Sponsored By Oxley Developments
08 Apr 21. Comau UK has been selected by the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) to develop and deploy a semi-automated battery module and battery pack assembly line for the publicly-funded ‘open access’ battery production development facility. The Module and Pack assembly line is the first of UKBIC’s innovative battery manufacturing equipment to have been installed, commissioned and available for its customers to use.
One of the unique elements of the project was the requirement for agile flexibility, which will allow UKBIC to manufacture a wide range of Modules & Packs, and support various customer requirements without the need for major process or site changes.
Working in collaboration with engineers from UKBIC, Comau UK provided all the necessary technology and know-how to manage the entire battery Module & Pack manufacturing process, from cylindrical cell preparation and pouch cell stacking to the battery pack assembly. The facility is located in Coventry, England, about 30 miles southeast of Birmingham and 20 miles from the Comau UK facilities in Rugby, where the company has been engineering sustainable automation solutions since 1991.
To meet the demand for UK-produced batteries, which is expected to reach a total of 440 gigawatt-hours per year by 2040 (Source: McKinsey, June 2019), the 18,500 m2 UKBIC facility with its Comau-developed Module and Pack manufacturing line will allow British companies to determine whether their prototype technology can be manufactured at the required volume, speed, performance and cost to be commercially successful.
In addition to helping ensure the safety and reliability of the manufactured batteries through the use of smart cameras, thermal imaging and End-of-Line leak test technologies the solution has built-in scalability to handle greater production volumes when required. Furthermore, thanks to its facility in the in UK, Comau offers the added value of delivering a seamless, barrier-free, intra-continental customer experience throughout every step of the electrification process – from proposal to engineering to execution.
“We are honoured to be selected as the main technology partner by UKBIC for its Module and Pack assembly line,” explains John Coombes, Managing Director, Comau UK. “The combination of our close collaboration with the customer and their dynamic resolve to adopting solutions has proven to be a winning approach for both companies. More importantly, the cutting-edge facility will allow UKBIC to remove barriers that can slow the development of these promising new technologies.”
Ian Whiting, UKBIC’s Commercial Director, added: “We’re delighted to have our Module and Pack line up and running at UKBIC, the first part of the facility which customers can use. From the outset, the team at Comau have helped us realise our goal of proving whether promising technologies can be manufactured at the required volume, speed, performance and cost to be commercially successful.”
UKBIC is an important part of the UK’s Faraday Battery Challenge programme, which is designed to fast track the development of cost-effective, high-performance, durable, safe and recyclable batteries.
07 Apr 21. AI and data science expansion for Dstl in the north. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is creating a new unit based at the National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) in Newcastle.
Around 15 new staff will be recruited to work at the unit which is due to open in late 2021. The NICD seeks to address the shortage of data analytics skills in the UK and helps companies and organisations to exploit data. Dstl will be able to access NICD’s ecosystem of non-traditional small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) suppliers to help solve defence and security data challenges. The NICD is supported by Newcastle University which, along with other regional universities, offers a diverse pool supply of suitably qualified potential staff.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said, “As outlined in the Integrated Review, our £6.6bn investment into research and development will supercharge science and innovation to lead the way in developing cutting-edge technologies. I am delighted that Dstl are expanding their pioneering work in the north east of England which will benefit from a range of new skills sets, knowledge and expertise. The establishment of the team in Newcastle will provide Dstl with greater resilience, capacity and diversity in artificial intelligence and data science, which is a critical area for the UK and in increasing demand. The move demonstrates Dstl’s commitment to supporting the levelling up agenda and increase collaboration with universities and non-traditional SME suppliers.”
Paul Kealey, the Dstl Division Head responsible for the new team, commented, “This is a really exciting opportunity to leverage innovation, create jobs and business opportunities, and contribute to the government’s ‘levelling up’ ambitions. It will support the UK to achieve its vision as a great science power by tapping in to the diverse pool of regional talent and highly skilled businesses.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
08 Apr 21. Microsoft and Improbable Announce Global Partnership for the Defence and National Security Sector. Enterprise cloud leader and synthetic environment company collaborate to accelerate delivery of next-generation capabilities
- Next-generation simulations enabled by Improbable’s synthetic environment platform are now available on Azure on-premises, cloud and cloud-to-edge services.
- The combination will transform defence capabilities across operational planning, policy design, collective training, national resilience and defence experimentation.
