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07 Feb 19. In a major boost for airline accident investigations, two aviation leaders, Curtiss-Wright Corporation (NYSE: CW)and Honeywell have partnered to develop an entirely new way for airlines to monitor and analyze flight data. The companies will use real-time connectivity to reinvent the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder (FDR) – commonly referred to as “black boxes” – for the commercial airline, cargo transport and business jet markets. The companies signed an agreement to develop the next generation of mandate-compliant voice and data recorders. As part of the new agreement, Curtiss-Wright will be the exclusive supplier for Honeywell’s next-generation recorders for the Air Transport and Business Aviation markets.

The companies will jointly develop the hardware for the new black boxes, and Honeywell will modernize the software capabilities for easier access to real-time data during flight. This will provide aircraft owners, operators and manufacturers with new voice and flight data recording options to help decrease aircraft downtime through better predictive maintenance and, in the unlikely event of an emergency, help with the subsequent investigation. Further, operators will benefit from real-time data streaming and cloud-upload capabilities, enabled by Honeywell’s Connected Aircraft software, which allows for the swift and remote retrieval of data from the aircraft for storage or analysis.

“Honeywell and Curtiss-Wright have long been pioneers and innovators of crash protected recorders, providing flight data recorders to the industry for over 50 years,” said David C. Adams, Chairman and CEO of Curtiss-Wright Corporation. “Working together, we will take flight data recorder connectivity and performance to new heights, with extended operation and greater survivability. Bringing our combined experience to the marketplace will generate financial, safety and operational benefits for years to come.”

As a source of critical aircraft data, black boxes passively collect large amounts of information from multiple sources during each flight. This ensures that, in the event of an accident, investigators can use the data to learn more about the chain of events leading up to it. This new recorder will serve as a “Black Box in the Sky,” meaning owners, operators and manufacturers will have the option to access the data at all times, resulting in the potential for better maintenance predictability and operational insight through data analytics. In addition, in the event of an emergency, the data on board will be quickly accessible to investigators.

“The importance of reliable Cockpit Voice and Flight Data Recorders cannot be overstated. That’s why we are working alongside Curtiss-Wright to design and develop the next generation of recorders that leverages our full hardware and software expertise to meet the 25-hour requirement, to identify the right information and make it available to airline operators when it’s most needed,” said Ben Driggs, president, Services & Connectivity, at Honeywell Aerospace. “With the new regulatory requirement, we saw an opportunity to evolve our recorder technology to not only meet the conditions of governing agencies, but also make this product more powerful and better connected, providing aircraft operators with another source of data collection that can be used to improve aircraft maintenance and performance.”

The new CVR and FDR, based on Curtiss-Wright’s industry leading compact, lightweight Fortress flight data recorder technology, will surpass the requirements of the upcoming 2021 European Aviation Safety Agency minimum 25-hour cockpit voice recording mandate. This means the aircraft data can be used for more efficient operations, allowing for additional predictive maintenance and real-time playback of data and voice communications. Along with added connectivity, the next-generation recorders provide an easy upgrade that saves installation time and lowers costs due to their design as form-fit replacements for Honeywell’s HFR-5 series cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Curtiss-Wright recently certified its Fortress recorder, a 25-hour CVR/FDR recorder that is used as the foundation for the new Honeywell Connected Recorder-25 or HCR-25.

As part of the development of the new recorders, Honeywell will offer the product in several variants, including as a standalone CVR, as a standalone FDR, or as a combined voice and flight data recorder.

Supporting Resources

  • Read more about Curtiss-Wright’s Fortress Cockpit Voice and Flight Data Recorders
  • Learn more about Honeywell Black Boxes

06 Feb 19. Kalray Launches ES3CAP as Lead Partner: a 22.2 M€ Budget Ambitious Industrial Project for the Development of the Future Computing Platform for Intelligent Systems.

  • A collaborative strategic innovation project, bringing together:
  • Leading automotive, aerospace and defense manufacturers, including Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, MBDA and Safran;
  • Innovative and high-growth French companies;
  • Prestigious research laboratories, including CEA and Inria.
  • Financing of €11.7m obtained under the Bpifrance Invest for the Future Program (Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir — PIA).

Kalray (Euronext Growth Paris: ALKAL), a pioneer in processors for new intelligent systems, today announces the launch of the collaborative ES3CAP program1, combining 11 industrial and academic partners, for which Kalray is the lead partner.

The ES3CAP program, with a total budget of €22.2m over three years, will receive €11.7m2 in financing under the Invest for the Future Program3, managed by Bpifrance, to contribute to finance the research activities.

