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21 Aug 19. 6 new capabilities powering the unmanned revolution. In July 2018, a remotely piloted aircraft – the MQ-9B SkyGuardian – flew from the United States to the United Kingdom, landing after a 24-hour trans-Atlantic flight using the same routes as manned aircraft. It was a first in the world of medium-altitude, long-endurance RPA. But it also foreshadows how ongoing and future MALE RPA concepts of operations will evolve. The unmanned aircraft revolution is inexorably underway thanks to six new capabilities.
– SATCOM auto-land. MQ-9B demonstrates that it is now possible to deploy a multi-sensor intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability thousands of miles from its home base. With the only requirement being a small team of technicians on the deployment field, there’s no longer a need to dismantle the aircraft and ship the entire system. This facilitates the availability and initial ISR capability in emergency missions at home or abroad.
In 2006, during the evacuation of European Union (EU) nationals from Lebanon, an MQ-9B could have taken off from France, flown safely over the Mediterranean and provided 25 hours or more of ISR support to the extraction task force before landing in Cyprus. A team of three technicians with a laptop arriving on a commercial flight could ensure refuelling and SATCOM reconnection of the aircraft. Once completed, the RPA could fly for an additional 40 hours. With this capability, every existing airfield in the area of operations becomes a potential diversion site in case of weather or technical problems. Again, a core weakness that once complicated operations is now overcome.
– Detect and avoid. The MQ-9B is equipped with an airborne detect and avoid system that includes an air-air radar and a traffic collision and avoidance system that offers a significant alternative to the traditional rule of see and avoid. Despite years of research, the development of DAA systems was mired in technical and regulatory challenges. That is no longer the case, as several companies are working with regulators around the world to field standards-compliant DAA systems. By integrating TCAS II and ADS-B, the unmanned aircraft will perform like any modern aircraft with automatic collision avoidance against cooperative (transponder equipped) aircraft. This improvement to MQ-9B, coupled with protections against icing and lightning, has a major operational benefit: it enables standard flight rules and procedures to be applied throughout the airspace without having to uniquely separate the manned aircraft with those piloted remotely.
– Redundancy of the main satellite link. The redundancy of the primary beyond line of sight (BLOS) link with a secondary satellite link operating in another frequency band ensures the continuation of the mission by permanently maintaining the piloting capabilities, even in the event of interference. Satellite data links, a true digital umbilical cord, are used to control the RPA, operate on-board sensors, and disseminate the ISR data collected from the aircraft to the cockpit. The disconnection of this link, although rare, reveals a true weakness, especially when the aircraft operate in a non-segregated environment or during bad weather. However, with a second satellite link, the aircraft will now remain in control of the remote pilot and will either continue its mission safely or land without issue. This helps make these aircraft perfectly suitable for flight in civilian airspace.
– Certification. The next years will bring the advent of unmanned aircraft built to civilian aircraft standards. Initially conceived to fill surveillance and combat roles, the use of large RPA remained limited to the “dirty, dull and dangerous” missions. The demands of European customers in particular have forced Israeli and U.S. RPA manufacturers to take these airworthiness requirements into account to compete in the EU market and obtain contracts. These new, certifiable unmanned aircraft allow us to consider their unrestricted use on domestic airspace in support of counter-terrorism missions, as well as those that contribute to the protection of citizens.
– Sensor modularity. Modern RPA will allow more sensors to be integrated according to customer needs. The ISR omni-role platform will be plug-and-play and “sensors agnostic.” As aircraft allow for constant monitoring of a target and its environment, it is necessary to capitalize on that through the modularity of sensors ideally without hampering endurance. Sensor variety ranges from traditional real-time high-definition cameras (FMVs) to multi-mode radars to a wide range of guided weapons and multi-intelligence sensors (COMINT, ELINT, WAMI, hyperspectral, EW, buoys, anti-submarine warfare). The challenge is to provide the operator with the opportunity, for obvious questions of sovereignty, to be able to quickly obtain integration of his own weapons and sensor suites. This flexible plug-and-play capacity to perform sovereign missions with a wide variety of sensors of national origin will be a considerable step forward.
