeing website)
It is apparent the technology is near the top of the market. Telephonics radar, electronics, and expertise have also been bought recently by the Navy (MH-60R helicopter), the Coast Guard, and the Missile Defense Agency.
I expect Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman are all eyeing Telephonics very closely. It appears to offer a level of technology that is facilitating net-centric operations across several different markets, and competeing for business historically owned by those larger, more traditional, radar & electronics names
Griffon (the parent company) is likely best known for it's Telephonics business. Other ventures include: "plastic films used in the baby diaper, feminine napkin, adult incontinent, surgical and patient care markets...garage doors sold to professional installing dealers and major home center retail chains"
haha, prepare to see Lockheed Martin or Raytheon logos on feminine products and garages near you!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Acquisition: Textron decided, in Early October 2007, to purchase AAI (United Industrial Corp.) for $1.1B.
Divestitures?: BAE systems sold it's Inertial Products business last year which was a UAV guidance and navigation payload provider... MTC technologies recently pulled out of the potential ~$1B Tier II competition for the USMC/US Navy, and had to return RDT&E funding to the USMC for the demonstrator they had operated (a net Q4 charge of $6.7M, in total).
Late Dec. 2007, we learn BAE is spending $450M to acquire MTC Technologies. It doesn't seem like the acquisition has anything to do with UAV... but that's still unclear. Are they both moving forward with or without UAV?
After MTC technologies parted ways with the USMC, the Navy began testing the Raytheon/Swift Engineering Killerbee platform for weaponization, at China Lake.
Boeing has been managing the first task in the program, 28 mile proof-of-concept "Project 28" that is just now nearing "completion".
Boeing is not meeting milestones. It's now about 7 months later than anticipated (was supposed to be done mid-June 2007).
Some are calling for DHS to reject the progress, but can it yet??
They recently awarded Boeing an additional $64 million to develop software for the common-operating-picture... so, hopefully Boeing's cost over-runs were on the physical engineering (moving earth and turning bolts for the towers themselves), and now they're ready to get down to business!
Checking Boeing's website raises questions... 3 different subcontractors for ground sensor radars. 4 different subs providing EO/IR cameras. I don't know what a "microwave digital back-haul system" is, exactly, but if they've got 2 vendors hauling microwaves... maybe Boeing's stove isn't the best way to cook these beans.
What if the DHS had gone with a radar and sensors guru, like Northrop Grumman or Raytheon? Would they have had the tools in-house?
What if they had gone with the communications giant, Ericsson? Could they have netted it all together by now?
Saturday, January 12, 2008
It could have important applications. Discreet perch and stare/sensor insertion at forward urban locations. The battery-powered design facilitates silent operation, and researchers (Rick Lind, U FLorida, Center for Morphing Technology) are concerning themselves with methods of disguise. Morphing technologies, pretty interesting!
"He made a small UAV look like a Coke can,"..."One goal of the PLUS program is to create a small UAV that seems to disappear by morphing into a shape that doesn't look out of place on a power line. So Marshall and McKinley asked Lind to join their efforts in 2006.
If the UAV looks "like a coke-can", doesn't it follow the ISR is soda-straw? More likely it will look like a trash-can... well damn, what if it perched like one of those gray cylinders at the top of a standard utility pole?
"An energy-harvesting UAV could be equipped also with multiple sensors. "The idea is that when you're recharging, you have all that power from the line to do whatever you need," McKinley observes."
Really, whatever sensors you need? How much is this expected going to weigh/carry?
What's the timeframe for testing on this? Pretty cool.