The objective of the ES3CAP project is to build a hardware and software platform for manufacturers developing critical applications that require high-performance computing capacity, in the fields of aeronautics (aviation, flying taxis, drones), defense and self-driving vehicles. It comprises an entire ecosystem of partners working on complementary aspects of operating systems and real-time, critical software tools, computer vision, data fusion and artificial intelligence, all on a reliable and secure hardware platform, Kalray’s MPPA® (“Massively Parallel Processor Array”).

The artificial intelligence boom is on the verge of revolutionizing many markets. The self-driving cars, aircraft engines and robots of the future will all require access to new Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) in direct interaction with the physical world and with the capacity to process, via increasingly sophisticated algorithms, an increasing amount of data and functions. These processing operations must be carried out while ensuring compliance with the strict functional safety and security requirements shared across these different industries.

Therefore, these changing requirements have therefore forced manufacturers to adopt new generations of processors called “multi” or even “many” cores, the only processors capable of meeting the twofold need for performance and integration of a large number of functions on a single component capable of providing the required computing capacity and operational independence. ES3CAP relies on Kalray’s MPPA® manycore processors, which meet all of these requirements perfectly.

The industrial partners for this project include Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and EasyMile for automotive, and Safran Electronics & Defense and MBDA for avionics and defense. Technological partners include ANSYS/Esterel Technologies for the certified software development tool portion and the generation of the multi-core code, Krono-Safe for its ASTERIOS® software solution consisting of a suite of integrated software tools and a multi-core real-time kernel with a high level of operational reliability, Prove & Run for the security architecture, OS and high security services, Kalray for its intelligent MPPA® processors and the associated software platform, PROPHESEE for the patented high-performance neuromorphic vision comprising sensors and artificial intelligence. The expert partner tasked with ensuring the operational reliability of the physical platform is IROC Technologies. The key academic partners are CEA(French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) and Inria (French research institute for digital sciences).

Éric Baissus, CEO of Kalray, commented as follows: “Intelligent systems are going to play an increasingly important role in our lives, whether in the self-driving cars or aircraft of the future. France has a very dynamic and cutting-edge ecosystem in this area. We’re delighted to have been able to surround ourselves and the ES3CAP project with renowned manufacturers, research laboratories, fast-growing SMEs and French start-ups, and to have obtained the support of the French government to strengthen a national sector that is both commercially attractive and strategic for our industry.”

Rémi Bastien, VP Automotive Prospective at Groupe Renault added: “This collaborative project with Kalray, bringing together expertise from multiple disciplines and sectors, is a great opportunity for Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi. We expect that it will lead to a variety of applications in the development of future vehicles’ electronic architecture – from the more complex, related to autonomous driving, to simpler ones.”

Pejvan Beigui, CTO of EasyMile: “We are looking forward to collaborating with the institutions, large enterprises and deep-tech startups of the ES3CAP consortium. Kalray’s platform, built on top of their innovative many-core MPPA processor, is ticking all the boxes when it comes to EasyMile’s requirements for high performance, high reliability and ultra-safe systems. I am very excited at the prospect of running EasyMile’s leading autonomous navigation software on the MPPA processor and leveraging the tremendous value this platform will bring us.”

On behalf of Safran, major European player in aeronautics and defense, Joël Berkoukchi, Deputy General Manager, Director of the Avionics Division declared: “The ES3CAP project gives Safran the opportunity to broaden the environment of Kalray’s new generation of high-compute and safety-critical MPPA processor, and to ease its integration into innovative avionics architectures to bring autonomous aircraft to life.”

Harold Van den Bossche, Responsible for industrial Policy and Supply Chain at MBDA, a major European player in the defense sector, made the following comments: “MBDA is very happy to be taking part in the development of the “multi-core” processor ecosystem on the Kalray platform. The applications for our future on-board systems are highly promising, and thus contribute to the strength of our armed forces. The ES3CAP consortium is a prime example of cooperation between major groups, institutions and SMEs in supporting technological innovation in France and guaranteeing the sovereignty of our technological and industrial capacities for both civil society and defense.”

Sophie Rémont, Head of Expertise at Bpifrance: “Kalray has successfully shared its strategic vision and has formed high-quality industrial and academic partnerships in order to achieve its goals. We’re delighted to be joining Kalray in this new innovative project, for which it is the lead manager.”