Technology will no doubt continue to facilitate the use of MALE RPA like any manned aircraft. It eliminates most, if not all, current operational constraints. The emergence of this new generation of aircraft will satisfy the requirements of persistence, precision and time contraction across the full spectrum of defence and homeland missions. The significant increase in endurance will offer “occupation of the airspace” over a target and its environment, as time on station will be counted in days and no longer in hours.
However, it should be noted that “There is nothing more manned than an unmanned system.” Therefore, the introduction of automation will first affect data analysis, then assistance in flying multiple aircraft. It’s the next step of the ongoing revolution. Paradoxically, it may be remotely piloted, AI-augmented manned aircraft that lend strength to the prophetic quotation of Clement Ader, “He who will master the air will master the world.”(Source: C4ISR & Networks)
22 Aug 19. Research grants to support delivery of innovative defence tech. Western Australia Minister for Defence Issues Paul Papalia, CSC, has announced a series of grants to support the collaborative research of technologies with applications for defence. Developing new ideas and delivering innovative Western Australian technologies and solutions to Defence markets is the focus of research grants opened today by the Defence Science Centre. The grants aim to establish vibrant research collaborations between universities and businesses that strengthen the state’s defence industry capabilities, commercialise emerging technologies and diversify the West Australian economy.
Two grants programs are available – one for collaborations between universities, industry and Defence, and a second for students working with businesses on defence-related projects. The Defence Science Centre and its grants programs are important components of the McGowan government’s Defence Industry Strategic Plan.
Minister Papalia said, “The Defence Science Centre grants program is a central pillar of the McGowan government’s strategy to grow the state’s defence industry and create defence jobs.”
The Defence Science Centre has invited applications for two grants programs:
- Collaborative Research Grants: provide funding for collaborations between universities and industry to undertake research on technologies and innovations relevant to the Defence industry. Grants will be in the range of $50,000 to $150,000 and must be linked to the Department of Defence’s technology-themed Next Gen Tech Fund priorities or maritime maintenance.
- Research Higher Degree Student Grants: provide funding to students working on collaborative defence-relevant projects or undertaking defence industry placements as part of their study. These grants will provide $15,000.
“The research grants will boost innovation and collaboration between universities and businesses and help bring emerging technologies to market,” Minister Papalia added.
The grants also promote skills exchange between universities, government and industry to cultivate a long-term focus on innovation and the fostering of relationships.
“Defence needs are both varied and highly technical, and WA’s world-leading expertise in robotics, cyber security and automation are examples of technologies that can be developed to have significant defence applications,” Minister Papalia said.
Supporting students’ research into defence-related technologies will help create a future workforce with world-leading skills and enhance the global competitiveness of our local defence industry.
Minister Papalia said, “This grants program is one of the ways the Defence Science Centre is delivering on its mission to connect universities and researchers with industry and defence to build a stronger economy in WA.” (Source: Defence Connect)
21 Aug 19. BIONIC ‘invisible’ commandos carried into battle on silent ‘flying wings’ while hologram decoys distract an enemy pounded by rail and laser guns. This is the futuristic vision of the Royal Marines dreamed up by Britain’s best and brightest young engineers, told to harness present and future tech to imagine how the Royal Navy’s elite troops might go into action in the future.
Young engineering graduates from the UK Naval Engineering Science and Technology forum (UKNEST), representing nearly a dozen leading defence, technology and engineering firms, were asked to plan a mid-21st Century assault by Royal Marines on an enemy missile site perched on a clifftop.
