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17 Jul 20. Aussie scientists develop next-gen gyroscopic navigation technology. Australian researchers and industry partners are joining forces to develop, design and manufacture the next-generation of optical gyroscopes for high-precision autonomous navigation in a new $8.7m project – with applications for space sciences, agriculture and defence.
The rapid and transformative development of autonomous vehicles in recent years has seen numerous technological breakthroughs. The deployment of ultra high-performance gyroscopes can enhance their performance in terms of safety and guidance.
The use of ultra high-performance gyroscopes can already be found in a wide range of industries including infrastructure management, mining, space sciences, agriculture, and defence.
The new project is led by navigation systems manufacturer Advanced Navigation, with research partners the Australian National University (ANU), RMIT University, and commercial partner Corridor Insights. It will develop a new standard for optical gyroscopes, improving precision while reducing cost and size.
Associate professor Jong Chow from the ANU Centre for Gravitational Astrophysics, and a member of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), said the collaboration is a chance to bring together expertise from around the country.
“We have such a broad range of photonics expertise in Australia. This project brings it together, creating a nexus between universities, research and education, industry and government,” Chow said.
The project has been supported through a $2.8m Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRC-P) grant to Advanced Navigation.
Chris Shaw, chief executive of Advanced Navigation, said the project would translate ground-breaking foundational research at universities to commercialisation, demonstrating Australia’s capability across the advanced manufacturing pipeline.
“This project will establish Australia as a leading manufacturer of high-performance, cost-effective navigation solutions,” Shaw said.
At the core of this endeavour is technology developed at the ANU Centre for Gravitational Astrophysics, OzGrav and Department of Quantum Science. The technique, ‘digital interferometry’, combines advanced signal processing with precision optics to create ultra-high-resolution measurements using light.
ANU researcher Chathura Bandutunga said, “We use digital signal processing to encode the lightwaves we use for our measurement. This encoding allows us to enhance the sensitivity of our instruments to rotation.”
In parallel, researchers at RMIT’s Integrated Photonics and Applications Centre (InPAC) are undertaking leading research in creating photonic chips – miniaturised optical components, enabling large experiments to be put into a much smaller package.
“The clever signal processing developed at ANU allows us to tell apart tiny signals from noise, and our photonic chip technology enables all that functionality to fit on a chip the size of a fingernail,” Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell from RMIT said.
Taking these research ideas through to the field, commercial partner Corridor Insights will pilot the next-generation of optical gyroscope in autonomous infrastructure management, looking for early detection of defects and faults in Australia’s rail network.
With the federal government announcement, work on the project can proceed at an accelerated pace, putting Canberran innovation on the map.
“This presents a great opportunity to bring the R&D strengths in instrumentation science located right here in the Canberra region to the forefront,” Chow said. (Source: Space Connect)
16 Jul 20. Motorsport inspired technology to aid future combat aircraft development. BAE Systems and Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) have joined forces to explore how battery management and cooling technologies from the motorsport industry could be exploited to deliver efficiency and performance gains in the design of future combat aircraft.
An Oxfordshire-based specialist team from WAE is working closely with BAE Systems engineers in Lancashire to inform and guide thinking about how future aircraft could fly faster and more efficiently than anything before.
The project is part of a wider research effort to develop technologies that could be used to develop the most advanced combat air system for the UK. Next generation combat air technologies will need high-power at low weight in order to provide long range endurance and mission success. Future systems will also need to generate enough energy to power a small town, which can be managed safely and efficiently throughout the aircraft and its subsystems, with pilots depending on high-performance ‘power when you need it’ combat air capability.
WAE is a world leader in the design and delivery of advanced battery technologies that provide durable, fast charging power capability and was recently appointed as the Gen3 exclusive battery system supplier of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Combined with technical expertise from Rolls Royce in the development of power and thermal management systems and BAE Systems’ experience in integrating complex systems, this collaboration is an example of how the UK combat air sector is leveraging the best of wider industry, sustaining critical skills across the country.
Julia Sutcliffe, Chief Technology Officer for BAE Systems’ Air sector, said: “Working in partnership with companies like WAE is vital to drive rapid innovation at the pace the Tempest programme demands. Changing how we engage with wider industry and leveraging the best technologies and processes from across the global supply chain is essential in order to deliver value to the UK, our international partners and our allies.
“This collaboration is a great example of how we’re starting to achieve this – finding synergies, great engineering minds and mutually beneficial technology projects with organisations outside of our traditional partnership base.”
