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22 Dec 20. DASA showcases tomorrow’s technology today. Defence and Security Accelerator links investors to best innovators to boost UK capabilities and prosperity. Top innovators pitched their businesses and novel technological ideas to investors at an event by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).
More than 45 investors attended the virtual Investment Showcase earlier this month with 14 companies presenting their innovative business opportunities and associated technologies that have the potential to offer better performance and increased capability for defence and national security – as well as offering multiple uses across other sectors.
The companies were split by technology area, to allow investors to easily identify those sessions of particular interest.
The innovations on display ranged from different software that tackles fake news and reduces harmful content to innocent audiences; a medical point of care innovation that provides a diagnostic answer in ten minutes on a patient’s need for antibiotics; to drone software that could transform the signal denied autonomy aspect of the drone market; and others.
Categories showcased were:
- Cyber, Analysis and Training Software
- Medical Software and Scanning
- Advanced Materials
- Drones and Drone Software
An invited audience of investors saw each company present their business opportunity and growth plans.
All companies presenting have previously received either defence or security funding via DASA.
DASA offers our funded companies the opportunity to access business mentoring and finance advice, with pitch training a core training element.
DASA is resolute in its support of UK companies to help them reach the next level of development and funding necessary to take their innovation into the market place.
Investors who are interested in more details about UK innovations are welcome to get in touch with DASA to find out more about those companies that showcased and the associated investment opportunities.
The companies are looking at a spectrum of investment opportunities and are interested in syndicated as well as individual investments. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
17 Dec 20. AI algorithm ARTUµ flies with pilot on USAF’s U-2 Dragon Lady. The US Air Force (USAF) has announced the successful flight of an AI algorithm, known as ARTUµ, with the pilot on a U-2 Dragon Lady high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft.
The US Air Force (USAF) has announced the successful flight of an AI algorithm, known as ARTUµ, with the pilot on a U-2 Dragon Lady high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft.
According to the USAF, this is the first military flight to fly with AI capability. This signalled a major step for national defence in the digital age.
Developed by Air Combat Command’s U-2 Federal Laboratory, ARTUµ was developed by a small team of researchers led by major Ray Tierney.
It was trained to perform specific ‘in-flight tasks’ usually carried out by the pilot.
US Air Force acquisition, technology and logistics assistant secretary William Roper said: “ARTUµ’s ground-breaking flight culminates our three-year journey to becoming a digital force.
“Putting AI safely in command of a US military system for the first-time ushers in a new age of human-machine teaming and algorithmic competition. Failing to realise AI’s full potential will mean ceding decision advantage to our adversaries.”
The AI military flight comes just two months after the team of U-2 Federal Laboratory updated ‘inflight software’ during a U-2 training mission.
USAF secretary Barbara Barrett said: “Blending expertise of a pilot with capabilities of machine learning, this historic flight directly answers the National Defense Strategy’s call to invest in autonomous systems.
“Innovations in artificial intelligence will transform both the air and space domains.”
In April, DARPA revealed that it is looking at how advanced low-cost sensors, AI algorithms, and virtual technology can be fused to create a common operating picture. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
21 Dec 20. Defence technology in 2021: our predictions. Despite a challenging year, investment in defence innovations has continued to thrive and programmes long in the pipeline have seen full deployment, potentially changing the face of future warfare. Berenice Healey and Harry Lye examine how the technology themes that have dominated 2020 might progress into next year.
We admit it: previous Global Defence Technology end-of-year prediction articles have been a bit hit or miss, forecasting as they have a military year filled with railguns, lasers, exoskeletons and AI weapons. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt, it’s that the near future will be shaped more closely by what’s happened during the previous year rather than lofty sci-fi ideas.
With that in mind, this year we examine some key themes and projects we’ve seen emerge during 2020 and round up expert opinion on how they will develop throughout 2021. We look at whether optionally crewed systems will be the tactical and financial solution they’ve been pitched as, what the Biden administration means for the New START nuclear treaty, how the military Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to dominate, whether cyber in space is the new hybrid domain, and how interoperability will shake up armed forces’ strategy.
Optionally crewed everything
Theoretically, programmes to develop optionally crewed systems offer the best of both worlds while keeping budgets down. But practically they can represent an unacceptable compromise for both uses.
Naval and army systems are the poor cousins when it comes to optionally crewed solutions, with most solutions heavily weighted towards one or another. However, some notable optionally crewed naval and ground systems made progress in 2020. In October, the US Army relaunched its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) programmes, with Rheinmetall, Raytheon and Textron throwing their hats in the ring.
Automation is well-suited for marine operations, not least minehunting, but crewed operations seldom add value. For example, the US Navy’s Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) programme, still earmarked for construction in 2020 despite cutting it fine, is designed for uncrewed operation but can host sailors if required.
But it is in aircraft where optionally crewed designs offer the most potential. Tempest is the proposed sixth-generation fighter aircraft concept under development for the UK Royal Air Force by the Team Tempest consortium consisting of BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, Rolls-Royce, MBDA UK and the Ministry of Defence. It was launched with great spectacle as part of the UK’s Combat Air Strategy in 2018 and is due to enter service in the mid-2030s, using swarming technology to control drones while in flight.
While a lack of industry events meant that the all-too-familiar scale model wasn’t rolled out in every UK industry pavilion as usual, 2020 saw some optimistic news for Tempest. In October, analysis by PwC, commissioned by BAE Systems on behalf of Team Tempest, found that the project to develop a future fighter will contribute at least £25bn to the UK’s economy and support an average of 20,000 jobs a year between 2026 and 2050.
However, Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies fellow Justin Bronk cautions that Tempest might not be the all-round solution armed forces are seeking.
“There are notable drawbacks to proceeding with an optionally piloted solution for future combat aircraft, as they promise to retain the downsides of both crewed and uncrewed systems without the main benefits of either approach,” he says. “An optionally piloted fighter aircraft would have to have extremely complex software capable of high levels of lethal autonomy in flight, whilst also still paying the weight, space and signature design penalties of a cockpit and life support systems.”
President-elect Joe Biden, due to take office in January, has already made clear his commitment to arms control treaties. Biden is set to seek an extension to the New START treaty, which governs the US and Russia’s nuclear arsenals.
Biden, who was in office as Obama’s vice president when the New START treaty was first signed in 2010, is widely expected to seek an extension to the treaty and use it is a basis to negotiate future arms control agreements.
Biden’s election campaign website states: “President Biden would take other steps to demonstrate our commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons. As he said in 2017, Biden believes the sole purpose of the US nuclear arsenal should be deterring – and if necessary, retaliating against – a nuclear attack. As president, he will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with our allies and military.”
On Iran, Biden has signalled his ambition to re-enter the US into the Iran Nuclear Agreement – or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – should Tehran return to compliance with the terms of the deal. With the agreement reinstated, Biden would then push to ‘strengthen and extend’ the deal.
Proliferation of the military IoT
In November, US Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper confirmed that the US Air Force’s ‘Internet of Military Things’, or Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), was ready for its delivery phase.
Roper said: “We have worked earnestly for a year and [a] half to demonstrate data-centric, internet-enabled warfighting constructs. I have witnessed the birth of ‘IoT.mil’ capabilities in ABMS demonstrations. “We are no longer asking if we can build an ‘IoT.mil.’ We have graduated to how and when [we can give it] to warfighters ready to field and train. Consequently, ABMS is graduating to its next phase with demonstrations run by our chief architect and fielding by our integrating PEO.”
Further development has been placed into the hands of the US Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), which helped to field the X-37B spaceplane.
ABMS is part of the US’ wider plans for a joint all-domain command and control (JADC2) concept, which aims to connect sensors from the army, navy, air force, and marine corps into a single network.
In the past year, the US Air Force held three ABMS demonstrations and the system was even used to assist the Department of Defense’s pandemic response.
Concepts for a similar system is also being explored in the UK, with service chiefs detailing plans for a future ‘digital backbone’ to connect the UK’s Armed Forces. At the recent British Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) 2020, command and control technologies were a focus of development efforts.
Cyber capabilities in space
Here at Global Defence Technology, we get very excited about military space stories.
In 2020, the UK followed the US’s 2019 Space Force example, announcing a Royal Air Force Space Command capable of launching Britain’s first rocket in 2022. And when, in November, the US Marine Corps activated a Marine Corps Forces Space Command, we had visions of an Aliens-style expedition eliminating adversarial xenomorphs.
However, the truth is more prosaic and might see more keyboard warriors in action than flamethrower-wielding combatants.
“There has been increased focus on offensive and defensive cyber capabilities in the space domain throughout 2019 and 2020, as the latter is increasingly seen as contested by the world’s military powers,” says International Institute for Strategic Studies research fellow and future warfighting specialist Franz-Stefan Gady.
“The US Space Force was established in December 2019 and is exploring AI-enabled cyber defence solutions for its 180 space mission systems. Space-based assets are vulnerable to distributed denial of service attacks or hijacking via cyberspace. Space and cyberspace are intrinsically intertwined.
“Space-based assets like satellites rely on cyberspace links for the flow of data to and from them linking command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance systems. They not only provide crucial cyber ISR but are also capable of delivering offensive cyber effects. Cybersecurity solutions for space are first and foremost software-driven as air-gapped solutions or bringing down a satellite for upgrades is not an option.
“As military powers are standing up space forces and commands, tailored cybersecurity solutions, perhaps AI-enabled, for use in space that take into account the specific nature of this domain (for example, high radiation levels) will increasingly be sought after in 2021.”
Interoperability, interchangeability, interconnection
The UK is putting collaboration between the branches of its Armed Forces and allies front and centre as it moves forward with plans to revamp defence and security, as demonstrated by its impending Integrated Review, the recently announced integrated operating concept and an interoperability agreement with the US.
Across the board, the UK is looking at how it can more closely tie together the arms of the state. The Integrated Review, due to be published next year, is a key part of this, taking a broad look at security, defence, development and foreign policy.
In September, the UK’s Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced the ‘integrated operating concept’ and a fundamental change to the armed forces’ way of thinking.
Carter said: “This posture will be engaged and forward-deployed – armed forces much more in use rather than dedicated solely for contingency – with training and exercising being delivered as operations. It will involve capacity building and engagement in support of countries that need our support.
“This could include partnered operations against common threats – particularly violent extremism. And this may involve combat operations. It will also place a premium on building alliances and improving interoperability to make us more ‘allied by design’ and thus able to burden share more productively.”
In October, during the Atlantic Futures Forum, the US and UK navies announced plans to operate more closely together, aiming for ‘interchangeability’ between the two forces.
US Navy chief of naval operations Admiral Michael Gilday said: “I am proud to announce that the [UK] First Sea Lord [Admiral Tony Radakin] and I will sign a future integrated warfighting statement of intent that will set a cooperative vision for interchangeability.”
The signing followed the embarkation of US Marine Corps F-35 jets on HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will be followed up by another embarkation of US F-35s on the British carrier’s maiden operational deployment in 2021.