They came up with a string of ideas – many previously confined to the realm of science fiction:
- Exo-skeleton suits covered by a chameleon-like skin allowing wearers to perform super-human feats, such as scaling cliffs effortlessly, and blend with the environment
- Ekranoplan ‘flying wings’ replacing landing craft, silently skimming across the waves at hundreds of miles an hour
- ‘Holographic Marines’ to decoy the enemy
- Helmets with displays providing Marines with the latest intelligence, battlefield info and details of a squad’s health and fitness levels
- Small intelligence drones which feed the latest information direct to commandos’ hi-tech helmets
- Larger ‘grunt’ drones armed with laser guns providing firepower or dropping ammunition, supplies and even small vehicles
- Electro-magnetic rail guns on ships firing Marines in special pods to land covertly behind enemy lines
- Boots which harvest energy as the commandos move to power radios and other equipment
- Rucksacks attached using magnets and fitted with energy damping to reduce the burden when marching
- Portable 3D printers producing food in the field
- And sleeping mats which can double up as 80in tactical display screens or solar panels to power hi-tech kit
The graduates spent a day at the Commandos’ Training Centre at Lympstone near Exeter to understand what it takes to become a Royal Marine, some of the current equipment used and the challenges faced on real-life operations.
The engineers were then given the raid scenario and thrashed out ideas, looking at what troops would be equipped with, how to get them ashore from ships over the horizon, how the Marines would neutralise a protected target, how they might protect themselves and distract the enemy.
Graduate Chad Swaby came up with the idea of contact lenses with thermal imaging ability and artificial intelligence which can differentiate between civilians, enemy soldiers and hostages – from the way they move.
“We can use that information to let Royal Marines know who they need to target and who they need to save,” he added.
“The whole event has been a great opportunity for us to see what commandos do, what they have to go through. It’s helped me to understand what I need to give the marines to help them succeed on a mission.”
Maj. General Matt Holmes, Commandant General Royal Marines said: “The Marines form over 40 per cent of Britain’s special forces and are seen as the tip of the spear. Our objective has been to envisage radical capabilities to make us more agile and lethal, while being able to operate in a complex digital and networked future environment.
“We can’t say how much or how quickly the reality of these visions will come to fruition. But what we can say is that if only 20 per cent of these ideas come to reality then we will be at the cutting edge of tomorrow’s technology.”
Major Matt Perks, the Royal Marine behind the brainstorming project, said: “This was one of those inspiring projects that captured peoples’ imagination. The Royal Marines have always prided themselves on thinking differently, but we know we don’t have all the answers when it comes to designing the Future Commando Force, so working with these incredibly talented young engineers was a chance to push the conceptual boundaries of amphibious warfare in ways we hadn’t considered. The results have been spectacularly innovative.”
The ideas and equipment the engineers came up with have been incorporated in a short film depicting how the raid on the missile battery might be carried out.
Some of the tech being tested by today’s Royal Marines as well as other innovations will be on show at next month’s DSEi defence and security show in London. (Source: Royal Navy)
21 Aug 19. Myriota inks agreement with Optus Business to expand IoT coverage. Optus Business has announced that it has entered into an agreement with Myriota, the global leader in nanosatellite internet of things (IoT), with a view to providing remote and regional connectivity for IoT devices and applications.
An Australian first, the major telco-nanosatellite provider agreement will bring together Optus’ national networks and digital enablement capabilities with Myriota’s direct-to-orbit technology to allow for massive scale, low-cost communications for IoT devices across remote Australian geographies.
The arrangement will offer low-cost, long battery life connectivity for millions of devices across multiple industries. The devices will allow companies to track assets across Australia, even in the most remote areas.
Optus Business managing director Chris Mitchell said he was excited to see the impact that collaborating with Myriota would have for Optus customers.
Mitchell said, “Working with innovative start-ups like Myriota allows Optus Business to help our customers capture the business improvements of next-generation technologies. We are excited by the possibilities this agreement presents.”
CEO and co-founder of Myriota, Dr Alex Grant, said the agreement would unlock new opportunities for IoT applications across a wide variety of industries.
