Sponsored By Oxley Developments
05 Aug 21. The importance of EMI compliance in military vehicle platforms. EMI compliance, where electronic equipment is able to perform in an electromagnetic environment and minimise adverse impact on equipment around it, is essential in military, aerospace and on other platforms. Land vehicles with their aggregate of power and signal systems in close proximity can be especially vulnerable, with individual systems complying but the vehicle suffering issues as the electromagnetic environment changes with the systems in place and active. The incorporation of EMI filtering and shielding at the earliest stages can avoid the cost, complexity and space challenges of retrofitting each system and avoid long programme delays.
Oxley Group manufactures high reliability, low pass EMI filters for military, aerospace and communication applications. Our experience of capacitors and EMI filters developed over seven decades has produced thousands of products both as standard offerings and as bespoke solutions. The harsh operating environments and onerous performance requirements of our customers are met through a focus on reliability and in house capability which extends from design through ceramic and metal piece parts manufacture to plating, assembly and final test.
Complex assemblies providing filtered interconnection with attenuation performances from 10s of kHz to GHz can have signal and power lines with widely different performances combined in a single part optimised for size and weight. On site manufacture of three capacitor technologies, tubular, discoidal and planar array allow leadtime and cost concerns to be addressed at the earliest stage.
Single line filters with combinations of capacitors and inductors range from lower cost C or LC types to multiple cascades of filter elements to maximise insertion loss performance, with ratings of 1kVdc and 100A in regular manufacture.
The long working life planned for many land vehicle and aerospace platforms makes through life support an important consideration. Oxley can support customers in mitigating potential issues through their experience and capability including ongoing design & development capability, in-house manufacture from raw material, keen obsolescence management and a practise of offering last time buys as product life cycles come to close.
05 Aug 21. Aerospace startup gets $60m from the US Air Force to build hypersonic passenger plane. The U.S. Air Force and several venture capital firms are making a $60m investment in Hermeus Corporation, a Georgia-based startup that wants to develop the world’s first reusable hypersonic aircraft.
The end goal: a passenger aircraft that can fly in excess of five times the speed of sound, capable of traveling from New York to Paris in 90 minutes instead of the seven hours it takes most commercial airliners today.
Although the Air Force’s investment is small, relatively speaking, it could give the service a window into the development of groundbreaking technology and help broaden its base of potential suppliers.
“Ultimately we want to have options within the commercial aircraft marketplace for platforms that can be modified for enduring Air Force missions such as senior leader transport, as well as mobility, [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], and possibly other mission sets,” said Brig. Gen. Jason Lindsey, the service’s program executive officer for presidential and executive airlift.
The contract, awarded July 30, covers a period of three years and sets five objectives for Hermeus, the Air Force said in an Aug. 5 statement announcing the deal.
For instance, the company is tasked with building three prototypes of its Quarterhorse aircraft, testing a full-scale reusable hypersonic propulsion system and providing data to the Air Force that it can use in future war-gaming efforts.
The first Quarterhorse aircraft will be unmanned to eliminate the risk of having a human pilot fly an experimental aircraft and allow the company to move to flight testing earlier, Skyler Shuford, Hermeus’ chief operations officer, said in a video posted to Twitter.
The company has already built and tested a subscale hypersonic engine prototype and is working on a full-scale engine demonstrator, Aviation International News reported in November 2020.
“Hermeus will be leveraging autonomous and reusable systems, ruthlessly focused requirements, and a hardware-rich program,” the company said in a news release. “These three strategies allow the team to incrementally push the envelope, sometimes strategically to the point of failure in flight test, which accelerates learning while simultaneously improving the safety of flight test crew and the public.”
After the three year development effort, the Air Force will evaluate Hermeus’ progress and determine next steps, the service said.
“When it comes to technology, we often hear the term ‘game-changing,’ ” said Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory. “However hypersonic aircraft and propulsion systems are truly game-changing and will revolutionize how we travel, just as automobiles did in the last century. We are excited to be part of this effort and to help propel this important technology.” (Source: Defense News)
05 Aug 21. uAvionix Receives FAA TSO for World’s First Certified Drone GPS Receiver. uAvionix Corporation announced that it has received a Technical Standard Order (TSO) from the FAA for its “truFYX” Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
The Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) / Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) capable GPS is the first to specifically target UAS platform navigation and surveillance solutions.
