Video: Unmanned Little Bird Lands on a Moving Truck

Happy Monday, everyone. Let’s start this short week right with this video of an unmanned version of Boeing’s Little Bird chopper landing on the back of a moving flatbed truck. As you know, the Little Bird is one of the military’s smallest helos. Images of special operators being dropped off by Little Birds in the middle of narrow city streets have become ubiquitous.

Boeing has been working on fielding the unmanned version of the chopper that can be used to do almost all the missions a manned little bird can, ISR, light strike even cargo hauling for years now. Heck we’ve seen Lockheed and Kaman team up to deliver an unmanned version of the K-MAX light helo to the Marines for resupply duty in Afghanistan.

The drone-chopper in the video below is using a THALES-built automatic landing system that allows it to sense how far away it is from the truck’s moving deck .

Drone Choppers for France:

Now why does the unmanned chopper need to land on moving targets? Because Boeing is developing the chopper for use by the French Navy, where it will be operated from ships in a similar way the U.S. Navy flies soon-to-be-armed MQ-8 Fire Scout drone helos from its ships. (I heard Boeing execs mention this project during a briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington in September and it piqued my interest then.) The Little Bird is set to conduct sea trials aboard a French frigate in 2012.

Click through the jump for the video:

Via Gizmodo and sUAS News

  • Armchair Idiot

    I’m wondering, is this just an initial test, or are landings going to be taking place at such a low speed?

    • http://twitter.com/4FingrsOfBurbon @4FingrsOfBurbon

      Ships don’t go too fast…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=561067924 Christopher Bloom

    Ship don’t go much faster than 25 MPH and usualy cruse as 15 MPH, and that truck was not going much over 20MPH.

  • jameb

    Yea ok……

    Keep the drivers …….

    driving from the front seat…..

  • A. Nonymous

    Nice! Now, do it again in a brownout…

    • nraddin

      You know that electronic sensors are much better at seeing through a brownout right? Also they don’t rely on just there eyes for position location (GPS and/or inertial navigation) which means they can land completely blind as long as they know where the pad is and where they where when they started

    • Thunder350

      In a brownout a pilot only has his instruments to rely on in order to land.. a computer could read and react to those readings much faster then a human could.

  • tribulationtime

    Have it any advantage over maned?. (I mean that kind of UAV converted from maned)

    • brady

      male lions are maned. piloted vehicles are manned.

  • nraddin

    1) If you drop the pilots from this bird you can drop in 6 operators instead of 4 per bird.
    2) If you cropped off the cockpit you could be looking at a weight savings of as much as 1500lbs (Including the loss of pilots). That’s lots of extra fuel, munitions, or both.

    Don’t re-invent the wheel each time, take the birds you have, make a few airframe shape design changes (Remove the people box), put in some extra sensors and a extra cool flight computer and there is your drone.

    • Tim

      i think one of the selling points was that its supposed to be remote controled and man controled. Not one or the other

    • Skeletor

      You go first… having “flown” UAVs for the USAF I would not want to be on board one that went lost link to the control station, had a serious mechanical malfunction or two or had a situation that required quick thinking and lots of SA on the part of the flight crew…

      Not saying UAVs should not be a reasonable part anyone’s fleet but they really aren’t the end all be all of future aviation…

      Besides being a human on a UAV would entail significant radiation hazards believe it or not from the high power data link systems… when the links are on I would stay at least 25 feet away from any UAV with BLOS capability…

      • nraddin

        UAV does not always mean teleoperated. In fact I am petty sure this is a demostation of autonomous flight not teleoperated flight (I could be wrong as it’s short on detail). For example the now not new Boeing 777 has the ability to fly autonomous flight starting from standing start on any runway to an stop at the end of any other runway. I have been on a number of 777 flights that where operated just like this (I admit there was a pilot on board but he was completely unnecessary) The newer systems can even take directions via audio from Air traffic controllers. I could easily see a system that flies itself and takes verbal directions from operators on the ground or riding on the bird.

        • Skeletor

          It works only when everything works and works as planned… I’m telling you the intersection of everything is fine, everything is going as planned, everything works and is as capable as advertised and everything is as easy as I said it would be is a very small corner of the world of aviation…

          I doubt also taking out the flightcrew on the Little Bird to get two extra operators is the best route, just get a bigger helicopter… it sounds like desperation… besides, going UAV means BLOS bandwith with at least dual links for redundancy with human cargo (expensive, not necessarily easily attainable, and again carries its own cost and limitations), another sophisticated piece of equipment to buy, service and maintain – your ground control stations (LRE / MCE), you’ll need a good swath of contractors to keep that LRE / MCE working and you’ll actually need more flightcrew as UAVs fly much longer (that being their strongest trait)

          Not completely dismissing UAVs – they do somethings WAY better than manned platforms but they are not without serious costs or limitations…

          • blight

            The only time I could see such a system in use is commonizing manned/unmanned platforms. Then if you need to move stuff with a pilot and have plenty of Common Helicopters sitting around, you won’t be screwed like you would if you had no Manned Helicopters and only Unmanned Helicopters.

