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May 20, 2003

Media Contact:
    Troy Anderson, (858) 822-3075 or


Jacobs School structural engineers are testing Northrop Grumman's Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle, used by the army recently in Iraq.
Northrop Grumman’s Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), a key player Army’s latest campaign in Iraq, was on-hand at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering for a series of structural tests. The collaborative project, spearheaded by John Kosmatka, a professor of applied mechanics in the structural engineering department, is another example of the School’s continuing collaboration with industry.

“The research consists of three components,” says Kosmatka. “The vibration test, which we are currently performing, enables us to study the composite plane’s structural properties in order to create an improved computer finite element model that better correlates to the actual aircraft for improved analysis.” Kosmatka is also looking at the creation of composite parts to carry additional instrumentation. The vibration test will help in determining this feasibility.

Aaron Valdes, an aerospace engineer at Northrop Grumman and Jacobs School graduate student, discusses the recent Hunter aircraft test.

Aaron Valdes, an aerospace engineer from Northrop Grumman (formerly TRW) was representing the company during the testing. “This composite UAV is primarily used for day and nighttime surveillance — to monitor troop movement — in all weather conditions. The plane is also used to bounce signals to other UAVs in the fleet for improved communications. This allows for greater range and aircraft performance,” explains Valdes.

The Hunter UAV is launched from the back of a Humvee. Once it is in the air, control is handed over to an operator in a remote location who tracks its progress on a screen and makes adjustments to the programmed mission when necessary. Control is then given back to the Humvee crew for landing.

The aircraft being tested at the Jacobs School’s famous Powell Structural Research Laboratories costs approximately $1 million, weighs 1,300 pounds, and can travel for approximately 10 to 12 hours (200 km). Newer models of the Hunter UAV have the capability to carry and deploy weapons and have increased endurance.

Valdes is a UCSD Jacobs School alum, and has recently returned to his alma mater to do graduate work in control engineering.

For more information, contact Troy Anderson at (858) 822-3075 or

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