With an increased regulatory focus on certifiability of UAS for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations, truFYX provides a critical component to enable safe navigation and airspace integration. For more information on why certified GPS receivers are important for your UAS BVLOS operation, see uAvionix’s latest blog article titled “Why Certified GPS with Integrity for UAS Navigation Matters.”
Shockingly small, the TSO-C145e Class Beta 1 GPS weighs in at only 20 grams, which includes the receiver, antenna, and DO-160G power supply, and interface protection circuits. A Class Beta 1 GPS enables the truFYX to be the primary position source for domestic en-route and terminal navigation, as well as the primary position source for ADS-B OUT solutions. The Source Integrity Level (SIL) 3, System Design Assurance (SDA) 2 system ensures reception and processing by Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) when used as a position source for ADS-B. For these reasons, the Airbus Zephyr program was announced as a truFYX launch customer in January 2021.
A certified position source for UAS navigation reduces position error by implementing a strict Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring (RAIM) / Fault Detection and Exclusion (FDE) engine, and processing advanced SBAS messages designed to improve accuracy and integrity. These systems combine to detect unhealthy GPS satellite transmissions and remove them from the position calculation, providing critical differentiation from a typical commercial GPS receiver. Design Assurance Level (DAL) C software and hardware is achieved through the use of RTCA DO-178C and DO-254 engineering processes. As with all uAvionix TSO certified avionics, truFYX is manufactured in Montana under an FAA Manufacturing Inspection District Office (MIDO) approved quality control process and facility.
truFYX technology has been previously TSO-certified in several form factors, including the highly integrated and complex skyBeacon, tailBeacon, and tailBeaconX platforms. (Source: UAS VISION)
04 Aug 21. Aitech’s S-A1760 Venus™ Brings NVIDIA-based AI Supercomputing to Next Generation Space Applications.
S-A1760 Venus Technical Specifications
- Suitable for the next generation of short duration spaceflight, NEO and LEO satellite constellations
- NVIDIA® Jetson™ TX2i SoM with 256 CUDA cores reaching 1 TFLOPS
- COTS-based system meets new Series 300 level qualifications
- Local data processing onboard where needed, next to sensors
- SWaP-optimized with remarkable energy efficiency, 8-10W typical under load
Aitech, a leading provider of rugged board and system level solutions for military, aerospace and space applications, has developed the S-A1760 Venus™, the most powerful and smallest radiation-characterized space AI GPGPU. The new, small form factor (SFF) system is rated for space flight and small satellite constellations used in near earth orbit (NEO) and low earth orbit (LEO) applications.
The COTS-based system is validated for use in these short duration and NEO/LEO environments through the Series 300 level qualification standard that identifies the rad-tolerant needs of space components and systems not used in deep space or long-haul applications.
Dan Mor, Director, Video and GPGPU Product Line at Aitech, noted, “With the growing need for advanced imaging and data processing throughout space-rated applications, transitioning our powerful GPGPU-based AI supercomputers to this industry was a logical choice. By validating these space-rated, COTS-based systems with a clearly defined and recognized qualification level, we’re helping lead the charge in the development of commercial space applications and small sat cluster innovations.”
Based on Aitech’s popular A176 Cyclone GPGPU system, the S-A1760 Venus also uses the NVIDIA Jetson TX2i system-on-module (SoM) that features the Pascal™ architecture with 256 CUDA cores and reaches 1 TFLOPS of processing. This compact, rugged, space-rated system is ideal for high performance, small footprint environments. It is the most advanced solution for on-board edge computing such as AI, deep learning and video and signal processing for the next generation of short duration spaceflight, NEO and LEO satellites applications.
The new AI supercomputer includes a robust set of I/O interfaces including Gigabit Ethernet, UART Serial, USB 2.0, CANbus and discretes as well as DVI/HDMI output. Video capture includes an HD-SDI input with a dedicated H.264 encoder and eight RS-170A (NTSC)/PAL composite channels available simultaneously.
