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31 Jan 19. ‘Eurodrone’ makers considering US tech for crucial collision-avoidance feature. A study commissioned by the German government recommends considering U.S. technology in a quest to make the military “Eurodrone” safe to fly alongside civilian airliners, the Defence Ministry told lawmakers. The recommendation comes from analysts at Munich-based IABG, a frequent supplier of engineering advice to the Bundeswehr, defense officials told the far-left Die Linke parliamentary faction in a Jan. 29 letter.
The government had tasked the contractor with thinking through the required steps to make the Eurodrone capable of flying in civilian airspace. That feature is a key requirement for the aircraft, co-developed by France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Germany’s Airbus Defence and Space, France’s Dassault Aviation, and Italy’s Leonardo last year settled on a design for the drone, which is initially meant for surveillance, though it also will be able to carry weapons. The European multinational Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation, or OCCAR, manages the program.
According to the German Defence Ministry, Airbus is expected to deliver a proposal and program strategy in April 2019, with a goal to begin serial production by 2025.
The list of options for obtaining collision-avoidance technology includes two scenarios involving American expertise: One is adopting relevant U.S. safety standards and designing a new European detect-and-avoid technology package based on those. The other is adopting U.S. standards plus existing American technology wholesale.
Developing a purely European solution from scratch is also among the options recommended to the government, according to the ministry’s letter to Die Linke.
“Due to the dynamic pace of technology and policy development in this area, the government believes it makes no sense to determine a concrete course of action at this point,” it added.
News that U.S. systems are in the running to supply detect-and-avoid systems for the European program is sure to make manufacturers on the continent nervous. Companies on both sides of the Atlantic are competing in a race to build the first collision-avoidance system certifiable by international air-safety regulators. So far, none exists that could be approved for the Eurodrone.
Germany’s Hensoldt is among the European companies looking to sell a detect-and-avoid radar system for use on the drone. The vendor recently announced that its engineers successfully tested the pre-prototype version of a radar system during test flights aboard a manned Dornier Do 228.
U.S. vendors already have their foot in the door in trying to bridge the safety gap between European military and civilian unmanned aviation. Last week, the British Royal Air Force struck a deal with General Atomics to fit detect-and-avoid technology to the fleet of the service’s Protector RG Mk1 drones, which are under development to replace the United Kingdom’s Reaper fleet.
Germany’s Defence Ministry previously said it is eyeing detect-and-avoid technology provided under a planned acquisition of Northrop Grumman’s Triton drone. The U.S. Navy’s derivative of the Global Hawk is called “Pegasus” in Germany, which is short for “Persistent German Airborne Surveillance System.”
The ministry’s new missive to lawmakers came in response to a request made late last year by Andrej Hunko and fellow Linke members of parliament about the status of the Eurodrone. The questioners appear especially curious about IABG’s role in helping to define key performance parameters for the aircraft, particularly related to airworthiness in civilian airspace. According to the ministry’s letter, the contractor recommended outfitting the drone with a twin-turboprop propulsion system, a design feature that the developer nations ultimately adopted.
In a statement, Hunko criticized the plan of letting military unmanned aircraft mix with civilian traffic, arguing Germany and the European Union should stop developing combat-capable drones in the first place.
“It is scandalous how the government has elevated the aircraft into the status of a PESCO project,” Hunko said, referring to a list of European Union-backed defense initiatives meant to unify the existing plethora of military programs across the continent. “This is meant to bait other countries into participating.”
According to the Defence Ministry’s letter, officials plan to place the post-acquisition phase of the Eurodrone program under the auspices of the PESCO umbrella, meaning operations costs could be subsidized by common EU funds. (Source: Defense News)
31 Jan 19. BAE Systems Air selects Simufact Additive for the simulation of metal Additive Manufacturing processes. BAE Systems Air, a multinational defense, security, and aerospace company, has chosen MSC´s Simufact Additive software for the simulation of metal AM components after a long assessment of all the major AM simulation tools. BAE Systems opened back in 2015 a new Product and Process Development Centre, where they have conducted trials of the market leading packages for the simulation of metal AM processes. At the end of this trial phase, they have concluded that Simufact Additive software can deliver good results and they gained great confidence from the trials that they have carried out. Furthermore, BAE Systems is already using other MSC Software products such as MSC Nastran, Patran, and MSC Apex. Hence, products are coming from one single source, which is a big bonus to them if they keep the process simulation chain in mind.