Moving forward, integrated forces between allies and the different arms of the state are set to become ever more important. (Source: army-technology.com)
21 Dec 20. Remain Well Clear – Drone Integration Into European Airspace. Royal NLR and ISD are performing a multi-year study for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) to develop the procedures needed to safely and efficiently integrate Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) into European airspace. The partnership has recently completed a large-scale simulation experiment to test the application of a GA-ASI Detect and Avoid System in the European context.
The long-term goal of the partnership between the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), Information Systems Delft (ISD) and GA-ASI is to develop the procedures needed to integrate MALE RPAS with civilian traffic in European airspace. For the purposes of this research, the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, designed and manufactured by GA-ASI, is used as an example case study. Enabling MALE RPAS to operate on a file-and-fly basis just like airliners would unlock numerous civilian applications of these new aircraft types including infrastructure inspection, search and rescue operations and quickly mapping events such as natural disasters. In order to develop and validate the required procedures meant for the real-life tests, we will first carry out large-scale simulation experiments. To this end, NLR is using two simulators, namely the NLR ATM Research Simulator (NARSIM) and the NLR Multi Unmanned aerial system Supervision Testbed (MUST). Here, NARSIM simulates air traffic and provides working positions for air traffic controllers and aircraft pilots. MUST functions as the RPAS simulator and as the ground control station the remote pilot uses to fly the RPAS. The combination of these two simulators is referred to as the MALE RPAS Real-Time Simulation Facility (MRRF).
Keeping a safe distance
One of the key challenges in integrating MALE RPAS into the airspace is to ensure that they always remain a safe distance from other traffic, even in the unlikely event that an air traffic controller fails to notice a conflict involving the RPAS. Detect and Avoid (DAA) technology makes it possible for RPAS pilots on the ground to have a clear picture of the traffic situation around their aircraft in the air. The DAA System, such as the one produced by GA-ASI, also provides alerts and guidance to resolve conflicts if they occur by performing two distinct functions. The first function is known as “remain well clear” and it enables the RPAS pilot to maintain a sufficient distance from other traffic. If a conflict situation escalates, then the second function, known as “collision avoidance”, helps the pilot to make an evasive maneuver and avoid a collision.
In November 2020, NLR performed an experiment to investigate the procedures needed to use the “remain well clear” functionality of DAA System in European airspace. The experiment involved real air traffic controllers, as well as licensed airliner and RPAS pilots. For this experiment, the MRFF simulation was equipped with GA-ASI’s Conflict Prediction and Display System (CPDS), which integrates DAA and TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) functionality, and is designed to meet the latest technical standards prescribed by RTCA for these technologies.
“The experiment considered a number of conflict scenarios in both controlled and uncontrolled airspace classes,” said Dr. ir. Emmanuel Sunil, R&D engineer and project manager at NLR. “We also considered conflicts in the Terminal Maneuvering Area (TMA), and we are one of the first in the world to test the new DAA TMA Alert (DTA) functionality specified in the RTCA DO365B technical standard using a large-scale simulation with real controllers and pilots.”
The results from the simulation will be fed back to regulators and standardisation bodies on both sides of the Atlantic to accelerate the integration of MALE RPAS. Sunil: “The actual aircraft is expected to be integrated into European airspace within the next 5-10 years depending on when the required regulations are adopted here. But it would be great if we can speedup this timeframe with evidence from our studies.”
The partnership between Royal NLR, ISD and GA-ASI will continue into 2021, when the focus of the research will be to consider the potential interactions between the remain well clear and the collision avoidance safety layers of DAA. Additionally, next year’s simulations will demonstrate the use of the DAA traffic display to allow the remote pilot to perform the equivalent of Visual Separation procedures. This is expected to make it easier for air traffic controllers to manage RPAS with other traffic in the landing pattern. (Source: ASD Network)
18 Dec 20. Skydio Adds Arris’s Additive Molding Composites to X2 Platform. U.S. drone manufacturer Skydio and Arris, a manufacturer of high-performance products, have redefined airframe design leveraging Additive Molding, Arris’s breakthrough carbon fiber manufacturing technology. Starting with the new Skydio X2 drone, enterprise, public sector and defense customers will benefit from lighter, longer-range, and more robust aircraft structures at scale.
The collaboration has resulted in the first-of-its-kind production use of Arris’s technology in the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) industry, further extending Skydio’s technology leadership and enabling game-changing advantages:
- Advanced airframe design with component consolidation allowing Skydio to replace a 17 part assembly with a single, multi-functional structure
- Strength and stiffness of titanium at a fraction of the weight, enabling the Skydio X2 to increase range, and speed
- Optimized carbon and glass fiber layout based on functional requirements of individual regions of the airframe
- Scalable US-based manufacturing and innovation to bring peak aerospace performance at lower cost
“We are excited about the value that our partnership with Arris will bring to our customers. At Skydio, we pursue cutting edge innovation across all facets of drone technology. The unique properties of Arris’s Additive Molding carbon fiber allows us to optimize the strength, weight, and radio signal transparency of the Skydio X2 airframe to deliver a highly reliable solution that meets the needs of demanding enterprise, public safety and defense use cases,” says Adam Bry, Skydio’s CEO.
Skydio X2 is Skydio’s latest autonomous drone solution for enterprise, public sector and defense. X2 pairs Skydio’s breakthrough autonomy software with a rugged, foldable airframe for easy “pack and go” transportation, and up to 35 minutes of flight time. The X2 airframe will include a newly designed core structural element manufactured with Arris’s Additive Molding™ technology. Arris’s first-of-its-kind Additive Molding leverages 3D-aligned continuous fiber composite materials for complex shapes where material composition can change within regions of a single part. As a result, Skydio has been able to use a single carbon fiber component with the structural results that would have otherwise required 17 parts.
“The evolution of aerospace design has been punctuated by breakthroughs in manufacturing and materials. Such a moment has come where manufacturing of optimized structures has converged with composite materials ideals to unlock previously impossible, high-performance aerospace designs,” says Ethan Escowitz, founder and CEO of Arris. “While we’re working with leading aerospace manufacturers to improve aircraft performance, sustainability and costs; Skydio’s culture and market have enabled an unsurpassed pace of innovation that has fast-tracked this transformation to deliver the next-generation of aerostructures. It’s simply amazing to see such a revolutionary product broadly available and flying today.”
Skydio X2 is the ultimate solution for a wide range of use cases, including situational awareness, asset inspection, security and patrol use cases. Designed, assembled, and supported in the USA, Skydio X2 is NDAA compliant and has been selected as a trusted UAV solution for the US Department of Defense as part of DIU’s Blue sUAS program. The partnership with Arris further validates Skydio’s commitment to innovation, secure supply chain security and US-based manufacturing.
The search for the right material for an autonomous drone
Hardware design is a process of compromise and optimization. While this is true for any product, building one that flies elevates the demands of this process to a whole new level. Every gram spent on that extra bracket and the screws to attach it cost the product speed and endurance.
The same way there is the right tool for every job, there is the right material for every function. A common challenge encountered is requiring one part to serve several functions, and the materials best suited for an individual function are often ill-suited for the others. This leads the designer to either compromise on the material selected to minimally satisfy all of the required functions, or compromise on the parts form, splitting it into a multi-part assembly invariably adding weight, cost, and complexity to the design.
For drone applications, parts are often expected to offer a combination of strength, thermal dissipation, electrical grounding, and shielding, or RF transparency to allow for antennas to transmit and receive signals. When strength, stiffness, and thermal dissipation are required, aluminum and magnesium are common choices, as they have both reasonably good strength and thermal properties for their density. Strength-to-weight ratio is one of the reasons why aluminum is used so extensively in airplanes and why carbon fiber composites are becoming more and more common (although less advantageous for thermal dissipation). Metals and carbon fiber composites however block RF signals and thus can’t be used in locations near antennas. In these instances, we typically use either glass fiber composites, which offer less strength-to-weight compared to carbon fiber, but are RF transparent, or injection molded plastics, which are often less stiff and thus not relied on as a core structural element.
Integrating Arris’s Additive Molding with the Skydio X2
The Skydio X2 airframe will include a newly designed core structural element manufactured with Arris’s Additive Molding™ technology. Arris’s Additive Molding enables a single part with material properties optimized for the local functions of the X2 aircraft. The forward region of the part is designed to be as sparse and material-efficient as possible to reduce drag and weight while providing a stable base for the gimbaled imaging system. The top region of the part is designed to fully enclose the X2 airframe to protect its internal components, provide RF transparency for the GPS antenna residing beneath it, and offer a very strong structural tie between the front arm locations. The prototype solution before engaging with Arris required a multi-part, multi-material assembly consisting of glass fiber composites, carbon fiber composites, aluminum brackets to form joins and offer mounting features, and screws to join these parts. Arris’s Additive Molding™ was able to create a single part with engineered material properties catering to the different functions throughout the part.
The forward region is achieved using carbon fiber composite in engineered orientations optimizing for strength-to-weight while minimizing the frontal area that will induce drag on the X2 aircraft. The part then transitions to glass fiber used over the top region of the drone to allow the GPS antenna to receive signals from satellites. To provide the strong structural tie required between the front arm locations, the part uses glass fibers strategically placed in thicker regions with engineered orientations, while allowing thinner sections in regions of lesser structural demands.
The result is a consolidation of what used to be a 17-piece assembly (2 carbon composite plates, 1 glass fiber composite plate, 4 aluminum brackets, and 10 fasters) into a single part with improved functionality across the board. It does so while offering a 25% weight reduction. In a game of gram chasing to maximize flight performance, Arris’s Additive Molding™ opens a huge design space for Skydio to deliver drones that are tougher, fly longer, and pack better. (Source: UAS VISION)
17 Dec 20. Sagetech Avionics and Hover, Inc. Partner on Detect and Avoid Solution for Unmanned Aircraft. Sagetech technologies, combined with a Hover, Inc. embedded computer, will serve as core onboard detect and avoid components for UAV OEMs. Sagetech Avionics, an innovative technology company providing industry-leading safety solutions for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), and Hover, Inc., an embedded computing company, announced today that they are partnering to provide OEMs with the key components of an onboard detect and avoid (DAA) solution for UAVs.
“Airborne detect and avoid capability is essential for integrating UAS into the National Airspace System,” explained Tom Furey, CEO of Sagetech. “Together our avionics expertise and technologies will form an off-the-shelf core for a DAA system that contains FAA-certified and certifiable components, helping OEMs achieve type certification faster.”
“UAVs need to replace a pilot’s line of sight with technology to avoid collisions,” said James Lawson, FAA Consultant DER and Founder of Hover, Inc. “That technology needs to be compliant with DO-254 and DO-178C design assurance levels. Hover’s embedded computer with real-time operating system (RTOS) and Sagetech’s MX-series situational awareness components provide leading edge technology with appropriate design assurance levels and FAA certifications. We are proud to partner with Sagetech to provide this new capability for this emerging need.”
Sagetech’s MXR micro interrogator and MXS micro transponder, along with Hover’s embedded computing solution, will enable a UAV to interrogate a nearby aircraft, validate the ADS-B in tracks, resolve the threat with a course of action using its flight computer, and communicate its change in position to nearby aircraft to avoid a mid-air collision. This DAA solution will be compliant with ACAS-Xu and ACAS-Xr specifications and is intended for installation on UAVs flying above 400 feet, beyond visual line of site (BVLOS), in the National Airspace System (NAS). Anticipated aircraft requiring this capability include those flying civil BVLOS and urban air mobility missions, which typically weigh more than 55 pounds.