The S-A1760 Venus is a truly SFF SWaP (size, weight and power) optimized system. It meets MIL-STD-810H requirements for bench handling and conforms to VITA 47 for shock and vibration.
About Aitech Systems:
In business for more than three decades, Aitech is one of the world’s first, independent, open systems architecture, COTS/MOTS innovators offering open standards-based boards and integrated computing subsystem products, with customization services for rugged and severe environment, military, aerospace and space applications…i.e. products for Air, Land, Sea and Space. For more information, please visit www.aitechsystems.com.
04 Aug 21. BAE signs strategic business agreement to access Intel’s technologies. The collaboration between BAE Systems and Intel aims at advancing technological capabilities in a cost-effective way. BAE Systems has signed a strategic business agreement with Intel to develop next-generation defence applications based on Intel’s most advanced technology.
The agreement will enable BAE Systems’ FAST Labs research and development (R&D) organisation to receive early access to select Intel technologies.
According to BAE, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) semiconductor technology has been highly diffused into US defence applications.
This military-grade technology needs custom capabilities that are domestically developed, go beyond the technology and are commercially available.
So far, this development gap of customising the commercial technology has resulted in time gaps between chip-level technology and defence applications that are being fielded.
Intel Military Aerospace and Defense Division senior director Frank Ferrante said: “We are excited to extend our existing relationship with BAE Systems and look forward to working with them to protect national security, critical infrastructure and vital information.”
Other new partnerships between BAE Systems and Intel formed a basis for the signing of the latest agreement.
Collaboration of the companies on the latest agreement is aimed at delivering advanced capabilities at reduced costs. (Source: army-technology.com)
04 Aug 21. BAE Systems accelerates development of military applications with advanced electronics ~ FAST Labs early access to select Intel technologies. BAE Systems, Inc. today announced a strategic business agreement that will result in the BAE Systems’ FAST Labs research and development organisation having early access to select Intel technologies. The agreement will enable BAE Systems to develop and more quickly field next-generation defence applications based on Intel’s most advanced technology.
While commercial off-the-shelf semiconductor technology has increasingly been incorporated into US defence applications, military-grade technology requires domestically developed custom capabilities that go beyond commercially available technology. To date, this development lag of customising commercial technology has resulted in significant time gaps between chip-level technology and defence applications being fielded.
“We are excited to extend our existing relationship with BAE Systems and look forward to working with them to protect national security, critical infrastructure, and vital information,” said Frank Ferrante, senior director of Military Aerospace and Defense Division at Intel.
“Early access to Intel’s developing technology can speed the timetable of producing defence applications and maintain our country’s technological edge,” said Chris Rappa, director at BAE Systems’ FAST Labs. “Closing the development gap – potentially by years in some cases – will deliver a critical advantage to our country.”
This announcement comes on the heels of other new collaborations between BAE Systems and Intel, including on Intel’s recently launched Field Programmable Gate Array technology and on the SHIP-Digital program, which will extend Intel’s wideband radio frequency signal processing platform to the most size, weight, and power-constrained defence applications. This collaboration will result in BAE Systems continuing to deliver the most advanced capabilities at significantly lower costs. (Source: www.joint-forcescom)
03 Aug 21. The US Navy Is Reversing Its Fighter-Jet Design Philosophy. NavAir commander says the next-gen plane will be designed around certain cutting-edge technologies. The U.S. Navy plans to design a new-generation fighter jet around different types of technology—as opposed to designing an aircraft and then trying to pack it with technology after the fact, a top admiral said.
Vice Adm. Dean Peters, the Naval Air Systems Command commander, described a shift in the design philosophy of high-performance fighter jets.
“The most important thing that’s going to happen with this with Next Generation [Air Dominance] is that we’re going to take all of those technologies that we’ve developed, those enabling technologies, and instead of picking a platform and then figuring out how to wedge those enabling technologies into it, or not be able to wedge those into it, we’re gonna start with the enabling technologies, and make that part of the criteria for what the aircraft looks like on the other end,” Peters said at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space convention in National Harbor, Maryland.