Paul McNamara, Technical Director, Williams Advanced Engineering, said: “We feel privileged to be involved in this ground breaking project and are confident that our experience in advanced battery development and cooling technologies will allow us to deliver innovative new solutions that can be applied in the defence sector. We have already seen a number of tangible benefits from closer working with BAE Systems, tapping into a rich source of experience from a range of engineering disciplines.”
The UK’s ability to generate and employ combat air power is critical to deliver national security and to support the Government’s vision for a strong, prosperous, influential and global Britain. This study forms part of a wider UK research effort to develop a set of capabilities designed to support a fully-connected future combat air system, building on the country’s strong national heritage of advanced technology programmes and development of world-class military capabilities.
This latest project builds on an agreement signed in 2018 between the two companies to share technology, expertise and skills across a range of areas including augmented reality, cockpit designs and advanced materials to create game-changing innovations for the design, performance and production of both fast jets and fast cars. A secondment programme is also in place creating opportunities for graduates and apprentices to share best practice across the two organisations.
WAE brings best-in-class capability in power management – from decades of experience of driving performance in the automotive and motorsport industry – and as a foundation technical partner in Formula E to transfer the technologies into electric vehicles on land, sea and in the air.
15 Jul 20. AiRXOS Launches New Unmanned Aircraft Systems Solution for Energy Industry. GE Aviation’s all-in-one solution enables comprehensive operational oversight for safe, scalable, repeatable commercial UAS operations. AiRXOS, a leading provider of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) solutions, today announced a comprehensive Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) solution for Energy organizations to plan, schedule, operate and monitor all facets of their UAS operations from a single platform.
AiRXOS’ new Enterprise Energy Solution provides digital compliance, full Situational Awareness of airspace and assets, inspection, emergency response/disaster recovery capabilities, analytics, and asset performance tools all in one, connected platform. The Enterprise Energy Solution runs on AiRXOS’ Air Mobility™ Platform – a secure, cloud-based, extensible platform that enables easy integration of an energy organizations current applications and other UAS Service Suppliers (USS), as well as supports the full lifecycle of UAS Energy operations.
“Infrastructure inspections with traditional manned aircraft are dangerous, inefficient, and expensive,” said Mark Lanphear, AiRXOS’ Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Business Development. “Now more than ever energy organizations are looking for solutions to help them deliver safe, scalable, and repeatable operations for greater economic viability. To achieve scale, they need a centralized and standardized view of all operations, manned and unmanned. It’s why we developed the Enterprise Energy Solution – to deliver energy organizations a truly comprehensive platform that brings all UAS lifecycle operations into one view – from enterprise wide infrastructure inspection and surveillance, to asset and crew management, Situational Awareness and emergency operations after a natural disaster – all on one platform.”
AiRXOS’ Enterprise Solution allows energy organizations to combine and integrate all critical inspection needs in one connected ecosystem with automated and feature-rich technology with capabilities including: Automated Waiver, Exemption and Certificate of Authorization (COAs) for safer, faster flying, partner-enabled mission-ready kits with sensors, drones, and pilots as a service, emergency response and disaster recovery application with mass alerts, digital SGI and complete situational awareness, compliance and crew management for reliability and transparency, asset management and security to optimize assets, analytics and insights for near real time actionable intelligence, and program design services to help energy companies launch and grow programs.
AiRXOS’ Enterprise Solution Key Features:
- Operational Oversight in One Platform
AiRXOS’ Air Mobility Platform is a highly secure, cloud-based platform that enables energy organizations to plan, schedule and monitor all facets of UAS operations from a single platform, providing all the tools needed to fly quickly, and with complete confidence in safety operations. Includes full visibility to airspace and assets, inspection and emergency response capabilities, analytics, and asset performance tools.
- Compliant, Safe Flight Solutions
AiRXOS enhances UAS operations efficiency with the development of solutions, supporting processes, training, and procedures to enable advanced UAS flights and help energy organizations obtain the necessary FAA Waivers, Exemptions, and Certificates of Authorizations (COAs), Special Governmental Interest (SGIs) to perform inspections faster.
- Central Command Center
AiRXOS’ Enterprise Solution provides for public safety agency coordination, situational awareness of UAS operations, streaming live video, data and operational insights, automated SGI compliance, tracking and reporting and optional media and public advisory alerts.
