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21 Dec 21. Energy shortages, mobile nuclear reactors and powering tomorrow’s battlefield. Amid globally disrupted supply chains and an overreliance on overseas oil imports to power the country, how might the Australian Defence Force and its allies power tomorrow’s battlefield?
Planes, tanks, fighting vehicles and naval vessels all require a predictable supply of energy to maintain war readiness. A small miscalculation in available stock by a Commander on the battlefield, coupled with unfulfilled resupply requests, and an entire fighting force can be grounded. Meanwhile, forward operating bases, battlefield hospitals and largescale communications equipment compete in wartime for the available energy sources.
In the era of globally stretched supply chains and a reliance on overseas oil, a nation’s war fighting capability can quickly decrease to naught by strategic maritime and air blockades coupled with the inability to domestically extract critical resources to fuel the nation’s sovereign energy needs.
Twentieth century warfare has no shortage of examples where energy superiority translated into military superiority and battlefield victory.
“One of the most famous examples of energy influencing military strategy comes from 1911, when Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, converted the British fleet from Welsh coal to foreign oil. The resulting gain in speed and decrease in logistical burden gave the British Royal Navy a critical advantage over the Axis powers,” Constantine Samaras, Willian Nuttall and Morgan Brazilian wrote in Energy Strategy Reviews.
“While the shift from coal to oil was a decisive one for Winston Churchill and for the Royal Navy, the history of the First World War further reveals its status as the first major conflict fought, in part for energy. British strategy, reinforced by the Battle of Jutland (May 31st to June 1st 1916), relied on a blockade denying Germany and its allies access to global supply chains including most notably food, but also oil and other industrial resources.”
In fact, a 2020 report in the Center for Atmospheric Physics and Climatology Research at the Academy of Athens argued (via climate modelling) that favourable winds enabled the Greek fleet to beat the Persians at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, contending that the Persians had insufficient wind to escape the battle. Simply, one side had favourable energy capabilities that resulted in greater operational-strategic flexibility, and could thus overcome their competitors.
Indeed, the impact of energy shocks resulting from supply chain disruption are neither new nor unexpected. According to the International Energy Agency, countries are required to have reserve energy to meet 90 days worth of oil needs.
According to the latest Australian Petroleum Statistics report published by energy.gov.au, Australia only has 73 “IEA days of net import coverage”. While still falling short of the IEA’s mandated coverage, this is an improvement of 55 days at the end of 2019.
It still remains insufficient.
Throughout conflict, all energy stocks must be rationed to achieve both military outcomes as well as protect the livelihoods of the citizenry. As such, some analysts have floated the development of small and mobile nuclear reactors that could support the immense energy requirements of military bases.
The concept of mobile nuclear reactors was fleshed out by Jake Hecla of the Department for Nuclear Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley in War on the Rocks this week.
“Imagine the following scenario: A punishing conflict between NATO and Russia grinds on in Eastern Europe as winter closes in. Poland, starved of natural gas and with its civilian power grid under recurring cyber attack, suffers supply-line interruptions and unprecedented diesel shortages. NATO forces find themselves unable to meet their own energy needs at major bases. … Should the base prioritise powering up the drone-killing close-in weapons system or the surface-to-air missile battery?” Hecla hypothesised.
In response to these difficulties, Hecla outlined that the Department of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office has researched the possibility of developing mobile nuclear power plants to overcome such energy shortfalls, with the US Army previously dabbling in nuclear energy capabilities in the 1960s.
“Nuclear power is 10 million times more energy dense than fossil fuels and seems to be the ideal solution to securing a robust supply of electricity for the Army free of supply-line vulnerabilities,” Hecla noted.
Such energy requirements are likely to increase due to the growing sophistication of weapons systems, and as a result militaries are becoming more and more exposed to the vicissitudes of the global energy supply chain and thus need localised energy sources to be an effective fighting unit.
“This logic is driven in part by the development of ever more energy-intensive weapons systems as well as analysis that suggests the diesel supply chain for electricity generation has contributed significantly to casualties in past conflicts. As highlighted in a 2018 Army deputy chief of staff study, 52 per cent of causalities in Iraq resulted from attacks on land transport missions,” Hecla argued.
Nevertheless, Hecla argues that the vulnerabilities of mobile nuclear reactors simply outweigh their benefits. The mobile reactors have little resilience to munitions, could result in widespread radiation contamination and could even render many of the nearby equipment unusable even if the strike was only partially successful.
“Given these vulnerabilities, sophisticated adversaries seeking to hinder US forces are likely to realise the utility of the reactor as an area-denial target. In comparison to typical area-denial tactics that require constant use of munitions and can only continue as long as those munitions last, a reactor strike offers months of exclusion at the cost of only a few well-placed high-explosive warheads,” Hecla noted.
In the face of such supply chain and energy risks, the US Army has developed the doctrine of “Islandable” capabilities. This doctrine has been used to inform the future of the military’s energy needs, erring away from supply chain overreliance.
“To further support this requirement and help provide installations with a more resilient plan for assured energy, the Army Office of Energy Initiatives (OEI) is looking across the Army enterprise of installations for opportunities to develop ‘islandable’ capabilities, or projects and infrastructure that could allow installations to maintain mission-critical operations if or when the electric grid were to go down for an extended period,” Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Energy & Sustainability, wrote on the US Army’s website in 2018.
“As part of potential energy resilience solutions, the Army is assessing viability and applicability of a wide range of technologies — including but not limited to geothermal, combined heat and power, fuel cell and natural gas generation.”
While the notion of small mobile nuclear reactors might not solve the military’s energy crisis, the US Army has not simply accepted a reliance on global supply chains to enable war readiness.
Preparing for Australia’s energy resilience
Writing in Defence Connect in September, senator and retired Major General Jim Molan proposed several key policy areas to minimise Australia’s overreliance on global supply, overcome grey zone threats and maintain Australia’s operational capabilities.
Senator Molan asserted (direct quote from the article here):
- Prepare for more lethal and unattributable biological attack, cyber attack and denial of space capabilities;
- Examine further anti-trade measures that might be deployed against Australia – threats that discourage or stop shipping to and from Australia or make foreign shipping prohibitively expensive.
