The "Jumbotron" video screen had "Welcome to UAV Town, USA" emblazoned across at site of the unmanned aerial vehicle flight demonstration today.
The demo occurred at the Webster Field annex to Naval Air Station, Patuxent River. While not as sexy as "Fightertown, USA" - the nickname given to Miramar Naval Air Station in California - it was appropriate as all shapes and sizes of unmanned aerial vehicles stood ready to show their stuff.
Unmanned aerial vehicles have been stars in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. One official said the reason no Predator UAVs were flying in the demonstration was "they're too valuable. They're all on operations."
But they are not just valuable to military operations. Protecting America is another mission these unmanned aircraft can perform. Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Gordon England said the vehicles will aid members of his department as they work to ensure America's port and border security.
"This issue of terrorism is not transitory," said England, who served as Navy secretary before taking this post. "Until the (Berlin) Wall came down in 1989, we fought communism for 40 years with the very best technology America had to offer. And we will in a similar situation in regard to terrorism."
In fact, England said he has asked DoD to deploy UAVs with agencies of the Department of Homeland Security. The aircraft will fly along the U.S. southern border. This will allow members of the new department to "gain some experience, some background, some hands on with the technology," England said. "This is a very first step for us as we move into this new area of UAV technology."
The Navy's Program Executive Office for Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International co-sponsored the event. It is part of the AUVSI convention that will continue in Baltimore through July 17.
The demonstrations highlight the strides made in the field and gives contractors and government personnel a chance to "network" with each other, said Rear Adm. Jack Chenevey, program executive officer.
Among participants were Northrop Grumman, flying both the Fire Scout and the Hunter; Boeing, with its ScanEagle; DRS, the Sentry HP; Schiebel, the Camcopter; and Yamaha, the RMAX.
Other companies showed off their latest, including Aurora Flight Sciences with the GolenEye-50; Innocon, the Mini Falcon; and MMIST, the SnowGoose.
"What you see here is how the field is changing and expanding," said a Naval Air Systems Command official. "When we held this the last time in July 2001, the emphasis was on data and pictures. Now the Predator is armed and flying missions. The Defense Department is sinking serious money in the unmanned combat air vehicles, and all sorts of other uses are being considered for these platforms."