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US Army Wants More Gray Eagle UAVs Despite Failings

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‘Gray Eagle’ Drone Fails All the Time, But Army Still Wants More (excerpt)

(Source: Wired.com; posted June 15, 2012)

The Gray Eagle is supposed to be the Army’s own version of the Air Force’s famous Predator drone. The Army wants its own version of the Predator so much, it’s spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and buy 164 of the things through the year 2022. Problem is, the Army is having trouble getting the drone to, y’know, work.

Beginning in March 2011, “poor reliability across all major subsystems” led to delays that would seemingly never end, according to a report from Edward Greer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for developmental test and evaluation. During the same month, a Gray Eagle drone crashed in California after a faulty chip blocked a subsystem from sending commands to “a portion of the aircraft’s flight control surfaces,” Col. Timothy Baxter, the Army’s project manager for unmanned aircraft systems, elaborated in an e-mail to Inside Defense.

“Flight testing was suspended,” Greer’s report added. The faulty chip was replaced and testing resumed, but the Army was now left with fewer available flight hours. The drone’s mean times between failures — or the average time the drone or a component works without failure — is also short. First, the drone itself has an average failure every 25 hours, short of a required minimum of 100 hours. The drone’s ground control station has a rate of 27 hours before a failure, short of a required 300. The Army has since lowered the requirement to 150 hours. The Gray Eagle’s sensors fare a bit better: 134 hours to 250 hours required.

Then the Gray Eagle was delayed again last October. The report concludes that for the 2011 fiscal year, the Gray Eagle is meeting only four of seven “key performance parameters,” and the drone’s “system reliability continues to fall short of predicted growth,” which could be a problem for the upcoming tests scheduled for August. The Gray Eagle is also necessary for the Pentagon’s plans to double its unmanned air force. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Wired.com website.