Called the Next Generation Air Dominance, or NGAD, the plane is to eventually replace the aircraft carrier-based F/A-18 Super Hornet. The Air Force also has a next-generation fighter jet project by the same name.
“I can tell you that although…the program is different than the Air Force, there is a very tight integration between the Air Force and the Navy, or what this platform is going to be,” Peters said.
A year ago, in August 2020, the Navy revealed it quietly stood up a program office for the new plane. About a month later, the Air Force said it had secretly built and flown a prototype of its NGAD aircraft.
Few details have since emerged. Over the years, companies have released concept images of new generation fighters with no vertical stabilizer, as a way to help make the planes less detectable to radar. The Air Force has been experimenting with technology to allow its future planes to be flown with or without pilots. It has also been developing “loyal wingmen,” pilotless drones that can fly alongside manned aircraft.
Lockheed Martin and Boeing are the only two American companies building manned fighter aircraft for the Navy and Air Force. Northrop Grumman is building a new generation stealth bomber for the Air Force.
The Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force all fly versions of the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 Lightning II. Boeing builds Super Hornets for the Navy and F-15EX Eagles for the Air Force. Boeing is also building a new pilot training jet for the Air Force, the T-7 Red Hawk, which it’s also pitching to the Navy to replace the T-45 Goshawk. Italian defense firm Leonardo is pitching its M346 pilot trainer to replace the T-45.
(Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense One)
04 Aug 21. Australian Army Extends SPEE3D Metal 3D Printing Partnership. The Australian Army extends its industry partnership, supporting future metal 3D printing opportunities within Defence. The partnership between Australian Army and SPEE3D is set to continue in 2021, with plans to trial SPEE3D technology for a further 12 months. Local company SPEE3D has once again been provided the opportunity to collaborate with Australian Army’s 1st Combat Service Support Battalion. This time, the partnership will focus on the development of new systems that have the potential to significantly increase the readily available inventory of unique metal repair parts.
Steven Camilleri, CTO of SPEE3D states, “we’re really excited about this new step in our partnership with the Australian Army. Last year, in the trials, our technology proved the potential to complement Defence’s existing supply chain with the ability to easily replace damaged parts by manufacturing their own. SPEE3D is pleased to have been selected to partner with the Army again in further developing the future capability of Defence in Australia”.
Manufactured and supplied in Australia, SPEE3D’s metal 3D printers are the world’s fastest and most affordable additive manufacturing technology. In 2020, the Australian Army announced a $1.5m investment into a 12-month pilot of SPEE3D technology, followed by the training of soldiers in 3D printing and two trials of SPEE3D’s large-format WarpSPEE3D metal 3D printer, both installed on-base and deployed in the field for multiple Army exercises. The aim of the pilot project was to determine the applicability of this leading-edge technology to military forces. The technology has the potential to revolutionise how parts are sourced in remote areas.
SPEE3D is providing a unique and world leading technology that has the potential to transform how we think about supply chains. The technology has the potential to complement established methods of supply and distribution methods within Defence. The partnership exemplifies Defence’s continued investment in developing technologies and demonstrates that technological advancements can impact all areas of Defence.
The 2020 trials delivered ground-breaking results, where Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineering soldiers from the 1st Brigade designed and manufactured over 50 case studies of parts. This success demonstrated the technology’s ability to operate in remote, harsh environments, while offering Defence an option for a deployable reliable manufacturing tool able to print low-cost metal parts on demand in just minutes.
30 Jul 21. MSU leads US Army ERDC-funded military engineering research project. The project will focus on remote sensing and developing the advanced materials for force protection. Mississippi State University’s (MSU) has partnered with US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) on an advanced military engineering research project.
Valued at $7.8m, the three-year US Department of Defense’s (DoD) multidisciplinary project is led by MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) and funded through the ERDC in Vicksburg.
According to MSU, the project focuses on remote sensing and developing advanced materials for force protection.
It also aims at developing force projection technologies, mobility modelling and simulation.
The technologies will improve ERDC’s military engineering and force protection capabilities to support national defence capabilities.
MSU Research and Economic Development vice-president Julie Jordan said: “MSU is proud to once again partner with ERDC on impactful research that will pay dividends for the US military.