“For MSC Software, BAE Systems Air is a great partner because it shows that we offer best-in-class solutions and with our MSC One product token system a complete portfolio of solutions can easily be deployed that works hand in hand with BAE’s applications,” Paolo Guglielmini, CEO MSC Software added.
Reduce the number of build trials from more than five to two
Aircraft manufacture is undergoing a move towards higher variety, more specification requirements and lower batch volumes, rather than orders being placed for hundreds of aircraft at a time. Aircraft manufacturers have to consider orders with a batch size of ten or twenty. Of course, this change drives the need to manufacture components for aircraft differently, and explains that additive manufacturing will be a key technology enabler to meet customer demands.While manufacturing components additively, BAE systems must face the main challenges of residual stresses and distortions. Before they employed a simulation software, in some cases they had to complete five or six build trials, which are costly and time-consuming. Now they can reduce it to just two builds per component with the future opportunity, through experience, reducing to a ‘right first time’ approach. At this stage, they are pleased that their Application Engineers will use the MSC software solution that enables them to create the build preparation of a component in order to get the best orientation and support strategies for a particular build. Employing Simufact Additive, BAE Systems is now able to reduce the distortion in components by more than 70 per cent at the first iteration step.
“We are proud that one of the largest defense contractors in Europe, and a company that is among the world’s largest defense entities, decided on Simufact Additive to roll out their additive manufacturing processes. The trust BAE have put in us reinforces our approach and the great work being done by our development team,” says Dr. Hendrik Schafstall, Simufact´s CEO and Managing Director. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
29 Jan 19. US Air Force eyes KC-46A aerial refuelling boom redesign. The USAF will redesign the problematic boom on the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker to better accommodate lighter aircraft such as the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.
- The US Air Force is planning to redesign the KC-46A boom to better accommodate lighter aircraft
- The USAF agreed to pay for this upgrade as Boeing met its international standard
The US Air Force (USAF) will redesign the problematic boom on the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker to better accommodate lighter aircraft such as the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. USAF Secretary Heather Wilson said on 24 January that the boom does not disconnect as well from lighter aircraft as it does with heavier aircraft. The service has identified an actuator fix that will make the boom a little more sensitive, and she believes it is likely that the A-10 is the only aircraft affected by this issue. The A-10 is a lighter aircraft compared with some of the USAF’s other aircraft such as transports, bombers, and even other tactical combat aircraft. The Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules weighs 34,686 kg empty and the A-10 weighs 9,183kg empty, while the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) weighs 13,290kg empty. At Boeing’s KC-46A first delivery ceremony, Wilson said that the USAF is paying for the boom redesign as it meets the international standard that the service gave to Boeing. In the deal reached in mid-January over the first delivery, the USAF agreed to pay for the boom fix while Boeing would pay for upgrading the remote vision system (RVS). Boeing is planning both hardware and software fixes to the RVS to allow it to automatically adjust and operate effectively in both the sun’s glare and in shadow. Wilson also said that this boom redesign will be the first programme change in the history of the KC-46A. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
29 Jan 19. Can the Army harness the inertia to transform navigation? The Army is ready to move into the future. Key to this vision is Futures Command, complete with a four-star general to oversee modernization and a promised technology-forward approach for fighting the wars of today, tomorrow and, hopefully, not yesterday. To that end, the Government Accountability Office published a report on Army modernization to ensure Futures Command is being all it can be.
