Sponsored By Oxley Developments
24 Mar 21. DARPA making it easier to develop custom, secure chips. To make it easier for the military to run advanced applications on its systems, the Defense Advanced Projects and Research Agency announced it is supporting U.S.-based manufacturing initiative that can improve the delivery of custom chips for defense systems.
Under the Structured Array Hardware for Automatically Realized Applications (SAHARA) program, DARPA will work with Intel and researchers from University of Florida, University of Maryland and Texas A&M, to automate and scale the conversion of defense-relevant field-programmable gate array (FPGAs) designs into quantifiably more secure structured application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs).
ASICs are custom chips designed to maximize the efficiency of a specific algorithm. These chips can deliver higher performance and lower power consumption for defense electronic systems, but they can take years to develop and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to DARPA. Most applications run on general purpose FPGAs, which are far less efficient. Currently, converting FPGAs to structured ASICs is not only complex and costly, but also fails to address design security considerations. SAHARA aims to solve both issues.
Intel already produces “eASIC” devices, structured ASICs that are an intermediary technology between FPGAs and standard-cell ASICs. They offer a lower unit cost and run on less power than FPGAs. Additionally, they cost less to engineer and provide a faster time to market than standard-cell ASICs, Intel said in its announcement. Intel and its partners plan to automate the conversion process for both currently fielded and future FPGAs. The conversion will dramatically shorten the design process, reduce associated engineering costs and enhance chip security, DARPA officials said. Additionally, Intel aims to build U.S.-based manufacturing capabilities for the structured ASICs — something not currently available.
The research teams are also working on new chip protections that leverage verification and validation and can address supply chain threats by thwarting reverse engineering and counterfeiting attacks. Once proven, the countermeasures will be integrated into Intel’s structured ASIC design flow.
“SAHARA aims to enable a 60% reduction in design time, a 10X reduction in engineering costs, and a 50% reduction in power consumption by automating the FPGA-to-Structured ASICs conversion,” said Serge Leef, a program manager in DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office. “The partnership with Intel will ultimately afford the DOD with significant cost and resource savings while enabling the use of leading-edge microelectronics across a host of applications.” (Source: Defense Systems)
24 Mar 21. uAvionix Receives DoD AIMS Certification for Mode 5 Micro IFF Transponder for Tactical UAS. uAvionix Corporation today announced it achieved DoD AIMS Mk XIIB certification of its first Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponder, the RT-2087/ZPX-B. With this certification, ZPX-B becomes the world’s smallest, certified micro-IFF transponder, reducing Size, Weight, and Power Consumption (SWaP) characteristics of typical IFF transponders by more than 90%, and at less than half the size, one-third the weight, and one fourth the power consumption of other Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) targeted IFF solutions.
The certification, issued by the Department of Defense (DoD) Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System Identification Friend or Foe Program Office (AIMS PO), attests to its IFF capability and its interoperability with military equipment fielded by NATO and its allied countries. Incorporation of IFF technology into small, tactical, and attritable platforms allows them full participation into the cross-troop, cross-service branch, and cross-nation collaboration and situational awareness that prevents fratricide.
The ZPX-B enables IFF capability for small and tactical Group 1-4 UAS, thanks to its record-breaking SWaP at 3.3 in3, 60 grams, and power consumption of only 3.5 Watts. Transmitting at 54dBm, ZPX-B provides civil transponder modes A, C, S, and ADS-B Out, as well as military modes 1, 2, 3, and 5 Levels 1 and 2 – all individually configurable. ADS-B In functionality provides situational awareness and Detect and Avoid (DAA) capabilities to the host platform. Crypto compatibility complies with AIMS 04-900A Option B, which includes the KIV-77 and KIV-79.