ABOUT KALRAY

Kalray (Euronext Growth Paris — FR0010722819 — ALKAL) is the pioneer in processors for new intelligent systems. As a real technological breakthrough, “intelligent” processors have the capability to analyze on the fly, and in an intelligent manner, a very large amount of information, and to make decisions and interact in real time with the outside world. These intelligent processors will be deployed extensively in fast-growing sectors, such as new-generation networks (intelligent data centers) and autonomous vehicles, as well as healthcare equipment, drones, and robots. Kalray’s offering encompasses both processors and complete solutions (electronic boards and software). Created in 2008 as a spin-off of CEA (“Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives”, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission), Kalray serves customers such as server manufacturers, intelligent system integrators, and consumer product manufacturers, including car makers. For more information, visit www.kalrayinc.com.

ABOUT THE “INVEST FOR THE FUTURE” PROGRAM

With some 57bn euros, the Invest for the Future program, coordinated by the CGI, was set up by the French government in order to help finance innovative and promising investments in France. Six national priorities were therefore identified, in order to enable France to increase its growth and employment potential:

  • higher education, research and training,
  • the promotion of research and its application in the economic world,
  • sustainable development,
  • industry and SMEs,
  • the digital economy,
  • healthcare and biotechnologies.

The third part of the program, PIA3, is part of the French investment plan (Grand Plan d’Investissement – GPI) presented by the Prime Minister on September 25, 2017.

To learn more about Invest for the Future: www.gouvernement.fr/secretariat-general-pour-l-investissement-sgpi. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)

06 Feb 19. Thales and the University of Southampton announced a research partnership on autonomous marine systems. This ambitious project is part of a strategic approach to the application of artificial intelligence to maritime environments.

Sharing a common research vision in the deployment of autonomous systems in the maritime environment, Thales and the University of Southampton (UoS) teams will work together to optimize cooperation between humans and autonomous systems through their combined expertise in artificial intelligence, maritime engineering and autonomous systems.

The ultimate objective of this research program is to enable the deployment of autonomous systems in the maritime environment and to reduce the cost of maritime operations through better human-machine collaboration. This ambitious project lies in the emphasis placed on the human aspect, which must be at the centre of the decision-making process, namely exploring the human operator’s expectations and understanding how new autonomous systems can help him optimize his tasks.

By deploying AI and robotics in autonomous maritime platforms, this program will meet the United Kingdom’s needs for maritime energy and defence infrastructure.

06 Feb 19. US, UK Partner in Swarm and Search AI Challenge. The US Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright Brothers Institute, and University of Dayton Research Institute will release the first scenario for its “Swarm and Search AI Challenge” this week, though teams officially have until Feb. 12 to register.The challenge, which will occur concurrently with a similar challenge being conducted in the United Kingdom, was designed to figure out how to plan and control simulated swarms of small unmanned aerial vehicles as they map a wildfire. All the teams will use the same UAV design and sensor set, which is based on an AFRL platform, as well as artificial intelligence technology to come up with the most effective way to accomplish the mission. The United Kingdom Forestry Service will post videos for all the teams to view outlining the scope of the problem, Mick Hitchcock, senior technology advisor for AFRL small business, told Air Force Magazine. The events will be conducted simultaneously, though separately, in the US and UK. Hitchcock said he hopes to have 15-20 teams participating in the United States.

“The challenge is focused on a humanitarian mission, but in reality, the learning applies very well to [United Kingdom Defense Science and Technology Laboratory] DSTL, and AFRL, and Air Force interests,” Hitchcock said.

The idea for an international hackathon came about last Spring when representatives from DSTL—a research laboratory for all UK military services—came to Ohio to visit the Wright Brothers Institute, which also is managed by Hitchcock. At the time, wildfires were ravaging California, and a wildfire had just caused significant damage to homes and property in the UK. The humanitarian-based challenge also enabled both the US and UK teams to reach out to nontraditional small businesses and universities “who may not want to play on a military mission,” said Hitchcock.

The first scenario is a basic test to get the teams familiar with the software. The scenarios will get progressively more difficult as the challenges goes on, culminating in a “final showdown” March 29-31.

Hitchcock said the United Kingdom is “doing a lot of work in this arena,” noting the US has. “already learned a lot from the interaction.”

“Swarming UAS is rich with innovation and we are looking to solve perceived problems and invent new ways of controlling swarms of drones,” said Timothy Wright, DSTL’s Aerospace Systems Group Leader, in a USAF release. “There are also a number of science and technology challenges already commissioned in this area that link closely with the proposed outputs from this challenge.” (Source: UAS VISION/Air Force Magazine)

04 Feb 19. Mobile phone network and multi-link drone tracking performance compared. Researchers from Smart Robotic Systems GmbH, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Berlin, have released a research paper into performance comparisons of two different flight tracking systems. As part of the August 2018 DRONEMASTERS Dronathon event in Germany the organisers set up two flight tracking systems to reliably track the airborne drones in-flight and assure correct flight path coverage and geofencing for possible urban mission profiles. According to the research paper: “Several sUAS were equipped with the two tracking systems to assure overlay comparison and redundant data collection.”