Most of the technologies covered in the report are near-future projects. These include a next-generation squad automatic rifle, targeted for 2022, and a next-generation combat vehicle, aimed at 2026. From 2028 to 2050 there’s a long gap, with the middle of this century as the expected timeline for quantum assured positioning and navigation.
We’ll get to the quantum aspect in a second. Assured positioning and navigation is part of the broader goals for an Army network. As stated in the GAO report, the network will be “a mobile system of hardware, software and infrastructure that can be used to fight cohesively in any environment where the electromagnetic spectrum is denied or degraded.” Right now, denied environments are a consideration, but not the dominant landscape of war (excepting, of course, the fighting done in passively denied environments, where mountains or other obstacles interfere with radio and other signals).
Makings tools that can communicate when signals are gone — like a possible destruction of the GPS network — or simply denied — through the kinds of strong electromagnetic interference we’ve seen fielded by nations like Russia — is an important way to making sure that Army doctrine, tactics and communications created in an era of permissive electromagnetic spectrum can be adapted to the future. (This is also part of the push for autonomous systems, including weapon systems, that can operate in denied environments.)
Quantum assured positioning and navigation is one distant aim of a whole family of new navigational tools. Most navigation sensors use a combination of inertial sensors and checks against an outside location system; think of a cellphone’s accelerometer and GPS reception when giving driving instructions. Most of the time, the data from the sensors match the route anticipated from the last checkpoint, but not always. The better the inertial sensor, the less frequently a navigation tool needs to check with an external source to know where it is.
With data back to at least 2014, DARPA’s Beyond GPS projects include a tool that seeks to use “quantum physical properties to create extremely accurate inertial measurement devices” to enable navigation tools to operate for a long time without external confirmation of location.
That the GAO and the Army don’t expect to see quantum assured positioning and navigation until 2050 suggests that the technology is not quite within reach, but that it will be available within a little more than 30 years from now.
“Next-generation combat vehicle” may be catchy branding; “Next-generation navigation system” might be the literal truth. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
30 Jan 19. PikeOS is the only Embedded RTOS Separation Kernel that is certified according to Common Criteria EAL3+ world-wide. SYSGO’s PikeOS hypervisor has been certified according to Common Criteria EAL 3+. The subject of certification by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is the separation kernel in PikeOS, which ensures a strict separation of applications running on the same hardware through spatial and temporal partitioning. Such a separation is required above all in security-critical systems and is generally mandatory for the certification of the overall system. The certification by the BSI was carried out for the PikeOS Separation Kernel Version 4.2.2 (build number s5400) for the platforms X86_64, ARMv7 and ARMv8.
PikeOS is thereby currently the only real-time operating system worldwide that holds a Common Criteria certification for its separation performance. In addition, PikeOS is also certified for various safety standards, making it particularly suitable for applications that have both safety and security requirements, particulary in the aerospace, automotive and railway industries as well as in industrial or medical systems. PikeOS also supports the simultaneous operation of applications of different criticality and the combination of real-time applications with less time-critical applications.
“We have designed PikeOS from the ground up for certifiable systems in security-critical environments, thereby enabling our customers to design their systems to the principle of ‘Safety & Security by Design’ from the outset,” said Markus Jastroch, Director of Marketing Communication at SYSGO.”The certification according to the Common Criteria confirms this approach and is a new milestone for both us and the industry as a whole.”
For developers of critical systems, certification not only means secure and effective separation of applications, but also a faster and more cost-effective certification of their entire system, as the operating system itself no longer needs to be considered in this process.
“With Common Criteria, the PikeOS separation kernel is now certified to one of the most established and rigorous security standards on which most industry-specific standards are based,” says Dr. Dominic Eschweiler, Director Security Certification at SYSGO.”Especially in the context of government applications, certification according to Common Criteria is often a mandatory requirement.In addition, having a certified PikeOS enables developers from all industries to have a solid, certified foundation for their systems.”
28 Jan 19. Persistent Systems launches Wave Relay ecosystem. Persistent Systems has teamed with a group of unmanned systems and sensor companies to develop capabilities to enable warfighters to pick and choose robotic solutions for specific missions.