Passive IFF Reception for Situational Awareness
In addition to the ZPX-B, uAvionix introduces the ZPX-R, a passive ADS-B and Mode 5 Level 2 receiver for ground-based, shipborne, or airborne reception for situational awareness and DAA capability. Mode 5 Level 2 encrypted squitters enable situational awareness in areas where Mode 5 interrogators are absent, increasing the scalability of deployment. ZPX-R can provide data in multiple formats, including Open Mission Systems (OMS) for incorporation into tactical displays or ACAS Xu or similar DAA processors.
Unclassified Integration, Testing, and Demonstration with Crypto Emulation
For military programs or OEMs looking to integrate a micro-IFF into their platforms, ZPX-B incorporates an internal crypto-emulator that enables development and test independent of COMSEC-controlled equipment subject to onerous handling requirement. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
25 Mar 21. DARPA Selects Research Teams for WARP. The United States’ Defense Research Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced the research teams that will push forward the organisation’s Wideband Adaptive RF Protection (WARP) programme to protect the US Army’s radio frequency (RF) systems from interference.
The WARP programme’s aim is to deliver tuneable filters that will manage external interference as well as tuneable signal canceller architectures to address self-interference. The goal is to develop technologies that are tuneable over wide bandwidths with low-loss and high-linearity that can protect defence and commercial wideband systems.
The team’s objectives will be to explore a diverse set of technology approaches that include intrinsically-switched electromagnetic (EM) resonators, multi-ferroics, acoustics, and photonics, which will all come together with new circuit architectures, heterogeneous device integration, and advanced RF packaging. The technical approaches will also include embedded sensing of the EM spectrum, which provides adaptive control of the tuning elements and enables the hardware to react to environmental changes.
There will be two main areas of research: the development of new filter architectures that have inherently wideband tuning characteristics to cover the 2-18 GHz band of interest. Teams that will address this area include: the University of Pennsylvania; BAE Systems; Raytheon Technologies; Northrop Grumman Corporation; Collins Aerospace, a unit of Raytheon Technologies; and Indiana Microelectronics.
The second area of research is focusing on reconfigurable signal cancellers in the 0.1-6 GHz band of interest while supporting large time delay spreads to handle dispersive signal leakage paths. The research teams working under this area include BAE Systems, L3Harris Technologies, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
“The performers on WARP are exploring a range of novel approaches to develop new circuit architectures for tuneable filters and cancellers,” said DARPA program manager, Timothy Hancock. “It is expected that the adaptive filter technology will help protect wideband digital receivers from signal saturation in congested environments and the adaptive cancellers will enable same-frequency simultaneous transmit and receive (STAR) applications over much wider bandwidths than can be achieved today.” (Source: Armada)
24 Mar 21. MIT’s LaserFactory Fabricates Fully Functional Drones. A group from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) recently developed a new system to print functional, custom-made devices and robots, without human intervention. Their single system uses a three-ingredient recipe that lets users create structural geometry, print traces, and assemble electronic components like sensors and actuators.
‘LaserFactory’ has two parts that work in harmony: a software toolkit that allows users to design custom devices, and a hardware platform that fabricates them.
CSAIL PhD student Martin Nisser says that this type of “one-stop shop” could be beneficial for product developers, makers, researchers, and educators looking to rapidly prototype things like wearables, robots, and printed electronics.
“Making fabrication inexpensive, fast, and accessible to a layman remains a challenge,” says Nisser, lead author on a paper about LaserFactory that will appear in the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in May. “By leveraging widely available manufacturing platforms like 3D printers and laser cutters, LaserFactory is the first system that integrates these capabilities and automates the full pipeline for making functional devices in one system.”
Let’s say a user has aspirations to create their own drone. They’d first design their device by placing components on it from a parts library, and then draw on circuit traces, which are the copper or aluminum lines on a printed circuit board that allow electricity to flow between electronic components. They’d then finalize the drone’s geometry in the 2D editor. In this case, they’d use propellers and batteries on the canvas, wire them up to make electrical connections, and draw the perimeter to define the quadcopter’s shape.
