San Diego Air & Space Museum Honors GA-ASI Executives with Hall of Fame Induction


Admiral Cassidy

Frank Pace, Tom Cassidy Inducted into International Air & Space Hall of Fame

SAN DIEGO – 25 November 2015 – General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, today announced that Frank W. Pace, GA-ASI’s current Aircraft Systems president, and Thomas J. Cassidy, former Aircraft Systems president, have been inducted into the San Diego International Air & Space Museum’s Hall of Fame for their bold contributions to the RPA industry, fortifying the company’s status within an elite top tier of global defense contractors.

“Frank Pace and Tom Cassidy have forever changed the landscape of the aerospace industry through their tireless efforts to create game-changing, state-of-the-art RPA systems, and both are pivotal players in the company’s continued worldwide success,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “On behalf of GA-ASI, I thank them for their ongoing contributions to warfighters around the world who rely on our products for their unparalleled situational awareness and life-saving capabilities.”

Frank Pace has overseen approximately 70-percent of the flight hours accumulated by company aircraft in the last five years. This milestone serves as testament to the visionary leadership he has provided over the course of his 24-year career with GA-ASI. Pace’s impact to the success of the organization can be measured by the successful conceptualization, development, and delivery of Predator® and Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper® to the U.S. Air Force; development and delivery of Altair® to NASA; entry into production of Predator C Avenger®, and development and production of Predator XP. The success of these aircraft has resulted in the dramatic expansion of both the company’s domestic and international customer base, which includes NASA, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, UK, Italy, France, and the UAE. It is noteworthy to mention that in addition to his applied leadership in aircraft development, Pace has led numerous key demonstrations, including the implementation of RPA satellite communications (SATCOM), Predator Hellfire missiles, and Sky Warrior® and Gray Eagle for the U.S. Army.

Rear Admiral Thomas Cassidy (Ret., U.S. Navy) has left a legacy at GA-ASI that is enduring and has set a solid course for the company’s current success. His specific efforts have established GA-ASI as the global leader in RPA systems. Predator/Gray Eagle-series aircraft have been accepted by U.S. and foreign governments into everyday operations and have revolutionized the way the U.S. military fights wars and defends the homeland. During Cassidy’s tenure, he was instrumental in establishing a strong corporate culture that promoted quality, leadership, and entrepreneurship. These attributes established the foundation which can be measured by the current success of GA-ASI operations, including design, manufacturing, training, and support activities of the organization’s RPA programs. Of specific note, Cassidy led the development of the MQ-9 Reaper® and Avenger which are in the U.S. inventory and operationally supporting U.S. interests worldwide. Cassidy retired from the day-to-day management of the Aircraft Systems business unit in March 2010 but remains on the company’s Board of Directors as Chairman of its Executive Committee.

“The significant contributions that Mr. Pace and Mr. Cassidy have made over the span of their impressive aerospace careers have transformed the global RPA industry, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum is proud to induct them into our International Air & Space Hall of Fame,” said Jim Kidrick, president and CEO, San Diego Air & Space Museum. “Through their efforts, GA-ASI continues to push the envelope into new frontiers, successfully creating cutting-edge capabilities to protect U.S. and allied forces in combat, support homeland defense, and expand the RPA market worldwide.”

The International Air & Space Hall of Fame represents the commemoration of those, who throughout history and around the world, have made a significant difference and whose contributions are worthy of special recognition. The list of previous honorees are some of the world’s most significant aviation pilots, crew members, visionaries, inventors, aerospace engineers, businessmen, designers, spokesmen, and space pioneers. Previous inductees include Orville and Wilbur Wright, Howard Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager, and Buzz Aldrin.

DARPA Moves Forward with Fast, Light weight, Autonomy Program… Drones that fly like Birds

darpa fast

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — the government agency that funds future technology — has awarded $3.4 million to two Cambridge groups to build speedy miniature drones that function as scouts for first responders.

Some day, the idea goes, tiny flying robots will zip into burning, crumbling buildings and scope out the space before firefighters and first-responders enter.
It’s all part of DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy program that the agency announced in December last year.

In a request for proposals, DARPA compared the agility required of their machines to nature’s aerial champs: “Birds and flying insects maneuver easily at high speeds near obstacles. The FLA program asks the question ‘How can autonomous flying robotic systems achieve similar high-speed performance?’ ”

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DARPA Alias project enters phase II; turning manned aircraft into drones


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded a second contract modification for Phase 2 of its project to develop a system to add autonomous capabilities to existing aircraft.

The research agency gave Aurora Flight Sciences a $15.3 million modification for further development of its Aircrew Labor In-cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS, program which plans to allow for smaller flight crews by allowing the system to take over certain functions. With the modification, the total value of Aurora’s deal rises to $21.4 million.

Earlier this month, DARPA also gave Sikorsky Aircraft a $9.8 million modification, also for the program’s next phase.

During Phase I, Aurora, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin focused on developing easy-to-use human interfaces that would allow the system to help operate the aircraft without a lot of maintenance from the pilot.

Phase II of the program targets refining the overall system, reducing risk reduction, demonstrating that ALIAS can be installed quickly and flight demonstrations, according to the announcement of Aurora’s contract. The next phase also adds a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to the fixed-wing aircraft used in demonstrations.

Aurora’s work on Phase II is expected to be finished by December 2016



DARPA project to add autonomy to existing aircraft moving forward


Military researchers are moving forward with development of a drop-in system that would bring automation to existing aircraft and allow for smaller crews.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded Sikorsky Aircraft $9.8 million modification  to take the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program to Phase II, which among other things will prepare the system for flight tests. Sikorsky is to demonstrate the Autonomous Crew Enhancement System (ACES) on a cargo resupply mission using a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter and perform a full demonstration on a fixed-wing aircraft.

ALIAS, being designed to work via a touch and voice interface, won’t entirely replace crews, but would supplement them, reducing pilots’ workloads and taking over in case of system failures. In addition to reducing the size of the crew, it’s also expected to improve aircraft safety and augment mission performance.

In March, DARPA awarded Phase I contracts to Sikorsky, Aurora Flight Sciences and Lockheed Martin for work on developing interfaces with systems capable of operating the aircraft without constant supervision from the pilot. Phase II, in addition to getting Phase 1 systems ready for flight tests, also is intended to strengthen the human-machine interface and demonstrate the system’s portability on the ground.

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Robocopters to the Rescue


We’re standing on the edge of the hot Arizona tarmac, radio in hand, holding our breath as the helicopter passes 50 meters overhead. We watch as the precious sensor on its blunt nose scans every detail of the area, the test pilot and engineer looking down with coolly professional curiosity as they wait for the helicopter to decide where to land. They’re just onboard observers. The helicopter itself is in charge here.

Traveling at 40 knots, it banks to the right. We smile: The aircraft has made its decision, probably setting up to do a U-turn and land on a nearby clear area. Suddenly, the pilot’s voice crackles over the radio: “I have it!” That means he’s pushing the button that disables the automatic controls, switching back to manual flight. Our smiles fade. “The aircraft turned right,” the pilot explains, “but the test card said it would turn left.”  More…