The Persistent Systems ecosystem is meant to support efforts such as the US Army’s Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) strategy, which describes how the army will integrate new technologies into future organisations.
“Everything is going to an IT [information technology] world. So, whether we’re networking the battlefield or we are supporting other IT-based deployments, we think the ecosystem is a good step to allow the warfighter to pull in systems and solutions that they need for that mission,” Nick Naioti, vice-president of business development for Persistent Systems, told Jane’s. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Jan 19. Without a clearer ethics policy, the US could lose the military tech battle with China. Nearly three decades after the Cold War ended, a new strategy of containment is underway at the Pentagon.
Innovation leaders from the Pentagon and Silicon Valley spoke about that strategy to hold back China from military technology domination during a roundtable hosted by Defense News just outside of Simi Valley, California. All participants emphasized the need for thoughtful tactics to lure support from the most advanced minds.
“It’s not about us and China. It’s a world order,” said Hawk Carlisle, CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association and a former U.S. Air Force four-star general. “China would like the world order to change to fit their vision of what it should look like, which is authoritarian in many ways.”
Unlike the United States, China can — as an authoritarian regime — dictate to the country’s research and development communities as well as industry what will filter into military applications. This civil-military fusion has enabled China to launch a series of what Defense Innovation Unit Managing Director Michael Brown called “so-called Manhattan projects” — 16 of them in all — “where they bring together government, business and academia to focus on making significant progress in a particular technology or industry sector.”
“China is already benefiting from the long-term focus on investment. They are planning out 10 and 20 years. We can see exactly their intention,” Brown said.
Artificial intelligence, a key area of competition between the U.S. and China, stands as a notable example for what’s at stake: In lieu of restrictions tied to civil liberties and privacy, China can gather a lot more data more quickly, and therefore do more correlation, with few to any limitations.
“There is going to be an authoritarian way of doing AI for national security,” said Josh Marcuse, executive director of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board. “China will lead it and Russia will do it as well, and they’re going to export that around the world to other regimes that don’t respect human rights and civil liberties. There is going to be a way in which they do it, and I think it’s going to be — and already is — deeply unsettling and concerning.”
Complicating matters for the West, the reality is that the most advanced minds in technology don’t have to contribute to military development. Attracting those individuals, some of whom are skeptical of military tactics, to the Defense Department requires a carefully constructed approach to development that maintains firm ethical boundaries.
But that approach is not clearly defined, Marcuse said.
“The question is: What is the American way of AI, and how do we ensure that when we adopt these technologies, we do it in a way that is consistent with our deeply held values and convictions about international and humanitarian law, a law of war, just war theory, and our constitution? Because if the people that know how to do this work systematically choose not to work with us, and the Chinese authorities can force those people to work with them, that is going to have a devastating impact over time to our ability to fulfill our mission.”
The Pentagon’s Joint AI Center, established in July 2018, is focused on this question of ethics, with Marcuse pointing to “a listening tour” underway that invites leading thinkers, including critics, to contribute to what will ultimately be filtered into a code of conduct. The effort has the full support of top leadership, he added.
“If this is not an ethics-first approach, led by a sense we’ll do the right thing — a virtuous approach that’s consistent with our values — we will lose.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
28 Jan 19. Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions division, a trusted leading supplier of rugged data storage and protection solutions, announced today that it has received Common Criteria (CC) certification for both the hardware and software disk encryption layers integrated in its Data Transport System (DTS1) Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. The DTS1 is the embedded industry’s first commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) data-at-rest (DAR) storage solution designed to support two layers of full disk encryption (FDE) in a single device. In the United States, the National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) validates COTS information technology (IT) products to ensure they conform to the international Common Criteria Evaluation and Validation Scheme (CCEVS), which is recognized around the world by 17 Certificate Producing countries and by 11 Certificate Consuming countries. Having received certification, the hardware and software FDE layers used in the DTS1 are now currently listed on the United States NIAP Product Compliant List.