The user can then preview their design before the software translates their custom blueprint into machine instructions. The commands are embedded into a single fabrication file for LaserFactory to make the device in one go, aided by the standard laser cutter software. On the hardware side, an add-on that prints circuit traces and assembles components is clipped onto the laser cutter.
Similar to a chef, LaserFactory automatically cuts the geometry, dispenses silver for circuit traces, picks and places components, and finally cures the silver to make the traces conductive, securing the components in place to complete fabrication.
The device is then fully functional, and in the case of the drone, it can immediately take off to begin a task — a feature that could in theory be used for diverse jobs such as delivery or search-and-rescue operations.
As a future avenue, the team hopes to increase the quality and resolution of the circuit traces, which would allow for denser and more complex electronics.
As well as fine-tuning the current system, the researchers hope to build on this technology by exploring how to create a fuller range of 3D geometries, potentially through integrating traditional 3D printing into the process.
“Beyond engineering, we’re also thinking about how this kind of one-stop shop for fabrication devices could be optimally integrated into today’s existing supply chains for manufacturing, and what challenges we may need to solve to allow for that to happen,” says Nisser. “In the future, people shouldn’t be expected to have an engineering degree to build robots, any more than they should have a computer science degree to install software.”
This research is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation. The work was also supported by a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship and The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. (Source: UAS VISION)
23 Mar 21. Collaborative Air Combat Autonomy Program Makes Strides. Virtual aerial dogfights advance to 2-v-1 teaming, subscale live flights on track for end of 2021. DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program is half way through Phase 1 and has notched several key accomplishments in anticipation of live subscale aircraft dogfights in Phase 2 later this year. Achievements to date include: advanced virtual AI dogfights involving both within visual range (WVR) and beyond visual range (BVR) multi-aircraft scenarios with updated simulated weapons; live flights of an instrumented jet to measure pilot physiology and trust in AI; and initial modifications to the first full-scale jet trainer scheduled to host an onboard AI “pilot” in Phase 3 of the program.
“Our biggest focus at the end of Phase 1 is on the simulation-to-real transition of the AI algorithms as we prepare for live-fly sub-scale aircraft scenarios in late 2021,” said Col. Dan “Animal” Javorsek, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office. “Managing this transition to the real world is a critical test for most AI algorithms. In fact, prior efforts have been brittle to just these types of transitions because some solutions can be over reliant on digital artifacts from the simulation environment.”
The goal of the ACE program, which kicked off last year, is to develop trusted, scalable, human-level, AI-driven autonomy for air combat by using human-machine collaborative dogfighting as its challenge problem. In August 2020, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) executed the ACE program’s AlphaDogfight trials, a competition of eight teams whose AIs flew simulated F-16s in 1-v-1 aerial dogfights, developed by APL. The champion AI then flew five simulated dogfights against an experienced F-16 fighter pilot in a simulator, beating the human 5-0.
In February, the ACE algorithm-development teams completed the next level of simulated AI dogfights in Scrimmage 1 at APL. APL has continued to design and extend the simulation environment for this phase of the ACE program. Teams demonstrated 2-v-1 simulated engagements with two friendly “blue” F-16s fighting as a team against an enemy “red” aircraft. This marked the first AI scrimmage following the AlphaDogfight Trials and introduced more weapons into the mix – a gun for precise, shorter-range shots, and a missile for longer-range targets.
“Adding more weapon options and multiple aircraft introduces a lot of the dynamics that we were unable to push and explore in the AlphaDogfight Trials,” Javorsek said. “These new engagements represent an important step in building trust in the algorithms since they allow us to assess how the AI agents handle clear avenue of fire restrictions set up to prevent fratricide. This is exceedingly important when operating with offensive weapons in a dynamic and confusing environment that includes a manned fighter and also affords the opportunity to increase the complexity and teaming associated with maneuvering two aircraft in relation to an adversary.”