            However, we would be paying good money for such a infrequently-occuring scenario. Good idea?

    • tribulationtime

      Don´t enought. i think it can be a good tech demostrator of big aircraft unmaned control but i do not see utility. Nor more room as you see trough glass nor weight saves. I belive the only usefull thing about it´s put off pilots itself. Save money in training, tri-care, pension, pay and relatives. More ideas , please.

  • G$$

    I’m sure we have thousands of these from the Viet Nam era. Wonder why we can’t just retrofit a bunch like this instead of spending billions on R&D for the newer heli drones they developing… Without pilots, seems like you could displace that weight with extra gear or fuel.

    • blight

      That assumes the airframes still have enough hours on them to be worth refitting.

      • G$$

        Easier to beef ’em up than designing an entirely new airframe from the ground up. Look at our Fleet of B-52s…

      • LBirdPilot

        Totally different aircraft. H-6 is based on a 369FF with upgraded transmission, main rotor, and a lot bigger engine. Max gross weight is half again what the OH-6 was.

  • Curtis

    I have a hard time imagining a navalized little bird doing the kind of spec ops things that we’re used to seeing little birds doing.

    But it would be useful for doing Cargo on demand, and running around with a dipping sonar and a torpedo or two.

    • http://major.rod major.rod

      Actually little birds were very effectively used against Iran when they mined the Persian Gulf in the 80’s. Little Birds took video of them doing it. Attacked the minelayers and fastboats and provided air support for special ops guys raiding oil well platforms.

  • Fred

    Very cool, but what happens if hackers get a hold of these unmanned systems?

    cyberarms.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/drone-wars-when-cyber-war-becomes-real/

    • nraddin

      Others have modded you down here, but I think you have a good point. We have to be worried that not only could ground control stations we compromised but so could the system we use to maintain and program the autonomous system be compromised. There is a lot of worry about counterfeit systems making it into the DOD/Govt supply chains. These items can be pre-compromised in all kinds of ways. Then there is the worry of the inside job (A very large number of hacks come from inside jobs, at one point it was estimated over 85%). There are a number of things that can be done to help prevent this, HASHing systems and other origin and integrity checks can be made on code and chips, but it had to be done very thoroughly and regularly to be useful at all. Don’t let the naysayers here get you down, keep pointing out cyber security. It’s important.

      • TMB

        That 85% comes from user error, not treason or infiltration.

        • nraddin

          You are 100% correct. Mostly it’s either users not protecting there data, or social engineering, but I think you might be surprised at the number of people willing to hack their own employers systems for fun and profit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.boyum Joe Boyum

    Having once ridden on the outside of an H-6 many moons ago I can say it took all the faith I had in airpower to ride on a manned MH-6. Shipboard anti pirate ops sure, but not as a means to infil operators.

    Cool tech though.

  • Hunter78

    This is too cheap. Can’t we add a few 100-billions to make this really DoD-interesting?

  • tribulationtime

    Overall it is not fair play unmaned vs maned. Man+his brain it is a multi task system. Example: A seal wrote in a book about vietnam what his platoon dog spooky VC, was agressive and good tracking, better than seals but in whole “doings” for their patrols dog was useless. So as Curtis say thus missions can be fullfiled by UAV.

    • maueemoon

      Horses have manes. So these helis don’t have manes. As in maneless. Do you mean unmanned?

      • tribulationtime

        Yes in spanish we say “manos”, for human too.

    • Riceball

      It’s SEAL not seal, as in Navy SEAL. A Navy SEAL is a highly trained operator that’s trained to operate in/from Sea Air & Land, hence the acronym SEAL. A seal is a marine pineped that’s closely related to the sea lion and eats fish, squid, some species prey on penguins and are not highly trained Naval commando.

  • tribulationtime

    Hello I don´t speak english. I know that. But by example if you can correct me by spelling seal instead of SEAL. Please forgive me and If you are not agree with me argue with reassons. Or not. Choose it

    • Gunny2862

      In American english, seal denotes a water dwelling mammal, SEAL is an acronym that denotes a highly trained military operator of the American Naval forces. They are spelled differently to denote which one the writer is intending to write about.

      Your english isn’t great but the meaning comes across, good job!
      Have a great day