Curtiss-Wright has also obtained National Security Agency (NSA) approval for use of the two CC-certified FDE layers as Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) components. As a result, the two DTS1 encryption layers are now listed on the NSA’s CSfC Components List and can be proposed as a DAR solution. Selecting a pre-approved device from the CSfC Components List enables system architects to greatly reduce the time and cost needed to design a COTS encryption solution, enabling them to begin system development immediately, while also greatly reducing their program risk.
“We are very proud to announce that our DTS1 Data Transport System Network Attached Storage solution, the industry’s first rugged network attached storage device to support two layers of encryption as described in NSA’s Data-at-Rest Capability Package, has successfully received NIAP Common Criteria certification and NSA CSfC approval,” said Lynn Bamford, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Defense Solutions division. “Use of the DTS1, with its certified software and hardware encryption layers, eases and speeds the ability of system designers to protect Top Secret data with an NSA-approved cost-effective alternative to Type 1 encryption.”
The DTS1 uses CSfC two-layer encryption, an NSA-approved approach for protecting classified National Security Systems (NSS) information in aerospace and defense applications. By incorporating a two-layer encrypted CSfC solution, which uses cost-effective commercial encryption technologies in a layered solution, system integrators can significantly reduce the cost and time to develop and deploy secure DAR solutions. The NSA established the CSfC program as an alternative approach to Type 1 encryption in order to accelerate the protection of Top Secret data. The rugged small form-factor DTS1 is designed to store and protect large amounts of data on helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), unmanned ground vehicles (UGV), and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft that require the protection of sensitive DAR.
The NIAP evaluation process is structured to meet CCEVS and is conducted by a Common Criteria Testing Laboratory (CCTL) accredited under the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). The DTS1 NAS system was evaluated by Gossamer Security Solutions, one of the nation’s leading evaluation and testing laboratories approved to conduct testing and evaluation for both CC and FIPS 140-2 encryption.
About the DTS1 2-Layer Encryption Approach
The DTS1 uniquely incorporates two distinct layers of Commercial National Security Algorithm (CNSA) Suite cryptographic encryption into one device, making protection of Top Secret data more cost effective and low risk. The DTS1’s two-layer data encryption process followed the NSA’s Data At Rest Capability Package as a design template and is based on the hardware and software FDE solution approach. Both the hardware and software FDE layers have been individually evaluated and certified against two CC protection profiles: (1) collaborative Protection Profile for Full Disk Encryption – Encryption Engine; (2) collaborative Protection Profile for Full Disk Encryption – Authorization Acquisition.
About Common Criteria
Common Criteria is a technically demanding international set of guidelines for security certification that is required by the U.S. and 27 national governments worldwide for departments and agencies seeking to procure commercial products. Common Criteria certification provides assurance that the process of specification, implementation and evaluation of technology products has been conducted in a rigorous, standard, and repeatable manner.
About the DTS1
The very small DTS1 NAS device, which weighs only 3.77 lb. (1.71 kg) and measures only 1.5 x 5.0 x 6.5” (38.1 x 127 x 165.1 mm), delivers up to 4 TB of solid state storage (SSD) with two layers of certified encryption. It supports PXE protocol so that network clients on a vehicle or aircraft can quickly boot from the encrypted files on the DTS1’s removable memory cartridge (RMC). This approach both facilitates software updates for network clients and significantly reduces SWaP by eliminating the need for individual hard disks in each network client. Curtiss-Wright offers 2-Layers of encryption in two mounting options of the DTS1, the VS-DTS1SL-FD, which is designed for cockpit use with DZUS mounting panel, and the VSDTS1SL-F, which uses L-brackets to support very flexible mounting within space-constrained platforms.
The DTS1 enables any network-enabled device to retrieve stored data or save new captured data. Networked devices using heterogeneous operating systems (Linux®, VxWorks®, Windows®, etc.) that support industry standard NAS protocols (i.e, NFS, CIFS, FTP, or HTTP) can store data on the DTS1. The DTS1 also supports iSCSI protocol for block data storage and PCAP protocol for packet capture.