“Remote connectivity has long been the missing piece of the puzzle for IoT across industries like logistics and farming, and we are thrilled to partner with Optus Business to provide a comprehensive connectivity offering,” Dr Grant said.
Dr Grant expanded on this, saying, “By combining Optus’ national networks with our nanosatellite capability, we are able to offer a truly holistic IoT solution and help solve connectivity issues being faced in regional Australia.”
The two companies have a shared history, with 2018 seeing Myriota secure US$15m in Series A funding from companies including Singtel Innov8; the venture capital arm of Optus’ parent company Singtel.
Optus Business helps enterprise and government customers enable connected experiences that enhance customer and employee engagement and the spaces where they operate and work. Underpinned by IoT and analytics, automation and collaboration, Optus Business provides cloud agility and a strong, growing network with services and products that are cyber-secure by design.
Myriota was founded to revolutionise IoT by offering disruptively low-cost and long-battery-life global connectivity. Based in Adelaide, a focal point of the Australian space industry and home of the Australian Space Agency, Myriota has a growing portfolio of more than 20 patents, and support from major Australian and international investors. (Source: Space Connect)
20 Aug 19. VuWall, leader of video wall and AV network management solutions, today announced a corporate partnership with LG Electronics, the leading global manufacturer of monitors, personal computers, digital signage, and commercial displays. This partnership allows VuWall and LG to offer customers a fully integrated control room solution that combines VuWall’s advanced VuScape video wall processor with LG’s latest 55SVH7F video wall display.
“Our goal is to provide an easy-to-install, easy-to-use solution for professionals in command and control room environments so that they can focus on their 24/7 visualization experience and not worry about the technology,” said Paul Vander Plaetse, CEO at VuWall. “By partnering with LG, we continue to deliver on that commitment — by combining these two great technologies, our customers have even more powerful solutions for solving their real-world challenges.”
VuScape is a series of modular video wall processors and controllers designed for small and large-scale video walls. They can be combined with the VuWall Touch Panel, a PoE tablet with an intuitive interface designer, and as a complete, easy-to-use video wall management and operation solution.
The LG 55SVH7F video wall display features a razor-thin, 0.44mm bezel or 0.88mm when measured from bezel to bezel. It also boasts vivid, dynamic picture quality with a higher and wider viewing angle, uniform color expression, and image gap reduction. Moreover, it features Smart Calibration, a simple and fast process that does not require an external device or human intervention.
The VuWall and LG integration offers customers the ability to control LG displays remotely using the VuWall scripting tool with VuScape controllers, giving control room operators and supervisors the utmost flexibility and ease of use. As a fully integrated platform, organizations will have a comprehensive ecosystem driving their video walls from anywhere in the facility. Customers can have their first look at the integrated solution in LG’s new prestigious showroom in Paris where they can experience all the benefits of the new control room ecosystem.
“LG strives to continually advance and push the envelope, providing our customers with the best display technology in the world. This makes it vital to choose the right technology partners to address the needs of our customers in specific markets,” said Harri Ekholm, Vice President of Sales from LG Electronics. “VuWall is a recognized leader in the command and control room industry with solutions known for their reliability and high-performance technology designed with a deep understanding of mission-critical needs. These features make VuWall the perfect partner for us.”
The integrated VuWall and LG solution is available throughout VuWall’s global distribution network. To learn more, contact email@example.com.
20 Aug 19. HENSOLDT’s IFF systems obtain AIMS certification. Sensor solutions supplier HENSOLDT has successfully passed certification of their MSSR 2000 I identification system (MSSR = Monopulse Secondary Surveillance Radar) by the AIMS Program Office of the US Department of Defense. This means that HENSOLDT is the first company outside of the USA to fulfill this critical prerequisite for delivering IFF devices (IFF = Identification Friend or Foe) for the upcoming conversion of all NATO identification systems to the future “Mode 5” standard without any discrepancies. AIMS certification is mandatory for non-NATO countries whose forces are deployed together with NATO nations in joint missions.