“CAVS and the centre’s collaborators across campus have a strong track record of cutting-edge research in the areas of remote sensing, modelling and simulation, off-road autonomous vehicles and advanced materials, all of which will help make this project a success.”
Technical focus areas of the new project include sensor analytics and remote sensing.
It also covers the use of geo-materials, high-strength steel and other future technologies for force projection and protection.
MSU noted that the researchers will also conduct autonomous vehicle modelling and simulation for easier navigation in cold weather conditions.
CAVS executive director Clay Walden said: “Our researchers really excel in developing the models and algorithms necessary to determine how different materials, objects and systems will respond in any given situation, which is a vital part of military engineering and planning.”
02 Aug 21. Bell Unveils New High-Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing Design Concepts for Military Application. Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, announced today the unveiling of design concepts for new aircraft systems for military applications which would use Bell’s High-Speed Vertical Take-Off and Landing (HSVTOL) technology as the company continues its innovation of next generation vertical lift aircraft. HSVTOL technology blends the hover capability of a helicopter with the speed, range and survivability features of a fighter aircraft.
“Bell’s HSVTOL technology is a step change improvement in rotorcraft capabilities,” said Jason Hurst, vice president, Innovation. “Our technology investments have reduced risk and prepared us for rapid development of HSVTOL in a digital engineering environment, leveraging experience from a robust past of technology exploration and close partnerships with the Department of Defense and Research Laboratories.”
Bell’s HSVTOL design concepts include the following features:
- Low downwash hover capability
- Jet-like cruise speeds over 400 kts
- True runway independence and hover endurance
- Scalability to the range of missions from unmanned personnel recovery to tactical mobility
- Aircraft gross weights range from 4,000 lbs. to over 100,000 lbs.
Bell’s HSVTOL capability is critical to future mission needs offering a range of aircraft systems with enhanced runway independence, aircraft survivability, mission flexibility and enhanced performance over legacy platforms. With the convergence of tiltrotor aircraft capabilities, digital flight control advancements and emerging propulsion technologies, Bell is primed to evolve HSVTOL technology for modern military missions to serve the next generation of warfighters.
Bell has explored high-speed vertical lift aircraft technology for more than 85 years, pioneering innovative VTOL configurations like the X-14, X-22, XV-3 and XV-15 for NASA, the U.S Army and U.S. Air Force. The lessons learned from the XV-3 and XV-15 supported the development of the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, an invaluable platform that changed the way the U.S. military conducts amphibious assault, long range infiltration and exfiltration and resupply with a cruise speed and range twice that of helicopters it replaced.
02 Aug 21. Crystal Group Introduces First Military- and IEC-Compliant Video Encoder and IP KVM for Demanding Edge Environments. Crystal Group, Inc., a leading designer and manufacturer of rugged computer and electronic hardware, announced today it will offer the industry’s first ruggedized video appliances (RVA) that combine critical, real-time 4K video streaming, recording, extension, and storage with strict military and industrial standards.
In collaboration with Matrox® Video, Crystal Group is the preeminent provider of the world’s only ruggedized multi-4K video encoder and 4K IP KVM extender. Both products use Crystal Group’s proprietary ruggedization techniques to deploy the ultra-high-definition (UHD) video capabilities and quality of Matrox’s Maevex 6100 Series quad 4K encoder and Extio™ N3408 4K/quad-HD IP KVM extender into the most demanding and extreme operating environments.
“Whether it’s conducting live, virtual, constructive training or providing real-time oil rig monitoring, video-based data is critical to the accuracy and effectiveness of edge applications,” said Jeff Dixon, technical director at Crystal Group. “Providing ruggedized versions of these Matrox products to meet or exceed International Electronic Commission (IEC) compliance standards, as well as MIL-STD-810G, MIL-STD-461 and MIL-STD-901E, proactively addresses the dynamic operating challenges and requirements.”
Equipped with compressed H.264 technology, the RVA6152 video encoder delivers quality, low bitrate streaming and recording. The quad 4K input capture and encode enables secure, real-time streaming and/or recording of four or more 4K channels simultaneously over standard one Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) networks. The plug-and-play design integrates easily into existing infrastructures for high-density content distribution and system scalability.