- Increase Australia’s liquid energy resilience by increasing the production of crude, our domestic refining capability, storage of crude and product, and the ability to move crude by ship, rail or pipeline from source to refinery, which may involve the domestic ownership of some oil tankers and rail rolling stock, and the construction of storage facilities for product;
- Encourage certain Australian companies by positive preference policies because they are domestic and important for national security, not just judging them on “value for money” and competitive advantage;
- Create and protect systems and processes for the modern mobilisation of the nation and to take advantage of the multitude of industrial skills and capabilities that need to be co-ordinated and focused;
- Set up a manpower and resources control organisation that can, when necessary, institute direction of manpower, skills and resources across the nation to warlike needs; and
- Support regional neighbours and allies against attempt to woo them away from Australian influence or reduce the effectiveness of alliances. (Source: Defence Connect)
20 Dec 21. US Army Futures Command’s Maneuver Battle Lab Completes its 500th Experiment Report. In April of 1993, soon after Operation Desert Storm, the Maneuver Battle Lab (MBL) broke new ground in Army experimentation with its first report for a major project titled, “Own the Night.” As the Army looked to continue to exploit and improve its tactical advantages, this report’s focused evaluation on the US Army infantry platoon’s “night fighting systems” through exploration of Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) to shape the development of future infantry night fighting capabilities. Now 28-years later experiments at the Maneuver Battle Lab still inform capability and concept developer’s efforts with an intent toward informing requirements and shaping the force structure modifications within the Army’s ground formations. This November welcomed the completion of a historic milestone as the Maneuver Battle Lab completed its 500th report. Like the first report, and all those in between, report number 500 focused on enhancing the capabilities for Soldiers and maneuver formations. Report 500 aimed on reducing the training load and new technology capabilities that make maneuver formations more lethal. It explored common control interface and capabilities for unmanned system employment to collect information that enable commander’s development of situational understanding in Cross Domain Maneuver during Multi-Domain Operations. Ultimately, each of these reports directly impacted Soldiers and Army modernization efforts in some manner by ensuring the right equipment and TTPs were developed at the right time to enhance and not negatively impact ground maneuver formations.
Over nearly three decades of experimentation, analysis, and literature reviews dedicated to the warfighter, the Maneuver Battle Lab has made important objective, qualitative, and quantitative analysis that has enabled Army senior leaders to make important decisions. Many of these efforts resulted in the successful transition of difference-making capabilities, force design updates, and concepts to the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams. The Maneuver Battle Lab Team’s supported the Army enterprise to link the operational force’s demands for greater lethality and survivability with concept writers, requirements writers, and force designers.
Through Fort Benning’s annual Army Expeditionary Warfighter Experiment (AEWE), executed from 2015 to the present, the Maneuver Battle Lab has conducted “in the dirt” live experimentation on countless technologies, many of which are now used across the force or have become programs of record. AEWE has become a valuable experiment venue for the Army in helping to iterate technologies to get them to a field worthy state, thereby reducing risk in the development of acquisition programs of record. Some of those successful programs are:
- The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle – Binocular (ENVG-B) became a program of record following its first Soldier touchpoint at AEWE.
- The Silent Tactical Energy Enhanced Dismount (STEED) load carrying system was purchased by Special Operations Forces after observing them at AEWE.
- The Soldier Borne Sensors – Black Hornet became a program of record following an appearance at AEWE, resulting in an almost $40m dollar investment.
- A Digital Precision Fires approach named “MAFIA” spun out four subsequent programs of record after iteration at AEWE.
- The Nett Warrior program of record underwent live experimentation at AEWE during its development.
In addition to live experimentation, Modeling and Simulation (M&S) experimentation adds an additional layer of modernization support. The modeling and simulations branch has performed experimentation to develop countless capabilities, concepts, and force designs. Examples include:
- The Concept Development Division Simulation Experiment (SIMEXp) in August 2021 explored the impacts of specific electronic warfare capabilities inside a Brigade Combat Team conducting Cross-Domain Maneuver.
- In April 2021, the TOW Next SIMEXp explored various missile options for replacing the aging Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missile system found on both wheel and track platforms today.
- Over the past few years, the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team (NGCV CFT) has completed a number of experiments focused on improvements to current systems, new vehicle platforms, and robotics. These have shaped requirements, compared models, and reduced cost for the CFT.
- Unified Challenge 18.3 and 19.2 were two experiments that united much of the Army Futures Command enterprise in experimentation oriented on the way forward for the next decade and beyond.
- In August 2015, the MBL published a report on the Stryker Lethality SIMEXp, which explored necessary improvements of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team capabilities for lethality.
The Maneuver Battle Lab has a long history of supporting the warfighter with proven and reliable results. As well, it has adapted to unprecedented organizational change with the advent of the Army Futures Command, and the relentless demands of global change and concepts of Army warfare, continuing to support emerging mission and requirements. In one of its more recent efforts, the Maneuver Battle Lab continues work to understand and define operations in the atmospheric littoral through experimentation in the tactical implications of decisive terrain from the ground to approximately 500m above the Soldiers. This has ranged from Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled sensor systems to make the small unit more lethal and survivable to autonomous UAS resupply missions. One such effort is the System of systems Enhanced Small Unit (SESU). SESU combines a powerful AI command and control web with autonomous systems to achieve the effects required in the future operational environment. The Maneuver Battle Lab also directly supported Project Convergence 2021 objectives across 17 different capabilities including conditional autonomy, AI, interoperability systems, contested electro-magnetic spectrum (EMS) operations, and iterative learning. This adaptability has made the Maneuver Battle Lab an essential capability in modernization efforts from 1993 to 2021. Report Number 500 stands as an incredible milestone for the Maneuver Battle Lab. Yet it is also stands as a challenge, a start point for the years to come and to the future opportunities to make our Soldiers and formations more capable, lethal, and survivable on the modern battlefield.
20 Dec 21. Israeli startup Nemo emerges out of stealth to turn the promise of nanomaterials into industrial reality. Nemo Nanomaterials technology can be applied to vehicles, electronics, textile, construction, telecom, energy, and the aviation and aerospace sectors.
The startup is already working with 10 large companies, including multi-bn dollars corporations. The need to produce new, sustainable technologies that improve people’s lives while maintaining the health of the planet requires access to innovative materials designed for safe, sustainable manufacturing and production. Established in 2018, Israeli startup Nemo Nanomaterials is now emerging out of stealth mode to provide game-changing nanomaterials that revolutionize the possibilities of industrial additives across virtually every market sector.
Take the automotive industry as an example. It is moving away from old, polluting products to greener, leaner, and smarter vehicles. Demand that has contributed to the global market for lightweight automotive materials now being projected to surpass $99 bn by 2025. But to achieve this, new materials are needed, which is one of the markets that Nemo Nanomaterials addresses.
Modern vehicles present unique demands for materials and require them to be light and durable while providing electrical conductivity as well as electromagnetic shielding. Most importantly, all materials used must be sustainably managed throughout the product lifecycle. Invariably, this has seen manufacturers making tradeoffs when it comes to material properties and functionality.
However, with Nemo Nanomaterials, the industry challenges have become a thing of the past. Nemo’s proprietary technology and techniques for processing and mixing carbon nanomaterials enhance plastics with features of metals for advanced electronic systems, under the hood parts, fluid supply lines, battery casings, internal and structural components, with reduction of up to 30% of the weight for parts when compared to metals.
Beyond the automotive sector, Nemo Nanomaterials technology can be applied to electronics, textile, construction, telecom, energy, the aviation and aerospace sectors.
Nemo’s technological breakthrough is the sole enabler for replacing metals with plastic materials – by achieving desired electrical conductivity and EMI shielding properties while maintaining the original features of the plastic.
On EMI shielding and electrical conductivity alone, the company can reach an addressable market that surpasses $10bn. And that is just one of almost limitless applications and possibilities.
