Boeing and Science Applications International are seeking bids for the Army's unmanned aerial vehicle program. The two companies are the lead contractors on the Future Combat Systems program, which will develop new weapons and unmanned vehicles.
In the future, unmanned aerial vehicles will be able to respond to broad verbal commands and then decide for themselves how to carry them out. The technology will be used in national defense and possibly in air traffic control.
NASA expects up to four proposals for unmanned aerial vehicles that could travel to Mars, a NASA program manager said. Previously, other orbiters, rovers and landers have been favored over UAVs for travel to Mars; UAVs are typically suited for shorter missions.
Boeing will have the technology for unmanned aerial vehicles ready before 2014, even if the Army doesn't have the money to fund the program by that time, a Boeing official said. The two types of the vehicles will be light enough to be carried in a soldier's backpack and will be used to assess situations in urban areas.
AeroVironment's Dragon Eye, a battery-powered unmanned aerial vehicle that is used for surveillance and can be carried in a backpack, is ready for its debut in Iraq this May. The contract for the small UAVs is worth $40 million over the next five years.