- Mission Ready Drone Toolkit
AiRXOS‘ robust Partner Ecosystem provides Energy organizations with a “mission ready drone toolkit” for inspection, detection, and monitoring needs. This includes advanced drones, sensors, and professionally qualified pilots, in one turn-key service designed to carry out all forms of inspections.
- Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery
Includes an integrated video distribution system certified on AT&T’s FirstNet – providing the industries only Unmanned Aircraft (UA) streaming solution proven and tested to operate during catastrophic events and recovery. This also provides the industry’s only digital SGI process, and mass alert distribution for rapid external communications to the public, UA operators, media and commercial organizations.
- Compliance and Crew Management
Provides full accountability and transparency across teams. Designed to track and manage the status of each pilots’ Part 107 license and expiration dates, flight hours and mission planning for a complete pilot workflow. Reporting tools track audit logs, UAS, crew, and operations management records, to satisfy regulatory compliance requirements and operational monitoring, including LAANC usage reports to the FAA operation transaction logs and usage reports.
- Asset Management and Security
Asset Management & Security optimizes the performance of assets to minimize costs, and reduce operational risks. Through AiRXOS’ partner GE Digital, the Enterprise Solution connects disparate data sources and uses advanced analytics to provide a unified view of an asset’s current state and health to mitigate downtime.
- Analytics and Insights
AiRXOS’ Analytics and Insights partners help optimize operations and budget using advanced analytics on the data collected via UAS operation, providing actionable intelligence to better manage assets. With inspection insights integrated with Asset Performance Management systems of choice, energy organizations are provided a comprehensive picture of how assets are performing at any time.
- Program Design
Before Energy UAS programs can fully operationalize, they may need help in designing the optimal solution for UAS operations and AiRXOS is prepared to assist with all their planning and operational needs. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
14 Jul 20. BAE Systems’ MindfuL Technology to Provide Transparency and Build User Trust in Machine Learning Systems. BAE Systems recently delivered software to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of a contract under the agency’s Competency-Aware Machine Learning (CAML) program. The delivery of the MindfuLTM software is the first milestone in the program to improve the transparency of machine learning systems.
Transitioning artificial intelligence-based systems from decision-making tools into true partners requires users to trust in their machine counterpart. While machine learning technology has matured, these systems are unable to communicate context and confidence in their decisions – including task strategies, the completeness of their training relative to a given task, factors that may influence their actions, or the likelihood to succeed under specific conditions. To meet these challenges, BAE Systems provided its MindfuL solution, a system which will independently “audit” a machine learning-based system and provide the end user with insights to build trust in the technology. The first software release of the system provides a baseline capability to detect when the system encounters a new environment for which it has not been trained.
“The technology that underpins machine learning and artificial intelligence applications is rapidly advancing, and now it’s time to ensure these systems can be integrated, utilized, and ultimately trusted in the field,” said Chris Eisenbies, product line director of the Autonomy, Control, and Estimation group at BAE Systems. “The MindfuL system stores relevant data in order to compare the current environment to past experiences and deliver findings that are easy to understand.”
The program will produce statements like: “The machine learning system has navigated obstacles in sunny, dry environments 1000 times and completed the task with greater than 99 percent accuracy under similar conditions.” Or alternatively, “The machine learning system has only navigated obstacles in rain 100 times with 80 percent accuracy in similar conditions; manual override recommended.”
The MindfuL software was designed and built as part of a collaboration between BAE Systems and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Under the terms of the approximately $5m three-year CAML program awarded in 2019, BAE Systems’ FAST LabsTM research and development organization will demonstrate the technology in both simulation and prototype hardware later this year. The program will leverage BAE Systems’ autonomy portfolio and build on its 20-year history of pioneering autonomy technology. Work will be performed at BAE Systems facilities in Burlington, Massachusetts and Arlington, Virginia. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
14 Jul 20. US and British armies eye technology collaboration. Government officials have signed an agreement that could lead to the joint modernization of the British and U.S. armies in key technology areas. British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey and U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy signed a memorandum of agreement on joint modernization for a number of technologies during a meeting in London, the British Ministry of Defence announced July 14.
In a statement, the British government said the agreement is a sign of “intent to formalise a number of ongoing initiatives between the two Armies, boosting opportunities to co-operate effectively as modern warfare continues to evolve.”
The agreement initially aims to cover developing, complementary capabilities from 2023 to 2027, specifically:
- Networks: the shared development of digital infrastructure to support U.K.-U.S. operations.
