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Archive for the ‘Recce’ Category

ARA Robotics Solutions – Nighthawk Mini UAV

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

SSD would like to thank Weapon Outfitters LLC for sharing this report on the Nighthawk UAV with us from the recent NTOA conference in Seattle.

In the last ten years, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology has grown exponentially as technology has taken a leap forward to meet the needs of service men and women in the war on terror.

Information lag used to span days and minutes, as well as down organizational hierarchies… but modern technology has increasingly shortened the lag of gathering of information to delivering that information to the folks on the ground.

The ARA Robotics Solutions Nighthawk is an extremely intuitive and user friendly mini UAV that can support operations at the lowest levels: no need to call up to command to ask for assistance to see what’s right beyond the hill with the Nighthawk.

One of the first things you notice about the the Nighthawk Mini UAV is its impressive, all carbon fiber construction. The fuselage, wings, and “cargo bay” which stores the optical and optional thermal camera are all made of carbon fiber. Known for its lightweight and durability, carbon fiber is an ideal material for this application, and handling the demo Nighthawk, it was clear ARA was quite skilled with this sometimes finicky medium. Impressively, the carbon fiber wings of the Nighthawk are easily wrapped around the fuselage for storage and quick deployment, and can also be easily installed or removed with just two pins, and the payload selection.

A complete system with two Nighthawks, control units, support materials, carry pack for field use, and hard case for transport is estimated to be around $125K. Each Nighthawk is estimated to cost around $25 to $35K depending on imaging payload, as the thermal imaging unit is worth $12K by itself! Adding to the cost are the live video and data transmission hardware, as well as the $6K for a COTS autopilot system. Though a $6K autopilot may seem expensive, as anyone with RC airplane experience will tell you, crashing is very, very easy and can be very expensive considering the electronic payloads the Nighthawk is designed to carry.

Designed with user friendliness in mind, the Nighthawk’s COTS autopilot system that eliminates the need for users to have anything other than a basic understanding of flight. Users just have to launch the unit, and can then control the unit by plotting coordinates on a map, or controlling the Nighthawk with a video game-like interface. With programmed automatic landing, map based “point and click” navigation, failsafe responses to loss of communication or GPS, and other traditionally vexing problems for novice pilots, the autopilot system truly takes out all the hard work from controlling what amounts to a miniature aircraft.

For a guy in the field who jobs and hobbies have nothing to do with RC aircraft piloting, the well designed and complete system offered by ARA Systems looks to be a useful tool for safe reconnaissance.

The Nighthawk has been purchased and fielded extensively by the military, but suffers from FAA regulation in domestic operations by police departments. Though rules have loosened somewhat in the last few weeks, there is still a byzantine layer of red tape which must be navigated by law enforcement agencies to use this unit stateside. Some larger departments are using this system though, so don’t hesitate to give it a shot!

Quick Facts

-Each Nighthawk UAV weighs roughly 2 pounds
-Extensive carbon fiber use for strength and weight
-Modular design allowing for easy reconfiguration, repair, and storage
-10 KM range
-60 minute run time in Lithium Polymer Batteries
-18-30 knots cruise speed
-Built in autopilot system for easy navigation and/or piloting
-Live relay of day time and/or thermal optic capability


Weapon Outfitters LLC

Replay XD1080 Camera

Monday, June 4th, 2012

The Replay XD1080 camera is a serious contender in the market of mountable HD cameras such as GoPro and Contour. It features a water-resistant, hard anodized, aluminum mil-spec housing with a double o-ring sealed lens bezel, rear cap, and top push buttons that allows it to operate through any number of adverse conditions. A two-button activation also allows for easy and fast operation, with built-in LED and vibration feedback that alerts the user when the camera is active.

It records using a custom designed 135º wide angle lens, giving it a flatter, clearer picture when compared to similar cameras currently on the market. The front lens bezel can be removed and replaced with a 37mm adapter for aftermarket lens and filter kits. As for audio, the internal microphone has been specially designed to capture the most realistic audio possible while cutting down on wind noise. For situations where an external audio device is preferred, the unit comes with a standard 3.5mm mini-jack adapter.

The XD1080 is supported by a wide range of mounting options, including the HardCore Billet Picatinny mount which features 2-way, 360° positioning and 10° incremental camera ring positions.

The Replay is available from

Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Pivothead eyewear provides still and video recording. But there’s no fish eye distortion with this camera system. It features a 75 Degree Field Of View.

The lenses offer 100% UV A/B/C Blocking and ANSI Z80.3 Impact Resistance. There are multiple frame options including the Durango seen here.

