Join Date: Jul 2008
Predator UAV-Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. . .
Military commanders use tactics and strategy in combat to inflict as much damage on the enemy while trying to risk as few personnel and resources as possible. This principle was at the heart of the development of the RQ-1 and MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
These high-tech aircraft, controlled by a crew miles away from the dangers of combat, are capable of reconnaissance, combat and support roles in the hairiest of battles. In a worst-case scenario, if a Predator is lost in battle, military personal can simply "crack another one out of the box" and have it up in the air shortly -- and that's without the trauma of casualties or prisoners normally associated with an aircraft going down.
Under the Hood
The Predator UAV is a medium-altitude, long-range aircraft that operates much like any other small plane.
A Rotax 914, four-cylinder, four-stroke, 101-horsepower engine, the same engine type commonly used on snowmobiles, turns the main drive shaft. The drive shaft rotates the Predator's two-blade, variable-pitch pusher propeller. The rear-mounted propeller provides both drive and lift. The remote pilot can alter the pitch of the blades to increase or decrease the altitude of the plane and reach speeds of up to 135 mph (120 kts). There is additional lift provided by the aircraft's 48.7-foot (14.8-meter) wingspan, allowing the Predator to reach altitudes of up to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The slender fuselage and inverted-V tails help the aircraft with stability, and a single rudder housed beneath the propeller steers the craft.
The fuselage of the Predator is a mixture of carbon and quartz fibers blended in a composite with Kevlar. Underneath the fuselage, the airframe is supported by a Nomex, foam and wood laminate that is pressed together in layers. Between each layer of laminate, a sturdy fabric is sandwiched in to provide insulation to internal components. The rib work of the structure is built from a carbon/glass fiber tape and aluminum. The sensor housing and wheels are also aluminum.
The edges of the wings are titanium and are dotted with microscopic weeping holes that allow an ethylene glycol solution to seep out of internal reservoirs and breakdown ice that forms on the wings during flight.
The Predator UAV uses run-of-the-mill mechanical systems. A 3-kilowatt starter/alternator supplies the craft's electronics with power; this is supplemented with auxiliary battery power. Forward and aft fuel tanks house rubberized fuel bladders that are easy to fill through gas caps located at the top of the fuselage. An operator starts the engine by attaching the umbilical cord of a Starter/Ground Power Cart to the aircraft's starter-control connector, located in the ground panel on the outside of the plane. An operator stops the engine by hitting a kill switch just behind one of the wings on the side of the plane.
A Look Inside the Predator
As an aircraft, the Predator UAV is little more than a super-fancy remote-controlled plane. But this simple design lends itself well to the Predator's intended functions.
1. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Antenna
2. Inertial Navigation System/GPS
3. Ku-Band Satellite Communications Antenna
4. Video Cassette Recorder
5. GPS Antennas (Left and Right)
6. APX-100 Identification Friend or Foe Transponder
7. Ku-Band Satellite Communications Sensor Processor Modem Assembly
8. C-Band Upper Omnidirectional Antenna Bracket
9. Forward Fuel Cell Assembly
10. Aft Fuel Cell Assembly
11. Accessory Bay
12. Engine Cooling Fan
13. Oil Cooler/Radiator
14. 914F Engine
15. Tail Servo (Left and Right)
16. Battery Assembly #2
17. Power Supply
18. Battery Assembly #1
19. Aft Equipment Bay Tray
20. Secondary Control Module
21. Synthetic Aperture Radar Processor/AGM-114 Electronics Assembly
22. Primary Control Module
23. Front Bay Avionics Tray
24. ARC-210 Receiver/Transmitter
25. Flight Sensor Unit
26. Video Encoder
27. De-ice Controller
28. Electro-Optical/Infrared Sensor/AN/AAS-52(V)1 Electronics Assembly
29. Front Bay Payload Tray
30. Ice Detector
31. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Receiver/Transmitter
32. Nose Camera Assembly
Spy in the Sky
The RQ-1 is the reconnaissance version of the Predator UAV. The letter 'R' is the U.S. Defense Department signature for an aircraft designated for reconnaissance. 'Q' is a designation for unmanned or automated weapons or vehicles.
The simple and lightweight design of the Predator's fuselage allows it to carry a payload of up to 450 pounds (204 kg) in addition to the weight of its 100-gallon (378.5-liter) fuel tank. This large fuel tank and the nice gas mileage afforded by the Predator's light weight are great assets for a reconnaissance aircraft. The Predator can stay in the air monitoring enemy positions for up to 24 hours fully loaded.
The RQ-1 uses some of the most sophisticated monitoring equipment available today:
1. Full-color nose camera that the pilot uses primarily to navigate the craft
2. Variable aperture camera (similar to a traditional TV camera) that functions as the Predator's main set of "eyes"
3. Variable aperture infrared camera for low-light and night viewing
4. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for seeing through haze, clouds or smoke
Full-color nose camera
The only thing better than having a robotic airplane assist forces in making decisions about how to fight a battle is to have a robotic airplane actually fight the battle for you. That is where the Predator UAV MQ-1 Hunter/Killer comes into play. Replacing the camera array with the Multispectral Targeting System (MTS) and loading the Predator with two Hellfire missiles transforms this battlefield spotter into a deadly automated combatant. The 'M' in MQ-1 is the Defense Department designation for multipurpose aircraft; by adding the MTS and Hellfire missiles to the Predator, it truly becomes a multifunctional battle aircraft.
The MTS includes the AGM-114 Hellfire missile targeting system, electro-optical infrared system, laser designator, and laser illuminator. All of these components give the Predator and its operators multiple ways to acquire a target in any combat environment. The Predator fires a laser or infrared beam from the MTS ball located near the nose of the plane. This laser can be used in two ways:
Sensors bundled in the MTS also calculate wind speed, direction, and other battlefield variables to gather all of this data into a firing solution. This process is known as "painting the target." Once a target is painted, the MQ-1 can unleash its own missiles to destroy the target or send the firing solution to other aircraft or ground forces so they can destroy it.