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Cloak Blade: First It Was Octo-Mom – Now It’s Octo-Rotor

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JHU/APL

The Cloak Blade aircraft is designed to determine if suspicious vessels are friend or foe.

The Pentagon has unmanned aerial vehicles coming out its ears. Flying in the wake of the Predator and Reaper drones are all kinds of joystick gizmos. Cloak Blade is one of the latest.

It’s an “inherently stealthy micro-copter” kept aloft – get this — by eight tiny rotor systems (now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen? On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen?)

Its mission: to fly from Navy ships and buzz suspect vessels, relaying video back to its mothership and even asking those on the mystery boat questions that can be sent back to the ship.

Couldn’t that prove dangerous? What if the bad guys tried to follow Cloak Blade back home, or tried to shoot it down? Not to worry, Cloak Blade boosters told the Navy last week.

(MORE: Betting Against a Drone Arms Race)

Cloak Blade will utilize “ziggy” returns after snooping around suspicious vessels to “help prevent visual following of vehicle with binoculars.” If the enemy shoots at it, it will be capable of “evasive maneuvers” to maximize “small gunfire avoidance.”

Such systems are gaining popularity in the Navy as threats to vessels proliferate, especially in confined spaces like the Strait of Hormuz.

Designed by the non-profit Applied Physics Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University, the goal is a small chopper that can fly at altitudes up to 3,000 feet for as long as four hours at speeds of 30 miles an hour.

This is how it would work, according to the presentation:

— Copter goes straight up to create instant SA [situational awareness]

— Perform 360 degree sweep of area, locates unit of interest

— Travel to unit of interest and Issue pre-planned commands, or Interrogate with Language Translator

— Full Motion Video stream from encounter with unit of interest, data ingest to ICOP [ship-based Intelligence Carry On Package]

— Maritime Threat ID by Unmanned Sensor

Its goal: “help determine vessel (hostile) intentions.”

Initially, the sailors would view Cloak Blade’s data on a handheld device, but the goal is to let sailors see it “embedded in glasses.”

At least some of the Navy brass likes the concept. One admiral quoted in the presentation told the designers “to equip Cloak Blade with image recognition SW [software] and he would `buy a box of them for each LCS’” – the Navy’s planned fleet of 55 Littoral Combat Ships.

Like many nifty ideas yet to be tested in the fleet, that seems a tad premature. No word yet on possible cost or timing. (h/t Public Intelligence)

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