- Improbable and Microsoft will combine their partner ecosystems to ensure best-in-breed capabilities are fuelling the synthetic environment solutions of the future.
Improbable, the synthetic environment technology company, today announces a partnership with Microsoft’s Defence and Intelligence business to support governments in improving their national security outcomes. The partnership will transform the ability of governments and their solution providers to deliver multi-domain synthetic environments for defence and national security.
Platform enabled, cloud-based synthetic environments are a powerful capability for multi-domain integration, faster decision cycles, and improved readiness by enabling organisations to research, plan and train in realistic virtual worlds before taking action in the real world.
The combination of Improbable’s synthetic environment platform and supporting professional services, Microsoft’s cloud-to-edge services and developer technologies, and their pooled partner ecosystems will make it faster and easier to develop, validate, deploy, and adapt synthetic environment solutions that are capable of addressing the scale and complexity of today’s defence and security challenges.
Government agencies, system integrators and defence contractors can now develop and deploy better capabilities faster, leveraging the same proven platform and resources Improbable uses to deliver capability for defence customers. The platform approach will strengthen the defence supply chain and unlock greater collaboration between allies and partners.
Synthetic environments, delivered securely through cloud-to-edge hosting Together Microsoft and Improbable enable the flexible and efficient creation of a host of different synthetic environment solutions, each fuelled by richly detailed simulations of the real world.
These multi-domain “virtual worlds”, deployed securely using Azure’s familiar and trusted cloud and tech stack, enhance customers’ mission-focused capabilities across a wide range of use cases from training, planning and decision support through to force development, experimentation and infrastructure resilience. By taking advantage of a platform approach with supporting services, governments and solution providers can benefit from greater collaboration, reusability and innovation across their enterprise-wide synthetic programmes. This ensures increasing organisational integration – of people, processes and capability – by design and on an enduring basis.
Enabling an evergreen ecosystem of partners and content
Partner companies and institutions that use Microsoft Azure will now be able to offer their products through Improbable’s platform, including content, such as models, datasets, and AI applications. This enhances innovation in the development of synthetic environment solutions by making it easier for defence and national security customers to access the best capabilities and content from across industry, government and academia.
Both companies are committed to encouraging the integration of their partner ecosystems, and ensuring that those ecosystems deliver to customers a technological edge alongside value for money.
The key to mastering Multi-Domain Integration
To successfully respond to modern threats, defence and national security functions need to rapidly make sense of new and complex situations across multiple domains in order to deliver fast and integrated responses. The ability to achieve this multi-domain integration across training, planning and decision support is now available to even more organisations thanks to the Improbable-Microsoft partnership.
Improbable’s platform makes genuine multi-domain integration a reality for the first time, powering synthetic environments that combine and integrate land, sea, air, space, cyber and information effects in seamless, richly detailed simulations, accessible to thousands of simultaneous users across multiple departments. Organisations facing multi-domain threats are already using Improbable’s technology to speed up and improve decision making.
Microsoft has a consistent record in supporting Government customers as they embrace digital transformation throughout their military and intelligence operations, through Azure’s sophisticated capabilities and secure on-premises, cloud and cloud-to-edge services.
The partnership will make it faster and easier to develop, maintain and adapt multi-domain synthetic environments.
Comments from the partners
“To truly seize the opportunity of synthetic environments, we need to provide an integrated, platform-based approach,” said Joe Robinson, CEO of Improbable’s defence business. “This ensures that all our customers’ synthetic applications are supported by a reusable and evolving ecosystem of partner content – usable across the enterprise as a constant, ‘evergreen’ tool, or deployed to meet specific challenges and service requirements.”
“For the departments and friendly nations defending national and global security to benefit from this platform and ecosystem, we need to ensure it can be easily deployed and made available from the cloud through to edge devices. This is critical to enable the fast and efficient integration of powerful capabilities to support their fluid operating environment and diverse requirements. There is no better partner than Microsoft Azure to ensure that is the case.”
“We are proud to announce that Improbable’s synthetic environment platform is now available on the Microsoft Azure cloud and Azure Stack offering,” said Gus MacGregor-Millar, General Manager, Microsoft Defence & Intelligence. “We’re excited to combine our complementary strengths, and to offer our Defence and Intelligence customers the transformative potential of synthetic environments powered by secure, reliable cloud compute. Improbable’s technology enhances security and resilience for defence customers, drives wider innovation in national security and fosters a growing partner ecosystem across the UK and its allies. That aligns closely with our own mission, and we are delighted to be working on this joint endeavour.”