HD video recording options include [email protected] frames per second / [email protected] / [email protected] with continuous auto focus. Pivothead also offers wind-resistant audio recording. The sensor incorporates a 8MP Sony CMOS Image Sensor for crisp still images as well as face tracking. Still recording options include time lapse burst stills with up to 16-shot rapid bursts shots per interval. Includes a 8GB internal memory capacity.

PCAS – The Final Piece

Monday, March 5th, 2012

We’ve mentioned the Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program in the past. Remember the Vuzix Next Generation Display Technology we wrote about last Spring? It’s a major enabling technology but there’s still a lot going on.

Raytheon is the prime for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) PCAS program which is intended to allow the joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) the ability to rapidly engage multiple, moving and simultaneous targets within his area of responsibility. Additionally, the system will be designed to reduce collateral damage and potential fratricide to friendly forces. What’s more, PCAS is taking a ‘system-of-systems’ approach demonstrating the ability to digitally task a CAS platform from the ground.

DARPA’s been working the software, man-machine interface and JTAC portions of the program hard. The missing piece has been the aircraft in the loop. Recently, Aurora Flight Sciences was chosen to convert an A-10 CAS platform into an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) which may well be the most ambitious element of the program. Despite the Air Force’s long-term goal of retiring the most successful CAS aircraft ever built, ground forces are one step closer to controlling their own CAS. We foresee a day where ground force commanders own purpose-built CAS platforms controlled by non-rated JTACs.

Novatiq Scorp Available From SPECOPS.PL

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Swiss firm Navatiq has developed a new compact Unmanned Ground Vehicle called the Scorp which can pull double duty as a recce as well as EOD asset. It is a lightweight (~2.5 kg), throwable bot that boasts day/night 360° omnidirectional panoramic vision via 4 cameras mounted 1 per side. As you can see from the photo below, it also incorporates a built in microphone as well as Picatinny rails to mount additional accessories or sensors. Planned enhancements include biochemical detector, disruptor, encryption, manipulator with pincer, autonomous navigation, firing explosive charges, thermal imaging, etc.

The tracked Scorp also features articulating flipper arms to right itself in the event of a tumble or to aid in climbing. The control unit offers full recording capability as well as a range of 500 meters outdoors (line of sight) and 100 meters indoors (line of sight). Additionally, by utilizing alternative frequencies you can operate up to four robots within the same zone.

The Scorp is now available from the Polish form SPECOPS.

US Night Vision PVS14 iPhone Adapter

Friday, January 20th, 2012


US Night Vision showed us an adapter that connects the AN/PVS14 to an iPhone. Manufactured form aircraft aluminum, it slides right onto the phone and features a view hole and threads that screw into the threads on the 14. Once the iPhone is in camera mode you can take full advantage of the features of the camera app, including zoom and image stabilization. Then, sharing photos and video is as simple as SMS or email.

Models are also already available dor the Galaxy and Casio Commando but look for additional Droid and Blackberry options soon.

This is literally one of the coolest things we have seen all week.

Black Bag Designs LLC NVG Head HarnessADS Tactical

Thursday, January 19th, 2012


We saw a really cool NVG Head Harness in the Adams Industries booth (SHOT Show booth #5008) that is made by Black Bag Designs LLC and is 100% Berry compliant. It is crafted from Jaquard weave Multicam Webbing from Murdock webbing, printed MultiCam loop from Velcro USA and hardware from ITW and National Molding. It’s unique in that it is able to mount ANY US issue ground troop Night Vision Device. It is fully adjustable at 10 different points for user comfort. Additionally, the harness is lightweight and so compact it can be stowed in a cargo pocket. Guaranteed for life and currently in use by US SOF, the Head Harness is available from Adams Industries, ADS, and Black Bag Designs, LLC. It’s Patent Pending and available in Black, Khaki, MultiCam and Coyote Brown.


Black Bag Designs LLC
Ph 815-252-8766


Monday, December 19th, 2011

This is pretty amazing. Looxcie is a video camera that you wear on your ear like a bluetooth headset earphone. Once turned on it records everything in a POV (Point of View) format. It can store data in its buffer, send clips to your email and social media, or stream it live through a wireless connection to viewers of your choice. The possibilities are pretty exciting. In fact, Looxcie is already in use with Kenya’s Rangers who protect wildlife from poachers.

To share clips with your friends using Flashbax, “When something cool happens, simply press the instant clip button to get the last 30 seconds. Press the button longer and the instant clip is immediately shared to your social network.

Looxcie Live is your opportunity to broadcast what you see discreetly with those you choose via different smartphone app. The broadcast is also available on the Looxcie Live server for up to 24 hours for review with full archiving coming soon. Additional features include text chat and Push-to-talk voice cues to provide feedback to the broadcaster.

This isn’t science fiction or government-only, TLA tech. It’s available now.