The following two system approaches were evaluated during the event:

  • Mobile Network Based – The cellular Hook-on-Device (HOD) of the German Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH in collaboration with Deutsche Telekom AG (DTAG), broadcasting over LTE
  • Stand-Alone On-Premise – The SKIDER Link system of Smart Robotic Systems GmbH, Dortmund, with a dedicated, on premise base station. SKIDER Link transmits detailed telemetry data from the drone in real-time to the ground station using multi-link technologies operating at 868MHz and 2.4GHz.

The research concludes: “According to preliminary assessment of the recorded data, both systems were able to assure ongoing live-feed of position and tracking of the sUAS, increasing situational awareness for the event organizer, authorities and possible surveyors. The local SKIDER system adds less latency to the measurement and data processing than the central solution due to its local nature, while the advantages of the central system of DFS and DTAG is the full integration of its vast surveillance and communication infrastructure that allows the embedding into the national air traffic surveillance. There is good reason to evaluate the combination of both, and eventually to integrate both solution into each other. It also turns out that drone surveillance and the facilitation of VLL drone operations becomes a new driver to address the inherent challenges, and that once more multisensor data fusion gets again at the very heart of an overarching traffic management solution.” (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)

04 Feb 19. Impact of Weather on Drone Airworthiness Demonstrated at NYS UAS Test Site. Windshape, a Switzerland based company, in partnership with the New York State UAS Test Site, TruWeather Solutions and the NUAIR Alliance, used industry-leading micro-weather stimulations to test the impact of wind on the air worthiness and performance of various types of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) platforms. The testing took place at the New York State UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport, in Rome, New York.

“We know that weather impacts small drones in a variety of ways and these tests enabled us to evaluate that impact and each platform’s capacity to reject atmospheric disturbances and maintain safe flight,” said Major General Marke F. “Hoot” Gibson (ret), chief executive officer, NUAIR Alliance. “This information is incredibly important to the safe integration of drones in the national airspace and ultimately our ability to unlock the commercial potential of UAS.”

Windshape’s unique technology uses a fan array with numerous small fans which generate variable wind profiles. This innovative modular wind generation system enabled partners to evaluate drones within a controlled, safe and repeatable environment for air worthiness and improved platform engineering.

“Our goal is to support the drone industry by providing drone specific test solutions,” said Guillaume Catry, CEO, WindShape of Windshape. “We believe we can facilitate the drone industry by allowing manufacturers to demonstrate that their drones can overcome weather obstacles and safely achieve their mission.”

In order for the UAS industry to achieve Beyond Visual Line of Site flights and operate drones autonomously these tests are critically important to the development of systems that can perform in a variety of weather. Part of that development is knowing and being able to accurately predict weather as well.

For its part, TruWeather has developed technology to better predict micro-weather so UAS pilots can make more informed decisions and advance mission effectiveness. The more it understands how winds affect different UAV platforms the better it can tailor its micro-weather prediction to specific platforms.

“Micro weather is a primary risk to safe and productive drone operations,” said Don Berchoff, co-founder of TruWeather. “TruWeather envisions a day when weather alerts and predictions are specifically tailored for each drone.  A weather simulator to test and certify drones in varying weather conditions can enable development of drone specific weather analytics to increase drone safety, productivity and revenue generation.”

WindShape will return to Syracuse for additional wind and weather impact tests including a long endurance flight experiment.

“The weather test performed by Windshape in conjunction with TruWeather Solutions and the NUAIR Alliance is a prime example of why Oneida County’s Test Site at Griffiss International Airport is on the forefront of revolutionizing the UAS industry,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “Together with our partners, we continue to produce innovative research that occurs no other place in the world and is the key to unlocking the enormous potential of autonomous drones.”  (Source: UAS VISION)

04 Feb 19. Balancing legacy and 5th-gen capabilities: On Point with AIRCDRE Kitcher. The introduction of fifth-generation capabilities like the F-35 is changing the nature of the RAAF. Balancing the different operating and sustainment requirements of legacy platforms like the F-18 Hornet and JSF is critical to meeting government’s mission requirements. For Air Commodore Mike Kitcher, Commander Air Combat Group, the arrival of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in early December was the culmination of a decade of project development and acquisition, as part of Australia’s $17bn investment in history’s largest defence project.