Nemo Nanomaterials was established in 2018 by Alexander Zinigrad and Jonathan Antebi. The company has successfully raised $7m in pre-seed and seed funding, the bulk of which has come from the Cyprus-based GEM Capital. The startup is already working with 10 large companies, including multi-billion-dollar conglomerates. The list includes paying customers and co-development partners in various stages of pilots and product validations. Nemo has started manufacturing tons of its products following commercial orders from customers.
“High-end carbon nanomaterials are known to mankind for decades. They recently were made available on a commercial scale. Many companies have made lots of promises in regard to making real industrial products out of them, but Nemo is unique in making them a reality. Nemo’s technology enables a revolution in nano-carbons. It solves many wide and acute industry challenges across a myriad of specifications while delivering ready-to-use additives that can be used by the industry utilizing existing machinery and procedures. Nemo Nanomaterials is going to provide materials that are required for the future of manufacturing,” said Jonathan Antebi, Co-founder and VP Business Development at Nemo Nanomaterials.
With Nemo Nanomaterials technology, there is zero performance tradeoff in materials while enabling innovative design and functional possibilities across industry sectors. Its additive means customers can more efficiently use raw materials while also delivering the most effective end-of-life recyclability possible.
“Refineries, and not petroleum, reshaped the world because they provided new materials that enabled new industrial capabilities. With Nemo Nanomaterials, high-end nanocarbons are just as transformative to reinvent the world of the future, today,” said Alexander Zinigrad, Co-founder and CEO of Nemo Nanomaterials.
Note to the editors: Nemo’s carbon nanomaterials
The proprietary Nemo Nanomaterials dispersion technology creates and maintains versatile-function nanostructures. This ensures stable and even integration into any material. It inseparably weaves together the additive and material on a nano level to enhance performance without changing process requirements.
Additive concentrates are introduced into existing manufacturing processes and dramatically enhance the performance of a range of industrial materials and products by improving their physical and mechanical properties. Nemo Nanomaterials technology enables the company to introduce nanoparticles in various carriers and make them perform at low dosages to achieve the desired properties of materials and products. You can watch a video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpSIrj9HKIA (Source: PR Newswire)
21 Dec 21. Australian government launches Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships program. As part of its Digital Economy Strategy announced on 6 May 2021, the Australian government has committed $32.6m over two years to establish the Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships Program. This will support strategic partnerships with industry, using emerging aviation technology to address community needs, particularly in regional Australia. Round One of the Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships Program is open for applications. Closing date for applications is 31 March 2022. Please see the program guidelines for information on eligibility and merit criteria. Late applications will not be accepted. Further information can be found on GrantConnect.
The objective of the program is to encourage and enable the development and deployment, of emerging aviation technologies to enhance the competitiveness, efficiency and reliability of Australian aviation, including by expanding employment in the aviation sector; improving supply chain and market efficiency and improving connections with regional and remote, including Indigenous, communities. The program will also contribute to the digital transformation of Australian businesses, increased business efficiency, and reduced carbon emissions through new technology.
Under the program, the Department will partner with industry to test emerging aviation technology through pilot projects across five focus areas:
- Digital farming
- Connecting regional communities
- Boosting regional supply chains
- Improving health outcomes for remote indigenous communities
- Manufacturing in emerging aviation technology
The scope of the program is broader than administration of grants funding. The Department will work with industry partners to deliver pilot projects, including through:
- Coordination and consultation with Commonwealth, state and local government agencies
- Advice and assistance with navigation of regulatory processes
- Development/testing of new policies/regulations where required to support the project
- Provision of funding to support project implementation (operational and capital expenditure).
The Grant Opportunity, with Program Guidelines and a call for applications, was released on 20 December 2021.
Applications will be assessed on a competitive basis against a number of selection criteria and the comparative merits of other applications.
All information required is contained within the Program Guidelines (PDF: 313 KB). While the Department will be limited in what can be discussed now the grant opportunity has been released, questions or queries can be made to .
The Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ’s can be found here (PDF: 1360 KB). (Source: Rumour Control)
21 Dec 21. Boeing and Titomic to test “green” titanium for space applications. Boeing has signed an agreement to collaborate with Melbourne-based additive manufacturing innovator, Titomic, to investigate the application of sustainable “green” titanium for the production of space components. An ASX-listed small to medium enterprise, Titomic was recently awarded a $2.325m Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) grant to explore and commercialise the production of space vehicle and satellite parts using the local titanium mineral resource.
“Under the agreement, Boeing will provide the designs and engineering expertise to enable Titomic to demonstrate its cutting-edge kinetic fusion additive manufacturing technology on the production of space parts, initially for JP9102,” said Paul Watson, Boeing Defence Australia director Aerospace Engineering and Production.
“Demonstrating that additive manufacturing technology, or large-scale 3D printing, using green titanium produces highly resilient, lightweight components will have broad-ranging application across the space sector.”
Titomic is an established operator and registered research provider in the defence and aerospace sector which, with the CSIRO, co-developed Titomic Kinetic Infusion – the world’s largest and fastest 3D metal additive manufacturing technology.
The use of green titanium for additive manufacturing is a potential game changer. It is readily available in Australia, considered more environmentally sustainable than other alternatives and enables significant time and cost efficiencies by eliminating the need for extensive raw mineral processing.
“The collaboration with Boeing has the potential to position Titomic as a leading-edge supplier within the space manufacturing industry,” said Herbert Koeck, Titomic CEO,
“Together we can redefine the production process for space vehicles and parts to accelerate Australia’s standing in the global space domain.”
Boeing has recently announced collaborative agreements with RMIT, Saber Astronautics, Leidos, ViaSat, the Indigenous Defence and Infrastructure Consortium (IDIC) and Clearbox as part of its commitment to investing in sovereign space capability. These relationships support Boeing’s Statement of Strategic Intent and Cooperation with the Australian Space Agency to enhance the capability and competitiveness of Australian industry, and promote investment in space capabilities and high tech jobs of the future for Australians. (Source: Rumour Control)
20 Dec 21. DARPA invests in AI that can translate instruction manuals into augmented reality. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has issued a $5.8m contract to a team building an artificial intelligence system able to scan instruction manuals and convert that data into instructions for augmented reality systems. Companies are already using augmented reality technologies in their manufacturing processes. Lockheed Martin, for example, uses augmented reality goggles in assembling its space systems for NASA. With the goggles on, technicians can see relevant information and instructions in the space around them as they go about their work, saving them from having to constantly walk back and forth to consult physical manuals or computer monitors. Under the $5.8m contract, PARC, a Xerox company, will work with the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Rostock in Germany and Patched Reality on the Autonomous Multimodal Ingestion for Goal-Oriented Support (AMIGOS) project for the Perceptually-enabled Task Guidance Program. In short, the goal is to take the existing paper and video manuals used today and automatically convert them for use in augmented reality systems.
“Augmented reality, computer vision, language processing, dialogue processing and reasoning are all AI technologies that have disrupted a variety of industries individually but never in such a coordinated and synergistic fashion,” said Charles Ortiz, the principal investigator for AMIGOS, in a statement. “By leveraging existing instructional materials to create new AR guidance, the AMIGOS project stands to accelerate this movement, making real-time task guidance and feedback available on-demand.”
