Used for the past 4 years in the birthplace of the Beatles, the device went on a “Magical Mystery Tour” after “a training exercise went wrong in bad weather conditions.”
As a lesson in reliability and in-service lifetime, questions could be raised in term of the ruggedization of new technologies where “smaller” is seen to be “better.” The trade-off must be suitability for purpose and on this occasion, be it power, signal or RF issues, clearly something was left wanting. The 2lb drone valued at around $20 000 went down to Davey Jones’ locker on this occasion.
In the area of compact, light, but reliable connection, Molex has always been at the forefront of technology, developing solutions for the white goods, consumer or other markets in which we operate. The military and aerospace market is one of our key focus areas.
UAVs are one of the few growth areas in the otherwise contracting military market. Defence cuts have not affected the development and production of devices, supposedly from the size of a large insect, right up to that of a conventional fighter jet. For the period to 2015, it is projected that the market will have a 10% CAGR with the global market exceeding $94B by 2021*.
*Ref : Teal Group Corporation report March 2011
Applications are wide, from short distance covert reconnaissance to high-altitude attack and destroy vehicles, all remotely controlled from a base station up to thousands of miles away. Payloads can include any manner of sensors (video, infra-red, low and high-resolution radar) to a suite of weapons from small caliber rounds and micro munitions up to cruise missiles.
Common wisdom dictates that the Joint Strike Fighter (F35) will be the last manned jet fighter to enter operation and after that, unmanned systems will prevail. This is understandable both from a human cost perspective, as well as a financial one, as the time and money put into training a fighter pilot runs in the millions of dollars over years of training.
The now-maturing “Playstation Generation” has enabled armed forces to use the skills learnt in bedrooms in front of video game consoles for real-world missions. Unsurprisingly, the human interface on-ground control systems to operate UAVs tend to be very similar to the commercially available game controllers.
Of course as the complexity of the electronics required to replicate a human in the control of the larger variants, there comes the trade-off with reliability.
The weakest part of any electronic system is the non-continuous interfaces, in short, the connectors. These can be board-to-board, wire-to-board or component-to-board and this is where Molex is able to offer products with a proven pedigree in other harsh environments such as industrial, NAT and medical, as well as repeatable and reliable components.
SlimStack™, SEARAY* and FPC connectors are used today in fighter aircraft electronic countermeasure pods and in pilots helmet systems, while RF cable assemblies are fitted to various missile applications. Micro-Fit 3.0™connectors are employed in airborne radar systems and more and more fibre optic backplanes are employed in a variety of both military and civil applications.
UAVs have been successfully deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and will form an integral part of deployment strategy in theatres of operations for at least the next 30 years – through its products and technologies Molex is able to offer solutions for todays’ requirements as well as working with key contractors for tomorrow’s requirements through ongoing developments for the future.
Back in England, a similar vehicle to that in Liverpool was used to assist in waterborne demonstrations at the recent DSEi 2011show in London on the river Thames – better weather conditions however prevailed on that occasion….
Maybe it went to join a fellow UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle) such as the “Yellow Submarine”….
*SEARAY is a trademark of Samtec, Inc.