07 Apr 21. JAIC looks to link AI development platforms across Pentagon, services. The US Department of Defense’s artificial intelligence (AI) directorate is weighing whether to link its new AI technology development platform with other similar Pentagon and service-led platforms in an effort to create a unified system of systems that will drive future advances in military AI.
Officials from the Joint AI Center (JAIC) are exploring development of a so-called ‘joint common fabric’, which would consist of various AI development platforms like the US Air Force’s Platform One and elements of the US Army’s AI Task Force among others, as an outgrowth from the centre’s own development platform, the Joint Common Foundation (JCF).
“One of our key efforts at this point is to stitch together these development platforms into a fabric of platforms, so as we build our Joint Common Foundation we are thinking about this Joint Common Fabric,” said JAIC director US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael Groen. “How do you stitch these operational and developmental environments together so you can share data readily from an army sensor into an air force system, or vice versa. So, we are expanding our approach as we continue to flesh out our [development and security operations],” he said.
Developed in 2020, the JCF is a cloud-enabled AI platform that will accelerate the development, testing, and fielding of new AI capabilities, according to a JAIC fact sheet. Through the use of a common AI platform backed by “shared infrastructure resources” drawn from within the Pentagon and across the services, the JCF “ensures progress [this] AI initiative will build momentum across the entire [Department of Defense] enterprise”, it added. (Source: Jane’s)
06 Apr 21. Defense Intelligence Agency continues progress on MARS database. The Machine-Assisted Analytic Rapid-Repository System (MARS) is being designed to ingest the massive amount of data collected by the intelligence community. The Defense Intelligence Agency completed another milestone in the development of its new cloud-based data management system, successfully releasing its second minimum viable product recently. The Machine-Assisted Analytic Rapid-Repository System (MARS) is being designed to ingest the massive amount of data collected by the intelligence community, using cloud processing and machine learning to analyze it. As the agency charged with informing war fighters and policymakers on the military capabilities of foreign nations, DIA wants MARS to make connections between different pieces of intelligence that aren’t being made today.
“MARS is another example of how DIA relentlessly pursues every means to gather and analyze all possible information on foreign militaries in support of our military planners, operators and policymakers,” DIA Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said in an April 5 statement.
DIA announced MARS released its second minimum viable product on March 31 for initial order-of-battle capability, which “depicts foreign military unit hierarchy in the context of units’ geographic location, along with the equipment assigned to them.” MARS released its first minimum viable product — focused on infrastructure — in 2020. DIA said future MARS releases will continue the development of incremental capabilities. Last year marked a number of mileposts for the program, which is meant to replace two-decades-old Modern Integrated Database. In August, DIA awarded Northrop Grumman $690m for the Transforming All-Source Analysis with Location-Based Object Services (TALOS) contract, which will help the agency build systems for big data. MARS is part of the contract, with Northrop Grumman serving as the program’s enterprise modular integrator. Also in 2020, MARS completed its rapid prototyping phase, and the Pentagon and Director of National Intelligence designated it as a major acquisition program. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
07 Apr 21. Rohde & Schwarz introduces new R&S ZNA vector network analyzers with up to 67 GHz frequency range. The R&S ZNA high-end vector network analyzer (VNA) now features models with 50 GHz and 67 GHz maximum frequencies. This opens up the VNA’s outstanding RF performance, unique hardware concept and innovative touch operation to new areas of application. Signal integrity measurements as well as A&D and 5G component and module characterization are main applications for the new analyzer models.
Rohde & Schwarz launched the R&S ZNA, the world’s first purely touch-operated vector network analyzer, originally two years ago. The newly introduced models cover frequency ranges of up to 50 GHz and 67 GHz.
The R&S ZNA features excellent RF performance, including wide dynamic range and extremely low trace noise, and comes with a user-friendly, purely touch based GUI. Its unique hardware platform offers up to four internal, phase coherent sources plus a fifth source which can be used as a second internal local oscillator or as an additional source for measurements on mixers. In combination with up to eight truly parallel measurement receivers, the R&S ZNA hardware architecture is ideal for demanding measurements on components and modules.
