News in Brief

Pirate tracking, highways in the sky and laser deployment

Wikipedia image: NGA logo.

NGA releases anti-piracy mobile app

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's first public mobile application gives users access to reports on maritime piracy around the world, including NGA's Anti-Shipping Activity Message database, a searchable catalogue of recent pirate attacks that includes geographic coordinates.

A search of the database returned 19 reports of attacks in the last month in far-flung waters, from Colombia to Indonesia.

The app is available through iTunes and will soon be available through Google Play, NGA said. Data that users store from the app is available to them even without Wi-Fi or cellular connection, the agency added.

"These reports are useful for all mariners -- military, commercial and the general public -- traveling through active piracy hot spots," NGA Director Robert Cardillo said in a statement.

D.C. first with 'highways in the sky'

The Washington D.C. region's three major airports were the first in the nation to use a part of the Federal Aviation Administration's state-of-the-art air traffic control system in tandem.

The agency said just before Thanksgiving that three satellite-based "highways in the sky" systems would enable three parallel optimized profile descents (OPD) for aircraft serving Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The OPD directs aircraft to descend from cruising altitude to the runway in a smooth, continuous arc, instead of the traditional staircase descent. The smooth arc reduces fuel consumption, pollution and radio voice traffic between controllers and pilots, according to the FAA. Clearances required during each step of a staircase descent are eliminated with the new technology, the agency said.

The OPD into Baltimore/Washington opened in November, joining the existing OPDs into Dulles and National, according to the FAA. Complementary, satellite-based departure paths are also being rolled out at the three airports that allow aircraft to more quickly join high-altitude traffic streams.

Navy deploys first laser weapon in Persian Gulf

The U.S. Navy has deployed its first laser weapon on the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce patrolling in the Persian Gulf, Defense Systems reports.

Initial deployment of the prototype Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, came in late August. The 30-kilowatt laser weapon could be used to knock out enemy drones or small boats. Navy officials have touted the system as an "extremely affordable, multi-mission weapon" since it can be fired as long as electrical power is available. It would also eliminate the need to carry propellants and explosives aboard warships.

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