* A Mexican drug operation appears to have operationalized cross-border drug smuggling with helicopter drones. One device – what appears to be a DJI SPreadwings S900 Multi-rotor System, which retails for $1,400 – fell into a Tijuana parking lot after being loaded with six pounds of meth. The wire services and newspapers are indicating that it was overloaded at that weight, but the S900 has an all-up weight of 15 pounds. The weakness of the system is a battery that lasts 18 minutes at hover, which may explain why the device fell short of the border. Interestingly, it appears to be a similar model to the one used in Quebec to deliver contraband tobacco into a prison yard. Among other agencies, the FAA might not appreciate the unlicensed commercial aviation activity; provided the local police officials report it. Homeland Security also has drones to theoretically interdict drugs, but that program costs $12,000 per flight hour, which is one reason why some people would like to take those toys away from them.
* With U.S. Commerce Department commercial satellite image resolution limits being somewhat lifted starting in February, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is moving to exploit what is expected to be a flood of additional imagery resources with quicker update frequencies. The move shows a new willingness to look to commercial alternatives, which are proving very significantly cheaper than military-run satellite projects.
* The Army will again delay the release of the formal RFP for a new service pistol to replace the M9 Beretta, which is widely regarded as insufficiently powerful, among other weaknesses. Beretta and the Army cooperated to head this effort off with an M9A3 revision. Army Times reports that Beretta suggested the RFP could be improved.
* Submarine detection may be getting easier with new big data tools that can handle distributed sensors, but there are also evolving commercial technologies that might be able to be exploited to hide them better.
* Some in Congress are concerned that an Air Force general may have attempted to illegally suppress information flowing to Congress regarding that service branch’s efforts to retire the A-10 – a widely derided decision. The Air Force’s long-running ambivalence regarding the A-10 was in part a product of the fact that the A-10’s primary mission has been in support of other service branches’s ground forces. That ambivalence has turned to contempt as zero-sum budget considerations – exacerbated by Sequestration – made the A-10 an obstacle to programs that the Air Force holds as more central missions.
* Of the many differences that come with operating with V-22 Osprey’s, the sternum-shuddering noise is just one. Defense Industry Daily staff have been overflown by V-22s in training evolutions, and can report that there is quite a difference in noise profile, to say the least. As the Marines start training in Prescott, AZ, they are fielding numerous complaints. Said an airport operations technician taking phone calls, “People are saying their houses are shaking.”
* The Littoral Combat Ship, it can be said, did not fare well in the recent weapons systems testing report. USNI gives a rundown of some of the more egregious failures so far. It is known that it has a bit of a glass jaw when it comes to things like armor and fighting, but it even had trouble successfully anchoring over seabeds of sand and shells.
* DJI, a recreational drone manufacturer, and likely the maker of the drug smuggling drone found in a Tijuana parking lot (see above), makes the S900 drone, which costs roughly $25 per flight hour versus the DHS drug interdiction drone program which has, so far cost about $12,000 per flight hour. DJI also, incidentally, makes YouTube videos with much better production values. Given the extra-recreational uses referred to above, the video is certainly ripe for spoofing.