The teams will deliver two different but related systems to DARPA. The first is an artificial intelligence system that will be able to extract task information from texts, illustrations, and videos. The second system will take that information and create an augmented reality guidance based on it. Moreover, the second AI will be able to deliver tasks and information in a personalized way based on the user’s skills and emotional state. PARC is the lead contractor on the project. (Source: Defense News)
20 Dec 21. Icarus advances armoured vehicle protection. Armoured vehicles could benefit from increased protection against current and future threats under research being conducted by Dstl. Delivered in collaboration through an industrial partnership led by Leonardo, the Icarus Technology Demonstrator Programme has developed and proven the Modular Integrated Protection System (MIPS) architecture. This is designed to enable the flexible teaming of a range of technologies to create a suite of Active Protection Systems (APS). APS combine both sensors to detect and counter-measures to disrupt threats and forms a protective electronic ‘bubble’ around the vehicle. The MIPS architecture enables the development of best of breed APS capabilities with a view to harmonising modular hardware and software components that can then provide protection across the close combat vehicle fleet and future robotic and autonomous systems platforms.
Further, as a generic safety critical ‘sense to effect’ system, MIPS can also support a wider range of threat defeat capabilities such as countering uncrewed air systems (UAS), counter-surveillance and even ground-based air defence activities. By developing these implementations using common principles, support for future information interoperability and the digital battlespace is being designed in from the start.
The different technologies are being developed under Modular Open System Architecture principles to design and connect interoperable sub-systems that can be deployed across different land platforms.
While MIPS-enabled systems can exploit current generation, high maturity technologies to give near-term systems at low risk, MIPS will also enable the UK to develop more advanced capabilities in the future. Advances to 2040 are expected to include:
- improved sensors – in which multi-spectral devices are combined with increasingly sophisticated but affordable fast signal processing
- enhanced information processing, such as data fusion and artificial intelligence
- improved effectors – in which current counter-munition and directed-energy technology projects deliver more precise effects with accurate timing and smaller collateral effect
- improved high-speed directors – compact and affordable energy storage and motor drive technologies
- improvements in electronic infrastructure component technologies – where safety and security features developed for industrial robotic and autonomous systems support dependable networked active protection implementations
Research and verification of the core architecture has been completed with the next step being to progress the implementation of MIPS-compliant systems to higher technology readiness levels. Depending on the speed of the development, MIPS could be brought into service from 2027.
Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) Programme Manager, Richard Hooper, said:
MIPS will help preserve the lives of UK forces by providing agility and flexibility in APS capability, allowing us, and our NATO partners, to tailor solutions to the evolving threat environment and react to changes in operationally-relevant timeframes.
Tier 1 companies supporting the Leonardo research include Roke, BAE Systems, Ultra Electronics, Frazer Nash Consultancy, Lockheed Martin, Abstract Solutions and CGI. Other suppliers included MOOG, RADA and Rheinmetall. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
17 Dec 21. DARPA’s float prediction challenge. Throwing a bottle into the sea and wondering where it will end up as a thought that has entered most children’s imagination while standing by the seashore. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has taken this thought a lot further through its Forecasting Floats in Turbulence (FFT) challenge, which aimed to improve the understanding of the turbulent convergence of wind, waves, and currents on the surface of the ocean – and particularly objects that float on it. It is part of the organisation’s Ocean of Things programme.
According to DARPA, “The goal of the challenge was to spur development of algorithms to better predict where free-drifting floats will travel over time.”
The competition was entered by 32 teams and was won by a team called Second Sight Predictions with 498 points (who won a prize of $25,000 in the process).
Second Sight Predictions was in fact only one person, Chris Wasson who is a guidance, navigation, and control engineer working on satellite development in southern California.
The challenge for those taking part was to develop algorithms or other methods to predict where 90 Sofar Spotter drifters – about the size of a basketball – floating freely in the Atlantic would travel over a 10-day period. Each team received the previous 20 days of location data from the drifters’ GPS coordinates. Using that data, teams attempted to predict where the spotters would travel a week and a half into the future.
A DARPA explained the points system: “Points were awarded based on prediction accuracy of drifters’ location in 2-day, 4-day, 6-day, 8-day, and 10-day forecasts. The further out the forecast, the higher the point value for accuracy. For example, a two-day forecast within 16km of the actual float position was worth one point, but a 10-day forecast within 16km was worth 20 points for added difficulty. Lastly, to ensure competitors had strong trajectory models, they would no longer receive points for any drifter prediction that experienced greater than 32km of error for any forecast. So, if a forecast for a particular float was off by 50km on Day 6, but within 1km on Days 8 and 10, they would receive no points for that float because the trajectory was too far off.”
Winner Wesson said of the challenge that “the focus was split equally on algorithms and their application to an engineering problem…..There are still many examples in the challenge float data where the float trajectory disagrees strongly with all available ocean current and wind data at that latitude/longitude. I think this is a strong indication that one of the biggest remaining hurdles in this problem is not in modeling surface effects but in identifying errors in these models, particularly ocean surface current models.” (Source: Armada)
17 Dec 21. US Army extends Army Vantage partnership with Palantir. The US Army Vantage platform is powered by Palantir’s software. The US Army’s program executive office for enterprise information systems (PEO EIS) has exercised its second option to extend its Army Vantage programme partnership with Palantir Technologies for one more year. The Army Vantage platform, powered by Palantir’s software, is a data-driven operations and decision-making platform for the US Army. The system provides near real-time visibility and controlled access to disparate data sources on a single platform. It was set up to facilitate data-driven decision making processes and to increase personnel readiness. Last year, Army Vantage launched an application to enable command teams to plan, avoid, and manage risky behaviours among soldiers, and enhanced the US Army’s process for weapons accountability. It offered leaders insight into the US Army’s Covid-19 inventory and soldier immunisation data.
Palantir was originally selected to power Army Vantage in December 2019. The $458m production agreement had a one-year base period and three option years.
In the base year, Palantir received $110m. The company received an additional $113.8m in December 2020 when PEO EIS executed the first option.
The second option will provide Palantir with $116.3m.
Palantir Technologies Global Defence Lead Doug Philippone said: “The Army Vantage programme is the cornerstone of the Army’s ability to make data driven decisions across the force.
“This partnership reinforces what the industry and government can do at speed to solve hard problems.”
US-based software firm Palantir Technologies specialises in large-scale data analysis. In August, geospatial intelligence company BlackSky and Palantir completed a joint pilot project that will help defence and intelligence customers in future events. (Source: army-technology.com)
17 Dec 21. Australian Army and Microsoft partner to use AI for command and control. With battlespace communication transcriptions becoming automated, personnel will be freed up for human-centric works. The Australian Army and Microsoft have announced a collaboration on an initiative to explore the use of digital technologies to transform command and control. Their initial focus will be on leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) for the purpose of transcribing and analysing voice communications over combat net radio. This initiative, dubbed command, control, communications process optimisation, intends to bring clarity to an otherwise chaotic operational environment, wherein reports and searchable transcripts offer improved situational awareness to commanders.
When battlespace communication transcriptions become automated, personnel can be freed up for human-centric works.
The insights will aid in optimising the operational decision-making process, while creating an intelligent digital basis for AI-enabled decision making over the next ten years.
