“WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is shifting its drone operations from a US base in Djibouti to a more remote airfield after local officials voiced concern about possible collisions with commercial aircraft, officials said Wednesday. “There was a concern over what would happen if a MQ-1 (Predator drone) obstructed a runway, and that it would have a significant impact on commercial air operations,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Camp Lemonnier — located next to the Djibouti international airport — took on crucial strategic importance for Washington as a site for stationing special operations forces and drones for assaults on al-Qaida militants in Yemen and Islamist Shabab forces in Somalia. But after five accidents involving MQ-1 Predators since January 2011, the government of Djibouti demanded the Americans halt the drone flights out of Camp Lemonnier, where about 3,000 US troops are deployed, said the defense official, confirming a report in the Washington Post. Under an agreement with Djibouti, the US military will move its drone fleet from Camp Lemonnier to Chabelley Airfield, about 10 kilometers southwest of the capital, according to a document from Congress authorizing defense spending for 2014.”
“A drone, bought by the Army for £850m, is to begin flying over Wiltshire this week. It is the first time an “Unmanned Aircraft System” (UAS) has been cleared to use civilian airspace in the UK, on what is likely to become a permanent arangement.”
Senator Johnston is a strong advocate of the capability that could cost taxpayers up to $2.5 billion for seven platforms and ancillary equipment to patrol the nation’s vast maritime approaches.
The aircraft would be based at Edinburgh RAAF base, near Adelaide, and would also be available for other duties such as bushfire management.
They would operate closely with the new fleet of P8 Poseidon Boeing 737 jets that will replace the ageing P-3 Orion aircraft during the next decade.
“As a maritime nation a capability with this type of coverage must have our attention.
“I was extremely disappointed when the previous government wasted $100 million leaving the program,” Senator Johnston said.
“Accordingly, this Government is interested in exploring cost effective ways of re-engaging with this particular program and possibly bringing it back on board.”
Since Australian withdrew, Northrop Grumman has developed a Naval version of the long-range jet powered UAV called the Triton that incorporates many of Australia’s early design requirements such as strengthened airframe and anti-icing equipment.
The Triton is the only UAV that can fly at 20,000 metres and remain aloft for 30 hours to monitor up to 40,000 square kilometres of ocean in a single mission.
It will carry a range of sensors including powerful 360 degree radar and infra-red and powerful optical cameras.
Australian National University strategic expert Hugh White said it made a lot of sense for Australia to look at technology such as Triton.
“A long-range, high altitude capability for Australia is very important,” Professor White said.
“The challenge for the government will be finding the money to pay for it. We already have a defence spending program that cannot be sustained even if funding reaches two per cent of ADP by 2020 as planned.”
Professor White said serious cuts would need to be made to army funding to pay for equipment such as Avows.
“The Drone User Group Network’s Drone Social Innovation Award is a $10,000 prize for the most socially beneficial, documented use of a drone platform costing less than $3,000. Through this prize we hope to spur innovation, investment, and attention to the positive role this technology can play in our society. We believe that flying robots are a technology with tremendous potential to make our world a better place, and we are excited that they are cheap and accessible enough that regular people and community groups can have their own. The Drone Social Innovation Award is sponsored by NEXA Capital Partners.”
“The Drone User Group Network is an association of community organizations that seek to promote the responsible use of flying robots for the benefit of humanity. We strive for a future in which robots empower individuals to make the world richer, safer, and full of possibility. We also believe that innovation and progress shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of governments and giant corporations, and we strive to make drone technology as widely accessible as possible. We welcome amateur and professional users alike. Most importantly, we think that flying robots are a lot of fun!”