GSA Government Okays These Drones

October 12, 2020

The General Services Administration has given five manufacturers its blessing to sell their small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) to government agencies. GCN examines the development in, “US-Made Small Drones Added to GSA Schedule.” The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Army’s Short Range Reconnaissance program (SRR) have been working toward this approval for 18 months. That joint effort has developed drones equipped with situational awareness tools that can be deployed quickly. A related DIU project, Blue sUAS, focused on non-DOD applications of drones, like safety inspections, rescue missions, and fighting forest fires. Writer Stephanie Kanowitz informs us:

“The five companies whose products will be available are Altavian, Parrot, Skydio, Teal and Vantage Robotics. … Recognizing a need for drones that government agencies, including the military, could use, Vantage applied to be part of Blue sUAS and tweaked its Vesper unmanned aerial vehicle for federal agency use. Vesper, developed for DIU, differs from Vantage’s first-generation drone, Snap, in that it is ‘substantially more advanced in just about every way,’ including sensors, flight capabilities, security and materials, said Vantage CEO Tobin Fisher. ‘To be specific, on the sensor side, we developed a camera that can see in the dark in 4K and integrated a thermal sensor as well as 18x zoom,’ Fisher said. Additionally, Vesper can fly for 50 minutes and features an extended radio range with an AES 256-encrypted 5-mile link. Vesper is made with components from trusted sources, which Fisher said includes Qualcomm for the onboard processor, Microhard for the radio and SigmaTron International for assembly.”

Impressive. It was crucial that any component that touched data in any way be from a non-Chinese source. For security reasons, the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act prohibits government agencies from purchasing or using drones made in China. The effort goes beyond government agencies, though. Those eye-popping capabilities will soon grace commercial drones, as well. The article quotes the DIU’s Chris Bonzagni:

“These companies have been able to leverage the roughly $18 million in DOD investments to develop spinoff enterprise solutions to offer secure, domestically produced options to enterprise customers worldwide, ultimately adding a much-needed boost to the U.S. sUAS industrial base.”

Ready or not, drones are here to stay and only getting more capable and numerous. Chinese drones are interesting too, but some may phone home.

Cynthia Murrell, October 12, 2020


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