Despite the transformational capabilities promised by the F-35 platform, the nation’s legacy aircraft, like the F-18A/B Classic Hornet and the 4.5 generation F-18 E/F Super Hornet and Growlers, will continue to play a pivotal role in the air force.

In the latest edition of On Point, Defence Connect will discuss the transition from legacy platforms to a fifth-generation fighting force for both the personnel and service, with AIRCDRE Kitcher to get to the bottom of the vision that is Plan Jericho and Air Force’s fifth-generation ambitions.

As an introduction to the role of Air Combat Group (ACG), could you tell us what ACG does and what capabilities it provides government?

Air Combat Group delivers the air combat capability for the ADF and for the government. Air Combat Group consists of three wings. Obviously, I’m the commander of Air Combat Group. I’ve got a staff here in the headquarters of Air Combat Group of 30 or 40 people.

Then, we go down to the wings. No. 81 Wing currently flies the Classic Hornet and the F-35. 81 Wing is headquartered here at Williamtown as well. It consists of 3, 75, and 77 squadrons and No. 2 OCU. 3 Squadron currently flies the F-35. 77 Squadron is based here at Williamtown.

75 Squadron is based up at RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory. No. 2 OCU is the convert or the operational conversion squadron currently for the Classic Hornet. 81 Wing will be transitioning as we speak from the Classic Hornet to the F-35. There’s two other Wings in Air Combat Group. No. 78 Wing basically looks after two key factors, our Hawk training aircraft, our operational or intro fighter aircraft, which consists of 79 Squadron over at RAAF Base Pearce and 76 Squadron here at Williamtown.

78 Wing also looks after 4 Squadron. 4 Squadron is a significant capability for the ADF, our combat control team, who have been deployed on operations in the Middle East since 2007, which few people realise.

We have air combat controllers, and we also have our joint terminal airspace controllers, our joint terminal attack controllers or JTACs, or in older parlance, forward air controllers trained by No. 4 Squadron as well.

78 Wing will also, over the next six to 12 months, become responsible for delivering a tactical air wing capability for the Air Force and the ADF as well. That’s 81, 78 Wing, and then 82 Wing is based up at RAAF Amberley, near Brisbane. 82 Wing has a squadron of Super Hornets. They’ve had those since about 2010, and very recently introduced the EA-18G Growler aircraft as well. 1 Squadron with Super Hornet, and 6 Squadron with the Growlers. The Growlers will be declaring IOC in the very near future, I would imagine, as our newest capability.

As a whole, Air Combat Group encompasses about 2,200 people, across nine different squadrons flying classic Hornet, F-35, Super Hornet, Growler and Hawk, and the combat control capability across bases at Williamtown, Amberley, Tindal and Pearce, covering the entirety of continental Australia.

Give us a bit of an insight of your views towards Plan Jericho and how the changing technological environment is changing the way Australia is and will interact with the changing geopolitical situation Australia finds itself in.

Plan Jericho is still being managed and centrally run from the Jericho team in Canberra. There are 16 different projects. The Jericho team and a couple of group captains that headed that up a few years ago did quite a good job; they handed out 16 different projects to one-stars.

Those projects are still running. Some of the projects were quite ambitious and the type of project that might be very difficult to actually ever call closed. Some of them have been closed and successful, so the Jericho program is still running, essentially managed in Canberra, with, if you like, specific tasks being given out to lots of individual commanders like myself.

Plan Jericho is a a series of tasks that are designed to better interconnect the Air Force and the ADF. It’s also, if you like, a slightly different way of trying to do business and do things, which is to think outside the box, which is an OK thing to do, and also to think not only from an Air Force perspective, from a joint perspective about how capabilities might be introduced, and how capabilities might be advanced for the good of the joint force as opposed to just the Air Force, or vice versa.

I think it’s the way of thinking, or if you like, a Jericho way of inculcating a way of thinking, I think has been… Whilst there’s still a way to go, don’t get me wrong, that has been as successful as the individual projects that make up the guts of the Jericho system.

Providing the air combat capability means we need to be able to contribute to a coalition operation such as that. Air Combat Group also has to be able to provide a standalone air combat capability for Australia and Australia’s interests in the immediate region, which may not involve a coalition operation. We have to be able to operate by ourselves and with other elements of the ADF, and then, of course, we’ve got to be positioned to contribute.