Sagetech has posted a DAA technology tutorial on its website blog, and interested customers can learn more about DAA solutions at Sagetech.com.
About Sagetech Avionics
Sagetech Avionics improves flight situational awareness and ensures the safe operation of unmanned aerial systems in controlled airspace. Sagetech delivers the world’s most reliable, certifiable miniature transponders for civil and military applications, serving for more than a decade with 1.5 million flight hours in harsh environments. Sagetech transponders are standard or optional equipment on most production small and medium UAVs. Learn more at www.sagetech.com.
About Hover, Inc.
Hover, Inc has developed a low size, weight and power (SWaP), certifiable integrated hardware and software platform. The Hover, Inc platform combines two isolated channels and a proprietary ARINC 653 Real Time Operating System (RTOS). It can operate in a harsh environment and is capable of executing resource intensive collision avoidance algorithms simultaneously with other safety critical software applications. Learn more at www.hoverinc.aero. (Source: PR Newswire)
18 Dec 20. Defence Science and Technology Group is leading the charge across the science and technology community to bring experts together as part of a range of collaborative research that helps to keep Australians safe. This effort is part of a growing recognition that a range of experts and fields will be required to address the range of national security challenges that Australia faces, and that these specialists will need to come together to deliver innovative solutions.
Researchers with great ideas that could become solutions to national security challenges might be working within industry, at a university or for a publicly funded research agency; they might be part of an Australian team or collaborating with international partners.
Making sure individual projects that span diverse areas of research are each contributing to the achievement of Australia’s overarching national security objectives is a significant task in itself.
Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) within the Department of Defence has responsibility for co-ordinating the government’s national security S&T program through the National Security Science and Technology Centre (NSSTC).
The NSSTC’s primary role is to act as a facilitator, connecting people across Australia and around the world to support research projects that contribute to strengthening national security.
Ben Green, director of agency engagement and coordination at the NSSTC, said, “The rate of technological change is increasing rapidly. Australia’s national security agencies require S&T solutions to enable them to stay ahead of the curve, and we are here to help identify those solutions.”
Although the NSSTC sits within DSTG and works closely with Defence scientists, the centre adopts a whole-of-government view in order to increase efficiency and enhance research impact.
Green added, “Defence scientists have a lot to offer, as emerging technologies can often be adapted for different applications to meet the needs of both the Australian Defence Force and national security agencies.”
The NSSTC has recently taken its well-established relationships with international partners to a new level of heightened engagement during a period of intense work in support of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This COVID-19 research network was rapidly established through Five Research and Development (5RD).
The NSSTC maintains strong links with the agencies that it supports, and has senior scientists working within the Department of Home Affairs and the Office of National Intelligence.
These embedded members of staff are uniquely positioned to gain a deep understanding of an agency’s requirements.
An updated list of national security S&T priorities that was released by the Government in October provides a framework for future research efforts, and reflects current and emerging challenges relating to national resilience and biosecurity.
The NSSTC has dedicated program managers overseeing activities in each of the six priority areas, connecting subject matter experts with end-users in national security agencies.
Emerging technologies often have potential applications that cut across different areas of national security; one such promising technology is the use of synthetic data for training computer algorithms.
The challenges inherent in keeping public places secure are well known, but the agencies that work hard to keep us safe can use the latest technology to help detect a wide range of potential threats in these settings.
The task of identifying suspicious behaviour has long been dependent on the skill of human observers, but researchers are investigating the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to assist by automatically analysing video footage of people moving around busy locations.
Machine learning (ML) algorithms need to be presented with a large number of examples to enable them to learn, but obtaining the necessary data is not always easy. In these cases, synthetic data can be created for training purposes.
Defence is collaborating with CSIRO and Queensland University of Technology on a ground-breaking project known as Synthetic Environments for ML EXperiments (SEMEX).
This proof-of-concept project involves generating synthetic videos that simulate different scenarios relevant to public safety and using them to train an AI system. The algorithm’s performance is then evaluated using real video footage.
SEMEX is just one example of the range of collaborative projects the NSSTC has helped to facilitate as part of its mission to support research that has the potential to enhance Australia’s national security.
By ensuring the government maintains its co-ordinated and strategic approach to national security science and technology, the NSSTC gives national security agencies access to cutting-edge technology that enables them to address current threats and prepare to meet the challenges of the future. (Source: Defence Connect)
14 Dec 20. Loyal, Unafraid and Unmanned. Airbus describes the Combat Cloud as “interlinked manned and unmanned platforms which are part of a Future Combat Air System (FCAS).” Published in the UAV supplement 2020/2021 – The role of networked unmanned wingmen closely supporting manned jet aircraft is a vision that is now being realised.
Manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) is major theme of big ticket development programmes on both sides of the Atlantic among the Five Eyes (FVEY) group of countries, with the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and US/Australian Airpower Teaming System (ATS) taking significant steps forward in recent months.
Phase 1A of the overarching FCAS demonstration programme launched earlier this year on 12 February has Dassault as prime contractor for the manned New Generation Fighter (NGF) with Airbus as its main partner, and Airbus acting as prime for the unmanned Remote Carrier (RC) element with missile specialist MBDA as main partner.
Naturally, robust and secure networked communications are considered crucial to the concept of operations in which the manned platform will manage a diverse package of UAVs that will do the dull, dirty and dangerous work inside the engagement zone of modern Integrated Air Defence Systems (IADS).
Airbus is also serving as prime on the Air Combat Cloud (ACC) that is to provide the airborne infrastructure with reachback to home networks that will serve up tactically relevant and timely information to reconnaissance and strike packages. Thales is taking on the role of main partner on ACC.
All the companies involved in FCAS are committed to cooperation on a common simulation environment to ensure consistency between demonstrators.
As prime on the RC element, Airbus is addressing the entire scope and additionally focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) as it applies to teaming, and will also develop the medium-to-large platforms. The company has extensive experience with platforms from small to large and with teaming, having operated the Barracuda demonstrator since 2006. This vehicle has acted as a testbed for technologies and procedures to be used by the next generation of UAVs in fast reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting and Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) missions. Missile specialist MBDA is to develop the small and medium RC platforms.
As force multipliers, RCs will take on specific roles in high-risk environments and provide new capabilities in conjunction with, and coordinated by, manned air assets including but not limited to the NGF.
One particularly crucial aspect of teaming will be cross-platform mission management, allocating and reallocating tasks to different vehicles, both individually and in groups, as mission phases unfold. The idea is for the RCs to complement and augment the manned fighters, cooperating closely but with enough autonomy to improve performance in high-intensity conflicts and increase combat mass to compensate for the small numbers of sophisticated manned fighters that defence spending plans are expected to fund.
It is likely to be the RC vehicles that benefit from more radical designs, as it is easier to adopt and develop new technologies quickly with unmanned platforms than with manned ones, and types being studied include some that can be employed in expendable swarms, as well as more sophisticated groups that can take on more demanding missions with a high degree of autonomy and task sharing, prioritisation and reallocation. The scope here is broad, but one of the high level goals is to enable safer penetration of hostile airspace by manned aircraft. That is a tall order today, as Russian and Chinese IADS technology is generally believed to have the upper hand.
Air Combat Cloud
On 20 February it was announced that Airbus and Thales had joined forces to develop the ACC, and the companies are set to work together on the structural design of the communications system needed to support collaborative national and multi-national air operations and that will link the manned and unmanned assets. ACC’s purpose is to connect and synchronise all the platforms and enable the processing and distribution of information to enhance situational awareness and collaborative operation, the companies explain.
The agreement represents the ACC pillar within Phase 1A of the FCAS demonstration effort, is to lead up to the early technology demonstrations intended to showcase ACC capabilities in a real world environment. Covering a period extending 18 months from signature date, it is also regarded as the starting point for further demonstrations and technology development.
Airbus has extensive experience in the development of sophisticated military aircraft for both combat and supporting roles, along with the development and integration of mission systems and weapon. The company will also bring its expertise in space systems and collaborative digital C5ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cybersecurity, Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) technologies to bear.
Design and implementation of ACC’s first instantiation will be within the framework of Franco-German FCAS cooperation. Subsequently, the intention is to enlarge its scope to include national air forces at European level, should member nations decide to join the programme. Further, incremental inclusion of existing platforms and related collaborative combat capabilities is expected to combine with the NGF and RC unmanned vehicles as they come on stream to that full FCAS capability is anticipated by 2040.
February also saw Boeing Australia announce that it had completed the first fuselage for a Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft, a concept demonstration vehicle that is to form a key element of Boeing’s manned-unmanned Airpower Teaming System (ATS) effort.
Boeing Australia first fuselage was completed at the beginning of the year. The Loyal Wingman concept feeds into Boeing’s manned-unmanned Airpower Teaming System (ATS).
Loyal Wingman is an advanced development programme being pursued jointly by Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) along with an Australian industrial team. The aircraft measures 38 foot (11.7m) in its largest dimension, and digital engineering and advanced composite materials have been used by the Australian team to achieve their goals for low cost and high agility.
Team member BAE Systems Australia provided hardware kits including flight control computers and navigation equipment, while RUAG Australia provided the landing gear, AME Systems wiring looms, and Ferra Engineering various precision-machined components and sub-assemblies.
Following on from construction of this first major structural assembly, the next major milestone that must be achieve is to install the undercarriage so that the fuselage can come out of its assembly jig to continue systems installation and functional testing. Before COVID-19, the aircraft had been expected to fly for the first time this year.
This first prototype is intended to provide lessons that will feed into the development of ATS, which is what Boeing Australia is currently calling the operational aircraft it will offer to the global defence market. Boeing says that this aircraft represents its biggest investment in a new UAV outside the US and that it will provide fighter-like performance and a range of more than 2,000 nautical miles. It is also to carry integrated sensor packages to support ISR and EW missions and also to exploit artificial intelligence to operate independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe separation.
DARPA Wants Swarms
Other advanced capabilities under investigation include swarms of dissimilar unmanned systems, both airborne and ground based, capable of conducting military operations in urban environments. This is the subject of the US Defence Advanced Research Agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) initiative. Under OFFSET, nine contractors are to start work on what DARPA describes as the ‘fifth swarm sprint’ for the programme, which envisions up to 250 collaborative autonomous systems providing insights to ground troops operating in dense, crowded towns and cities.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is experimenting with using a swarm of autonomous drones and ground robots to support military missions.
Key areas to be investigated under OFFSET include swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environments and physical testbeds. As the “sprint” label implies, the intention is to foster rapid innovation and continuous incorporation of new technologies.
The fifth swarm sprint is focused on the physical testbed and swarm tactics. Organisations selected for the first include Michigan Technological University/Michigan Tech Research Institute, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, HDT Expeditionary Systems, Sentien Robotics and Texas A&M University. They are to focus on speeding up integration of hardware and enhancements to reduce swarm deployment time, introducing new navigation and perception sensors, employing fixed-wing aircraft into swarm operations, and enhancing the mobility of wheeled vehicles.
