Fire Scout Drone to Detect Land and Sea Mines From the Air in Real-Time

MQ-8C Fire Scout 6 photos
Photo: U.S. Navy
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If need be, current military technology does allow airborne assets to detect land or at-sea based mines and other obstacles. The problem with the tech is, however, that mine detection requires not only data gathering, but also post-mission analysis, and that “lengthens the threat detection and mitigation timeline.” A new piece of technology might change that.
It’s called Single System Multi-Mission Airborne Mine Detection (SMAMD), and it is being developed by BAE Systems. Using an optical sensor and onboard processing power, it should gather and interpret data in real-time, “with low false alarm rates.”

At least, that’s the theory. To test it in practice, the U.S. Navy will deploy the SMAMD on an MQ-8C Fire Scout drone, currently deployed aboard USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) of the 4th Fleet.

Making for the drone’s heaviest payload to date, SMAMD will be put to the test later this spring, at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, Florida. The test will require the drone to fly from over the beach, trying to pinpoint drifting and moored mines in shallow and deep water, and to as far as 10 km (6.2 miles) from the shore.

“This capability is extremely important as we see future fights occurring in the littoral waters where mine warfare is prevalent,” said in a statement Capt. Thomas Lansley, Fire Scout program director. “A mine warfare capability will greatly reduce risk for LCS and other vessels in the littoral.”

The Fire Scout drone, based on the commercially available Bell 407 helicopter, has been around since the early 2000s, and there are several variants of it already. In the case of the Navy, the drone comes with a Rolls-Royce engine that gives it a top speed of 132 mph (213 kph). It can stay in the air for as much as eight hours.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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