Whilst we hope it never occurs, we need to be able to contribute to high-end coalition warfighting as well, which would be a high-end air combat capability. There’s multiple roles in the air combat space, and it’s a challenge to keep our ground crews and technicians and our aircrews current and competent in all of those roles such that we’ve got a fairly robust capability for government to use, should they choose to do so.

With the arrival of JSF and Growler expected to reach IOC later this year and the associated personnel changes, what do you think the Air Force is going to look like in 10 years’ time?

I’d like to think the Air Force in 10 years’ time will be far better connected than it is now. It’s not so much within the Air Force, because the Air Force, we do OK now. We’ve got plans in place to do better than OK in the future, but much more connected and an integral part of a joint warfighting capability.

I think that’s going to be a real challenge over the next 10 years, as we’ve got capabilities such as the Air Warfare Destroyer with the Navy coming onboard. Air Combat Group and the air combat capability has to operate seamlessly with that capability.

It certainly will happen, but there are many hurdles to get over with that. At the moment, Air Combat Group has a pretty reasonable handle on operating in multiple security environments.

The introduction of the Super Hornet was a real eye opener for lots and lots of reasons to do with capability, but also from a security environment perspective, was a real eye opener for pretty much all of us. Since that, adding the Growler and the F-35 to that means that we… That presents a challenge when you start to try and operate with other coalition force or other assets that may not have that level of experience.

I’d like to think that across the ADF, in a broader sense, over the next 10 years or so, we’ll be able to utilise all the capabilities we have in multi-layered security environments where everyone supports each other to the maximum extent possible.

I think that will be an interesting challenge over the next 10 years or so, especially when you look at other coalition nations who might be, for example, slightly more advanced down the track than we are on that journey at the moment, and the challenges they have. I think that we’ll be sharing exactly the same sort of challenges. (Source: Defence Connect)

28 Jan 19. To tech startups, small biz grants are small potatoes. One tool government agencies can use to nurture innovation is the Small Business Innovation Research grant, but is it a bold enough tool for the Pentagon? Participants at a Defense News-hosted roundtable in December said no. The investment research program, which is run by the Small Business Administration, requires federal agencies set aside a certain percentage of their of research and development funds for outside researchers with small firms.

SBIR offers three tiers of R&D funding for new technologies, of $150,000 or less at Phase I, which lasts about six months; up to $1m at Phase II, or about two years; Phase III funding tests the commerciality of the technology and solicits funding from the private sector.

To Trae Stephens, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Founders Fund and the chairman of tech company Anduril Industries, the Pentagon would be better off making a few big bets instead of many smaller investments. He likened it to his experience at a venture capital firm.

“You cannot make money writing $250,000 checks. You cannot build successful companies with tiny bits of revenue. You have to concentrate your investments,” Stephens said. “One recommendation that I’ve been trying to push people on is if you think a company is really good, give them $10m, give them $20m.”

Investments in SBIR’s range would be “viewed as a distraction” to an innovative startup, said Steve Bowsher, an executive with venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. Without “recurring funding in the double-digit millions of dollars, it’s not a market.”

Since 2011, the law has allowed participation by some businesses that are majority owned by investment companies. But a Dec. 21 Government Accountability Office report found that in past three fiscal years, fewer than 3 percent of grants went to such companies.

“We’ve eliminated companies with the smartest $80bn of funding, and instead we’ll work with all of the other companies,” Bowsher said of the government.

Defense Innovation Unit’s director of strategic engagement, Mike Madsen, seemed to agree with Stephens that the Defense Department needs a “strategic fund of that magnitude to make those bets pay off.”

“If we could tell ourselves we have a strategy to create one General Atomics a year, can you imagine?” Stephens replied.

A veteran of the firm Palantir, which has jousted with the Pentagon, left Stephens with the perception the government is afraid to play such a major role.

“We’d run into these blockers where decision-makers kind of detested where someone was getting rich doing business with the government,” Stephens said. “Our best capabilities have come from people who have gotten rich doing business with the government.” (Source: Defense News)

30 Jan 19. Continuous multi-factor authentication put to the test. FaceID is so 2018. The Defense Department is testing new devices that could eliminate the need for passcodes while continuously authenticating users via multiple biometrics.

“Most mobile phones today you unlock them with your fingerprint or face,” Stephen Wallace, systems innovation scientist for the Defense Information Systems Agency, told FCW. “That’s a point in time; I can unlock it, hand it to you or leave it on a park bench and someone can pick it up and become me.”