The R&S ZNA benefits engineers working on tasks such as high-end research and development. The new 50 GHz and 67 GHz R&S ZNA models offer opportunities for the aerospace and defense industry by enabling characterization of radar and transmitter/receiver modules as well as performing antenna measurements and supporting satellite applications such as downconverter characterization. They also offer versatile capabilities for both pulse generation and measurement, including a wide range of trigger functions. Since the analyzer’s original introduction, updates have added new features such as direct source monitor access, which enables accurate measurements even on high gain devices such as satellite downconverters.
High-end R&D signal integrity measurements on differential lines up to 67 GHz, and when combined with Rohde & Schwarz mmWave converters even beyond, are a strength of the new R&S ZNA models. In combination with integrated deembedding solutions (ISD, SFD, DELTA-L and EZD), the R&S ZNA provides characterization of PCB conductor structures for high-speed signal transmission. The effects of fixtures, lead-ins and lead-outs are removed from the measurement results.
Covering the 5G frequency bands and, in combination with Rohde & Schwarz mmWave converters, the 6G frequency bands, the R&S ZNA is a future-proof solution for research on active and passive components such as LNAs, filters, antennas and mixers. Over-the-air tests with Rohde & Schwarz OTA test solutions benefit from the analyzer’s excellent dynamic range. The R&S ZCxxx mmWave converters extend the frequencies into the terahertz range and provide high dynamic range and output power for on-wafer device characterization and antenna measurements on 6G components and modules.
The new R&S ZNA50 and R&S ZNA67 models are now available from Rohde & Schwarz. For further information, go to: https://www.rohde-schwarz.com/product/zna
06 Apr 21. Insitu Advances its Fuel Cell Technology. Insitu engineers worked with researchers from Washington State University and Protium to conduct successful testing of a hydrogen supply tank in July of 2020. The event marked one of the company’s many recent efforts to advance fuel cell technology for unmanned platforms. Insitu, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company, has announced new details about its latest efforts to advance hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
First Flight of Hydrogen-Electric ScanEagle3 UAV: In December 2020, Insitu completed the first flight of the 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: UAS VISION)
06 Apr 21. New Mercury rugged servers accelerate customer time to insight. Featuring 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors, servers tackle AI workloads with data center-level performance. Mercury Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: MRCY, www.mrcy.com), a leader in trusted, secure mission-critical technologies for aerospace and defense, today announced its next-generation rugged rackmount server product lineup featuring 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors (formerly code-named Ice Lake). Mercury’s new RES XR7 line of high-performance, configurable servers deliver data center-level performance to accelerate applications such as artificial intelligence (AI), sensor fusion and communications. Optimized with the latest PCIe Gen4 processing, storage and networking technologies, the new servers reduce latency and maximize bandwidth, enabling customers to gain insights quickly and make rapid decisions with confidence.
“Artificial intelligence and other compute-hungry applications must process, store and move huge volumes of sensor data at 5G speeds for users to make time-sensitive mission-critical decisions,” said Scott Orton, vice president and general manager, Mercury Edge. “Our new RES XR7 rugged servers meet these computing demands while enabling customers to reduce deployment costs and improve application efficiency. Collaborating with industry leaders such as Intel enables us to take the latest commercial processing technologies and develop them into purpose-built, scalable rugged server platforms making them profoundly more accessible for evolving customer needs.”
“The 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors used in Mercury’s new RES XR7 rugged server line feature built-in acceleration for AI and crypto so customers can harness more data with less hassle,” said Greg Ernst, Intel vice president and general manager, US Sales. “The processors also include Intel software guard extensions (SGX) technology, which helps protect data and application code, making them ideal for Mercury’s aerospace and defense server solutions.”
Mercury’s field-proven, high-performance RES XR7 rugged servers are fully configurable for each unique application and certified to multiple military and industrial standards. Innovative thermal and mechanical design features provide superior resilience to shock, vibration, dust, sand and temperature extremes, while the flexible architecture saves rack space to deliver unparalleled footprint performance. Additionally, server designs and development are protected by Mercury’s cybersecure IT infrastructure and are screened, assembled, manufactured and tested in AS9100-, AS5553-and ISO9001-certified facilities.
06 Apr 21. CAES signs exclusive agreement for 3D-printed radio frequency parts. Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions announced Tuesday an exclusive agreement for American military equipment with SWISSto12, a firm specializing in the 3D printing of radio frequency and electronics technologies.