The RVA3408 IP KVM extender provides 4Kp60 4:4:4 UHD performance or quad-monitor capabilities over standard GbE at unprecedented low bitrates. This transmitter-receiver duo can be configured as a point-to-point or networked extender to securely deliver multiple video, keyboard, mouse, USB 2.0 and audio signals, as well as provide aggregated and seamless control of multiple systems from a remote 4K/multi-display station with a single keyboard and mouse.
“Crystal Group’s experience in and reputation for designing and building rugged compute solutions for demanding edge environments is unmatched,” said Samuel Recine, vice president of sales for the Americas and Asia Pacific, AV/IT Group at Matrox Video. “Customers have exacting needs when it comes to their expanding use of performance-media-over-IP products. Crystal Group is a trusted source for the demanding projects using these technologies and is a domestic solution provider we are very proud to partner with.”
To be among the first to learn first-hand about both the RVA6152 and RVA3408, visit Crystal Group in booth 744 at Sea-Air-Space 2021 from August 2-4. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
02 Aug 21. £1.5m invested for CBR robotics and AI research. Dstl is exploring the potential for cutting-edge autonomous robotic solutions to detect life threatening chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) hazards.The current wide area capability is based on specially adapted armoured Fuchs vehicles. For a number of years Dstl – the science inside UK defence and security – has been researching the potential of using autonomy and unmanned systems to survey areas for CBR materials. This new investment with industry will help develop a concept demonstrator to be used in wide area experimental trials.
Dstl Project Lead, Ian Napier, said, “There is an understandable desire to remove the need for people to enter into hazardous areas, even if they are inside a protected vehicle. Recent developments in autonomous ground and air vehicles offer up some exciting opportunities to develop autonomy for CBR work. However, before making such a step change in our approach, we need to fully understand the variety of potential CBR scenarios and the tasks that may need to be undertaken by autonomous systems.”
Dstl has already received great support and engagement from those within the military CBRN community. The project is now keen to expand out beyond MOD and see what industry can bring.
Dstl has contracted HORIBA MIRA Ltd to adapt a VIKING 6×6 uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV) and integrate a suite of chemical and radiological sensors supplied by Dstl. Making good use of open architectures should allow the development of a CBR sensor suite on a standard ‘pallet’, which could then be mounted onto the appropriate platform as and when required.
Last year Dstl purchased 3 all-terrain VIKING 6×6 uncrewed ground vehicles, supplied by HORIBA MIRA, which are capable of carrying payloads of up to 750kg and using advanced AI-based autonomy with GPS-denied navigation.
These VIKINGS were purchased under project THESEUS for autonomous logistics resupply missions and are being used for early de-risking work to increase MOD’s understanding of the capabilities and limitations of these systems in areas such as mobility, vulnerabilities and safety.
This new contract will now also fund the development of autonomy algorithms to allow the CBR sensor outputs to help drive the behaviour of the UGV, to detect and map areas of chemical or radiological hazards. One of the VIKINGS will undergo minor modifications to allow it to carry and interface with the CBR sensor pallet.
Andy Martin is the Dstl Technical Lead for the CBR Trials and Experimentation work package. He said, “This is a great opportunity for us to get a better understanding of the possible strengths and weaknesses of autonomous systems for CBR Recce and Survey. They appear well suited for dull and dangerous tasks. But can they fully replace manned systems, or are there some tasks where people are still required to be present? The purpose of these trials is not to develop a prototype new system, it is to gather the evidence we need to determine what operational concepts are likely to be successful.”
Andy Maloney, Chief Engineer for Defence and Unmanned Solutions at HORIBA MIRA, said, “We are delighted to be working again with Dstl, MOD stakeholders and front line users in this important area. The project enables us to build upon our previous autonomous hazardous area survey work with small robots and leverage the capability of our much larger VIKING UGVs and their leading AI-based autonomy.”
The concept demonstrator will include new sensors and autonomous behaviours, modular autonomous control equipment (MACE), the ATLAS GNSS denied navigation system and a user interface provided by our Base Station RAS management software.
