MAV 08 part one: From Agra to Kashmir and the Sunni triangle of Iraq

Flight technical editor Rob Coppinger is blogging this week from the 1st US-Asian demonstration and assessment of micro aerial vehicles (MAV) and unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) technology, also known as MAV08, the latest in a series of US military sponsored events encouraging MAV development
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This year the mission the competing teams, from universities and companies worldwide, have to complete is the reconnaissance of an area to detect obstacles, mines, a hostage location and terrorists. So it is not a huge leap of the imagination to realise that these MAVs and the UGVs are aimed at anti-insurgency operations.

This year’s mission is certainly more involved than the first of these events I attended in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany in 2005. There the teams had to loiter over an area and just detect a target.

Landing for the first time in India it became quite clear the kinds of obstacles, unique to this part of the world, that any UGV, at least, would have to be aware of.

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Not many cattle walking into oncoming traffic in Europe or the US. I also discovered on my first day in-country that the local “pre-paid” taxi’s are not all equal, when US Air Force Research Laboratory representative Mark Maurice told me how he had got a 300 rupee ($7.42) taxi from the international airport in Delhi to that city’s domestic airport for the Kingfisher airlines flight to Agra (which by coincidence we were both on); and I had paid 900. Thankfully the Kingfisher flight, while delayed by 1h, was a relaxing affair with hot curry (what else?) on offer aboard the ATR 72-500.

A choice of transportation to Agra that became a wise one when listening to the experience of the academics here at the event who had chosen ground transportation. Six hours to travel 50km (31 miles) from Delhi airport and another six to reach Agra.

That conversation took place at the conference dinner in the “tennis court” grounds of the hotel (I didn’t see any tennis courts but it was pretty dark) following the obligatory speeches by the main sponsors. And I’ll drink to those, with my glass of Fosters lager. But why they didn’t have perfectly decent Indian beer there, I don’t know?

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With day one over and a week of technical papers and flight demonastrations to look forward to I wondered about the notice I found stuck to my hotel room’s balcony door window upon my arrival.

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And thought my editor would probably think that was an apt description of the “work” I would be undertaking this week.

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