The current certification confirms that the MSSR 2000 I is both interoperable and reliable when used to identify NATO or allied forces in accordance with the future NATO standard Mode 5 and all previous modes (1, 2, 3/A, C, 4, S). HENSOLDT’s other IFF products have also successfully achieved the AIMS certification process. The International AIMS Program Office of the US Department of Defense is the only organization worldwide that certifies the interoperability and technical performance of radar and IFF systems.
IFF systems allow ships and aircraft to be identified precisely by automatically sending interrogation signals, which are answered by so-called transponders on board friendly units. Field commanders are thus able to quickly distinguish friendly from hostile forces. Unlike Mode 4 used hitherto, the future Mode 5 standard employs state-of-the-art encryption techniques to avoid hostile manipulation of the signal and to thus prevent the enemy from tampering with the identification process.
By 2020, all NATO states and their partner nations will need to have switched to the new, secure Mode 5 technology version. Moreover, countries cooperating with NATO troops will also have to guarantee compatibility with the new standard.
HENSOLDT supplies customers all over the world with air traffic control and identification systems for military and civilian applications. Its MSSR 2000 I secondary radar is deployed for military friend-or-foe identification by the US and NATO allied countries all over the world. In the US, HENSOLDT has a long lasting and successful relationship with LOCKHEED MARTIN, using MSSR 2000 I worldwide on their FPS-117,TPS-77 and Multi-Role Radar (MRR) air defence radars since years.
19 Aug 19. A robot as slow as a snail … on purpose. Snails and slugs are so commonplace that we overlook the weirdness of how they move, gliding on a thin film across all sorts of terrain and obstacles. Popular imagination focuses on how slow this movement is, the snail defined by its pace, but it is at least as remarkable that the same mechanism lets a snail climb walls and move along ceilings. The movement is novel enough that there is now a snail-inspired robot, sliding across surfaces on an adhesive membrane, powered by a laser.
The snail robot, produced by a joint research team at the University of Warsaw Poland, together with colleagues from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China, created a centimeter-long robot powered by light. The research, published July in Macromolecular Rapid Communications, sheds new insight on how animals move in the wild, and on how small machines could be built to take advantage of that same motion.
Why might military planners or designers be interested in snail-like movement? The ability to scale surfaces and cling to them alone is worth study and possibly future adaptation. There’s also the simple efficiency of a creature that maneuvers on a single, durable foot.
“Gastropods’ adhesive locomotion has some unique properties: Using a thin layer of mucus, snails and slugs can navigate challenging environments, including glass, polytetraﬂuoroethylene (PTFE, Teﬂon), metal surfaces, sand, and (famously) razor blades, with only few super-hydrophobic coatings able to prevent them from crawling up a vertical surface,” write the authors. “The low complexity of a single continuous foot promises advantages in design and fabrication as well as resistance to adverse external conditions and wear, while constant contact with the surface provides a high margin of failure resistance (e.g., slip or detachment).”
Snails can literally move along the edge of the spear unscathed. Surely, there’s something in a robot that can do the same.
The small snail robot looks like nothing so much as a discarded stick of gum, and is much smaller. At just a centimeter in length, this is not a platform capable of demonstrating much more than movement. The machine is made of Liquid Crystalline Elastomers, which can change shape when scanned by light. Combined with an artificial mucus later formed of glycerin, the robot is able to move, climb over surfaces, and even up a vertical wall, on a glass ceiling, and over obstacles, while it is powered by a laser.
It does all of this at 1/50th the speed a snail would.
