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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)

PHOTOS: This Is What a Captured Drone Looks Like

11 comments
Doc Holliday
Doc Holliday

It's Octo-Shotgun!

Either that or turn the CWIS loose on it...

Little Dog
Little Dog

If the objective is to determine hostile intent, the subjects of the surveillance shooting at the device is probably a pretty strong clue.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

What is shown in the picture looks very much like an under a thousand dollar 

hobbyist  type Chinese octocopter and camera mount system and which probably has an Arduino / GPS navigation system which costs two hundred dollars.

Although the long flight times indicate expensive batteries with a capital E, even with markups, it shouldn't cost the military too much.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

I fly autonomous multicopters with an Arduino brain (and GPS) that look a lot like the picture.

Check out Arducopter.

This is hobbyist grade stuff.

Mine cost about four hundred dollars, one like in the photo maybe 7 or 8 hundred.

I'll bet the military version costs a lot more.

Picture looks like an off the shelf Chinese octocopter frame and brushless motors.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

I fly autonomous multicopters with an Arduino brain (and GPS) that look a lot like the picture.

This is hobbyist grade stuff.

Mine cost about $400.00, one like in the photo maybe 7 or 8 hundred.

I'll bet the military version costs a lot more.

Picture looks like an off the shelf Chinese octocopter frame and brushless motors.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

I fly autonomous multicopters with an Arduino brain (and GPS) that look a lot like the picture.

Check out Arducopter.

This is hobbyist grade stuff.

Mine cost about $400.00, one like in the photo maybe 7 or 8 hundred.

I'll bet the military version costs a lot more.

Picture looks like an off the shelf Chinese octocopter frame and brushless motors.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

I put in a little comment on quad and multicopters and miserable DISCUS held it for moderation.

It will never show up, they never do, what a crock.

I said nothing defaming, inflammatory, or derogative and it was short and no bad words.

Yet this you let in!

Why do you people waste our time?

Finally got it jammed in after 8 rejections above - - (WHY????)

And so they took it back out again what censorship!

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

You're using Time's servers, for which they pay, and Time's software (Paid for by license or direct development), to communicate through their property to the general public through spam filters which are set ridiculously high.

Based on your post, I suspect you used dollar signs to indicate cost differences.  The spam filter thinks everyone who uses dollar signs is trying to sell something and boots it.  It's not rocket science, but it is aggravating for those of us who aren't spam bots.

As for the eight rotors versus four, it's probably for system redundancy to recover the device should it be damaged and/or to carry a larger payload. 

As to the cost, the four rotor models are well under a thousand dollars each and the video system can be taken "off the shelf" from other light-weight drone systems.  Unless this thing is much larger than it looks, I can't imagine it being more than a few thousand each. 

Getting the "glasses" into it is kind of stupid, though.  The more eyes on the screen there are, the more likely someone will see something someone else missed.  Equipping "glasses" only makes sense if you can do it for the same number of people who would be watching/using the system at the same (or lower) cost as it would be using a screen.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Yep, initially used dollar signs, thanks for advice.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Pretty much off the shelf Hobbyist grade stuff.

I fly autonomous quad copters using Arduino controllers.

Check out Arducopter.com.

Mine cost around $400.00 with brains.

I'll bet the military version adds several zeros to that.

By the Way, I'm pretty sure the version shown in the picture actually uses a Chinese mass hobby market frame and brushless motors.

Who knows, maybe the military's getting more serious about realistic budget cuts.

leew261
leew261

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

That has to be one of the worst headlines I've ever read.

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