In addition to Michigan Tech, Charles River Analytics, Soar Technology, and Northwestern University are working on the swarm tactics area and are to focus on the design and implementation of new tactics using a swarm of air and ground robots, and addressing mission objectives such as to seize key urban terrain within eight square city blocks over a mission duration of four-to-six hours. According to DARPA, proposed tactics include disrupting enemy decision making, obfuscating the swarms intent, updating maps of a dynamic environment, and maintaining the swarm’s communications inside buildings.
In other developments, Elbit announced $20m worth of contracts in April to upgrade Hermes 900 MALE UAVs for Latin American customers, integrating satcom and automatic take-off and landing systems into aircraft already in service.
In April, the US Ambassador to South Korea revealed the delivery of a Global Hawk HALE UAV system to an undisclosed location, with more expected. South Korea bought four Block 30 RQ-4s in 2011.
Illustrating China’s growing prowess in the UAV arena, a Chinese military website published a brief analysis of the popularity of the Predator-like Wing Loong system, which it called China’s best selling armament. The 30ft (9m) long, one tonne aircraft has a 46ft (14m) wingspan and can carry two missiles under the fuselage at once. Wing Loong has been exported to more than a dozen countries in recent years, China Military Online said. It also expressed the opinion that the Wing Loong’s competitive price of around $1 m for a single air vehicle, rising to about $3m with the GCS, was a major reason for its success. Other Chinese UAVs, big and small, have a growing presence in the world military market. (Source: Armada)
17 Dec 20. UK aerospace boost as Faradair® Aerospace signs new partner consortium.
- Pledges 300 British-designed, sustainable aircraft by 2030
- Honeywell, magniX, Cambridge Consultants, Nova Systems back the BEHA
In an exciting week for the aviation industry with Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates showing their support for sustainable aviation, Faradair® Aerospace is delighted to reveal a powerful consortium of partners to bring back large scale aircraft production to the UK.
The British start-up, headed by aviation entrepreneur Neil Cloughley and based at the historic airfield at IWM Duxford, Cambridgeshire, announced today (17 December) that it has attracted a strong consortium of partners to help it deliver 300 of its new Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft (BEHA) by 2030, in a global demonstration of regional air mobility and special missions.
Faradair® is delighted to welcome Honeywell, magniX, Cambridge Consultants and Nova Systems, all leaders in the emerging sustainable aviation sector, to its existing partnership team.
Faradair® will work with Honeywell on the BEHA turbogenerator, comprised of Honeywell’s gas turbine and generator technologies, with the ability to run on sustainable aviation fuel, to support the hybrid-electric aircraft design in addition to other technologies, including avionics and flight control systems.
magniX is regarded as the leading provider of electric motors to the aviation industry and the BEHA will use two magni500 e-motors and associated magniDrive control system technology for flight propulsion.
Cambridge Consultants, widely recognised as a global leader in R&D engineering, brings its vital expertise in hybrid propulsion architecture to the development of the BEHA’s hybrid propulsion system, integrating the turbine and flight e-motors.
Nova Systems, a global leader in aircraft design, test, evaluation and certification, will assist Faradair® through the early prototype development stages, reassuring certification authorities that the aircraft is being developed and built to the standards of existing and future regulations for sustainable aviation technologies.
In line with UK Government ambitions for sustainable air transport, the British designed and built BEHA will emerge in hybrid electric/turbine configuration, but engineered for evolution into a fully electric ‘net zero’ commercial aircraft when power generation technology delivers the power density levels required for an 18-seat utility aircraft. The BEHA is specifically designed for low cost, quiet, environmentally friendly flight, qualities that enable it to deliver Air Mobility as a Service (AMaaS) to all.
The ambition is to deliver an initial portfolio of 300 Faradair®-owned BEHAs between 2026-2030, in the largest proof of concept air mobility programme ever created. Of these, 150 aircraft will be built in firefighting configuration, 75 as quick change (QC, passenger to cargo) aircraft, deployed at general aviation airfields globally, and 50 as pure freighters. The final 25 aircraft will be demonstrated in non-civilian government roles, including logistics, border and fisheries patrol, and drug interdiction.
Commenting on these significant partnerships, Faradair Founder and Managing Director Neil Cloughley stated: “The year 2020 has been an extremely tough year for aerospace and I am delighted to be able to share this positive news today, not only for the UK aerospace sector, but the sustainable aerospace sector globally.
“We are honoured to announce our collaboration with these leading organisations. Their input will enable us to deliver the BEHA prototype by 2024 and subsequent Part 23 certification for operational trials from 2026. Gaining such support validates our business model and capability of the BEHA.”
Stéphane Fymat, vice president and general manager for UAS/UAM at Honeywell said: “We are proud be part of this development program that works toward new methods of transportation that are quieter, cleaner and more efficient. Our work with Faradair demonstrates our ongoing commitment to supporting the future of flight.”
magniX CEO Roei Ganzarski, commented: “The BEHA is an exciting development programme in the electric aviation revolution and one that magniX is delighted to be a part of. It embodies the next step in sustainable regional air transport.”
Gary Kemp, Programme Director at Cambridge Consultants said: “Cambridge Consultants is proud to be working with Faradair® on development of the BEHA, an aircraft that will minimise the environmental impact of aviation emissions and noise while achieving exceptional range, endurance and payload capacity.”
Tim Butler, Fixed Wing Programme Manager and test pilot at Nova Systems, stated: “We are delighted to team with Faradair® on this exciting, innovative British project. Nova looks forward to providing its significant experience in flight testing to help solve the complex problems of making a cutting-edge concept into an everyday reality. Working on game-changing programmes and developing green aviation technology, is exactly what excites us at Nova and we can’t wait to get the BEHA flying.”
Talks are now advancing at pace with investors and aircraft finance organisations to enable the full programme of development to scale up and meet the target objectives. Meanwhile, Faradair® is building its executive and engineering team, and expects to make further announcements early in 2021.
16 Dec 20. Rethinking computing for next-level problems. With the volume, variety, velocity and complexity of data threatening to overmatch systems sifting through ever increasing amounts of data, intelligence and defense agencies are looking for new approaches to solving data-intensive problems.
Currently, data the intelligence community focuses on is increasingly sparse, random and heterogeneous, creating data-intensive problems that today’s computers were not designed to solve, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) said in a Dec. 11 broad agency announcement.
IARPA’s Advanced Graphic Intelligence Logical Computing Environment (AGILE) program seeks to transform “massive, random, heterogeneous data streams and structures into actionable knowledge.“ That task will require “system-level intelligent mechanisms for moving, accessing and storing large, random, time-varying data streams and structures that allow for the scalable and efficient execution of dynamic graph analytics workflows,” the agency said in the BAA.
Rather than enhancing system components like memory or processing, AGILE is looking for fresh approaches that fundamentally reimagine computer systems for current and future data-intensive operations. In fact, IARPA said that “proposed designs should not be constrained by existing component interfaces and protocols, legacy architectures, or current practices.”
AGILE will require new memory and interconnection architectures, massive data throughput, rapidly accessible high-density storage as well as innovative advanced microelectronics. Architectural designs should demonstrate scaling and efficiency requirements, optimization of the full integrated system and a technology pathway for future performance gains, the BAA said.
A proposers’ day will be held Dec. 22.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, is taking a more evolutionary approach.
The Defense Department’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP), which operates world-class supercomputing centers, the high-bandwidth Defense Research and Engineering Network along with sophisticated software and security infrastructure, is looking to move its high-performance computing and data analysis to the commercial cloud.
Traditionally, HPCMP upgraded its capabilities by bringing new supercomputers online and increasing security, bandwidth, coverage and performance by software and networking updates.
Now, after a decade of watching how cloud computing has been optimized for artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics and digital engineering, HPCMP “recognizes a convergence of forces that suggest the time is right to consider augmenting its on-premise ecosystem with an investment in commercial cloud-based infrastructure,” it said in a Dec. 8 request for information.
Since commercial cloud vendors invest more in their systems, offer flexible capacity and pricing, run environments for experimentation and can provide access to new architectures faster than HPCMP, commercial cloud makes sense, the RFI said, especially if moving some unclassified workloads to the cloud would create more capacity for inherently government workloads.
Additionally, HPCMP said it may be called to support new missions, such as AI, digital transformation and digital engineering, areas currently outside its mandate, where the cloud could be beneficial.
HPCMP said it is looking for a cloud-agnostic, high-end computing ecosystem to augment its on-premise environment and solve its research engineering, test, evaluation and acquisition engineering problem sets. Ultimately, it said it wants a commercial cloud that can “interface with the HPCMP ecosystem in a way that complements/augments on-premise assets and improves overall operating efficiencies and costs.”
Responses to the DOD solicitation are due Feb. 15. (Source: Defense Systems)
16 Dec 20. Army develops spray to kill coronavirus. A novel disinfectant spray developed by the Army that can eliminate 99.99% of the Covid-19 virus will now be made available to the public and used by military personnel on the frontline as they support the battle against the virus. Virusend will complement the existing range of protective products available currently in the UK that help keep people safe, with bottles available for the public to purchase online and in stores, with talks ongoing to up-scale the commercial rollout of the product.
Co-developed by innovation experts in the British Army, the Virusend spray formula is proven to be highly lethal against SARS-CoV-2, the pandemic strain of the coronavirus. Extensive tests by the Centre of Excellence for Infectious Disease Research and the Liverpool School for Tropical Medicine proved that Virusend kills 99.99% of the virus in under 1 minute.
50,000 bottles of Virusend disinfectant are being deployed to personnel across the country who are working alongside the NHS at coronavirus testing stations as part of the military’s ongoing support to civil authorities. It is already being used at testing sites in Medway and Preston.
The spray’s quick kill-time makes it ideal for use on a variety of surfaces within high footfall areas such as the mass testing and vaccination sites. The disinfectant is also being tested for wider use in the NHS including within clinical environments.
The product was developed to provide the Army with enhanced protection in addition to a range of PPE and social distancing measures whilst operating Covid testing facilities
Lt Col James Cackett, CO 35 Engineer Regiment (EOD&S) and commanding the Medway Resilience Unit said, “The troops who are now working in Medway have welcomed the deployment of this additional force protection measure. Virusend is proving easy to use and will help us keep our work areas safe for everyone.”
Lt Col Christopher Warhurst, Virusend Project Manager, Manoeuvre Support Plans, said, “I am truly privileged to be at the centre of this amazing partnership and work with such talented and dedicated people. What started out as a good idea has developed into an amazing product that has the potential to have a real impact against the virus. The Army is proud to have been involved in this incredible project.”
Virusend boasts a quick kill time and high lethality to the Covid-19 virus. Virusend is supplied through the ‘Anyway Spray’ bottle, a system developed by Pritchard Spray Technology Ltd.
The innovative bottle covers a wide surface area and can be used upside-down, eliminating any wastage. The bottle uses compressed air instead of flammable gasses and is also fully recyclable and re-useable.