This project is part of the Australian Army’s robotic and autonomous systems strategy (RAS strategy) under the banner of improving decision making.
Microsoft’s team of system analysts, data scientists, and data architects will work alongside personnel from the Australian Army’s Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation and Coordination office (RICO)’s Future Land Warfare branch.
They are currently prototyping a solution to not only transcribe combat radio communications to text, but to also identify important message parameters, such as the sender and recipient, and to draw meaning from the transcriptions.
Artificial intelligence will be deployed for the purpose of interpreting and searching communications to extract information about the combat with an end-user presentation layer through Power BI.
Australian Army Future Land Warfare branch director general Brigadier Ian Langford said: “Employing artificial intelligence tools through a reliable, secure and resilient platform to consolidate battlefield communications is an important step toward the creation of a decision support engine to create decision advantage in the future.”
The prototype solution, which has been built in the Army Land Network Integration centre’s Azure environment, supports transcription and natural language processing.
Designing, testing and validation have already been carried out, with the HQ 3 Brigade serving as the programme’s ‘end user’.
Microsoft ANZ Public Sector general manager Mark Leigh said “Microsoft and the Australian Army are both committed to the ethical and responsible use of AI, and this remains central to our collaboration.
“We are proud to be working with the Australian Army on this important project, bringing the very best minds and technology together to support, and keep safe, the men and women of Australia who work tirelessly on our behalf.” (Source: army-technology.com)
17 Dec 21. First UAV-Tailored Resilient Navigation Solution for GPS Challenged and Denied Environments. During November 2021, in Israel, infiniDome, Honeywell, and Easy Aerial demonstrated the first UAV-tailored resilient navigation solution to complete critical missions under GPS challenged and denied environments. The three parties demonstrated the fully operational #RobustNavigationSystem, which integrates GPS anti-jamming technology (#GPSdome), Inertial System (#HCIN ) and Radar Velocity System (#HRVS) into the first-ever fully resilient navigation system allowing UAVs not only to stay in the sky but actually complete their mission.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly used in what were traditionally manned missions in Defense, HLS, and commercial applications as their prices decrease, their capabilities improve, and regulation for them eases.
However, these UAVs, whether a 20 lb class-1 multi-copter or a 150 lb class-3 fixed-wing UAV, rely almost entirely on GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) for basic navigation, particularly for BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) and autonomous operations.
Due to the weakness of GNSS signals, UAVs are extremely susceptible to jamming attacks which can be carried out from large distances using cheap jammers bought online. UAV developers or end-users currently try to solve this problem either by creating “safe landing protocols” in GNSS-challenged environments or by adding various types of sensors (e.g. LiDAR, optical, etc.) to their flight controllers which provide, only in some scenarios, a reasonable source for navigation data. The problem is that they do not work in many situations such as when flying too high, too low, too fast, fog, darkness, above sea and other such scenarios.
The #RobustNavigationSystem, jointly developed by Honeywell and infiniDome, solves the above-mentioned problem by tightly pairing GNSS-based UAV-tailored Honeywell Compact Inertial Navigation System (HCINS) with infiniDome’s GPS anti-jamming technology (GPSdome), integrated with Honeywell’s Radar-based Velocity System (HRVS). The Robust Navigation System is a one-stop shop that can be installed on almost any UAV with a common flight controller (e.g. PixHawk) providing it with continuous, accurate navigation data in GNSS-challenged or fully GNSS-denied environments.
The main goal for the demo was to prove the Robust Navigation System capabilities in maintaining autonomous navigation operation for multi-copters under different GPS/GNSS jamming scenarios. The demo was attended by Israeli defense primes, drone and UAV manufacturers and government end-users.
The testing was set up at the testing range in the center of Israel where 2 military-grade directional jammers (different types & bandwidths) were used to jam the navigation system of an Easy Aerial Osprey Hexa-copter operating with a PixHawk 2.1 Cube Black.
The purpose of the test was to show that a UAV protected by the Robust Navigation System, under a GPS challenged environment (single direction of jamming) and fully denied environment (multiple directions of powerful jamming by military-grade jammers) can perform BVLOS and autonomous tasks accurately and safely without needing to assume manual control of the UAV. We successfully displayed and recorded that the UAV, protected by the Robust Navigation System solution, passed all planned tests and proved that in a GNSS-challenged environment and even in full GNSS-denied environment, the UAV can not only safely land or return home, it can complete its BVLOS / Autonomous mission.
In comparison, we also showed that an unprotected drone, when attacked by the same jammers, within 3-5 seconds loses position accuracy and GNSS fix, tilts at an aggressive angle and takes off in seconds in a random direction. The only way to avoid it drifting kilometers away and eventually crashing is by taking manual control and visually bringing it back. (Source: UAS VISION)
17 Dec 21. General Electric concludes Phase 1 testing of second XA100 engine. General Electric (GE) has ended Phase 1 testing on its second XA100 adaptive cycle engine that it is developing as part of the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP). Phase 1 testing, which began on 26 August at the company’s Evendale, Ohio, altitude test facility, enabled the company to continue gathering performance data validating the engine’s capability, according to a 15 December company statement. Phase 1 testing allowed GE to further characterise the operation of the engine through gathering and analysing an immense amount of test data. Company spokesperson Cole Massie said on 15 December that this data validated the engine and its components were performing to GE’s, and the USAF’s, expectations. He declined to provide the speed and duration of Phase 1 tests. (Source: Janes)
16 Dec 21. Israel Innovation Authority Approves the Establishment of a Consortium Led by Elbit Systems to Develop Human-Robot Interaction Technologies. Israel Innovation Authority has recently approved the establishment of a new innovation consortium, led by Elbit Systems C4I and Cyber, for Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) technologies research and development.
The new consortium includes leading robotics companies and academic researchers in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, computer science and behavioral sciences, with the goal of developing an innovative HRI infrastructure, addressing the need for close interaction between robotic systems and human users natural communications (verbal & gestures) technologies, according to relevant social codes, robotic platforms level of autonomy methodologies, and more.
Today, autonomous robotic platforms (those not continuously controlled by a human operator) operate in a “sterile” human-free environment, such as logistics centers and automated production and assembly lines. Integrating robots in a shared workspace environment with human teams will allow the transfer of routine, dull and burnout-inducing tasks to robots and reduce workloads on human teams, thereby increasing crew productivity and reducing their rotation. Such integration will only be possible when human crews feel confident and able to communicate naturally with robots, operating in their close environment.
Yossi Cohen, Elbit Systems C4I and Cyber Chief Technology Officer, commented: “Our selection by the Israel Innovation Authority, to lead a Human-Robot Interaction consortium reflects our expertise in the fields of autonomous systems and manned-unmanned teaming. We are looking forward to collaborating with additional industry partners that specialize in these fields, that will join us in the consortium”.
Dr. Aviv Zeevi, VP Technological Infrastructure at the Israel Innovation Authority, commented: “The Israel Innovation Authority is working to close technology gaps in the field of robotics using various tools as well as by promoting knowledge transfer from the defense sector and academia to the wider industry.”