- Long-range precision fires: improving the bilateral capability development.
- Future vertical lift: creating closer affiliation in the development of helicopter capabilities.
- Soldier and ground lethality: building on the existing collaboration to improve the effectiveness of land forces.
- Assured positioning, navigation and timing: providing greater coherence in the development of multidomain technologies.
The goal is to narrow the gap between British and American forces during joint operations, according to the announcement.
Heappey said the agreement “signals our shared determination to develop the novel capabilities that will give us that battle-winning edge and opportunity for the defense industry on both sides of the Atlantic.”
The MoD said the officials discussed in detail plans to work together to modernize programs and capabilities of shared importance.
McCarthy said the partnership “allows costly and complex problems to be distributed and helps protect the industrial base through enabling faster innovation and cost-sharing towards achieving our modernization priorities.” (Source: Defense News)
13 Jul 20. The UK’s emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities could achieve a decisive step-change by adopting current and near-term quantum technologies. According to a research paper published by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), on behalf of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and in collaboration with UK Strategic Command (“Quantum Information Processing Landscape 2020: Prospects for UK Defence and Security”, DSTL/TR121783), embracing quantum technology now could lead to the enhanced pace, precision and pre-emption of decision making by military commanders.
Dstl’s report identified commercially available quantum computers – ‘annealers’ – as having the potential to run an important and versatile class of AI software at speeds vastly in excess of normal digital computers. This software is based on an algorithm called a ‘neural net’; a mature and proven method of pattern-matching, which imposes extremely high loads on a classical digital computer architecture. However, the unique properties of a quantum annealer means that it can execute a neural net in one machine cycle instead of thousands or millions.
The report describes how, in the short-term, quantum neural nets could be used to perform Quantum Information Processing (QIP) to search archive, near real and real-time data feeds, automatically looking for features of interest, detecting anomalies and instances of change. This would significantly improve the time, cost and quantity of military data processing, while simultaneously releasing intellectual capacity among operators.
Over the subsequent five to 10 years, within MOD and more widely, QIP technologies could also be applied to:
Control systems in aircraft, missiles, fire control and defensive systems;
Sensor data processing such as data fusion, navigation, resolving signals in noise, interference and jamming;
Artificial Intelligence situational understanding;
Warning marker identification;
Pattern analysis undiscernible to the human eye.
Dstl’s report is being released for input and comment from the defence community including industry and academia. After review, key findings and recommendations will be added and the document will be finalised to create an authoritative evidence base to support future investment decisions. Subject to funding, a benchmark exercise could commence during 2020. If benchmarking confirms the review’s findings, an in service initial operating capability could be realised as soon as 2025. This would help build quantum expertise in MOD and ensure an organisation ‘quantum-ready’ for the future.
Although currently maintaining a watching brief on quantum computing, Dstl, supported by funding from MOD, also has a keen interest in quantum sensing technologies. This is realised through a close collaboration with the National Quantum Technologies Programme, a partnership supporting national expertise in this cutting edge technology.
Gary Aitkenhead, Dstl Chief Executive, commented: “Quantum technology is a game-changer for defence and society, and one that both maintains the security of the UK as well as offering clear economic benefits. The UK is a world leader in many aspects of QIP and this report outlines a clear path for future development.”
13 Jul 20. New intelligent factory set to increase productivity and revolutionise combat aircraft production in the UK. A first of its kind industry 4.0 factory is applying game-changing digital technologies to advance manufacturing on the UK’s next generation combat air system, Tempest.
The new facility at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire, is the result of a multi-million pound investment and collaboration with more than 40 blue chip and SME companies along with academic institutions. Harnessing the best of UK innovation, the Company has developed a digitally connected, intelligent factory for future military aircraft production.
Bringing together advanced manufacturing technologies, the factory will transform engineering processes. Automated robots, as well as virtual and augmented reality will increase speed, precision and efficiencies, as well as reduce the costs associated with the manufacture of complex military aircraft structures.
The factory also demonstrates a new approach to the way humans and machines can operate together. Cobotics and other flexible robot technologies remove the need for heavy, fixed, long-lead tooling and can quickly switch from the manufacture of one item or platform to another. Intelligent machines and off-the-shelf robotic technology from the automotive industry have been modified to operate at the precise tolerances required for military aircraft, which in some cases are less than a third the width of a human hair.