Another major focus of the ACE program is measuring pilot trust in the AI’s ability to conduct combat maneuvers while the human on board focuses on higher-cognitive battle manager decisions. To begin capturing this trust data, test pilots have flown several flights in an L-29 jet trainer at the University of Iowa Technology Institute’s Operator Performance Laboratory. The two-seat jet is outfitted with sensors in the cockpit to measure pilot physiological responses, giving researchers clues as to whether the pilot is trusting the AI or not. The jet is not actually flown by an AI; rather a safety pilot in the front cockpit acts as a “human servo actuator” executing flight control inputs generated by an AI. To the evaluator pilot in the backseat, it appears as if the AI is performing the aircraft maneuvers.
“In an analog to the miles per disengagement used in self-driving cars, we are recording the time per disengagement which serves as a major metric for the program. In addition, we’ve started looking at measurement techniques to see where the evaluation pilot’s head is pointing, as well as where their eyes are looking around the cockpit,” Javorsek said. “This enables us to see how much the pilot is checking on the autonomy by looking outside the window, and comparing that to how much time they spend on their battle management task.”
The ACE program is also researching two independent frameworks for an AI Battle Manager in what has been deemed the AlphaMosaic agent for BVR and campaign scale command and control. Scrimmage 1 saw these two agents engaging in more complex multi-domain Cruise Missile Defense (CMD) scenarios created by APL. The two contractor teams continue to refine their agents and architectures in preparation for their Scrimmage 3 head-to-head competition at the end of the phase.
Looking beyond the subscale aircraft tests in late 2021, ACE performer Calspan has begun modifying the first L-39 full-scale jet trainer that will be piloted by the AI in live-fly team dogfights during Phase 3 of the program in late 2023 and 2024.
The first step is to create an accurate aero performance model of the L-39 that the AI algorithm can use to make predictions as well as tactical maneuver decisions. Once the aero model is complete, the L-39 will be fully modified so that the AI will be able to take control of the aircraft. (Source: ASD Network)
23 Mar 21. UrsaLeo and Shiratech Announce Collaboration Bringing Predictive Maintenance for the Planning, Prediction, and Prevention of Performance Issues. Using advanced 3D Digital Twin, AI, and machine learning technology innovative platform and sensor solution provide real-time insights into legacy equipment for triage and issue resolution. UrsaLeo, an enterprise software company that enables users to visualize operational data in a photorealistic 3D representation of their facility or product, and Shiratech, a world-leading specialist in Industry 4.0-based condition monitoring and predictive maintenance technologies, today announced a collaboration to offer advanced 3D Digital Twin, AI, sensor, and machine learning technology. The combination of the UrsaLeo platform with Shiratech’s iCOMOX™ solution integrated into legacy equipment allows manufacturers to plan, predict, and prevent performance issues.
“For many manufacturers, replacing legacy equipment can cost anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars and may not be necessary with machinery that already operates at a high performance level,” said John Burton, CEO of UrsaLeo. “Many types of older assembly equipment can be IIoT-enabled quickly, easily and cost-effectively, which is why the collaboration with Shiratech is vital to help bring companies with older equipment into the world of Industry 4.0.”
“The iCOMOX™ solution enables the precise monitoring of vibrations, magnetic-field, temperature, sound and current. Using advanced AI and machine learning technology on edge this innovative solution provides real-time data about machine health, which is relayed directly to the cloud for analysis and real-time issue resolution,” said David Vactor, Managing Director of Shiratech.
Industrial machinery is designed to be a workhorse and can often last for many years before needing to be replaced. Without having to build an advanced factory or invest capital in new equipment, the UrsaLeo/Shiratech solution is ideal for cost conscious executives looking to reap the benefits of Industry 4.0.
21 Mar 21. Insitu Advances its Fuel Cell Technology. Insitu, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company, today announced new details about its latest efforts to advance hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
Insitu completed the first flight of their ScanEagle3 UAV powered by an all-electric, hydrogen fueled, PEM fuel cell.