Elbit Systems has been operating in the field of autonomous systems and robotics for decades and is considered a world leader in the development and production of aerial, land and naval autonomous systems. In recent years, Elbit Systems has been providing its customers with operational solutions that enable effective Manned-Unmanned Teaming, integrating the work of autonomous platforms together with human teams, as part of the company’s solutions in the area of multi-domain networked warfare.
13 Dec 21. NPS Researchers Use High-Tech Optics, Artificial Intelligence to Advance Laser Weapons Systems. A high-energy laser beam pointed over the ocean will get distorted by the atmosphere and marine layer, reducing its effectiveness in long-range defensive applications, particularly when the target is at a low elevation.
“You can think of the atmosphere as a changing medium due to temperature variations,” explains Dr. Jae Jun Kim, a Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Research Associate Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) department.
Researchers at NPS are using every tool at their disposal to reduce atmosphere-induced aberrations, or “clean” the laser beam, so it has a chance to reach a target farther away in a deep turbulence environment.
The multidisciplinary team, under the direction of Dr. Brij Agrawal, NPS Distinguished Professor in MAE, and Kim successfully completed the development of a $3m High-Energy Laser Beam Control Research Testbed (HBCRT) in 2016. The group is made up of NPS researchers and students with assistance from non-NPS researchers from the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Lockheed Martin, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Dahlgren.
The research project is supported by the DOD’s Joint Directed Energy Transition Office (DE-JTO), the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
The HBCRT consists of Acquisition, Tracking, Pointing (ATP), and adaptive optics systems. The testbed is similar to the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) currently used in the Navy’s USS Ponce. After many months of delays, the team finally received the highly anticipated, half-a-m dollar deformable mirror from Northrop Grumman to further their deep turbulence adaptive optics research. The mirror represents the state-of-the-art in adaptive optics, with a two-inch diameter mirror and hundreds of actuators. Upon successful testing of deep turbulence compensation, the deforable mirror will be integrated into the HBCRT.
“As deformable implies, you can change the shape of the mirror using actuators attached to the back of the mirror to compensate for laser beam aberration,” Agrawal explains.
This deformable mirror is used in conjunction with two other deformable mirrors in a Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics (MCAO) configuration. Dr. Bautista Fernandez has developed a graphical user interface (GUI) for controlling the deformable mirror.
“When you have no aberrations on the system, you have a flat wavefront,” Fernandez says. “As soon as you have an aberration, the wavefront distorts.”
Once an aberration is spotted, Fernandez adjusts the channels using his GUI, which is basically a grid representing the different actuators. By clicking on a spot in the grid, he can adjust a channel by applying some voltage to it.
In the lab, the team uses eye-safe visible light to test the lasers, but in the field, tests would be conducted using infrared.
The team is also working on incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) technology for automatic target detection, classification, aimpoint selection and maintenance. This project is also funded by DE-JTO.
The team consists of NPS (principal investigator), Lockheed Martin, Air Force Research Laboratory, and NSWC-Dahlgren. Traditionally, aimpoint has been executed in the past by human operators. Current AI work can select the aimpoint of a single target faster than a human can. The AI techniques are being implemented into the HBCRT and will be compared with traditional approaches.
To achieve higher accuracy results with the AI techniques, a large training dataset consisting of realistic target images is required. The team has developed a dataset with 3D-printed titanium unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) models. UAV images are captured by the HBCRT at varying orientations.
Dr. Leonardo Herrara, a National Research Council (NRC) Postdoctoral Associate, is developing these UAV images. He has created about 40,000 images with the testbed so far.
Continuing the AI theme, three Navy master’s students designed their theses around applying AI techniques for high-energy laser beam control. The team is also working on predicting atmospheric turbulence and the correction of target image aberrations using AI.
“We are also excited about using AI for correcting aberations in the target image because conventional adaptive optics requires very complex optics systems like additional lasers, sensors, very fast cameras, and complex mathematical algorithms to determine the distortion in the wavefront,” Kim says. “We’re trying to use this AI technology, so instead of using the beacon light, why don’t we try to use the actual image of the target to determine the distortion?”
It’s a potential direction for the team for a future project. For now, their two AI projects and working towards connecting the distorted mirror to the testbed keep them busy enough. (Source: ASD Network)
14 Dec 21. C-130J Integrates INTEGRITY-178 RTOS for the Special Mission Display Processor. Separation Kernel Enables Multi-Level Security for Link 16 Situational Awareness. Green Hills Software announced that the INTEGRITY®-178 real-time operating system (RTOS) is deployed on the Lockheed Martin C–130J Special Mission Display Processor (SMDP) for the U.S. Air Force. The SMDP requires the RTOS to meet the NSA-defined separation kernel protection profile (SKPP) for “high robustness” security, which provides the ability to host Multi-Level Security (MLS) applications. Security is a top priority for the SMDP because it controls the flow of secure and unsecure information between aircraft systems and incorporates Link 16 situational awareness into the C–130J. The SMDP is a centralized, scalable, high-performance processing system based on an open systems architecture running the INTEGRITY-178 RTOS. In addition to meeting the SKPP and hosting MLS applications, INTEGRITY-178 provides an ARINC 653 partitioning software environment that runs OpenGL ES-SC 1.0 graphics for the displays. The SMDP can combine TAXI video input from the mission computers with Link 16 data to output Link 16 graphics overlaid onto the TAXI video.
“For over two decades, INTEGRITY-178 has been the chosen operating system for tactical cross domain solutions,” said Dan O’Dowd, founder and CEO of Green Hills Software. “Starting with the Boeing B-1B avionics upgrade and the Lockheed Martin F-35 security software, the INTEGRITY-178 RTOS has an unrivalled pedigree for certified high-robustness security.”
The INTEGRITY-178 high-assurance RTOS from Green Hills Software is uniquely designed to meet both DO-178C DAL A airborne safety requirements and the NSA-defined Separation Kernel Protection Profile. INTEGRITY-178 is the only commercial operating system ever certified to the SKPP, and that certification was done by the National Information Assurance Partnership to Common Criteria EAL 6+ and NSA “High Robustness.” Beyond the separation kernel, INTEGRITY-178 provides a complete set of APIs for use by multi-level security applications within a secure partition, e.g., an MLS guard, which is a fundamental requirement in a cross-domain system. The multicore version, INTEGRITY-178 tuMP™, is also the first and only RTOS to be part of a cross-domain solution certification to NSA’s “Raise the Bar” initiative. INTEGRITY-178 was the first commercial RTOS approved as complying with DO-178B Level A objectives, and INTEGRITY-178 tuMP is the only RTOS to be part of a multicore certification to DO-178C and CAST-32A multicore objectives. INTEGRITY-178 tuMP directly supports a Modular Open Systems Approach, and it was the first RTOS to be certified conformant to the FACE™ Technical Standard, edition 3.0. (Source: PR Newswire)
15 Dec 21. Asylon Robotics Unveiled New Security Robotics Capabilities with DroneDog. Asylon, Inc., the only full-service American robotic perimeter security company, demonstrated DroneDog live on December 15th. During the demonstration, two guests had complete control over the DroneDog — physically located in Norristown, Pennsylvania —without leaving their respective offices around the country. Earlier this year, Asylon partnered with Boston Dynamics, creators of the Spot quadruped unmanned ground vehicle (Q-UGV), to create the DroneDog system. Boston Dynamics has focused on creating robots with advanced mobility for 30 years and their Spot robot has been purposefully designed to be a platform. The complete DroneDog system includes additional hardware and software components that are set to be unveiled during the event. The hardware and software Asylon developed enable capabilities that include live video monitoring, teleoperation, 20x optical zoom, infrared (thermal) vision for nighttime operations, and automated charging for a set-and-forget system. And, while most ground robots run on wheels or tracks, DroneDog’s leg design allows it to travel over uneven and unpredictable terrain with organic, life-like motion. Organizations can even have multiple DroneDogs working in combination to employ an automated security task force to guard their locations 24/7. This release comes as more companies are using robotics to automate various processes within their organizations. According to an article released by Robotics World, robot sales in North America rose 67% year-over-year in Q3 2021. And, in reference to an International Data Commission (IDC) report, over 40% of non-manufacturing companies polled plan to use robots in their operations for things like security. Asylon’s flagship product, released in 2016, is an automated drone system that’s used by companies like Ford Motor Co. and FedEx. Having completed nearly 20,000 automated drone security missions within the commercial and government sector, Asylon has taken the experience gained in building automated flying robots to the ground with this new DroneDog platform.
