MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, North Carolina — Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 launched into a new era with its RQ-21A Blackjack flight into Class D airspace, over Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, March 21.

Commonly only allowed to fly in restricted airspace, VMU-2 now has the expanded ability to integrate RQ-21A flight operations with manned aircraft over this air station.

Cherry Point’s Class D airspace is defined by a circle around the air station with a 5-mile radius, from the ground up to 2,500 feet above the air station. This is airspace that is constantly under the control of Cherry Point air traffic control, and is frequently busy with military air traffic, as well as contracted commercial flights landing and departing the air station.

“Unmanned aerial systems like the Blackjack are commonly flown from forward sites that sometimes restrict our integration with other air players and events,” explained 1st Lt. Orlando J. Benedict, an unmanned aerial systems officer with the squadron. “Having the RQ-21A at MCAS Cherry Point fosters connections with the rest of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and allows for procedures that integrate manned and unmanned aviation to be solidified for the future.”

The Blackjack is designed to operate off a Marine Expeditionary Unit in support of ground forces deployed worldwide. UAS requirements have evolved and the Marine Corps has refined its concept of operations to incorporate rapidly emerging technologies in its unmanned systems.

The RQ-21A Blackjack can safeguard military bases and activities through a pattern of life identification and explosive device detection. It is equipped with an electro-optic/infrared payload that supports the real-time monitoring to provide indications and threat warnings, and its plug-and-play payloads enable multi-intelligence capability to support a broad range of operations.

“The Blackjack’s main purpose is to support aerial reconnaissance missions,” said Sgt. James E. Burch, a UAV operator with VMU-2. “With the new system, we will now be able to launch and land the UAV on a ship, where with other systems, more space would be required for recovery.”

Insitu wins second drone award in two weeks.. USMC off and running with RQ-21A Blackjack


Insitu Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing, has won a $6.9 million order to support the Navy’s RQ-21A unmanned aircraft system.

The RQ-21A Blackjack provides tactical reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition data collection and dissemination capabilities, according to the NAVAIR website.

Under the contract, Insitu will provide technical studies, conceptual design modifications and engineering development.

Work will be performed in Hood River, Ore., Bingen, Wash., Boardman, Ore., Webster Field, Saint Inigoes, Md., and Patuxent River, Md., and is expected to wrap up in June 2017.

In late August, Insitu won an $8.8 million Navy contract to support the Blackjack at the Marine Corps air stations at Cherry Point, N.C., and Bingen, Wash.

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Triple growth ahead in UAV spending


FAIRFAX, Va., Aug. 17 (UPI) — Spending on unmanned aerial vehicles for military and civilian use could triple to more than $120 billion over the next 10 years, a new study says.

The Teal Group, a new market analysis firm, estimates that UAV production worldwide will grow from $4 billion annually and will total $93 billion in the next 10 years.

Spending on military UAV research will add another $30 billion to that.

“The market for UAVs looks very strong, increasingly driven by new technologies such as the next generation of unmanned combat systems, and the development of new markets such as civil and consumer drones,” said Philip Finnegan, Teal Group’s director of corporate analysis and an author of the study, titled World Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems, Market Profile and Forecast 2015.

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Pentagon planning 50 percent more drone flights in next 4 years


After a brief lull, the military is doubling down on drones. A new report from The Wall Street Journal details the Pentagon’s new plan to increase daily drone flights by half, raising serious questions about the future of military drone strikes. The Pentagon currently directs 61 daily drone flights, almost all of which are used for remote surveillance. The expansion would give the Pentagon even more reconnaissance data, expanding capacity in new programs from the Army and special contractors.

Only a vanishingly small percentage of the flights involve actual strikes, but they’ll provide a crucial first step for strikes in new regions, which will require reconnaissance feeds for targeting and command support. Notably, many of the future reconnaissance efforts are intended to monitor operations in Ukraine and the South China Sea. Thus far, drone strikes have been largely confined to Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The new uptick in reconnaissance missions also won’t affect the CIA’s ongoing drone program, which has remained the most controversial, secretive, and deadly of the US’s drone operations.

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Marines Renew Unmanned K-Max in Afghanistan (Again)

1 October 2013

The U.S. Marine Corps has once again extended the Kaman/Lockheed Martin unmanned K-Max helicopter trial in Afghanistan for another full year from August 2013. This despite of one of the two aircraft crashing on June 5 at Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province, which has left it grounded and in need of extensive repairs. The USMC will continue with one aircraft and have not yet committed funds to repair the second aircraft.
From simple point-to-point delivery of logistics when the K-Max UAS first entered Afghanistan in December 2011, its mission profile has been increasingly… more…

USMC Unmanned Lift Competition Taking Shape

Sep. 25, 2013
QUANTICO, VA. — Two of the companies competing for the Marine Corps’ unmanned lift/ISR capability are facing off on opposite sides of the display tent this week here, offering unmanned helicopter variants of traditionally manned birds.

Working as a subcontractor to Aurora Flight Sciences to compete for the Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program, Boeing has been flying its H-6U Little Bird helicopter unmanned, preparing for a Marine Corps evaluation in February at Quantico.

The companies are flying the Little Bird near Manassas with a pilot on board, but not controlling the aircraft, because having the pilot option helps them comply with FAA regulations, said the company’s Michael Sahag, business development for unmanned airborne systems.  More…