First Flight of Hydrogen-Electric ScanEagle3 UAV: In December 2020, Insitu completed the first flight of their ScanEagle3 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) powered by an all-electric, hydrogen fueled, proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell. The 30-minute flight confirmed initial performance characteristics including power output, climb rate, and intrinsic aerodynamic flight characteristics for the UAV in preparation for test flights using a Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) storage tank on the aircraft that are planned for later this year. The 3-D-printed LH2 tank is an industry first, and is expected to support 10+ hours of endurance for ScanEagle3.
Liquid Hydrogen Flight Tank for Insitu ScanEagle3 UAV Completes First Fill Test: In February 2021, a Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) flight tank designed for Insitu’s ScanEagle3 UAV successfully completed liquid hydrogen fill, pressure and vapor generation testing at Washington State University’s Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HyPER) Lab. The tests verified operation performance metrics of the LH2 tank in preparation for upcoming flights of ScanEagle3 equipped with a PEM fuel cell power system. The LH2 Tank Integration project is part of a larger development effort to compare acoustic and thermal signatures of a small UAV powered with an internal combustion engine versus an all-electric power system.
“For our global Defence customers, fuel-cell-powered UAS in this Group 2 space represent a significant game changer in the battlespace,” said Andrew Duggan, Managing Director Insitu Pacific. “Operationally, fuel-cell-powered platforms provide the potential for longer endurance missions, increased power availability for payloads, as well as significant reductions in noise signature.”
The defense industry is growing increasingly interested in the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology, which range from environmental to operational. Fuel cells support better ISR data collection because PEM fuel cell stack emissions are limited to small amounts of H2O and trace amounts of H2. The fuel cell and electric motor thermal and acoustic signatures are significantly lower than traditional internal combustion (IC) engines, enabling mission routes closer to targets. The PEM fuel cell / electric motor combination also decreases platform vibration and enables excess power to support greater payload diversity. Fuel cells also deliver improved reliability and significantly lower logistics costs relative to small IC engine propulsion solutions.
Tests are expected to continue in Q2 of 2021 with the first liquid hydrogen flight planned for late summer 2021. (Source: PR Newswire)
18 Mar 21. Israel starts research center for GPS-free navigation. Israel’s Ministry of Defense opened a new research center to develop navigation systems that don’t rely on easily disrupted GPS.
As militaries across the world work to provide stronger GPS signals and alternatives, the Advanced Navigation Technology Center, opened with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, will manufacture highly accurate inertial sensors.
“These sensors will enable the production of next generation navigation systems, and will significantly increase their performance and capabilities,” a March 10 ministry statement said.
Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, head of research and development at the ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development, said the center will aid Israel’s technological independence.
The goal is to field an independent solution for navigation that can go longer periods of times, through all its missions, without using GPS.
Avi Elisha, general manager for IAI’s division for electro-optical and navigation systems, said the center will use the company’s unique technologies. “Only a handful of countries have this technology, which is a game-changer in the field of inertial navigation.”
Beyond helping in GPS-denied environments, IAI systems and sensors that work without satellites also provide more accurate navigation, offering the measurements of a gyroscope and from sensors that track acceleration and distance traveled, according to Zalman, head of technologies and research and development at IAI’s navigation division. The company did not provide his full name for security reasons.
In contrast, he pointed out that satellites don’t provide physical dimensions, just measures from space. “If there is a rocket launcher or tank or missile, you need to know the azimuth [measurement] to move the turret or elevation of the gun to fire, so navigation gives you the azimuth and roll and the altitude,” he said. “When you fire something, you need navigation regardless of GPS because it gives you altitude to fire a rocket or missile or point the gun to a specific target, so that is the advantage of an inertial system.” Zalman said.
He pointed to the increased threat from drones used as GPS jammers.
“If you want to use unique applications you can’t rely on GPS,” Zalman said.
