Desert Hawk III

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A Desert Hawk III being launched
Desert Hawk launch
A view of the inside of the Desert Hawk
Desert Hawk inside view
A Desert Hawk in flight
Desert Hawk in flight

Desert Hawk III

Desert Hawk III is among the most popular miniature UAV (Unmanned aerial vehicle) systems that were developed by the reputable Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works team. This extremely effective system is being used by the US Air Force. It is also used by USAF in Afghanistan in order to augment the necessary protection of every airbase perimeter. The UAV is used in order to search for all the suspected vehicles that can trespass a certain area. Even people can be tracked by using the Desert Hawk III especially if they are armed with shoulder-fired missiles and planning to attack aircraft. Desert Hawk III was designed to fly at various altitudes below 330 meters.

Desert Hawk III can also be used in order to observe an area of 10 km right beyond the main perimeter of a base. This system will provide the necessary real-time and overhead video imagery. Force protection, convoy protection and air base defense will be guaranteed and every base defense system should include the Desert Hawk III in its scheme. This portable and UAV surveillance system will provide effective aerial video reconnaissance and has night surveillance. A wide range of tasks can be performed thanks to this system. For instance, it can be used for the force protection for patrols and convoys, base security, route clearance, target tracking and reconnaissance.

Desert Hawk III Development

Desert Hawk III development was provided by Lockheed Martin. Its original concept was to provide the necessary ring of protection when it came to the air bases placed in forward locations. The US Air Force used them in order to support all the security forces that were deployed in various areas of operations. Base defense and convoy protection were the main functions of the UAV. Desert Hawk III is constructed out of a special mold-injected and expanded polypropylene. This material is highly flexible and damage-resistant. The Kevlar skids are mainly used right on its nose and its tail in order to improve durability. All the necessary sensors are likely to be carried right in the middle of its fuselage. They are peeking down right at the surface by using a notch that was opened in its lower fuselage. Infrared cameras and color CCD can also be used. The communication links and the GPS antenna are mounted right on its wings. Desert Hawk III uses a special electric motor and it will maintain a very quiet operation.

Battlefield Deployment

The battlefield deployment of the hand launched Desert Hawk III benefits from an increased portability, skid recovery, quick mission planning, enhanced night/day target detection, identification, recognition, endurance, cover operations and greater operational range. The most effective and persistent surveillance can be provided by Desert Hawk III. Desert Hawk III can operate from almost a 100-meter by 100-meter clearing without needing a runway but it was not designed to replace the military troops. Desert Hawk III can be regarded as a critical and highly necessary surveillance tool that was designed in order to protect and save lives. Desert Hawk III can provide essential and real time information on every potential threat.

Desert Hawk Landing System

The Desert Hawk III landing system consists of a fan jet. This helicopter-style propulsion will allow the Desert Hawk III to vertically take-off or to land. This automated flight control will require the presence of an operator who will program in co-ordinates of a wide range of way points. Desert Hawk III will fly and land itself for the entire duration of the established mission. The operator's task will be to concentrate on the right monitoring imagery coming from the on-board cameras that are installed on the Desert Hawk III. Reliable operations will thus be provided because the Desert Hawk III was designed to land by coming in low speed and turning off the motor.

UAV Ground Control

The ground control of the Desert Hawk III can be performed by using the lightweight and portable ground station. This portable station will provide the operator with the necessary training, in-flight control of the infrared and optical sensors, autonomous planning and terrain avoidance measures. The flight profile can be retasked because Desert Hawk III is designed and equipped with the GPS receiver that will enable the operator to program all the flights. Desert Hawk III will fly all its missions in an automatic manner and the operator will not have to control each of its flights. He will be able to concentrate on the camera imagery that is transmitted in real-time.

All the GPS waypoints can be preprogrammed and stored in the tape recorder. The waypoints of every flight path can be programmed by using the standard laptop computer (this flight path can also be changed throughout the entire mission) by using the ground control and its data links. Desert Hawk III has the increased capability to keep on circling over a particular or specified location in order to point its installed camera right on that point. But this surveillance spot can also be reprogrammed. The operator can select it "on the fly" with a single key press on the control computer.

Desert Hawk III can provide an increased operational range. It is battery-powered. Therefore, it can stay right in the air for up to almost 90 minutes. The operator will have to specify its route in order for the Desert Hawk III to fly. The flight software and the onboard GPS will be used in order to guide the Desert Hawk III. Every flight will be recorded and transmitted to the operator. The video will be displayed on the laptop computer. Desert Hawk III can cruise at about 90 kilometers an hour. It can reach altitudes up to 300-500 feet. Desert Hawk III can also operate up to 14-15 kilometers from the base station.

Desert Hawk III Payload

Desert Hawk III has three Plug-and-Play payloads. These imaging payloads are all available for the Desert Hawk III. The first payload consists of an inertial-stabilized and two-axis turret. The turret was designed in order to provide the necessary imaging platform. This imaging platform is a stabilized one that can deliver videos coming from long distances. Desert Hawk III uses this turret in order to extend a particular field of view. The operator will thus be able to recognize and even identify the possible targets. By fixating the turret on a particular target, the operator will be provided with superior surveillance ability. Longer durations can also be expected by increasing the time the operator needs in order to view a target. The identification and recognition of the target will become more accurate.

The second payload is fixed. It consists of an infrared and side-looking combination module. The module will provide 2 imagers that are coupled with a long-wave IR imager. This combination will provide the operator with the capability to conduct any type of night or day surveillance. Even the reconnaissance capabilities will be comprised in a single payload. The low-light sensor will provide the necessary imaging during the thermal times, at dawn and dusk. The infrared sensor cannot perform in such conditions. So, this low-light sensor will be used in order to detect and even monitor all the activities in an accurate way.
Actually, this low-light illuminator may be regarded as the third payload of the Desert Hawk III. It combines the EO imager and the infra-red laser illuminator; this payload can provide the operator with perfect views in total darkness. This payload is also invisible for all the targets and operators that are not equipped with the necessary systems in order to track it down. Therefore, the friendly forces can be guided. So, these are the main payloads of the Desert Hawk III: thermal imager, day/night camera and high-resolution camera.

Landing Technique

Landing this Desert Hawk III will imply a different technique. Actually, the landing system is different from the one that can be encountered in the case of the regular airplane. Desert Hawk III has no wheels and this is the main reason why the traditional landing is out of question in this case. It is all about a controlled crush and the operator will have to try his best in order to perform this crush. He will have to make sure that the wind, angle of descent and terrain are correct. Several passes may also be performed in order for the Desert Hawk III to be brought to the ground in a safe way. The Kevlar protection will do its job but the operator will have to ensure that the crush will be a controlled one.

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