The DTS1 is ideal for rugged applications that require the storage, removal, and transport of critical data such as cockpit data (mission, map, maintenance), ISR (camera, I&Q, sensors), mobile applications (ground radar, ground mobile, airborne ISR pods), heavy industrial (steel, refinery), and video/audio data collection (flight test instrumentation).
27 Jan 19. General Atomics to arm UK’s future drones with detect-and-avoid capability to prevent collisions. The Royal Air Force struck a deal with General Atomics to fit critical detect-and-avoid technology to the fleet of Protector RG Mk1 remotely piloted air vehicles being developed to replace the United Kingdom’s Reaper fleet.
While the contract has yet to be officially announced, the capability will “become part of the program in the very near future,” Group Captain Lyndon Jones, the Ministry of Defence Air ISTAR program director, told Defense News. Detect-and-avoid technology is critical to ensure safe flight in civilian airspace.
The comments were made during a Jan. 24 General Atomics event to announce three more British companies supporting Protector development. The vehicle is set to become the world’s first certified remotely-piloted vehicle to operate in non-segregated airspace.
The British ordered 16 of the new Protector remotely-piloted vehicles and a number of ground stations in 2016. As many as 10 more vehicles could eventually be ordered by the RAF, according to information provided for U.S. congressional approval of the deal.
For the moment though, Jones said it is the “aspiration to meet our Strategic Defence and Security 2015 commitment of over 20.”
The Protector is a quantum leap in drone capability for the RAF compared with the General Atomics Reaper fleet the British currently operate. The new remotely-piloted vehicle can fly significantly longer and hit harder than the Reaper. It will also be able to fly in non-segregated airspace.
During the industry event in London, General Atomics announced that BAE Systems had signed a memorandum of agreement to support development on concept of operations for the Protector in U.K. airspace. The U.S. company also said MBDA and Raytheon UK were under contract to integrate the Brimstone 3 missile and Paveway 4 precision guided bomb on Protector.
They join a lengthy list of companies contributing to the Protector program, partially funded by the British Ministry of Defence, including Leonardo, Cobham, Ultra Electronics, GKN and CAE.
The inservice date of Protector has been delayed due to the ongoing financial difficulties of the MoD, according to General Atomics evidence to the Defence Committee. The British are coy about the timeline for the introduction of the Protector. Jones said only that the vehicle will enter service in the first half of the next decade.
The contract for the British version of the MQ-9B Sky Guardian vehicle did not include a detect-and-avoid capability, although interfaces to accommodate the power, weight and size of equipment were.
Confirmed plans to integrate the detect-and-avoid technology come after lengthy delays in ordering, which prompted concerns at General Atomics that the Protector would be unable to meet capability requirements.
In written evidence to the British Parliamentary Defence Committee last year, the U.S. company said “failure to make appropriate provisions threatens to undermine Protector’s operational capability.”
“One of the platform’s key design characteristics is provision for the sense-and-avoid capability required to facilitate operations in non-segregated airspace…… MoD aspires to integrate such a sense-and-avoid system but it was not funded within the core program,” General Atomics noted.
Jones said the delay in contracting for the capability was because “we wished to better understand the technology.”
General Atomics has also been developing a maritime version of the Protector in hopes the British might have a requirement for an affordable platform to complement the nine strong fleet of Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft the MoD has on order.
Jones said the maritime development is being tracked but there is no funding for it at this time in the 10-year equipment plan.
“We are aware of the capability, I’m interested in the capability, but whether or not defense [leadership] will commit to it will be seen in the future,” he said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
26 Jan 19. Code helps hybrid quadcopter navigate high winds. An endurance flight is a fight against gravity, wind, human limitations, and fuel capacity. The HQ drone series, designed by Latitude Engineering, set a record for longest flight by a vertical takeoff or landing aircraft in 2016, staying in air for more than 22 hours. The technology that enabled that flight, the unique combination of airframe and software, was granted a patent on Dec. 25, just in time for the HQ’s systems new owners, L3 Technologies, to start floating the hybrid quadcopter as the right vehicle for the Army’s Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System competition.