Michael Quiroga, Chief Revenue Officer, said “years ago, we recognized that the air and ground robotic combination would be the greatest value-add for our security customers. The addition of the DroneDog unlocks an entirely new category of robotic capability. We’re excited to say that the years of technology evaluation and R&D have brought us to this moment here and, for those in the security space, this is absolutely a gamechanger.”
The DroneDog is set to prove helpful in various industries in the commercial and government sector because it automates observe and report security patrols, detects anomalies that require a response, and prepares response teams for potentially dangerous situations. This evolution in security practices does not discount the valuable observe and report capabilities a traditional security officer offers but instead can be used to augment services, offering a multi-domain security perspective.
“Technology is a tool to either solve problems or create value. For a new product to truly matter, there has to be a problem in the first place or some significant capability to add” Ryan Hodgens, Director of Marketing said. “Through Asylon’s customer-centric approach to building technology and capability, I’m confident the DroneDog will have a major impact for the security industry by both addressing critical staffing issues and by increasing the capability of the security operations center.”
Asylon is the only full-service robotic team that uses drones, robots, software, and A.I. to make companies more secure. With the worldwide security robots market expected to reach $4bn by 2027, Asylon aims to give customers automated operations that increase site safety while unlocking massive capabilities. (Source: UAS VISION)
14 Dec 21. Embraer and TNO, from The Netherlands, Sign an MoU for Research and Technological Developments in Defense. Embraer and TNO, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for future developments of defense and dual-use products and services in air, sea, land, and space domains. The MoU may include joint research, technology development, and innovation process.
“We are very pleased to strengthen our relationship with Embraer Defense & Security through this MoU. We see multiple opportunities to extend the cooperation and to jointly develop advanced technologies and innovations for a safe and secure society. We are looking forward to use our complementary knowledge and technologies in the defense and security domain for mutual benefit,” said Marja Eijkman, Managing Director of TNO Defense, Safety and Security.
The MoU intends to extend and increase long-term business relations between the parties during the research and development of key technologies for defense applications, which can be part of future capabilities within Embraer’s existing platforms such as the C-390 Millennium, or new aircraft, vehicles, and systems. This MoU also aims to strengthen the cooperation between Embraer and TNO in The Netherlands and Brazil.
“We truly believe that this MoU can generate a lot of value for both parties. We have seen a great synergy between TNO and Embraer related to our company’s complementarity defense and security expertise. Also, we believe that together we can advance in research in fields such as autonomy and artificial intelligence, which are very important for us,” said Jackson Schneider, President and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security. (Source: PR Newswire)
14 Dec 21. Boeing, RAAF Validate Airpower Teaming System Operational Capabilities. Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have advanced the operational readiness of the Airpower Teaming System aircraft, successfully demonstrating multiple payloads, semi-autonomous behaviours and crewed-uncrewed teaming in the digital environment.
In a multi-day exercise that expanded upon a similar activity, RAAF operators worked with the digital twin to develop and test autonomous behaviours in operational scenarios and against threats provided by Defence.
“We are working closely with Boeing Australia on the integration of advanced payloads and operational requirements to ensure the Airpower Teaming System capability will be mission-ready to support air combat operations,” said Air Vice-Marshal Robert Denney, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability. “The state-of-the-art digital twin concept is allowing us to evaluate and integrate smart human-machine teaming systems in our force structure.”
Testing included validation of the teaming aircraft integration and payloads as they operated alongside Defence crewed platforms, as well as the effectiveness of the distributed sensors across the Airpower Teaming System uncrewed team. The test scenario involved several aircraft operating in a threat environment, executing mission aims in coordination with crewed aircraft being operated by RAAF personnel, and builds on work to develop the crewed-uncrewed interface during earlier activities.
This work also contributes to the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being offered to global customers.
“Our digital engineering expertise has enabled us to accelerate the Airpower Teaming System’s product lifecycle development of the aircraft design through to production,” said Brad Thompson, Airpower Teaming System Chief Capability Architect. “Creating the digital environment has also enabled us to test the mission systems code in a realistic operational environment so we can rapidly iterate our crewed/uncrewed teaming concepts and payload implementation to meet the threat environment.”
“Taking a digital twin approach delivers an agile, cost effective test program to keep pace with the future battlespace, and we’re well along the path to drive towards initial operational capability.”
Progress on the Airpower Teaming System’s mission system and payload development has included ground-based hardware and software in-the-loop testing, followed by surrogate flight testing of the on-board systems to support verification of the digital models.
“We’re excited to test elements of payloads against appropriately spectrally representative targets in field trials,” Thompson said. “This enables us to rapidly roll in lessons learned into our digital environment to accelerate development towards an operational capability.”
A digital twin of the entire aircraft has been ‘flown’ thousands of times under different battlespace effects to test aircraft performance and maximize its deployment capability independently and in support of other aircraft. Boeing will continue to progress payload development and flight tests under the development program. (Source: UAS VISION)
14 Dec 21. £1,020,000 research funding awarded for robotic chemist project. Dstl (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) is pioneering the use of autonomous mobile robotics within the scientific research laboratory. To continue to deliver critical analytical capability for chemical, biological and explosives analysis, Dstl is working with industrial and academic partners to develop the application of mobile robotic platforms in laboratory (lab) environments. The majority of the £1,020,000 funding for this 2 year project is provided by the Defence Innovation Unit, with support from Defence Equipment and Support, and the Department for Transport.
Robots have been used in a range of industries for a number of years and fixed systems have even found some use within lab environments. Dstl is driving forward the application of fully mobile, autonomous systems within its highly regulated high-hazard laboratory environments. Such systems could perform routine and repetitive tasks increasing the value of its human counterparts who would be able to focus on more complex analytical activities. Furthermore, the use of a robot to collect data will have positive implications on reproducibility and repeatability for some tasks and would increase capacity during periods of high demand.