This leaves the implications of such technology in a more distant future. Imagine a sensor that could crawl into position on the side of a building, and then stay there as combat roars around it. Or perhaps the application is as a robot adhesive, crawling charges into place at the remote direction of imperceptible light. Directing a robot into an unexpected position, and having it stay there with adhesive, could be a useful tool for future operations, and one that would be built upon research like this. (Source: Defense News)
20 Aug 19. DST and Next-Gen Tech Fund to support tech and manufacturing collaboration. Defence Science and Technology and the Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF) have announced the launch of the ‘A Joint Effort’ Stage 2 competition later this year to focus on joining technologies enabling the use of advanced materials and/or designs on key military platforms.
It is anticipated that Stage 2 of the ‘A Joint Effort’ competition will launch later this year. This NGTF and Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) competition is looking for innovative joining technologies that enable the use of advanced materials and/or designs on military platforms in land, sea and air environments.
DST is keen to encourage potential participants to collaborate in the next stage to strengthen bids. In order to help facilitate this, it has set up a closed LinkedIn group to allow current participants and those interested in applying to Stage 2 (either independently or as a consortia with successful Stage 1 participants) to interact, get to know each other and form mutually beneficial collaborations.
Stage 1 of ‘A Joint Effort’ launched in November 2018 as a parallel call between Australia (DST Group, NGTF and Small Business Innovation Research for Defence) and the UK (Materials for Strategic Advantage program within the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) and was managed by both DST/SBIRD and DASA.
Many different materials are within scope, including joining combinations of composites, metals, ceramics and polymers. Potential joining solutions should provide enhanced capability through one of the following:
- improved performance through use of new material combinations or structural designs;
- improved durability of structures through better joints; and
- improved ability to maintain joints through the life of the military platform. (Source: Defence Connect)
19 Aug 19. World’s biggest chip created to meet demands of AI. Start-up Cerebras has developed processor bigger than iPad to help train AI systems. The Cerebras processor is a single square chip cut from a 300mm silicon wafer. The race among semiconductor makers to gain an edge in the booming market for specialised AI processors has just given rise to the world’s biggest computer chip. While chip circuitry continues to get smaller, the slab of silicon, developed by Californian start-up Cerebras, has a surface area slightly larger than a standard iPad and is more than 80 times bigger than its closest competitor. It also eats up as much electricity as all the servers contained in one and a half racks — the towers of computers in data centres that stand more than six feet tall. The mammoth chip, due to be unveiled on Monday after nearly four years of development, is the starkest sign yet of how traditional thinking is being turned on its head as the chip industry struggles with the demands of artificial intelligence.
It also highlights giant leaps in the amount of computing power that are being thrown at the most complex AI problems — something that prompted US research group OpenAI to raise $1bn from Microsoft last month, hoping to ride the exponential hardware curve to reach human-level AI. Most chipmakers have been looking to create smaller, modular elements, known as “chiplets”, out of which today’s most advanced chips are assembled, according to Patrick Moorhead, a US chip analyst. Cerebras, by contrast, has jettisoned that conventional approach and instead come up with what is in effect an entire computing cluster on a single chip, he says. The race to build a new generation of specialised AI chips, under way for several years, is finally reaching a critical point, with several companies — including Intel, Habana Labs and UK start-up Graphcore — either just starting or promising to deliver their first chips to customers before the end of this year. Cerebras did not name what it said was a number of customers already receiving its chips, although they are likely to be best suited for the massive computing tasks undertaken by the biggest internet companies.
More than 50 companies have been trying to develop specialised chips for AI. Most of these are used for inference, the task of applying a trained AI system to real-world examples, rather than the far more data-intensive job of training the deep learning models in the first place. That challenge has been taken on by a handful of start-ups like Cerebras, Graphcore and Wave Computing, as well as Chinese challenger Cambricon. The length of time it has taken for companies like these to start shipping products shows that the technical challenges were much greater than most had expected, said Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at the Linley Group, a US chip research firm. That has not prevented some of the product-less start-ups attracting high valuations.