The move positions CAES — the 54th largest defense firm in the world, according to the most recent Defense News Top 100 list — to knock down costs and weight for radio frequency parts used in space systems and radars, according to Dave Young, the company’s chief technology officer. The business rebranded to its shortened name last year.
Additive manufacturing, another name for 3D printing, fits in well with the company’s existing portfolio, said Young, who joined CAES in January after stints at Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, where he most recently was vice president of advanced program developments in the space sector.
“I think this is going to be something that the space world will initially be interested in, [but] as you get into the higher technology, like fire-control radars and things like that, electronic warfare systems, there’s going to be a play,” Young said. “And the good news is CAES plays across that realm. So although we’re getting a lot of excitement in the space side, we’re going to see movement across our products in terms of the use of this technology.”
The technology has long been of interest for the defense and aerospace worlds. Objects made with 3D printing can be lighter, tougher and cheaper to produce, as they can be built from the ground up in a way that traditional manufacturing, which is essentially carving shapes out of large blocks of substances, cannot. The technology has proved useful for large pieces of planes, for example, but is less successful when it comes to highly sensitive technologies.
While there have been some experiments with additive manufacturing for radio frequency parts, Young downplayed them, citing the fact that the parts generally must be smoothed out and worked over to get the correct radio frequency tolerances. This ultimately results in a situation where traditional manufacturing is cheaper and easier.
The SWISSto12 process is different, said Emile de Rijk, CEO and co-founder of the Lausanne, Switzerland-based firm. He described a patented, three-step process.
First the company wrote new software for 3D printers that gets parts as closer to radio frequency ready than commercially available 3D-printing software. “They’re not perfect, but they’re different from how they would come out normally,” de Rijk said. “A stronger emphasis has been put on getting higher surface accuracies onto those parts.”
Second, the company developed a chemical etching process where “you dip the parts in a series of baths that rework the surface finish to get them to the next layer of smoothness and accuracy.” And finally, the company finishes the parts with metal plating, usually copper or silver, for situations where “the customer is interested in getting the last little bit of performance out of the product to further improve the [radio frequency] RF performance of those products.”
SWISSto12 has established itself in Europe, and de Rijk said its designs are qualified by major defense firms such as Thales, Airbus, Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries. He added that there are more than 1,000 parts flying on systems in geostationary orbit, as well as on 50 aircraft designs and within the electronic warfare suites on eight battleships. Roughly a third of the company’s revenue comes from commercial space, with the other two-thirds coming from defense.
But the company has not made headway into the U.S. market, which is where the deal with CAES comes in. The agreement means that CAES is the exclusive purveyor of SWISSto12′s capabilities for U.S. prime companies, according to Young. The company defines U.S. firms as those that are certified by American-based companies; so even though the F-35 fighter jet has global customers, it would count for this agreement because Lockheed Martin is based in America.
The agreement is a partnership, not just SWISSto12 giving its designs to Cobham and walking away, de Rijk noted. “We won’t just throw [intellectual property] and technology over the ocean.”
Young predicted that some production for U.S. equipment will start this year, but added that the biggest agreements will take 12-18 months before production — a natural lag given the time frame it takes to design and produce a sensitive space system or high-end radar.
In terms of what parts may come from the team, Young said there is “a very relevant and near-term application for waveguides and interconnects,” key pieces that transfer information from active components to the digital backend.
He also expressed confidence there will be no issue with receiving certification from the Pentagon for defense articles, as the process would be done at the company level.
“The parts we’re talking about are not active. They’re passively transferring data between parts of the satellites, and they’re not generally load-bearing,” Young said. “So certification is pretty easy, as these things go.” (Source: Defense News)
05 Apr 21. Commercial Interest Grows in Defense Innovation Unit. The Defense Innovation Unit received nearly 1,000 proposals in response to its solicitations last year, another sign that the Pentagon’s outreach to commercial industry is bearing fruit.
DIU was launched in 2015 by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to bridge the gap between the military and the nation’s tech hubs. It is headquartered in Mountain View, California, in Silicon Valley, with additional outposts in Austin, Texas, Boston and the Pentagon.
“DIU’s mission to strengthen U.S. national security by increasing the military’s adoption of commercial technology and to grow the national security innovation base is critical not only to maintaining a strategic advantage over our adversaries but also to the strength of our economy,” the organization said in its recently released 2020 annual report.