The devices DISA is testing prevent that by automatically locking “if somebody picks it up and starts to move around with it,” said Wallace, speaking after a Jan. 30 presentation at the International Association of Innovation Professionals Disruption conference. “The trust score falls because they don’t walk the same way [as the registered user]. They’re potentially not in the same locations, their voice pattern might be different.”

The device stays locked until the multi-factor criteria is met, and it can be remotely wiped by a mobile device manager if lost or stolen.

DISA now has 50 such devices in circulation among mission partners, Wallace said, including the Joint Interoperability Test Command, which is evaluating and testing against the test plan.

The devices — or more specifically, the chipsets embedded within them — analyze a user’s walking gait, location, facial structure and voice patterns to validate identity. Such continuous multi-factor authentication has been a priority for DOD since at least 2016, when then-CIO Terry Halvorsen announced plans to move away from Common Access Cards. DISA later identified walking gait as particularly important biometric because of the obstacles a tactical environment can present for facial or fingerprint recognition.

The chips are being tested in Android phones, but are fashioned to be compatible with laptops, wearables and other mobile devices. “We specifically went after hardware rather than software because it could get smaller” and provide a higher level of assurance, Wallace said. “If you do it at a software level, you’re dependent on the hardware below it for your security.”

The initiative is part of a 2018 innovation contract with Qualcomm. The pilot also folds into DISA’s assured identity initiative that combines artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques with behavioral analysis.

Wallace said the 50 devices are in an “alpha testing” phase, which will run through the spring. (The original contract with Qualcomm was for 75 devices, but the number was cut to better focus the pilot, a DISA spokesperson told FCW via email.)

The vendor will produce a reference design and, once accepted, it can be integrated into commercially available products, he said, “which then the rest of DOD can consume.”

“Our goal with this is that it gets turned out to commercial industry and so your personal phone could end up with this technology,” Wallace said. “It’s not really just for our classified environment. We wanted something that was commercially viable so that we don’t get driven down the route of high-cost, low-deployment devices.”

“If you get a broad enough deployment, the cost comes down low enough that it’s affordable for everybody,” he added. (Source: Defense Systems)

28 Jan 19. DARPA underground mapping challenge moves to next stage. Nine teams, armed with robots, tracking software and systems will descend on an old Colorado mine for the next leg of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s competition to develop technology to find and map subterranean passages and infrastructure. The teams, made up of commercial technology companies and research universities, will participate in DARPA’s SubT Integration Exercise, known as STIX, using robotics, sensors and communications solutions, in the Edgar Experimental Mine in Idaho Springs, Col., in April. The event, the research agency said in a Jan. 22 statement, is part of the preparation for SubT’s Circuits Stage Challenge set for later this year and next. The agency kicked off the challenge in late 2017 along parallel research tracks: the hardware-focused systems track and the software-focused virtual track.

The circuits divvy up testing in operational environments. The Tunnel Circuit is slated for this coming August, the Urban Circuit competition is scheduled for Feb, 2020 and the Cave Circuit will happen in August, 2020. SubT’s final event in August 2021 will incorporate elements of all three environments.

Last September, the agency began selecting vendors and participants for its tunnel challenge, with a competitor’s day in the Louisville Mega Cavern, a 100-acre manmade limestone cave.

In a final event, competitors will chase millions of dollars in awards. Teams on the systems track could win up to $2m, while teams on the virtual track could get $1.5m in winnings.

Tunnel detection and mapping is becoming a critical capability for the U.S. military as well as the Department of Homeland Security. According to the Science and Technology directorate at DHS, finding illicit tunnels and underground passages along the Southern border is largely based on “random tips and laborious human intelligence” and not on detection technology.

S&T is currently working on its own technologies to counter an increasing number of tunnels dug by transnational crime organizations smuggling drugs under the Southern border.

The Defense Department’s efforts are aimed at developing tunnel detection and mapping capabilities to support in its mission in Afghanistan. Civilian border agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection, have harnessed other technologies developed in conflict zones by the DoD for border security operations. (Source: Defense Systems)

31 Jan 19. Knock, knock. Who’s there? This AI combat system might already know. If the U.S. military is going to fight alongside robots, it better include them in mission planning. Early this year DARPA’s Squad X technology development program held a week-long series of tests at Twentynine Palms, Calif. While Marines demonstrated the powerful ISR potential of emerging autonomous technologies, they also proved a less-obvious point about the need for pre-planning at the intersection of autonomy and combat.

“We demonstrated that the artificial intelligence starts in mission planning and rehearsal. That’s key,” said Army Lt. Col. Phil Root, program manager for the agency’s tactical technology office.

