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Intelligent Unmanned Aircraft Planned

Cambridge MD (SPX) | October 3 2006

U.S. researchers say they are creating an intelligent airborne fleet of small, unmanned vehicles for military use. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists and their colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Boeing Phantom Works in Seattle say such unmanned aerial vehicles would require little human supervision and could automatically monitor their own condition.

The existing UAVs can be easily carried in a backpack and launched by hand, but they typically require a team of trained operators on the ground, and perform only short-term tasks individually rather than in coordinated groups.

However, the prototype of the fleet under development would automatically maintain the "health" of its vehicles -- for example, vehicles would anticipate when they need refueling, and new vehicles would automatically launch to replace lost, damaged, or grounded ones.

MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Professor Jonathan How, who heads the research team, believes such a fleet of UAVs could one day help U.S. military and security agencies in difficult or dangerous missions, such as search-and-rescue operations, sniper detection, convoy protection and border patrol.

The test platform under development consists of five miniature helicopters, each a little smaller than a seagull.

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