Such technology drives greater productivity by allowing operators to focus on more highly-skilled and strategic tasks and production managers to oversee operations from a fully digitised, virtual office.
The new facility underpins efforts of the UK-led Tempest programme to meet the UK’s ambition to remain at the forefront of the Combat Air sector by delivering more cost-effectively and in half the time of previous programmes.
Dave Holmes, Manufacturing Director for BAE Systems Air, said: “We’ve collaborated with the best of UK industry and academia to develop a cutting-edge facility that combines current and emerging technologies, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of combat air technology development.
“Driving our manufacturing capabilities forward as we prepare for the fourth Industrial Revolution, will sustain and develop critical skillsets and ensure we can continue to deliver military capability to address future threats, whilst improving productivity and delivering value for money for our customers.”
Technologies inside the factory are already delivering benefits. The intelligent workstation, developed in collaboration with The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Fairfield Control Systems, is in use on the Typhoon production line. It uses a system which recognises operators and automatically delivers tailored instructions using ‘pick by light’ technologies. In addition, additive manufacturing technologies are being used in the production of Typhoon aircraft parts and assemblies.
BAE Systems and the UK’s aerospace, defence, security and space sectors are world-leading, employing hundreds of thousands of people and supporting many more jobs through the supply chain across the country. Together the sectors generate £79bn in turnover, supporting the economy while underpinning national security.
10 Jul 20. Silicon Valley Giants — Not Start-Ups — Dominate DoD Tech $$. The dataset offers a window into not just the scale of tech involvement with the military, intelligence agencies, and federal law enforcement. It also highlights the size advantages that enable giants like HP, IBM, and Microsoft to navigate government contracting, while even explicitly military-friendly firms like Palantir and Anduril lag behind their more established peers.
The big companies of Silicon Valley are more entangled in Pentagon contracts than the industry tends to publicly admit, according to a review of thousands of contracts by technology accountability nonprofit Tech Inquiry. But if the Pentagon’s keenest interest in the valley is in buying cutting edge tech from small, agile firms, it’s not reflected in the actual acquisitions data, which instead show vast spending going primarily to giants working with subcontractors.
“Recent narratives decrying a massive divide between Silicon Valley and the military are anecdotal and qualitatively false,” concludes the Tech Inquiry report.
The dataset offers a window into not just the scale of tech involvement with the military, intelligence agencies, and federal law enforcement. It also highlights the size advantages that enable giants like HP, IBM, and Microsoft to navigate government contracting, while even explicitly military-friendly firms like Palantir and Anduril lag behind their more established peers. The irony here is that HP, when co-founder David Packard ran things, helped turn Silicon Valley and the tech industry against doing business with the military, which he criticized as too slow and cumbersome to do business with.
“It’s daunting for a company that has to be focused on near-term successes to work with an organization that tracks historically how long it takes for them to contract and integrate a technology not in months but in years,” says Peter Dixon, CEO and Co-founder of Second Front Systems, a company whose specific mission is to shepherd dual-use technologies through the acquisition process.
By subcontracting, firms with acquisitions expertise can partner with firms that otherwise could not sell to the Pentagon. This process also creates a false sense of distance between the commercial and military sides of a business.
“Silicon Valley is there because of defense, aerospace contractors,” says Margaret O’Mara, a historian of technology industry at the University of Washington. Her book “The Code” examines the interplay between the federal government and the technology sector it fostered.
Tech Inquiry’s deep study of industry work with the Pentagon is informative both in the content of the contracts, the scale of industry engagement and also the paths by which new ideas go from commercial companies to soldiers in uniform.
“We are always tempted to refer to Silicon Valley as a monolithic entity in terms of politics or in terms of its business model,” says O’Mara. “One of the things this does reveal is you have a real variety of opinion about the merits and the downsides of working with federal law enforcement and defense.”
Big firms with years of experience and resources to spend can acquire and then guide small contracts through the perplexing and often siloed acquisition markets. Experienced defense sector companies can contract with commercial software giants to redesign code to applications the workers who originally wrote it may never have intended. Getting tech from where it is designed may be partly about finding people willing to do the work, but it is at least as much about the ability of companies to navigate contracting.
“Even when products are successfully postured for national security and military use,” says Dixon, “they still rarely make it through bureaucratic hurdles to go from prototype into fielding, where they can actually make the difference for a lance corporal or specialist in harm’s way.” (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
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.