The resulting system will enable significant sensor payloads to be carried over large areas at speed and new autonomous CBR survey concepts to be explored. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
30 Jul 21. Here’s how Shield AI wants to boost V-Bat’s capability on a contested battlefield. Shield AI, which started with a quadcopter capable of flying indoors in GPS-denied environments, now wants to advance its artificial intelligence and autonomy technology by buying a drone company that has caught the attention of the military.
Shield AI’s purchase of Martin UAV, maker of the V-Bat vertical take-off-and-landing unmanned aircraft system, became official Friday. Shield AI, known for its Nova quadcopter, has already worked closely with the Defense Department’s technology hub, the Defense Innovation Unit. The company, which wants to expand its DOD work, said it has raised more than $50m in venture funding since 2015.
Martin UAV, partnered with Northrop Grumman, is competing against three other teams to build the U.S. Army’s Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS), which will replace its runway-dependent Shadow.
The military services, and particularly the Army, have evaluated Martin UAVs for years. The aircraft first made an appearance in Germany at the 2018 European-based Joint Warfighting Assessment. There it was directly compared to Shadow capability.
Army soldiers spent the better part of a year evaluating V-Bat’s capability as part of the FTUAS competition. The Army is expected to soon release a request for proposals and will then select a winner to build a first tranche of UAS.
Martin UAV was also chosen to build a prototype in a U.S. Navy competition for a future UAS; Marine Corps units are flying V-Bat as well.
Defense News spoke with Brandon Tseng, a former Navy SEAL who is Shield AI’s cofounder and chief operating officer, on July 29 about what the acquisition of Martin UAV will mean for his company and for V-Bat’s future.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
How has your business evolved since its inception and why is buying Martin UAV a good move for Shield AI?
When I was starting Shield AI, I was talking to Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Army Special Forces about a problem that I was pretty familiar with — clearing buildings of threats. And that was what led to Nova [quadcopter], but a lot more broadly, I was interested in bringing artificial intelligence and autonomy to the defense sector because my hypothesis was that it could be game changing on the battlefield, in terms of improving mission effectiveness and reducing risk.
I spoke to a lot of ground warfighters, infantry, special operations forces, I spoke to a lot of pilots, I spoke to a lot of general officers about their strategic problems. What became a very common thread was we have issues operating in high-threat, GPS-denied and communications-denied environments. From drone operators to F-18 pilots to Apache pilots, I really started to learn about this problem of integrated air defense systems and how that was becoming an increasingly more prevalent threat on the battlefield that was denying our ability to maneuver.
We built a quadcopter that can go inside buildings autonomously, without GPS communications, not to be a quadcopter company, but to show the department the power of AI and autonomy and the value it provides in high threat, GPS-denied, communications-denied environments. What it has always been about for us is getting our AI and autonomy stack on platforms of increasing strategic consequence. And so we talked about climbing the unmanned systems food chain.
What about V-Bat convinced you to pursue Martin UAV?
We first heard about Martin UAV, and the V-Bat, either late 2018 or early 2019. We heard it from a variety of different sources. We heard about it from investors that were familiar with our thesis and our plan of climbing the unmanned systems food chain. We had heard about it from customers, saying, “Hey, it would be fantastic. What do you think about Hive Mind on board something like the V-Bat?”
Both companies had to grow. And in basically, late 2020, early 2021, it was, “OK, we’re ready, we’ve got the investment and the investors behind us to execute something like this.” And now, which aircraft makes the most sense. And we’ve looked at all the aircraft, and not only in defense, but in the commercial space, and where everybody’s playing and have spoken to customers, to consultants, about the pros and cons of each aircraft. It just became increasingly evident that the unique hardware architecture of the V-Bat lends itself to extremely compelling capabilities. it’s just not a limited system. And there’s limitations about some of these other systems out there, that would have been more difficult.
What is your vision for V-Bat’s capability in the future when bringing your technology on board?
Our goal is to build the next-generation defense technology company and it doesn’t look like existing defense companies today. It is a company that has an AI and software backbone or core that is leveraged across these different platforms. It is a software-first mentality, an AI-first mentality, but at the same time, it matters which hardware you put it on. I do not want to discount the importance of hardware in the military and on the battlefield. But I think it is software and AI first, in terms of the capabilities that are really going to matter at the end of the day.