The rough concept and early prototypes of the HQ drone series have been around since at least 2013. Combining the VTOL capabilities of a quadcopter with the flight efficiency of a fixed-wing plane, the craft relies on four rotors on booms to get the plane up and down, while a pusher prop and traditional wings carry it through the sky normally. The record-setting flight in 2016 was performed by the HQ-60 model of the drone, and demonstrated at the time before an audience consisting of military and public safety professionals, including Special Operations Forces.
Part of what likely makes the Hybrid Quadcopter so adept at staying airborne is the software balancing its two flight modes. Rotorcraft prefer to tilt forward for extra forward momentum, but that’s counterproductive with fixed wings, since it changes the angle of the wings and increases drag while losing lift. So it’s the software’s ability to manage the dual-modes of the craft that’s at the heart of this patent, enabling normal flight, vertical flight, and hovering, especially in high winds.
It’s that ability to operate in high winds that L3 expresses as the key component of the patent, and likely the feature it will use to distinguish this specific brand of fixed-wing/quadcopter hybrid from the competition. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
28 Jan 19. Cultural divide: Can the Pentagon crack Silicon Valley? Last April, more than 3,000 Google employees took the extraordinary step of issuing an open letter to company leadership, demanding that the tech giant cease working on the Pentagon’s Project Maven machine-learning program.
The decision by company leadership to bow to the demand sent shock waves through the national security community, which reacted with a mix of betrayal, frustration and bewilderment that Google, in the midst of developing a special firewall-bolstered internet for China, would refuse to help defend its home country.
In many ways, the Maven incident seemed to prove the Washington establishment’s belief that the tech community will never want to work with the Pentagon, despite the teaming and advocacy that has occurred in recent years; the cultural divide is simply too big to be crossed, the argument goes.
But is that the case? Despite the high-profile nature of Maven, other major tech companies such as Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft continue to fight for Pentagon contracts. The department’s Defense Innovation Board has major names from that community reporting directly to the secretary of defense. And smaller firms are interacting with the department at increased levels, thanks to outreach efforts from the Department of Defense itself.
In November, Defense News convened a roundtable with representatives from the department and the tech community to identify whether the cultural divide can be overcome, or if the barriers are simply too high on both sides. The conclusion: The situation is far from helpless, if the Pentagon is willing to engage.
“It’s not our perspective that we’re going to change people’s minds who might be firmly against helping the military, but they should at least understand what are the consequences there,” said Michael Brown, a former CEO of Symantec who in September took over the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit.
“Engaging in a discussion — that’s the American way. We have the freedom to believe whatever we believe in and to express it. But let’s make sure the point of view of the military, national security, is at least represented in the conversation.”
The perception problem
Unsurprisingly, the Maven case frequently came up during the discussion. Panelists largely agreed there is a perception problem about DoD in Silicon Valley, but disagreed on how to tackle it.
Trae Stephens, a co-founder at Anduril Industries and at principal at venture capital firm Founders Fund, describes Silicon Valley’s response to the Pentagon as a bell curve. On one end, a small group that promises to never do business with the department; on the other, a small group actively seeks to engage with the military on programs.
And in the middle, there is a “huge group” for whom “semantics matter a lot.” The DoD has made it difficult to reach that group because the department doesn’t understand how to approach them, Stephens said. As an example, he pointed to the Pentagon’s emphasis, particularly under now-departed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on the word “lethality.”
“We just can’t use this word. You’re not going to win being like: ‘Our priority is soldier lethality.’ That bell curve is going to get destroyed,” Stephens said.
He also pointed to a targeting software program used by both the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The Pentagon calls it ATAK, or the Android Tactical Assault Kit, while DHS calls it ATAP, the Android Team Awareness Kit.
