Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Bring Down an Ultra-Light - Non-Lethally: How would you non-lethally bring down an ultra-light aircraft crossing the US-Mexico border carrying drugs or other nefarious substances, given that you didn't want to do too much damage to the aircraft and occupant and, in bringing it down, on the ground?

Two US Air Force Research Laboratory teams came up with very different concepts, which were demonstrated in a competitive fly-off at Edwards AFB a few weeks ago under AFRL's 2011 Commander's Challenge.

The goal of the Challenge was to rapidly provide "a viable, sustainable, non-lethal and affordable means of stopping unauthorized ultra-light aircraft near border areas," says AFRL. Brock Technologies acted as prime contactor and modified several ULAs to act as unmanned targets for the competition.

blog post photo
Photo: Brock Technologies

Team Elgin, based at Eglin AFB in Florida, developed a projectile called Angry Bird that can be fired from an M4 rifle or M203 adaptor, on the ground or from a helicopter. With a range of more than 1,000ft, the projectile deploys a net that entangles the propeller and stops the engine.

Team Wright-Patterson, based at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, developed a ground-launch remotely piloted aircraft that chases down the ULA and, guided by onboard cameras, strikes and breaks the propeller. The team also developed a dazzling system to track the ULA, disorient the pilot and force flight-path changes.

Brock supplied two of the sub-250lb ULAs to the teams for use in developing their systems, and modified another six to remotely piloted aircraft to act as targets for the two-week-long series of flights at Edwards.

Team Wright-Patterson won the Commander's Challenge Award, but AFRL says elements of both systems are to be incorporated in a subsequent effort by its Rapid Reaction Team to provide a testable prototype to Border Patrol agents in the coming months.

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