20 US military drones inexplicably crashed during 2015, and the Pentagon refuses to say why, The Washington Post reports. Half of the unmanned aerial vehicles involved are the US’s new Reaper drone, which cost $14 million (£9.8 million) each. The other 10 accidents involved the older Predator drone.
Unconfirmed rumours suggest that the Reaper could be experiencing problems with its starter generator, since that problem was detected after six crashes prior to 2014. “We’re looking closely at that to determine what is the core issue there,” Lt. Gen. Robert P. Otto, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence and Surveillance Programs for the US Air Force, acknowledged.
“Once the battery’s gone, the airplane goes stupid and you lose it,” Colonel Brandon Baker, Chief of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Capabilities Division, added. “Quite frankly, we don’t have the root cause ironed out just yet.”
The Pentagon has not confirmed nor denied that the starter generator is responsible for the spike in drone crashes last year, refusing to comment on the matter and failing to officially report many of the 20 crashes in 2015. Despite this, it is known that military engineers have been desperately investigating a potential fix for the problem for over a year, with rumours that every military UAV in operation will require upgraded starter generators.
3D printed things have been the thing since 3D printers came out. There is no limit, except your imagination of course, to what you can make with them. This apparently is also the case for the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) which started using 3D printed parts for their Tornado jets. And no, this is not a joke.
This move has saved the RAF £300,000 and is said that it could save them million of pounds in the next three years. The parts printed out span from protective covers for cockpit radios to support struts on the air intake door, and even protector guards for Power Take-off shafts. BAE Systems is the responsible for printing out the parts for the RAF.
Up until now, four squadrons of Tornado GR4 aircraft received the 3D upgrade and it is reported that many of the parts cost less than £100 to manufacture, leading to an estimate of £1.2 million in savings by 2017.
“You can manufacture the products at whatever base you want, providing you can get a machine there. If it’s feasible to get machines out on the front line, it also gives improved capability where we wouldn’t traditionally have any manufacturing support.” said Mike Murry, HEad of Airframe Integration at BAE Systems.
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