Michael Pritchard MBE, CEO Pritchard Spray Technology Ltd. Said, “This pioneering spray will change the way we combat this and all future pandemics. This has been a truly unique collaboration that showcases what we the United Kingdom can achieve. We want to give the UK the tools it needs to defeat coronavirus and get back on its feet as soon as possible.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
15 Dec 20. Battelle Neuro Team Advances to Phase II of DARPA N3 Program. A Battelle team of researchers has received funding to continue work on the second of a three-phase Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3).
The program is designed for teams around the country to develop a high-performance, bi-directional brain-computer interface (BCI) for noninvasive clinical applications or for use by able-bodied members of the military. Such neural interfaces would provide the enabling technology for diverse medical and national security applications and could enable enhanced multitasking during complex military missions.
Battelle and its project partners from Cellular Nanomed Inc., the University of Miami, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Air Force Research Laboratory are working on an interface called BrainSTORMS (Brain System to Transmit Or Receive Magnetoelectric Signals). It employs magnetoelectric nanotransducers (MEnTs) localized in neural tissue for BCI applications. One of the key MEnT attributes are their incredibly small size—thousands of MEnTs can fit across the width of a human hair. The MEnTs are first injected into the circulatory system and then guided with a magnet to the targeted area of the brain. “Our current data suggests that we can non-surgically introduce MEnTs into the brain for subsequent bi-directional neural interfacing,” said Patrick Ganzer, a Battelle researcher and the principal investigator on the project.
Several technology development goals and N3 program metrics were achieved during Phase 1, such as precise reading and writing to neurons using this breakthrough technology, leveraging the multi-modal expertise of the BrainSTORMS team across the domains of electromagnetics, nanoscale materials, and neurophysiology.
“We are committed to achieving the Phase 2 metrics of the DARPA N3 program, building on the ground-breaking results we achieved in Phase 1 of the BrainSTORMS project,” said Ping Liang, the lead researcher at Cellular Nanomed Inc responsible for developing and building the electronics, power and control systems that interact with the MEnTs to achieve the BCI functions.
Phase 2 efforts will focus on maturing the capability sets of the MEnTs for writing information to the brain and advancing the construction and testing of the external writing interface.
“In Phase I, we demonstrated the main physics of MEnTs, i.e., two-way conversion of magnetic-to-electric field energy to control contactless activation of neurons. In Phase II, we will develop a next generation of MEnTs to achieve faultless multi-channel performance,” said Sakhrat Khizroev, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Miami, in charge of the MEnTs’ synthesis.
If work progresses to the third phase, the Battelle team would implement a regulatory strategy developed with the FDA in phase two in order to support future human subjects testing. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
16 Dec 20. Nordic Unmanned Demonstrates Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Drone. Nordic Unmanned AS has carried out a successful test flight with a hydrogen fuel cell powered Staaker BG-200. This drone is a robust and versatile platform that is adapted to Nordic conditions
It is equipped with a 2kW customized fuel cell system from HES and a 7.2 L pressure vessel with hydrogen at 300 bar. With a 9 L pressure vessel, an endurance of 120 minutes can be achieved. The standard Staaker BG-200 has a maximum take-off mass of 25 kg and has a typical endurance of 60 minutes (no payload). The goal is to have the fuel cell system as a “high endurance module” that can be installed on any “fuel cell ready” Staaker BG-200.
Through this project, Nordic Unmanned taps into the potential in hydrogen-powered aviation. Fuel cells are an environmentally friendly technology that also can provide superior performance for certain applications. The research project takes a broad approach to the topic and dives into multiple aspects regarding the potential and viability of hydrogen-powered drones. The research project was initiated in 2018 and has been carried out in the framework of an industrial Ph.D. program funded by the Research Council of Norway. R&D Engineer and Ph.D. candidate, Jørgen Apeland states:
“This is a significant milestone for the project. Hydrogen-powered aviation is a part of the future, and with the successful test flight today, we made an important step towards making it happen.”
By doubling the endurance, operational efficiency and range can be improved. This might enable certain applications where mission endurance and range are essential, like beyond visual-line of sight (BVLOS) operations for logistics, search and rescue, and inspections. Thus, the value proposition of multirotor drones can be significantly improved, closing the capability and performance gap between certain fixed-wing UAV platforms. Fuel cells also offer the benefits of no emissions, low noise profile, and mechanical vibration challenges compared to other high-endurance options.
The regulatory landscape for unmanned systems is evolving rapidly, and the prospects for certification and deploying the system in full-scale operations is an important aspect for the project to investigate. We are therefore happy to have received approvals from the CAA-N, after a rigorous process, that will allow us to carry out further testing. We look forward to further testing and sharing our experiences and results with regulators and relevant stakeholders.
Knut Roar Wiig, CEO of Nordic Unmanned, explains why this innovation is so important for the future of unmanned technology.
“This is a long-term research effort from Nordic Unmanned that aligns with our goal of establishing a strong community within research and development of unmanned systems in Norway, and to advance unmanned aviation.”
The current project will conclude Q2 2021, and based on the findings, the way forward will be decided. If the technology is found to be viable and provide value, Nordic Unmanned intends to further develop the BG-200 FC for the commercial market and use it for in-house operations. It might also be possible that further research efforts will be initiated to address some of the main constraints and challenges to further improve the value proposition. Nordic Unmanned is looking to team up with potential users, customers, and technology providers to bring the best end-to-end solutions to the market. (Source: UAS VISION)
16 Dec 20. Pierce Aerospace Integrates Remote ID with FAAD C2 in US Army UAS Experiments. Pierce Aerospace announced that it successfully integrated Flight Portal ID, an ASTM F3411-19 compliant Remote ID / Combat ID technology suite, into multiple Command and Control systems for Counter UAS (C-UAS) operations, including initial integration steps with the U.S. Army’s Forward Area Air Defense (FAAD C2) during the US Army’s Defense in Depth Experiment (DiDEX), held in downtown New Orleans, LA in November.
FAAD C2 was selected by the US Army Joint Counter Small-Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office (JCO) as the C2 of choice for C-UAS work in July 2020.
The Technical Support and Operational Analysis (TSOA) DiDEX 20 event is designed to accelerate the development of technologies that will enable the Warfighter to be more effective, efficient, and lethal when countering small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) threats.
DiDEX 20 improves operational security, force protection, and survivability. The TSOA team identifies potential vulnerabilities in emerging technologies, including performance degradation in contested environments, interoperability, adaptability, and training/ease of use through live experiment venues. The TSOA DiDEX 20 focused on challenges presented by (1) detecting, tracking, and defeating sUAS in an actual urban environment and (2) integrating counter-UAS (c-UAS) systems into a single common operating picture (COP).
“We are appreciative of the DiDEX Team in enabling us to have the opportunity to integrate Flight Portal ID into FAAD C2. We provided detection, tracking, and positive-identification of Remote ID equipped UAS in various scenarios throughout the week in the dense low-level airspace in downtown New Orleans. This integration enabled us to pass positive-ID to multiple users across various systems and devices at DiDEX. That integration provided situational awareness across a common operating picture from aircraft equipped with Flight Portal ID.”
Aaron Pierce, CEO Pierce Aerospace.
TSOA events provide an opportunity for technology developers to interact with operational personnel and determine how their efforts might support military capability gaps and high priority mission deficiencies. The environment facilitates a collaborative working relationship between academia, government, and industry. It supports the identification, assessment, and dissemination of emerging and mature technology information and the acceleration of delivering those capabilities to the Warfighters and those they support.
“Our mission is to provide Flight Portal ID to identify civil UAS for commercial use cases and identify blue UAS for defense use cases. The direct user feedback from the complex scenarios in a challenging environment during the DiDEX experiments are invaluable to our development in preparing this critical airspace technology for integration in complementary commercial and defense technologies, like UTM and C-UAS systems.” (Source: UAS VISION)
16 Dec 20. Hydrogen plane startup ZeroAvia gets backing from Amazon, Shell. Hydrogen plane startup ZeroAvia said on Wednesday it had secured $21.4m in a funding round led by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures to develop zero-emission commercial aircraft. Backers for the California-based startup, which has completed 10 test flights with a six-seater propeller plane powered by hydrogen, included Amazon and energy giant Royal Dutch Shell.
Hydrogen, which produces water when it burns, is seen as a potential alternative for the aviation industry, a major user of fossil fuels. Hydrogen can be made from fossil fuels or from water using electrolysis, although this an expensive process.
“This is a capital-intensive industry, so having investors to help you through the process is very important,” ZeroAvia Chief Executive Val Miftakhov told Reuters, saying a plane was “a power-hungry machine, especially on take off.”
ZeroAvia, which has been conducting test flights in Britain, aims for commercial flights of up to 500 miles using 10- to 20-seat aircraft by 2023 and commercial jets able to haul up to 200 passengers 3,000 miles by 2030.
Miftakhov said his startup expected to have planes for cargo flights in operation before commercial passenger planes.
With the latest round, ZeroAvia has raised $34.4m, providing it with cash to scale up its technology for larger aircraft. It has also teamed up with British Airways to explore how the carrier could shift to hydrogen-powered planes in future.
Amazon’s backing comes from its $2bn Climate Pledge Fund. The online retailer, which aims to run a carbon neutral business by 2040, has ordered electric vans from Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and startup Rivian.
Shell’s funds came from its Shell Ventures a unit which has been boosting investments in solar and other renewables.
Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Horizons Ventures was also among the investors. (Source: Reuters)
15 Dec 20. Successful sea trials programme delivers commercial readiness for tpgroup’s autonomous navigation system. tpgroup’s patent pending autonomous navigation system, Northstar, has completed its sea trials programme, demonstrating that it can safely navigate unmanned vessels in real-time and in a real-life environment – without human intervention. Northstar has been successfully used on different platforms and within a range of environments that include congested waterways and in open water. This level of technological maturity (technical readiness level 7) means that it can developed for unmanned missions within the maritime sector.
Northstar delivers real-time optimum route management and collision avoidance for unmanned platforms, in any environment (including GPS-denied), without human control.
It achieves this through fusing real-time and reference data to create a layered 3D synthetic environment, and optimising paths within this digital environment – along with considering platform dynamics against user-defined measures of performance, time, cost and risk. It continuously re-plans to reflect changing circumstances – allowing for additional factors that could influence the route pathing to be introduced at any time.
This advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning software has satisfied Phase 3 of a 2-year MOD programme, which saw tpgroup working with Thales and other contributors, to demonstrate autonomous navigation within unmanned missions.
Said Luke Tucker, tpgroup’s Group Consulting & Services Director, “We are proud of our achievement in advancing autonomous navigation for unmanned vessels within the maritime sector, and look forward to progressing our land trials for unmanned vehicles in 2021.
This is a significant milestone in our ambitious autonomy programme to develop a system of systems, enabling the coordination and synchronisation of multiple platforms – and establishing tpgroup as the UK’s primary provider of autonomous navigation software for complex environments.”
15 Dec 20. Northrop Grumman Invests in Deepwave Digital’s AI. Startup collaboration and investment is key discriminator to further accelerate technology for customers. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) is set to begin collaborating and investing in Deepwave Digital, to support research, development and integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. This partnership will improve communications processing power for key, next-generation capabilities for customers.
