Monday, January 29, 2007

Inside the Walls of DARPA

Computerworld offers A Peek Inside DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency responsible for inventing the Internet and other advanced technologies.

Projects of note include Global Autonomous Language Exploitation (GALE), which is designed to "transcribe, translate & distill" data collected from English and foreign language sources into actionable information for human decision makers. Another, the Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL), is hoped will one day "automatically watch a conversation between two people and, using natural-language processing, figure out what are the tasks they agreed upon."

GALE in particular seems to be a promising endeavor. Researchers at Penn's Linguistic Data Consortium (LDC) are working to provide resources and tools for the project. Possibly the most interesting and impactful component is the Distillation engine, which seems to be the segment focused on "understanding" the information at hand. LDC has posted a thorough background & analysis of this function on their website.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Proliferation of UAVs

Once limited to military operations, private companies and domestic governmental agencies are becoming increasingly interesting in surveillance UAVs for non-defense applications.

MTC Technologies, Inc., for example, offers its Airborne Security Monitoring System (ASMS) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Operations. Already holding a contract to provide "SpyHawk" reconaissance UAVs to the US Marine Corps, MTC is now looking to supply similar systems with autonomous flight operations for the real-time monitoring & inspection of large-scale infrastructure, transportation hubs and other facilities.

Launching UAVs from Manned Aircraft

Snow Aviation International, Inc. (SAI) recently completed a concept validation of UAV airborne basing on a C-130 cargo aircraft, with the manned vehicle serving as a "mothership" capable of launching and recovering the UAV in flight.

The SAI Quick Reaction UAV Program (pdf, pg. 26) was intended to demonstrate mid-flight controlled launch & recapture of a unmanned surveillance aircraft from a C-130 Hercules. Initial test flights in April 2005 included a successful launch and further flights will try out the complete release, flight & redocking cycle.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

WWII's Unmanned Battleship

Between serving as part of a show of force just before the end of WWI and her eventual destruction at Pearl Harbor, the USS Utah was converted to a remotely-controlled vessel used for target practice.

One of the earlier military applications of unmanned systems, the Utah was refitted with a radio-control mechanism which enabled remote operation from the safety of a nearby ship. She was used for realistic targeting exercises for nine years, allowing sailors to sharpen their bombing & gunning skills, and was eventually capsized as a result of the Pearl Harbor attack, trapping an unknown number of men inside.

Read more about the history of the USS Utah: USS Utah (BB-31) - Wikipedia

Unmanned Vehicles Magazine

I stumbled across an interesting UK-based magazine devoted to UAVs and the like. The website in particular has an excellent collection of news items related to unmanned systems of all kinds.

Excuses, excuses...

It's been a while since my last blog post or project update. Between work, personal life & grad school applications I haven't had much time to spare for this site. But now that I've got things pretty much back in order, get ready for the deluge.

Several of the forthcoming "backblog" come from the Airlift/Tanker Association conference I attended in Orlando back in October. Many exhibitors had a load of good material about UAVs and other technologies, so you'll see plenty of that.

Also, I'm expecting to start grad school full time in the Fall, so I'll be returning to my research projects to get back into the swing of things. I've been meaning to continue work on the Answer Machine, refining the algorithm and implementing additional query types, so you can expect more on this as well.

I think I'm going to start trying to publicize this website a bit more to bring in additional traffic...we'll see how that goes.

I'll try to stay on top of things this time...I swear!