Over the past five years, the unit has leveraged more than $11bn in private investment, the document noted.
“The startups, established companies, venture capital firms, investors and traditional defense contractors that DIU works with to deliver the best commercial technology to the Department of Defense are … fundamental sources of dual-use technologies,” it said.
In 2020, DIU initiated 23 new projects, a 35 percent year-over-year increase. It received a total of 944 commercial proposals and increased the average number of proposals per solicitation by 52 percent compared with 2019.
Fifty-six other transaction agreements for prototyping were awarded to companies, the majority of which were small businesses or nontraditional firms. A total of $108m in prototype funding was obligated. Between June 2016 and December 2020, DIU facilitated more than $640m in prototype funding, according to the report.
Notably, the unit in 2020 facilitated the transition of 11 successful commercial prototypes to its Defense Department partners for large-volume procurement, an increase of 22 percent over the previous year.
About 43 percent of DIU’s projects to date have yielded at least one prototype that has transitioned to production, according to the report. Fifty-one ongoing projects have prototypes that will be eligible for transition to production if successfully completed.
“What began in 2015 as an experiment to lead Department of Defense outreach to commercial innovators has become a gateway for business between leading-edge companies and the U.S. military,” the report said.
DIU’s main technology focus areas have been artificial intelligence, autonomy, cyber, human systems and space. In October, it added advanced energy and materials to its portfolio.
“We look forward to providing even more high-impact solutions that will bolster our military’s strategic, operational and tactical advantage,” the organization said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/NDIA.org)
05 Apr 21. America and its military need a blockchain strategy. For the first time, China’s five-year plan for social and economic development calls for the use of blockchain applications in supply chain management, e-governance and fintech, as well as related research and development on smart contracts, asymmetric encryption and consensus algorithms. Chinese military publications have consistently proclaimed that blockchain technology will provide the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with an edge in intelligence, weapons lifecycle, personnel management and information warfare. Greater investment by the Chinese government in a range of blockchain applications risks positioning Beijing as a leader in this foundational technology at the expense of the U.S. national security.
The PLA views blockchain as a way to combat disinformation domestically. Because blockchain is founded on an immutable ledger, it can also preserve data integrity throughout military supply chains.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced his intention to use blockchain to gain “a new industrial advantage.” China appears now to be outpacing America in blockchain patents. Last year, the State Information Center of China and a consortium of private Chinese firms launched a blockchain-based service network (BSN) with the goal of creating a global, Chinese-controlled infrastructure network. This infrastructure could provide China the ability to monitorAmerican citizens’ activity on the network as it expands into the U.S. market.
China is not the only country looking to secure global dominance in blockchain development. Since 2018, a Russian Ministry of Defence research lab has been conducting research on the military applications of blockchain technology, especially around developing intelligent cyber defense systems. Although news reports about the lab have mentioned only defensive capabilities, states can also use blockchain to strengthen offensive capabilities, such as by thwarting typical defenses against command-and-control attacks.
In 2018, a representative of Russia’s intelligence agency, the FSB, proclaimed, “the Internet belongs to the Americans — but blockchain will belong to us.” Russia and China are sending overwhelming numbers of delegates to international forums working on blockchain, such as the International Standards Organization (ISO) and International Telecommunications Union (ITU). By flooding these institutions with proposed standards and adopting blockchain faster than the U.S., Russia and China have the potential to institutionalize their cryptographic algorithms and install “the perfect Trojan,” as Emma Channing, cofounder of an American blockchain advisory company, stated.
A 2020 report from the Value Technology Foundation, IBM, Amazon and Deloitte concluded that if the U.S. does not ramp up its research and investment in this new technology, America could lose its position as a leader in capital investment, internet development and technology, and become increasingly more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Moreover, while the U.S. continues to fall behind the technical curve and is left vulnerable, Russia and China intend to leverage blockchain to harden their network defenses.
To reverse this trend, the U.S. must leverage the inherent advantages of liberal societies regarding innovation in general and regarding blockchain in particular. Authoritarian governments are wary of “public blockchains” — blockchains that face the internet and that anyone can potentially view and interact with. Because they are hard for the state to control, these governments tend to invest less in research and development on public blockchains. However, at present, public blockchains (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin) are the only ones gaining traction with a larger consumer market.