Cerebras has raised more than $200m in venture capital, with its latest round, late last year, valuing it at around $1.6bn, said Andrew Feldman, chief executive. The need for a new type of processor for AI stems from the massive amounts of data needed to train neural networks, which are used in so-called deep learning systems to handle tasks like image recognition and language understanding. The networks operate as giant feedback loops, recycling information as they learn to find patterns in the formless data. The computing “cores”, or brains, in the chips needed for this work are relatively simple compared with the cores in general-purpose CPUs, which have to handle many different computing tasks. But the chips’ makers must find ways to harness vast numbers of cores in ways that speed up the time it takes to train a large deep learning model, while saving on electricity, and hence cost. Taking the challenge to its logical extreme, Cerebras has carved a single, square chip out of a 300mm diameter circular wafer, the largest silicon disc that can be produced in today’s chip “fabs”, or factories.
Wafers are normally sliced up into dozens of individual chips, because the technology does not exist to etch circuitry into anything bigger than a large postage stamp sized area. Cerebras has sought to overcome this limitation by connecting the many different sectors on wafers, known as dies, enabling them to communicate directly with each other, in effect turning the entire silicon plate into a massive processor. Most of the companies building specialised deep learning chips have adopted designs that push data into computing memory that sits alongside the chip’s many processing cores, so that they can handle tasks with the minimum possible delay and use only a tiny amount of energy to shuttle information back and forth. The next task is to link cores in a matrix pattern so that they can communicate with each other, like the synapses in the brain. By connecting 400,000 cores, Cerebras claimed it was taking this process to its ultimate level while still keeping the efficiency of handling all the processing on a single chip.
Daily newsletter Track trends in tech, media and telecoms from around the world Sign up here with one click Intel, which bought AI chip start-up Nervana four years ago as the AI race was getting started, has been trying to achieve the same effect by networking together many individual chips in a vast array. That has brought a breakthrough in the past six months and will bring much greater efficiency to systems due out later this year, said Amir Khosrowshahi, the chief technology officer of Intel’s AI efforts. However, even if Intel succeeds in linking thousands of cores into a huge matrix-like system, it is unlikely to be as efficient as the Cerebras chip thanks to the inbuilt advantage that company has of placing everything on a single chip, said Mr Moorhead. (Source: FT.com)
15 Aug 19. Tests Contraption That Can Turn Any Plane Into a Robot Plane. Scientists say new ROBOpilot completed a two-hour test flight, essentially turning a manned plane into a drone. Air Force scientists have announced that they had tested a robot kit that can turn virtually any plane into a self-piloting drone, through a program called ROBOpilot. Why is that important? For starters, planes and drones are expensive. The drone shot down over Iran last month cost $220m. For years the military has rushed to fund fabulous, exquisite drones of all shapes and sizes. Some, like the $15m MQ-9 Reaper from General Atomics, are cheaper than manned military aircraft. But the big ones are more expensive than many types of civilian sport aircraft.
“Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration,” said Dr. Alok Das, senior scientist with the Air Force Research Lab’s, or AFRL’s, Center for Rapid Innovation, in a statement. “All of this is achieved without making permanent modifications to the aircraft.” AFRL has partnered with DZYNE Technologies to produce the kit.
The system interacts with flight controls just like a human pilot, pushing all the correct buttons, flipping the switches, manipulating the yoke and throttle and watching the gages. “At the same time, the system uses sensors, like GPS and an Inertial Measurement Unit [essentially a way for a machine to locate itself in space without GPS] for situational awareness and information gathering. A computer analyzes these details to make decisions on how to best control the flight,” AFRL said in a statement. Once the flight is done, the kit can be pulled out and the plane reconverted to one requiring a human pilot.
On August 9, the system completed a two-hour test flight at Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground. In theory, the same or a similar technology could be applied to expensive fighter aircraft. And the military has said that the next, sixth-generation fighter will be optionally manned. But the military has expressed reservations about allowing autonomous software to undertake lethal actions, so don’t expect to see ROBOpilot doing combat missions anytime soon. (Source: Defense One)
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.