Northrop Grumman Takes Center Stage at Unmanned Technologies Confab

8/11/09Follow @bvbigelow

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says its conference and exhibition in Washington D.C. this week is the largest event of its kind, featuring the world’s biggest collection of robotic vehicles for use in the air, land, and sea. Judging by the news conference agenda, however, the four-day convention could almost be called the Northrop Grumman Robot Show.

The Southern California defense contractor, which operates a major unmanned systems business in San Diego, accounts for eight of the 15 news conferences the Virginia-based industry association has scheduled for today and tomorrow.

Gene Fraser

Gene Fraser

The scope of Northrop Grumman’s work in robotic vehicles seems to have grown so big that E.J. “Gene” Fraser, a vice president in the company’s strike and surveillance systems division, is giving an overview of the company’s unmanned systems—in the air, on the ground, and at sea. The company’s major programs include:

—The high-altitude Global Hawk UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, operated above Afghanistan and Iraq by the U.S. Air Force.

—The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program, a $1.2 billion development effort that seeks to adapt Global Hawk technologies for specialized use by the U.S. Navy in monitoring vast tracts of ocean.

—The Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter under development for the Navy. Northrop Grumman says the Fire Scout completed a series of flight tests aboard the USS McInerney last month as the warship cruised off the coast of Mayport, FL.

—The X-47B unmanned combat air system, a Navy strike aircraft capable of carrier landings and takeoffs. Northrop Grumman is completing final assembly of its first X-47B prototype, with a first flight tentatively set for November.

As unmanned, robotic vehicles become increasingly commonplace, Fraser tells me the pre-conference buzz is focused not so much on breakthrough … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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