Washington should both fund research of public and private blockchains and ensure that America does not let wariness of cryptocurrencies create an overly burdensome regulatory regime for all blockchain applications. Given the technology’s potential, the U.S. military, private cybersecurity firms and security researchers should also explore cybersecurity-related applications of blockchain technology.
The U.S. Department of Commerce should commission a study on China’s BSN, including the security implications of a platform run in part by China’s State Information Center handling American citizen’s data. Meanwhile, as American allies such as Australia and the United Kingdom are thinking strategically about the military, political and economic implications of blockchain, the U.S. should look toward future collaboration with like-minded allies on research and standardization.
For the U.S. military, blockchain’s distributed ledger can make acquisitions data more transparent and auditable. The technology can also help combat single points of failures across the digital infrastructure. The Value Technology Foundation report noted for example that use of a blockchain application known as smart contracts in satellite control systems would make them harder to disrupt by a malicious actor.
For a technology that is billed by enthusiasts as the next internet, it is imperative that America act now to ensure that Russia’s prediction that “the blockchain will belong to us” does not come to fruition. To be sure, there is no guarantee blockchain will achieve this level of influence. However, if there is chance that blockchain is even a fraction as revolutionary as the internet, America cannot afford a wait-and-see approach.
Trevor Logan is a cyber research analyst at the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation (CCTI) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and contributes to FDD’s China Program. Theo Lebryk is a CCTI intern and a master’s student in China studies at Peking University. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
31 Mar 21. Esri UK today announced a new partnership with drone specialists heliguy to complete its end-to-end drone solution for the defence and public safety industries. The final piece in Esri UK’s strategy to offer all parts of the drone workflow, the partnership will provide customers with drone hardware, payloads and pilot training from heliguy, combined with Esri’s drone flight planning, data capture, data processing and GIS software.
Esri UK and heliguy will work on joint customer projects, aiming to introduce more efficient workflows and new capabilities, including the rapid creation of FMV (Full Motion Video), real-time drone surveillance programmes, digital twins and 3D models of buildings. New approaches will include both cloud and desktop data processing and storage, enabling faster sharing of drone data and integration with other systems such as GIS.
Esri’s drone software is currently used by the UK’s NCGI (National Centre for Geospatial Intelligence) and the Netherlands’ MoD, in addition to numerous users of its GIS system, while heliguy counts more than 30 of the UK’s emergency services, including London Fire Brigade and Greater Manchester Police, and the MoD as customers.
“From creating digital twins and real-time surveillance to emergency planning, asset inspections or fire risk assessment, the use of drones is increasing and becoming more complex,” said Adrian Friend, Head of Defence, National Security and Public Safety at Esri UK. “The end-to-end approach will give users sophisticated fleet management and remote flight planning workflows, combined with geospatial analysis, which is vital in delivering drone data to teams on the ground or in operations centres, so faster decisions can be made. By providing a single source of hardware and software, the new partnership makes their procurement process more efficient.”
Designed to streamline current processes, from drone hardware selection and management, through to data capture, analysis and sharing, the partnership will make it easier and more cost effective for customers to create tightly integrated drone programmes, which can scale across an organisation.
“Defence and public safety organisations are now looking to maximise their drone investment as new workflows begin to emerge,” said Ben Sangster, GIS and Survey Lead at heliguy. “New payload sensors recently launched will now enable high-fidelity mapping to be achieved much faster than before, for example. Combining our hardware expertise with Esri’s software will reap new benefits for defence and public safety drone programmes.” (Source: http://www.joint-forces.com)
Oxley Group Ltd
Oxley specialises in the design and manufacture of advanced electronic and electro-optic components and systems for air, land and sea applications within the military sector. Established in 1942, Oxley has manufacturing facilities in the UK and USA and enjoys representation worldwide. The company’s products include night vision and LED lighting, data capture systems and electronic components. Oxley has pioneered the development of night vision compatible lighting. It offers a total package incorporating optical filters, equipment modification, cockpit and external lighting along with fleet wide upgrade services including engineering, installation, support, maintenance and training. The company’s long experience of manufacturing night vision lighting and LED indicators, coupled with advances in LED technology, has enabled it to develop LED solutions to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting in existing applications as well as becoming the lighting option of choice in new applications such as portable military hospitals, UAV control stations and communication shelters.