The experiment had soldiers working alongside multiple unmanned ground and aerial vehicles equipped with a range of advanced targeting and sensing gear, including radio frequency and multispectral sensors. Testers sought to integrate the new abilities into the battle scenario not just as dumb tools, but rather as collaborative partners fighting alongside their human peers.

“We are asking a young Marine to wrestle with how to trust AI,” Root said. “As we included the AI in the rehearsal, we could place the blue forces into the decision engine and see what actions the AI would take.”

The hope, he said, is that human fighters would have a greater sense of confidence in their autonomous partners, as well as a better understanding of how the autonomous systems would likely act on the battlefield.

“That’s normally what you do: Before your mission you look at all your Marine and confirm that they have the plan in their head. But with autonomy we have never really done that. You had to just trust the autonomy. So this was something new.”

Understanding windows and doors

An ongoing research project, Squad X has brought to the forefront a number of emerging ISR capabilities. In earlier experiments, the researchers have pushed the boundaries of air-to-ground sensing. In one instance, they offered Marines the ability to draw an area on a map and to instruct drones to conduct reconnaissance. The aircraft mapped the zone well enough, but commanders wanted more: They wanted the drones to identify and highlight individuals fleeing the scene.

“They wanted the [unmanned aircraft systems] to serve as an airborne squad member, without a Marine having to take out a controller and telling it to change its behaviors,” Root said. “It was trivial to make those changes in software and the next day we could see the Marines using the technology in a way that we had never seen before. That’s a tremendous change from the current operations concept in which the Marine has to tell the UAS everything it needs to do.”

This approach could free up the Marine to be a more effective combatant. “Instead of taking the Marine out of the fight in order to control the UAS, we have returned them to the fight and given this augmented capability,” he said.

Squad X also has been developing enhanced ground-to-ground detection capabilities.

Robots on the ground can do more than just see and report back. They can, in theory, be trained to recognize and prioritize what they see – a potentially valuable ISR function.

“On the ground you might have little time to detect a threat, so we trained it to prioritize doors and windows, to understand what doors and windows were. Then the system could find individuals as soon as they came out of doors and windows,” Root said.

Infrared sensing further enhances the machines’ capabilities by allowing them to “see” into shadows where the human eye can’t readily discern objects or individuals.

The evolving systems layer on multiple points of proof including IR scans and motion-detection data, in order to help soldiers quickly confirm a threat assessment. The robot uses simple graphic interface to inform the operator: “Here’s the motion I saw, here’s a still image of what I saw, here’s the weapon I saw – all this adds up to my belief that this is a threat,” Root said. “You click on a map and it reports all this information.”

Looking ahead, the Squad X team is thinking about how to squeeze more work out of autonomous systems. Typically when a unit is en route, its autonomous systems are shelved. But the team is thinking about a way to keep those robots in more continuous use.

“How do we have AI with a bias toward action? The robots should always be on the move in some way that soldiers are on the move,” Root said. “AI on the battlefield shouldn’t be waiting. It should always be looking at how to improve the local situation.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

31 Jan 19. Curtiss-Wright and Elma Electronic partner to speed up development of computer boards. Curtiss-Wright and Elma Electronic have enhanced a 3U OpenVPX Convergence Development Platform designed to support the activities begun under the C4ISR Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS) initiative. The system serves as a complete test environment to enable the integrated development of common, modular hardware architectures across critical C4ISR and Electronic Warfare (EW) systems, Curtiss-Wright said.

The new development platform, built on Elma’s E-frame test chassis, enables system engineers to test a range of boards that meet profiles designed for use in various US Department of Defense (DoD) programme requirements.

“The military’s shift towards modular, open standards-based hardware and software is fuelling the need for reliable methods to quickly test hardware components across different platforms.

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Oxley Group Ltd

Oxley specialises in the design and manufacture of advanced electronic and electro-optic components and systems for air, land and sea applications within the military sector. Established in 1942, Oxley has manufacturing facilities in the UK and USA and enjoys representation worldwide.  The company’s products include night vision and LED lighting, data capture systems and electronic components. Oxley has pioneered the development of night vision compatible lighting.  It offers a total package incorporating optical filters, equipment modification, cockpit and external lighting along with fleet wide upgrade services including engineering, installation, support, maintenance and training. The company’s long experience of manufacturing night vision lighting and LED indicators, coupled with advances in LED technology, has enabled it to develop LED solutions to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting in existing applications as well as becoming the lighting option of choice in new applications such as portable military hospitals, UAV control stations and communication shelters.

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