Then it comes to swarming, having these things operate in teams. The way that we think about it is it is very similar to the self-driving car industry. You probably heard Elon Musk talk about putting a million robo-taxis on the road to operate in a highly distributed manner. But first, you need a single, self-driving car that works. It’s very similar with Shield AI’s approach, it’s build the highly intelligent system, then scale it. Don’t scale out a bunch of unintelligent systems because you’re just going to get formation flight. You’re not going to get any real value or capability; you won’t if you don’t have intelligent systems. You need intelligent systems to unlock the concept of overmatch.
What does that look like? It is training these systems to be able to execute a variety of missions. And there’s a long list of missions from countering integrated air defense systems to reconnaissance to escort operations to sensor emplacement and so we’ve been working on the AI aspect of these mission sets for the past several years.
Last week, you acquired Heron Systems. What does that bring to the table?
We’ve leaned in heavily on using simulations that are coupled with reinforcement learning, and basically you design a mission and then you let the system train itself over and over and over and over again, which is what Heron Systems did with the [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] AlphaDogfight. It’s how open AI trains systems to play hide-and-seek. We are applying those same techniques to these unmanned systems. To me, one of the most exciting things about AI and autonomy is that application of reinforcement learning to train systems to do things.
A lot of people look at Heron as “Hey, they did that AlphaDogfight program,” which, yes, that is something we care very much about, the next-generation air dominance program. The system beat actual pilots, a bunch of F-16 pilots, it beat a bunch of other AI pilots from other companies as well, like the large primes lost to it. But what I think a lot of people sometimes lose sight of is actually a lot of what they’re doing will be synergistic to how we think about AI pilots and autonomy onboard Group 3 aircraft like V-Bat.
What if the Army doesn’t choose V-Bat for its first tranche of FTUAS to replace the Shadow UAS?
One of the reasons we acquired Martin UAV is because we believe they have the most compelling Group 3 aircraft on the market and so, ahead of almost everything we think about is that, more than we think about the programs that it’s competing in. It is what is going to delight the heck out of the customer.
Where else do you see Shield AI technology cropping up? I know you have a relationship with Textron for example. Could you be out at Project Convergence?
The core for us is going to be with the V-Bat and Martin UAV, and that’s the focus for us. There’s a lot of work to be done there. There are certainly applications. But as you know, you have to have focus, you have to channel your resources in a focused manner. (Source: Defense News)
30 Jul 21. Royal Air Force aims to be world’s first service with certified zero-carbon aircraft. Britain’s Royal Air Force has set a goal of becoming the first military service in the world to register and certify a zero-carbon aircraft.
The service has already tapped industry for exploitable technology to start replacing a fleet of RAF light training aircraft. If the program goes as planned, Britain could have their first zero-carbon platform flying by around 2027, according to a market exploration document released in July by the government’s Defence and Security Accelerator organization.
“The decision has been taken to ensure that the next generation aircraft will produce zero carbon emissions at the point of use. This target must be achieved through more environmentally sympathetic aircraft using a sustainable fuel source such as electric or hydrogen; the goal is to achieve the first military registered and certified zero-carbon aircraft in the world,” the DASA document read. “An entry into service date of circa 2027 is anticipated.”
However, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey was more vague about a possible in-service date when he responded to questions about the project in Parliament on July 21. “It is expected that the RAF will have its first zero-emission aircraft operational by the end of this decade,” he told lawmakers.
The new aircraft is to replace 90 piston-powered Grob 115 aircraft, colloquially known as Tutor T1 planes, currently providing elementary flight training for the British military.
The aircraft project, led by the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office, will feed into a wider program known as Project Telum — an end-to-end solution aimed at modernizing elementary flight training, including the use of synthetic and virtual training.
The competition for Project Telum is slated to start in 2023, but Heappey said the date remains unconfirmed.
The original intention had been to replace the Tutor T1 planes with another conventionally powered aircraft, but the change in thinking is being driven by a much wider RAF effort toward achieving zero-carbon by 2040, 10 years ahead of the government’s national policy of being carbon neutral by 2050. (Source: Defense News)
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.