Abu Dhabi hosts international trade show of military drones

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A model of a Wing Loong II weaponized drone hangs above the stand for the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp. at a military drone conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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A visitor to a drone conference looks at a machinegun-carrying ground drone made by Serbian firm Yugoimport'DPR J.P. in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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An Emirati in the national dress stands near a General Atomics Predator XP drone on display at a drone conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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A visitor to a drone conference tries out a parachute simulator in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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A model of a General Atomics Predator XP drone hangs on display at a drone conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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An unmanned helicopter drone AV500 and a painting of a drone are seen at the stand for the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp. at a military drone conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
Updated 25 February 2018
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Abu Dhabi hosts international trade show of military drones

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: Walking through a trade show all about military drones, Emirati officials made a point on Sunday to stop first at a stand run by Chinese officials with a mock armed drone hanging above them.
Defense analysts believe that drone, the Wing Loong II, is now being used by the Emirati military while the UAE remains barred from purchasing weaponized drones from the United States.
That purchase, as well as Abu Dhabi hosting the Unmanned Systems Exhibition & Conference this week in the Emirati capital, shows the power these weapons now hold across the Middle East.
Top UAE officials, including Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, were on hand for the drone conference, which opened on Sunday.
The UAE, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai, already has embraced drones. Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has given the $1 million Drones for Good Award in recent years. Meanwhile, civil defense officials fighting fires and lifeguards trying to save those at risk of drowning use drones in their work.
But the UAE remains highly interested in military drones.
Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, which hosts some of the 5,000 American troops in the UAE, is also home to some of the US military's unmanned aircraft that flew missions over Iraq and Syria targeting Daesh.
Chief among those aircraft is the Predator, built by San Diego-based defense contractor General Atomics. The UAE previously purchased some $200 million worth of surveillance-only Predator drones from General Atomics.
The Obama administration opposed selling the UAE armed versions of the Predator over Missile Technology Control Regime, a 30-year-old agreement that aims to limit the spread of missile technology.
But that apparently didn't stop the UAE from purchasing weaponized drones. Satellite photographs taken of a mysterious Emirati air base in the country's deep south — a desert area known as the in the Empty Quarter — appear to show three Wing Loong IIs there, according to a January article by IHS Jane's Defense Weekly.
China has never acknowledged selling the drones to the UAE, though the state-run Xinhua News Agency has reported a major sale of the drones to a foreign buyer.
Asked if China sold the UAE the Wing Loong II, sales manager Zhao Chuang of the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp. only smiled and said: "No idea."
"We are trying to find the world market," he told The Associated Press after his colleagues greeted high-ranking Emirati officials.
General Atomics, which displayed a massive Predator surveillance drone nearby, declined to speak to the AP. However, US lawmakers last year sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to allow armed Predator drone sales to both the UAE and Jordan.


SpaceX’s first private passenger is Japanese fashion magnate Maezawa

This artist's illustration courtesy of SpaceX obtained September 17, 2018, shows the SpaceX BFR(Big Falcon Rocket)rocket passenger spacecraft. SpaceX is to reveal on September 17, 2018 the identity of the first person it plans to transport around the Moon in an ambitious project financed entirely by its eccentric CEO Elon Musk. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2018
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SpaceX’s first private passenger is Japanese fashion magnate Maezawa

  • SpaceX in February transfixed a global audience with the successful test launch of its Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world
  • SpaceX has already upended the space industry with its relatively low-cost reusable Falcon 9 rockets

HAWTHORNE, California: SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space transportation company, on Monday named its first private passenger as Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa, the founder and chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo.
A former drummer in a punk band, billionaire Maezawa will will take a trip around the moon aboard its forthcoming Big Falcon Rocket spaceship, taking the race to commercialize space travel to new heights.
The first passenger to travel to the moon since the United States’ Apollo missions ended in 1972, Maezawa’s identity was revealed at an event Monday evening at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne.
In moves typical of his publicity-seeking style, Musk, who is also the billionaire chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc, had previously teased a few tantalizing details about the trip and the passenger’s identity, but left major questions unanswered.
On Thursday, Musk tweeted a picture of a Japanese flag. He followed that up on Sunday with tweets showing new artist renderings of the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, the super heavy-lift launch vehicle that Musk promises will shuttle the passenger to the moon and eventually fly humans and cargo to Mars, using the hashtag #OccupyMars.
While the BFR has not been built yet, Musk has said he wants the rocket to be ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024, though his ambitious production targets have been known to slip.
SpaceX plans a lunar orbit mission. It was not clear how much Maezawa paid for the trip.
Maezawa made his fortune by founding the wildly popular shopping site Zozotown. His company Zozo, officially called Start Today Co. Ltd, also offers a made-to-measure service using a polka dot bodysuit, the Zozosuit..
With SpaceX, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft, the SpaceX passenger will join a growing list of celebrities and the ultra-rich who have secured seats on flights offered on the under-development vessels.
Those who have signed up to fly on Virgin Galactic sub-orbital missions include actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000.
Short sightseeing trips to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket are likely to cost around $200,000 to $300,000, at least to start, Reuters reported in July.
SpaceX has already upended the space industry with its relatively low-cost reusable Falcon 9 rockets. The company has completed more than 50 successful Falcon launches and snagged billions of dollars’ worth of contracts, including deals with NASA and the US Department of Defense.
SpaceX in February transfixed a global audience with the successful test launch of its Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world.
SpaceX previously announced plans to eventually use Falcon Heavy to launch paying space tourists on a trip around the moon, but Musk said in February he was inclined to reserve that mission for the BFR.