“Suddenly it’s not a problem. Everyone’s happy to integrate with the ‘team awareness kit,’ ” Stephens said. “There’s this slight conflict of semantic culture. It’s just kind of silly, and we should like stop making unforced errors.”
That sentiment was largely agreed upon within the room. However, Josh Marcuse, the executive director of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board, warned against thinking of the issue as simply a public relations problem.
“The folks I’ve talked to you [about] that are engineers that are up in arms about this [are the] smartest people in America — they can see right through these things, and they’re very concerned that will be disingenuous. And then we’ll say this is for humanitarian assistance, but we’re really using it for violating privacy or targeting, and they know how these technologies evolve,” Marcuse said, which prompted a comparison between PR and clear communication.
Siobhan McFeeney, vice president for transformation at technology firm Pivotal, provided an example of how tech leadership can communicate to its staff the benefits of working on a project with the DoD.
The same divides in Google exist in Pivotal, particularly as the latter started picking up defense projects fairly recently. That has led to the rise of an internal plan on handling individual employees who have moral compunctions against working on military programs.
Every week, Pivotal’s CEO sits down with anyone who has concerns about a program and lays out the reason the company is involved. But unlike the Maven situation, where Google’s leadership gave into the demands of the workforce, Pivotal’s leadership makes the case for why the company is working on a project and then offers to move the employee to a nonmilitary program.
“We’re a 3,000-person company. We have the luxury, but what I think it demonstrates is just unbelievable empathy for both the customer that we’re trying to solve for — so, for the war fighter, for their airmen — and also for these employees who’ve never seen this [kind of mission] before,” McFeeney said.
That approach helps bridge the cultural divide and avoid meltdowns like the Maven affair, but it also comes with a side benefit: Those who choose to work on defense-related programs are enthused about that work and “singularly love” the military client and the mission, according to McFeeney.
“It’s education, its patience, so it’s just taking the actual time to sit down” and talk, she added. “It isn’t ‘everyone gets their way and everyone gets a medal.’ It’s ‘everyone gets heard and we have a mission for the company,’ but [workers] still have a choice.”
Communicating about America
For many in Washington, it is self-evident, if not obligatory, that the tech community should want to help America’s military. After all, those private company employees live in the U.S., and the Cold War provides precedent for industry working with the government for the national interest, so the argument goes.
Outside of the national security community, that same thinking isn’t as locked in.
Enter: patriotism — identified in some form by almost all the roundtable participants as a cultural barrier.
The tech community has thrived in the last 20 years partly thanks to immigrants. Go to Silicon Valley, said Lisa Hill, Arceo’s chief of operations, and “there’s every kind of people and language, and I think the message of ‘Come work for America to beat China or Russia,’ it’s not going to resonate.”
And unlike the Soviet Union, where its relationship with the U.S. was almost entirely antagonistic, China is a major trading partner, whose items can be found on every shelf in Walmart.
Hawk Carlisle, the head of the National Defense Industrial Association and a retired Air Force general, spent 2012-2014 leading the service’s efforts in the Pacific. It was there he got a close-up look at the Sino-U.S. relationship, where one day he would be discussing how to defend Taiwan — viewed by China as a rogue province — and the next helping to ferry trade officials to negotiate new deals with Beijing.
He recommends the message be less one of the U.S. versus other countries, and instead focus more on the need to defend the democratic world order that has benefited not just the U.S. and its allies, but Western industry.
“We are the good guys,” he said. “Frankly, whether anybody accepts it or not, China would like the world order and the rules of the world to change.”
That kind of messaging — which the panelists agreed must be buttressed by public events and frequent outreach to the community, including vocal minorities who want nothing to do with the DoD — could be the best chance the Pentagon has to reach that undecided middle of Stephens’ bell curve.
It seems that outreach component is ultimately where the department needs to step up. Brown, the Defense Innovation Unit head, has pledged to use his contacts to host events at universities and dinners with small groups from the community to explain the Pentagon’s goals. (Source: Defense News)
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