“We’re evolving the way we think and the way we work, to use emerging commercial technologies to provide our warfighters the most advanced capabilities more quickly,” said Chris Daughters, vice president of research, technology and engineering, Aeronautics Systems, Northrop Grumman. “Our partnership with Deepwave Digital combined with our advanced autonomy expertise will enhance the agility, speed and affordability our customers expect.”
Deepwave Digital’s framework allows radio frequency (RF) engineers to incorporate AI into their communications, spectrum monitoring, navigation and other RF systems using machine learning to provide quicker answers on large amounts of data being analyzed.
Northrop Grumman began working with Deepwave Digital when the company participated in a recent technology scouting event. Northrop Grumman plans to continue seeking out discriminating technologies by forging creative partnerships.
Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.
15 Dec 20. Development of a universal European AI platform has started. Slovak company Sygic is one of the industrial partners. Europe has a consortium for the development of a universal platform for the processing of Artificial Intelligence. The international project called EVEREST gets funding from the Horizon 2020 Programme for research & innovation action. Coordinated by IBM Research GmbH and the university Politecnico Di Milano, Sygic is one of the project partners to prove the platform’s application in the industry – smart mobility in cities.
The European data market is showing a significant boost in recent years. In the last five years, a compound annual growth rate is 15.7%, while the volume of data has a growth of 236% per year. Data processing has a profound impact on the industry, society, and the environment. The new European platform has to be comparable to those developed by giants like Google (Google Cloud), Microsoft (Microsoft Azure), or Amazon (AWS). In Horizon 2020, the platform should help bring solutions for sustainable energy, low-carbon economy, or smart city transport.
Science and industry joined forces
The three-year EVEREST project put together scientists and IT experts. Their common goal is to develop a holistic approach for co-designing computation and communication in a heterogeneous, distributed, scalable, and secure system for High-Performance Big Data Analytics (HPDA) applications. They can achieve it by simplifying architectures’ programmability through a “data-driven” design approach, the use of hardware-accelerated AI, and efficient monitoring of the execution.
“Artificial Intelligence is promoting a resurgence of research in computer architecture, especially with the combination of general-purpose processors and specialized hardware. The programmability of such heterogeneous architectures is an unsolved problem. With this framework, application developers and architecture designers can sit at the same table and efficiently co-optimize systems and applications,” said Christian Pilato from Politecnico Di Milano.
Prove by energetics, environmental and transportation cases
A project team will validate the approach with industrial partners, who prepare three scenarios for business applications. The market for trading with weather-dependent renewable energies could use a weather analysis-based prediction model. Therefore, the production, utilization, and commercialization of energy become more foreseeable. Air-quality monitoring of industrial sites helps forecast the environmental impacts of chemical pollutants and enables sites to delay their production or activate emission reduction treatments. Real-time traffic modeling framework for intelligent transportation in smart cities has to reduce congestions in the traffic infrastructure thanks to traffic simulator, traffic prediction models, and smart routing methods.
An essential step to smart and safe mobility
Smart mobility is one of the use cases that Sygic could bring to make city transport more effective in the future. Therefore, the Sygic project team covers the last-mentioned application for real-time traffic modeling framework. On this task, they cooperate with IT4Innovations, the National Supercomputing Centre at The Technical University of Ostrava.
“We have long struggled with a cost-efficient processing power for highly demanding algorithms as those of AI. This project enables us to predict traffic trends thanks to terabytes of our historic floating car data. When we put it all together, we can come up with relevant solutions for cities,” says Radim Cmar, Solution Architect at Sygic.
In other words, Sygic needs to store, transfer, and process historical location-based data collected from navigation app directly by moving vehicles and create new traffic views. Combining it with collected data on acceleration, braking, and cornering, Sygic aims to learn accident risk profiles. These can be a basis for calculating the safest routes, interesting for the insurance segment.
The EVEREST project has recently launched its webpage https://everest-h2020.eu/, where you can follow their news.
Founded in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 2004. Today Sygic is the leading developer of mobile GPS offline navigations for consumers, company fleets, as well as for professional drivers, used by more than two million professional drivers and two thousand fleets globally. Sygic developed its own map and navigation Smart Mobility Platform for data processing in smart mobility.
Sygic is a Deloitte Fast 50 Company and in 2012 was added to Deloitte’s Fast 500 EMEA listing. The company is also a member of the CharIN Association advocating for one universal charging standard – Combined Charging System (CCS) – and the leader in the electric mobility segment. In 2009 Sygic produced the first-ever turn-by-turn navigation app for the iPhone. Six years later it added the popular fuel consumption tracking app Fuelio to its portfolio. In 2018 it became the first offline navigation vendor supporting Apple CarPlay Connectivity. In 2020 the real-time Traffic Lights add-on for Sygic GPS Navigation has been awarded by the jury of leading technology experts as a top CES 2020 innovation. Sygic’s solutions are also navigating for more than two million professional drivers and two thousand fleets globally.
15 Dec 20. NCC and Dstl seek innovation in composite structures for combat aircraft. This exciting new partnership has launched a competition for organisations to pitch their ideas and capabilities, and influence the direction of future research. An exciting new partnership has been formed to explore the art of the possible for the next generation of lightweight, strong and resilient combat aircraft composite structures. This will range from innovative approaches to overall structural layout, manufacturing and assembly to the optimal combination of detail features, and material selection.
The National Composites Centre (NCC) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) are leading the programme through their joint steering group and wider community, which will bring together the greatest minds from academia, leading defence primes, SMEs and other parties outside of the traditional defence sector. The Advanced Design of Composites Structures for Future Combat Aircraft (ADCoSCA) programme includes a balance of intramural research at NCC, and extramural research, both of which could be influenced by the community.
The partnership kicks off with a competitive invitation to organisations to pitch their design and research ideas in order to influence the content of the project, and where and how aspects of it are undertaken. The steering group will then work with the community to develop and downselect these ideas into a coordinated series of funded research projects.
The UK needs to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology with its defence and combat capabilities to support our national security interests, to protect our people, and to safeguard our prosperity. Investing in advanced research across the range of potential combat aircraft concepts is essential to ensure the defence and security needs of our front-line commands are met. This spans next-generation manned combat aircraft, unmanned adjuncts, and the associated range of development and procurement approaches (such as spiral development).
Composites are used in all areas of modern society to make things lighter, stronger, smarter, more durable, and more sustainable. Thanks to the extensive use of composite materials, 15,000km non-stop flights from the UK to Australia are now possible. Wind turbine blades now measure in excess of 100m, generating more clean energy to drive the UK towards a carbon neutral and electrified future. High performance vehicles including modern fighter jets (such as the Typhoon) and Formula 1 cars are 80% made from composite materials, which equates to 40% of the total weight for the jet and just 25% for the Formula 1 car.
This proves just how effective composites are. However, we know that composite technologies still have a lot more to offer. The NCC and Dstl will innovate, push boundaries and exploit composite technologies for combat aircraft even further through this new partnership.
As a world-leading composites research facility with an unrivalled breadth of industrial scale capabilities, the NCC already works with large defence organisations and others to develop and de-risk their technology, and it works on future product development programmes related to the defence sector.
Richard Oldfield, Chief Executive of the NCC, said, “We’re delighted to work closely with Dstl to increase the UK’s capabilities and innovation in the use of composites technologies for combat aircraft. As a world-leader in advanced composites design and manufacture, the NCC is uniquely placed to help enhance Dstl’s know-how for future combat aircraft composite structures. That’s why today, we are launching an open call for the brightest and most innovative ideas from a range of organisations so we can work together to equip our Armed Forces with the next generation of high tech, resilient and efficient defence capabilities. This will play a crucial role in how the UK responds to the most complex challenges and threats to national security that our country may face.”
Steve Simm, Air Systems Programme Manager at Dstl, said, “Dstl is the science inside UK defence and security. To perform its role, Dstl must identify and harness the most advanced technologies, and working with the NCC and the wider UK community provides an exciting opportunity to explore the art of the possible in the design and manufacture of composite structures for the next generation of UK combat air systems. The emphasis of this work is the exploration of innovative technologies and approaches to reduce mass and through-life cost, and to increase performance, availability, adaptability and modularity.”
The 2 primary aims of the programme are:
- to develop airframe design concepts through trades studies and worked examples; and
- to systematically collate and develop the underpinning data upon which the airframe design trades are built, including the performance of composite materials and features, and to identify and mitigate those features that are constraining performance and cost.
Priority shall be given to those transformational ideas that identify and mitigate existing limitations through design, such as through innovative structural layout at the platform and sub-assembly level; through detail features that permit increased operating strain; through design approaches that provide extreme levels of damage resistance and/or tolerance; and through design approaches that provide extreme levels of modularity, adaptability, and part-count reduction.
The steering group would like to engage the UK community, drawing from SMEs, academia and traditional primes as well as parties outside of the traditional defence sector, and would like to explore gearing opportunities such as matched funding and collaboration.
All intellectual property owned by individual organisations will be protected and tracked with any engagements involving the steering group.
The first stage of the process is for organisations and interested parties to pitch their ideas and capabilities through an Expression of Interest. Parties with successful will then be invited to engage in further planning of the research programme, and to submit formal bids for funding. If successful, funding will typically be awarded before the end of March 2021. Thus, interested parties have an opportunity to influence the work of programme and the selection of those undertaking it, and potentially to undertake aspects of the programme themselves.
Further information on the competition process and timetable is available on the NCC website: https://www.nccuk.com/
The steering group is holding a webinar on Wednesday 13 January 2021 from 2 to 4pm, for anyone interested in applying to find out more and ask any questions. You can sign up for the webinar through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/advanced-design-of-composites-structures-for-future-combat-aircraft-webinar-tickets-132267570865
Anyone with questions or who would like to sign up to receive updates about this programme can email email@example.com. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
15 Dec 20. Amphenol LTD launches new Website. We are really pleased to announce that our new website is now live and ready for everyone to use. We hope this will be a step forward in terms of our online offer with easy access to resources and as a means of keeping informed about our latest product updates. Our intention is to keep this website evolving and improving to make it useful for our customers, and to enhance your experience of Amphenol LTD. Please visit www.amphenol.co.uk or click on the button below to see all the new features.
14 Dec 20. Turkey to test first indigenous helicopter engine. Turkey’s government-controlled engine maker Tusas Engine Industries has delivered for testing the country’s first indigenous helicopter engine.
The turboshaft TS1400 will power the Gokbey, a twin-engine indigenous light transport/utility helicopter built by TEI’s sister company Turkish Aerospace Industries. TEI launched the TS1400 program in March 2017.
TAI launched the program for the 6-ton, multirole Gokbey helicopter in 2013. In the interim, the Gokbey will be powered by the LHTEC CTS8000 engine. LHTEC is a joint venture between British company Rolls-Royce and American firm Honeywell. The TS1400 will eventually replace the CTS8000.
The TS1400 features a maximum power output of 1,400 shaft horsepower and a shaft output revolution of 23,000 rpm.
The TS1400 was delivered to TAI for testing on Dec. 5. Speaking at a ceremony, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the engine test and design center — inaugurated the same day — would also be used to test future indigenous engines, including a planned engine for the TF-X, Turkey’s first indigenous fighter jet in the making.
