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Sandshark UAV- A Surrogate Trainer for Predator/Reaper

Written by on Monday, April 1st, 2013

Anyone that has flown an aircraft knows that one of the most trying tasks when piloting an aircraft is the landing. The landing forces the pilot to use all the skills that he can muster to safely navigate the aircraft to the correct runway, approach at the correct glidepath and use a deft touch for a soft landing while stomping on the brakes to decelerate the aircraft to taxi speeds. The landing skillset is one that is practiced over and over by manned aircraft but is also required of unmanned aircraft. One such vehicle that is aimed at increasing landing practices in the world of unmanned aircraft is called, the Sandshark.

The Sandshark is designed, built and flown by Northrop Grumman and is being marketed as the risk mitigation solution for landing practices for the Predator and Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The Predator and Reaper were designed by General Atomics and are both unmanned aircraft that have been in use for many years and make up the bulk of the unmanned aircraft hours in the U.S. The Predator and Reaper were used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor potential threat areas and provide “an eye in the sky” for military leadership and intelligence sources. Both the Predator and Reaper are flown remotely from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada via a satellite feed and both UAVs require a pilot and a sensor operator to conduct missions. The pilot is responsible for takeoff, landings and navigation, can you buy antibiotics online while the sensor operator is responsible for managing the sensor package onboard to provide the best source coverage as dictated by the mission. While the UAVs can loiter airborne for many hours, they eventually have to land to refuel and most Predator and Reaper pilots will agree that landing the aircraft remotely can be very challenging.

This is where the Sandshark UAV comes in. With the cost of practicing landings and the risk to such high valued aircraft, the Sandshark UAV provides a low cost solution to using Predators and Reapers for landing practice. The Sandshark is about ¼ the size of the Reaper and is designed to perform multiple practice landings at about a hundredth of the cost of a practice flight with a “real” UAV. The Sandshark is designed to feel and maneuver just like a Predator and Reaper and provide the remotely controlled pilot the exact same training to that of flying the Predator and Reaper at a fraction of the cost.

The Sandshark UAV could prove useful as a training surrogate for the U.S. Air Force in reducing the number of landing accidents but with technology improving by leaps and bounds, it’s just a matter of time before UAV landings are automated and no longer require a “pilot-in-the-loop.” The Navy has been conducting automated landings for some time and other than having the pilot as a backup, the days of a pilot landing a UAV, may soon be a thing of the past.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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