IAI predicted that the new technology will overcome size and weight limitations that affected other inertial navigation systems, and will have the needed tactical accuracy. The goal is to replace existing navigation sensors with the new technology in the next 15 years. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
22 Mar 21. BISTel Inks Enterprise Agreement With Leading RF Semiconductor Manufacturer. Agreement Increases Integration of Cloud-based, AI Solutions to Improve Overall Manufacturing Effectiveness.
BISTel, the world leader in Engineering Equipment Systems (EES) and manufacturing AI software applications for smart manufacturing announced a company-wide, multi-product, multi-site enterprise agreement with a leading provider of radio-frequency semiconductor devices which help connect a myriad of electronics systems serving military, aerospace, consumer and industrial applications. Designed to improve manufacturing effectiveness in some of the world’s most complex semiconductor manufacturing environments, BISTel’s next-generation, cloud-based, AI FDC, data analytics and predictive maintenance solutions form the basis of this new enterprise agreement and will be deployed throughout the customer’s manufacturing ecosystem.
BISTel will integrate its AI based solutions to improve overall manufacturing performance. AI-powered solutions like DFD, eDL and GrandView APM offer comprehensive data analysis tools than can help improve yield, product quality and reduce overall system downtime. By delivering these capabilities in the cloud, customers reduce infrastructure costs greatly with the ability to scale in a flexible, highly cost-effective manner. Partnering with BISTel and integrating these solutions will contribute significantly to the customer’s continuous improvement program.
For more than 20 years, BISTel has partnered with leading semiconductor manufacturing companies in Asia, the EU, Japan, and North America to improve production efficiencies and overall product quality of key manufacturing processes. From its industry-proven Equipment Engineering Systems (EES) framework to its innovative new Decision Support System (DSS) designed for knowledge sharing across the manufacturing ecosystem, BISTel works with leading IDMs and OEMs to continuously enhance their manufacturing quality and efficiency.
“That our customer has taken the decision to standardize these solutions across its enterprise reflects our belief that our AI solutions add substantial value in terms of reduced costs, and enhanced performance,” said Tom Ho, President, BISTel America. “This agreement reflects the strength of our joint efforts to always strive for excellence in manufacturing.”
BISTel’s manufacturing AI solutions improve the performance of valuable semiconductor equipment, and production processes resulting in increased engineering productivity, reduction in system downtime, and an improvement in yield and overall product quality. For example, the enterprise agreement includes BISTel’s next generation FDC system called Dynamic Fault Detection (DFD) and its eDatalyzer®, an innovative suite of machine-learning based root cause analysis applications that quickly pinpoint and solve yield issues. It also includes a chamber matching solution that enables engineers to automatically reference the top performing wafer chamber then optimizes all chambers to match this “golden chamber.” The agreement also includes access to BISTel’s new AI-powered Grandview Asset Performance Management (APM) system that monitors the health of critical assets, detecting anomalies and using predictive analytics to identify production problems before they occur, including identifying the remaining useful life of the asset.
“BISTel values the loyalty and support of its customers and this agreement reflects a strong commitment by our customers to BISTel for which we are deeply honored. It also comes with the responsibility on our part to continue to deliver ongoing value and to help our customers improve their manufacturing processes,” commented W.K. Choi, CEO, BISTel.
BISTel is a leading provider of equipment engineering systems (EES) and AI based solutions for smart manufacturing. BISTel’s intelligent manufacturing solutions collect and manage data, monitor the health of equipment, optimize process flows, analyze large data, quickly identify root cause failures to mitigate risk, predict issues before they occur and extend the life of equipment through industry leading predictive analytics. BISTel helps customers reduce downtime, improve yield, increase equipment utilization and achieve significant production and engineering efficiencies across the factory. Founded in 2000, BISTel has more than 395 employees worldwide. The company is headquartered in South Korea, with offices in California, China, Japan, Singapore and Texas. BISTel’s domain expertise in global manufacturing, includes, auto, flat panel display, industrial, oil & gas, PCB/SMT, and semiconductor manufacturing as well as automotive, and pharmaceutical manufacturing. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
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.