Ismail Demir, the head of Turkey’s Presidency of Defence Industries, said other domestic engine efforts are being driven by programs for drones, light armored vehicles, new-generation main battle tanks and missiles.
Demir said the next phase in the TS1400 program would be serial production of the engine. (Source: Defense News)
15 Dec 20. ViaLite Releases New ODE-B3U Enclosure. ViaLite Communications has expanded its range of outdoor enclosures with the addition of the ODE-B3U. The new enclosure has been designed to house the ViaLiteHD 3U rack chassis and can hold up to 16 RF over fiber links in chassis card format.
It features a simple tilt mechanism which allows the full 3U 19” rack to be tilted forwards to make installation and maintenance easier. It is best installed on a wall, rooftop or at an antenna hub, where RF and other services are transmitted over optical fiber to a remote equipment room.
The enclosure’s robust, fully weatherproof design protects the chassis and electrical equipment from harsh environmental conditions when housed outdoors. It is a powder coated stainless steel, IP66 rated enclosure, which means the enclosure provides a high level of protection against dust and water ingress.
Technical Director Dan Bromley said: “The ViaLite product management and development teams combined to design the ODE-B3U enclosure, which is a modular, flexible and scalable solution to fulfil our customers’ broad spectrum of needs. It provides easy access for our full portfolio of modules and the ability to upgrade existing indoor chassis to outdoor applications. The ODE-B3U perfectly rounds off our fleet of outdoor enclosures.”
The ambient operating temperature varies depending on the number of modules in the enclosure. The minimum temperature is -20 °C, although if the heater option is ordered, this changes to -40 °C.
Other optional extras include a supplementary fan tray, a solar shield and wall mount, which can be ordered separately. The ODE-B3U enclosure comes with a 5-year warranty.
14 Dec 20. Metamaterial and Torchlight Sign Definitive Agreement for Business Combination. Torchlight Energy Resources, Inc. (NASDAQ: TRCH), an oil and gas exploration company (“Torchlight”) and Metamaterial Inc. (“Metamaterial” or “META”) (CSE: MMAT), a developer of high-performance functional materials and nanocomposite products, announced today the signing on December 14, 2020 of a definitive agreement negotiated at arm’s length for a business combination of Torchlight and Metamaterial by way of a statutory plan of arrangement (the “Transaction”). Upon completion of the Transaction, shareholders of Metamaterial are expected to hold an approximate 75% equity interest in the combined company while Torchlight shareholders will retain an approximate 25% equity interest in the combined company, subject to the pre-closing financing described below.
Torchlight shareholders on the record date will be entitled to receive a preferred stock dividend, payable immediately prior to the closing of the Transaction, that entitles them to their pro rata share of any proceeds resulting from any sale of Torchlight’s oil and gas assets that occurs on the earlier of December 31, 2021 or six months from the closing of the Transaction, and, after such time if such sales are not complete, will be entitled to receive a pro rata equity interest in a spin-off entity that holds Torchlight’s remaining oil and gas assets, subject to certain conditions.
“We are very excited to sign the definitive agreement with Metamaterial,” stated John Brda, Torchlight’s CEO. “We believe this Transaction provides our shareholders with the best opportunity moving forward. Metamaterial offers proven disruptive technology with strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities. This Transaction provides our shareholders with access to the multi-billion-dollar markets that Metamaterial serves and new applications that are being revolutionized with their sustainable technologies, while still allowing our Shareholders at closing of the Transaction to participate in the proceeds of our oil and gas asset divestitures.”
“META’s management, led by George Palikaras, has built an extraordinary award-winning cleantech company whose proprietary advanced technologies address multiple markets and improve their customers’ capabilities,” said Greg McCabe, Torchlight’s Chairman. “I am excited to work with the META team and equally excited about the outcome for our faithful Torchlight shareholders.”
“NASDAQ is the world’s premier technology exchange, providing us with the best platform to expand awareness of Metamaterial on the global stage and fully realize the value of our portfolio of innovative, sustainable products.” commented Ram Ramkumar, Metamaterial’s Chairman.
“It has been our goal for META to be a NASDAQ-listed company,” stated George Palikaras, President & CEO of Metamaterial. “When the business combination with Torchlight closes, obtaining a national exchange listing in the United States is anticipated to provide META with significant value and increased access to global capital markets.”
“This Transaction will expand our business’ reach and attract additional world-class talent. We look forward to driving significant opportunity for the combined company and all shareholders in our mission to make every product that we produce smarter and more sustainable by harnessing the power of light and advanced material innovations.”
The following is a summary of the key terms of the pending Transaction as contemplated by the Arrangement Agreement. The current report on Form 8-K to be filed by Torchlight with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) will contain additional information about the Transaction as well. The closing of the Transaction is subject to the satisfaction or waiver of customary closing conditions, including approvals by NASDAQ and the Canadian Securities Exchange (“CSE”), Canadian court approval, and approval by the shareholders of both companies. There can be no assurances that the Transaction will be consummated. Pertinent deal terms are as follows:
- Torchlight and Metamaterial will be combined such that at closing, the former equity holders of Torchlight would own approximately 25% of the combined company with the former equity holders of Metamaterial owning the remaining approximately 75% of the combined company.
- Prior to closing, Torchlight must raise gross proceeds of at least $10m through the issuance of common stock or securities convertible into or exercisable for common stock, less the value of loans Torchlight has made to Metamaterial.
- Prior to closing, all debt of Torchlight is to be converted into common stock or repaid in full, excepting senior secured debt that may alternatively be modified such that the debtholders’ sole recourse in respect thereof will be against Torchlight’s pre-closing oil and gas assets.
- Metamaterial shareholders may elect to receive either shares of Torchlight common stock or shares of a Canadian subsidiary of Torchlight, which will be exchangeable into Torchlight common stock (the “Exchangeable Shares”). Holders of Exchangeable Shares will be entitled to cast votes on matters for which holders of Torchlight common stock are entitled to vote and will be entitled to receive dividends that are economically equivalent to the dividends declared by Torchlight with respect to its common stock.
- Torchlight will declare a dividend of preferred stock to its common shareholders on the record date, with such dividend being payable immediately prior to closing of the Transaction. The preferred share will provide shareholders of record, the right of participation in the net proceeds of the sale of Torchlight’s oil and gas assets, subject to certain holdbacks and time constraints.
- The combined company, formerly known as Torchlight Energy Resources, Inc., will change its name and focus its business to align with the current business of Metamaterial.
- Following the closing of the Transaction, the board of directors of the combined company will be comprised of 7 members, one of whom is to be appointed by Torchlight, a second to be jointly appointed by Metamaterial and Torchlight and the remaining 5 to be appointed by Metamaterial.
- Metamaterial’s CEO, George Palikaras will be appointed CEO of the combined company, along with the appointment of Kenneth L. Rice as CFO and Executive Vice President. Torchlight’s management will remain, in an advisory role focused on winding down Torchlight’s legacy business and maximizing the value obtained from the divestiture of Torchlight’s oil and gas assets.
- Torchlight will loan to Metamaterial an additional US$500,000, in exchange for an unsecured promissory note in substantially the same form as the 8% unsecured convertible promissory note that evidences Torchlight’s loan to Metamaterial of US$500,000 on September 20, 2020. Upon closing, these two bridge loans, including the aggregate principal and unpaid interest, are to be included in, and credited against, the $10m pre-closing financing described above, with such notes to be deemed cancelled and paid in full.
- Certain stockholders of each of Torchlight and Metamaterial have executed customary voting and support agreement pursuant to which persons representing approximately 16% of Torchlight’s and approximately 48% of Metamaterial’s outstanding voting power have agreed to vote in favor of the Transaction, subject to customary applicable terms.
Torchlight and Metamaterial invite all interested parties to view a webcast introduction of George Palikaras, CEO of META and an overview on META. The webcast link will be made available and announced shortly.
In connection with the Transaction, Torchlight and Metamaterial respectively obtained fairness opinions. Torchlight has engaged Roth Capital Partners as financial advisor and Stikeman Elliott LLP and K&L Gates LLP as legal advisors, and Metamaterial has engaged Hamilton Clark and Cormark Securities as financial advisors and Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati P.C. as legal advisors. Neither META or Torchlight has incurred any finder’s fees in association with this transaction.
About Metamaterial Inc. (META)
META is changing the way we use, interact with, and benefit from light and other forms of energy. META designs and manufactures advanced materials and performance functional films which are engineered at the nanoscale to control light and other forms of energy. META is an award winning Global Cleantech 100 company with products that support sustainability by doing more with less; they encompass lightweight, sustainable raw materials and processes which consume less energy and offer more performance. META has a growing patent portfolio and is currently developing new materials with diverse applications in concert with companies in the automotive, aerospace, energy, consumer electronics and medical industries. META is headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has R&D and Sales offices in London, UK and Silicon Valley. For additional information on META, please visit www.metamaterial.com (Source: PR Newswire)
14 Dec 20. Advances in supercomputing make DARPA confident about CRANE active flow control effort. Advances in supercomputing technology during the past 20 years are one of multiple reasons that the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is confident that it can succeed in its Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) active flow control (AFC) programme.
Alexander Walan, CRANE programme manager, told Janes on 4 December that computational fluid dynamics (CFD) codes had improved in the past 10 years. This enables engineers to better leverage computers to verify designs and effects, and spot checks in wind tunnels. Engineers can now use high-powered computing to perform these tasks in a more economical fashion.
Academic research during the past 20 years has weeded out less practical AFC solutions while focusing on the most promising applications. Walan said that academic research had explored different effectors and hardware, some of which had proven to be more robust than others. This has resulted in a once wide-open trade space being reduced to three or four main technical lanes.
Walan’s third reason for optimism is that industry advancements in building smaller unmanned systems provides a better opportunity for a more affordable demonstration than found with traditional experimental aircraft (X-plane). DARPA, he said, did not mandate any of its CRANE aircraft to be unmanned, but that the size, complexity, and cost seem to be moving toward unmanned aircraft. “I think those three things kind of set the stage for why now is a good time to do a full scale demonstration,” Walan said. (Source: Reuters)
11 Dec 20. British Army’s BattleLab to be operational by August 2021. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is launching a new Defence Innovation Centre aimed at providing an easy access point for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to develop and mature solutions.
The Army aspect of the centre, which is called the Army BattleLab, will reach its initial operational capability in April 2021, with full operational capability expected to be reached the following August, according to a 3 December briefing from the British Army.
The DIC is to be located in Dorset, UK, close to the British Army’s Armoured Trials and Development Unit. It is intended to improve the links between the Army’s end users and the SMEs that can provide solutions to the various challenges. It will allow “more open and better engagement, [and] greater exploitation of experimentation within defence,” explained Director of Capability, Major General Jez Bennet, during the briefing.
The centre will also aim to reach companies that have never before worked with defence, and Maj Gen Bennet explained that the plan was for the BattleLab to offer an easy route into defence for those with no prior experience in the field.
It will also be used to “represent a persistent challenge to the status quo to drive value and improvement,” another senior Army officer explained during the briefing, adding that it is expected to serve as a focus for coherent and routine work with academia. (Source: Jane’s)
14 Dec 20. Lockheed Martin Flies Real-Time, Mission Enabling Kubernetes Onboard U-2. Flight Test Proves Distributed Processing Software Provides Greater Mission Capability.
Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) successfully conducted a flight test mission featuring distributed processing onboard the U-2 Dragon Lady via Kubernetes containerization technology. The demonstration is a critical steppingstone toward creating a DevSecOps environment to enable the delivery of enhanced software capability to airborne assets in real-time.
“The U-2 Kubernetes demonstration from mid-November not only advances the deployment pipeline for in-flight software upgrades but also operationally extends the computational resources for mission execution,” said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works®. “This additional capability makes it possible for the warfighter to quickly adapt to changing threat environments without costly or time-consuming system upgrades.”
To accelerate software delivery from months to hours, the Lockheed Martin team leveraged a Kubernetes cloud configuration. This configuration, which was previously demonstrated during the OpenAirKube demo in late August, was flown on the U-2 via an Enterprise Open System Architecture Mission Computer (EMC2). The EMC2 is representative of the Open Mission Systems (OMS) mission computer currently being developed for the U-2 program of record.
The U-2 flew a Kubernetes cloud that connected in-flight to a ground node, extending the U-2’s network-of-networks connectivity. Air Force OMS-compliant datalink gateway software services onboard the U-2 and in the ground node within the Kubernetes cloud disseminated sensor data, dynamically bridging datalinks across assets. This distributed processing approach allows the cloud computing technology to scale up for advanced mission processing based on the unique needs of the battlespace.
A combat proven platform that’s supporting important missions today, the U-2S continues to provide new capabilities to transform the future battlespace by enabling rapid development, testing, demonstration, and fielding to the warfighter.
14 Dec 20. How DoD can improve its technology resilience. The Department of Defense must bolster its resilience in mission platforms in order to stay ahead of threats, a new think tank report says. With the military’s shift toward great power competition, or conflict against nation states, its systems and platforms will be under greater stress than technological inferior adversaries battled during the counterterrorism fight of the last decade-plus.
Systems and networks are expected to be contested, disrupted and even destroyed, meaning officials need to build redundancy and resilience in from the start to work through such challenges. In fact, top defense officials have been warning for several years that they are engaged in conflict that is taking place below the threshold of armed conflict in which adversaries are probing networks and systems daily for espionage or disruptive purposes.
“Resilience is a key challenge for combat mission systems in the defense community as a result of accumulating technical debt, outdated procurement frameworks, and a recurring failure to prioritize learning over compliance. The result is brittle technology systems and organizations strained to the point of compromising basic mission functions in the face of changing technology and evolving threats,” said a new report out today by the Atlantic Council titled “How Do You Fix a Flying Computer? Seeking Resilience in Software-Intensive Mission Systems.”
“Mission resilience must be a priority area of work for the defense community. Resilience offers a critical pathway to sustain the long-term utility of software-intensive mission systems, while avoiding organizational brittleness in technology use and resulting national security risks. The United States and its allies face an unprecedented defense landscape in the 2020s and beyond.”
This resilience, is built upon three pillars, the authors write: robustness, which is the ability of a system to negate the impact of disruption; responsiveness, which is the ability of a system to provide feedback and incorporate changes on a disruption, and; adaptability, which is the ability to a system to change itself to continue operating despite a disruption.
Systems, the report notes, are more than just the sum of its parts — hardware and software — but rather are much broader to include people, organizational processes and technologies.
To date, DoD has struggled to manage complexity and develop robust and reliable mission systems, even in a relatively benign environment, the report bluntly asserts, citing problems with the F-35′s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) as one key example.
“A conflict or more contested environment would only exacerbate these issues. The F-35 is not alone in a generation of combat systems so dependent on IT and software that failures in code are as critical as a malfunctioning munition or faulty engine — other examples include Navy ships and military satellites,” the authors write. “To ensure mission systems like the F-35 remain available, capable, and lethal in conflicts to come demands the United States and its allies prioritize the resilience of these systems. Not merely security against compromise, mission resilience is the ability of a mission system to prevent, respond to, and adapt to both anticipated and unanticipated disruptions, to optimize efficacy under uncertainty, and to maximize value over the long term. Adaptability is measured by the capacity to change — not only to modify lines of software code, but to overturn and replace the entire organization and the processes by which it performs the mission, if necessary. Any aspect that an organization cannot or will not change may turn out to be the weakest link, or at least a highly reliable target for an adversary.”
The report offers four principles that defense organizations can undertake to me more resilient in future conflicts against sophisticated adversaries:
- Embrace failure: DoD must be more willing to take risks and embrace failure to stay ahead of the curve. Organizations can adopt concepts such as chaos engineering, experimenting on a system to build confidence in its ability to withstand turbulent conditions in production, and planning for loss of confidentiality in compromised systems.
- Improve speed: DoD must be faster at adapting and developing, which includes improving its antiquated acquisition policies and adopt agile methodologies of continuous integration and delivery. Of note, DoD has created a software acquisition pathway and is implementing agile methodologies of continuous integration and delivery, though on small scales.
- Always be learning: Defense organizations operate in a highly contested cyber environment, the report notes, and as the department grows more complex, how it learns and adapts to rapidly evolving threats grows in importance. Thus, it must embrace experimentation and continuous learning at all levels of systems as a tool to drive improvement.
- Manage trade-offs and complexity: DoD should improve mission system programs’ understanding of the trade-offs between near-term functionality and long-term complexity to include their impact on systems’ resilience. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
11 Dec 20. DOD Leaders Discuss Cutting-Edge Innovations. Leaders from the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit and the Air Force spoke today about DIU and AFWERX collaborative projects. AFWERX is a program for entrepreneurs within the Air Force intended to circumvent bureaucracy and engage innovation.
DIU Director Michael Brown took part in an AFWERX panel with Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett, and Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.
AFWERX is the Air Force’s team of innovators who encourage and facilitate connections across industry, academia and military to create a culture of innovation and solve problems.
The Defense Innovation Unit’s mission is to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology throughout the DOD.
“AFWERX over the past three years has grown from a visionary startup to an innovative ecosystem, connecting ideas with solutions and empowering air and space professionals to think beyond today’s reality,” said Barrett.
“Innovation is embedded in our culture, and in our DNA, and innovation is a force multiplier for partnerships fueled by small business industry, interagency partners and aerospace professionals,” she added.
Barrett provided some examples of what AFWERX has been working on: creating new landing gear, using a 3D printing lab to create needed medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, developing space-based situational awareness capabilities, developing virtual reality enhanced pilot training, and creating an affordable flying car that can deliver supplies to the point of need.
Current efforts of AFWERX are focused on energy, autonomy, space and microelectronics, she noted.
Brown spoke about DIU’s collaboration with the Air Force.
One of the areas that DIU worked on in the past is predictive maintenance that started with the Air Force, he said. Now that technology is being shared across every military service.
One of the benefits of DIU is that it was set up as a joint organization, meaning it has folks inside from every service branch, he added.
One of the areas DIU is now focused on is autonomous swarming drones, he said.
Roper said that area of focus is important. “Swarming drones are increasingly things that terrorist groups can do, that hobbyist groups can do with the right technical know-how,” he said, adding, “I think it’s a great example, because swarming drones that could attack the military, that’s not just an Air Force problem. All of the services face that. Well, that’s a scary future, we have to worry about.” (Source: US DoD)
11 Dec 20. Sustainable fuels to power RAF jets. Algae, alcohol and household waste will power RAF fighter jets under bold MOD plans to slash carbon emissions, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced today.
Aircraft including F-35s, Typhoons and Wildcat helicopters currently use conventional fuel, but could use up to 50 per cent sustainable sources in the future, after MOD’s changed aviation fuel standards came into effect in November 2020.
Known as ‘drop-ins,’ sustainable fuel sources include hydrogenated fats and oils, wood waste, alcohols, sugars, household waste, biomass and algae.
As aviation currently accounts for nearly two thirds of fuel used across defence, the new standards will lead to a significant reduction in emissions and improve defence’s carbon footprint.
It is estimated that by substituting 30 per cent of conventional fuel with an alternative source in a jet travelling 1,000 nautical miles could reduce CO2 emissions by 18 per cent.
As well as cutting emissions, using diverse and readily available materials such as household waste including packaging, grass cuttings and food scraps will prevent waste being sent to landfill.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “The UK is leading the way in sustainability and by refining our aviation fuel standards we are taking simple yet effective steps to reduce the environmental footprint of defence. As we strive to meet this Government’s Net Zero carbon emissions target by 2050, it is right that we step up to spearhead these positive changes across both military and civilian sectors.”
Today the UK is co-hosting the Climate Ambition Summit with the UN and France, where more than 70 world leaders will make bold commitments to cut emissions, fund climate finance and adapt to climate change ahead of COP26 in Glasgow next year.
The MOD’s move to allow up to 50 per cent sustainable fuel marks a huge shift in global fuel consumption and opens the door for thousands of civilian and military aircraft to be fuelled with Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs).
Not only do Australia and several NATO countries rely on the UK’s standards to influence what fuel they use, but civil and commercial airlines in the UK follow the defence standard as there is no commercial equivalent.
UK suppliers are also more likely to offer the same standard for commercial aircraft if they are already developing and importing sustainable fuel to supply defence. The Compania Logistica de Hidrocarburos-Pipeline System (CLH-PS), which is based in Madrid and provides fuel to several military airfields as well as Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester airports, has welcomed the MOD’s new standards as an opportunity to pursue sustainable fuel use.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said, “Making all forms of transport more sustainable is critical if we are to meet our ambitious Net Zero target. From powering RAF Jets to the passenger planes which get us from A to B, sustainable fuels will play a huge part in decarbonising aviation and I’m excited to explore the possibilities as we make transport cleaner, greener and more efficient.”
Luke Robbins, Commercial Director, CLH-PS said, “CLH-PS welcomes the announcement by MOD to begin accepting sustainable aviation fuel blends, which will allow use of SAF in the UK’s critical pipeline infrastructure and downstream distribution network.
“As part of CLH’s sustainability strategy we are committed to contributing to the growth of SAF in particular and this change will enable us to work with our partners, including the MOD, to facilitate its wider use in the UK aviation market.”
Lieutenant General Richard Wardlaw OBE, Chief Defence Logistics and Support said, “The Defence Strategic Fuels Authority has been working tirelessly with industry partners to change the Defence Standard for Aviation Fuel, allowing SAF deliveries to the MOD. This is a significant change for Defence, enabling us to take a key step towards reducing our CO2 footprint, consistent with our wider ambition for achieving NZ50. And this is only the beginning. With the Defence Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy, due for release later this year, we are at the start of a journey to adopt a range of greener policies and new greener technologies, so that we can reduce our environmental impact while enhancing our operational capabilities.”
Adopting greener technology in the MOD’s aircraft fleet is part of the department’s strategy to reduce its contributions to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Measures like this will be reflected in the department’s ongoing Climate Change and Sustainability Review, led by Lt Gen Richard Nugee.
The review will focus on a range of initiatives from the MOD’s NZ50 strategy to setting the right baseline for defence’s emissions and carbon footprint, with findings set to be published in early 2021. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
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.