Following a competitive tendering process Dstl has let a contract with the University of Liverpool and its start-up company Gearu Robotic Research. The purpose is to identify the optimal robotic solution to conduct the two chemical processes, one related to the analysis of environmental samples and the other to the analysis of explosives to define a follow on contract to complete the project. Challenges for the robot in the workflow process and in the regulatory environment have already been identified but are being overcome collaboratively. The first report on the scope of what is possible is currently being reviewed by Dstl staff and this will help shape when colleagues can expect to see the mobile robotic system working at Dstl.
David Groves, a Fellow in the Counter Terrorism and Security Division and the instigator of the project said: “This is an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of the application of such technology, which has the potential to significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of our chemical analysis services for the benefit of all of our Defence and Security customers.”
14 Dec 21. Thales, Pasqal, Paris Region and GENCI, launch a new partnership to explore the use of Pasqal’s quantum technology applied to critical systems’ optimization. Thales, Pasqal, Paris Region and GENCI today announce a new two-year partnership to develop new methods to address planning and scheduling challenges related to critical systems’ optimization through Pasqal’s quantum processor.
The process of planning (selecting the appropriate policies and procedures to fulfil a mission or a project) and scheduling (converting the project action plans into an operating timetable) are key steps for many critical applications such as logistics, air traffic control, industrial automation, resource allocation, disaster recovery assistance, etc. Computational complexity and processing time explode when the problem’s dimension increases (number of events, resources or constraints); in other terms, the scalability is the blocking part. Quantum computing can change that. The project aims to demonstrate the scalability potential of a quantum approach to solve this type of problems, which applies to Thales’ various areas of expertise.
Relying on a 100+ qubit platform which provides high connectivity and performance, Pasqal’s quantum processors can efficiently address large size problems that are completely out of reach of classical computing systems.
The project is supported by the PAck Quantique programme (PAQ), an initiative launched in 2020 by Paris Region, GENCI and Le Lab Quantique. The initiative aims to accelerate the development of the quantum technologies industry in Paris region and create synergies between industrial groups and start-ups.
The three-year programme should strengthen Paris’s and France’s leadership in the field of quantum at European level and improve France’s key local players’ competitiveness at international level. The programme also aims at highlighting Paris hub’s dynamism and attractiveness to foster implementation of new companies.
“Thales is fully committed in developing quantum technologies in particular for quantum sensors and quantum communications that will provide a real breakthrough for many Thales’ applications domains. The partnership with Pasqal, GENCI and Paris Region give us the opportunity to explore one other important facet of quantum: the quantum computing. What is of particular importance of us, is that we will be able, together with Pasqal, to design and solve optimization problems related to real use cases of high importance for our customers, such as air traffic optimization or space mission scheduling to name a few.” Bernhard Quendt,SVP Group Chief Technical Officer, Thales
“We are thrilled to work on concrete applications with a major technological player such as Thales. The techniques we will develop through this collaboration will be useful for various fields relevant to Thales’ activities. Creating value to end-users is a main focus for Pasqal: we continue to push our technology, both on the hardware and software levels, to best answer our partners’ needs and solve their bottleneck problems. We are working hand in hand with our partners: Thales, GENCI and Paris Region, to build a leading Quantum industry in the area.” Georges-Olivier Reymond, CEO of Pasqal
“Together with Le Lab Quantique, GENCI and Paris Region launched the Pack Quantique (PAQ) to enable industries and startups in their journey to quantum computing. AQUAPS represents the joint effort between Thales and Pasqal experts to “quantumize” Thales scheduling use cases and is the 4th project since the launch of the initiative. Through Paris Region’s funding and GENCI’s free access to the future Pan-European Hybrid HPC/Quantum Infrastructure, this very challenging project will enable both Thales and Pasqal to assess the scalability of the designed algorithm”. Philippe Lavocat, CEO of GENCI and Alexandra Dublanche, Vice-President of the Paris Region in charge of Economic Recovery and Development, Attractiveness, and Innovation.
Created by the French government in 2007, GENCI is a large-scale Research Infrastructure, public operator organization that aims to democratize the use of digital simulation through high-performance computing combined with artificial intelligence, to support French scientific and industrial competitiveness.
GENCI has three missions:
– To implement the national strategy aiming at equipping French scientific open research with high-performance computing, storage and massive data processing resources associated with AI technologies, in conjunction with the three national computing centers;
– To support the creation of an integrated HPC ecosystem on a national and European scale;
– To promote digital simulation and HPC to academic research and industry.
GENCI is a civil company owned 49% by the French government, represented by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, 20% by the CEA, 20% by the CNRS, 10% by the universities represented by the Conference of University Presidents and 1% by Inria.
Pasqal is building quantum processors out of neutral atoms ordered in large 2D and 3D arrays with the purpose of bringing practical quantum advantage to its customers, especially in quantum simulation and optimization. Pasqal was founded in 2019 by Georges-Olivier Reymond, Christophe Jurczak, Prof. Dr. Alain Aspect, Dr. Antoine Browaeys and Dr. Thierry Lahaye. It is based in Palaiseau and Massy in the South of Paris, France. Pasqal completed a series A round in April 2021 co-led by Quantonation and the Defense Innovation Fund, managed by Bpifrance on behalf of the Defense Innovation Agency (AID).
10 Dec 21. OFFSET Swarms Take Flight in Final Field Experiment. Program showcased four years of advancements in swarm capabilities. Researchers, roboticists, and technologists deployed swarms of autonomous air and ground vehicles to test mission capabilities in the final field experiment (FX-6) of DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program at the Cassidy Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (CACTF) in Fort Campbell, Tennessee. Since the program kicked off in 2017, OFFSET has held six field experiments with objectives of increasing complexity and difficulty. The program envisions future small-unit infantry forces employing large-scale teams of unmanned air and/or ground robots to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. OFFSET specifically focused on advancements in collaborative swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming capabilities. The goal is to develop a set of “swarm tactics” that can be used to implement a swarm commander’s intent using algorithms that autonomous systems can understand.
Two Swarm Systems Integrators – Northrop Grumman Mission Systems and Raytheon BBN Technologies – were tasked with designing, developing, and deploying an open architecture for swarm operations in both physical and virtual environments. The swarm systems consist of an extensible game-based architecture that enables the design and integration of swarm tactics, immersive interfaces for collaboration among teams of humans and swarm systems, and a physical testbed with hundreds of aerial and ground robots to validate new capabilities.
The testbeds consist of commercial off-the-shelf small unmanned systems, including backpack-sized rovers as well as multi-rotor and fixed-wing aerial vehicles. These systems, or swarm agents, were tasked by swarm commanders to execute swarm tactics to complete the FX-6 mission scenario. Swarm advancements demonstrated at FX-6 include:
- Combined collaborative operations using both Swarm Systems Integrators’ testbeds (300+ total platforms)
- Parallel use of “virtual” swarm agents alongside physical ones to assist in real-world mission
- Utilization of immersive swarm interfaces (e.g., virtual reality, augmented reality, sketch tablets, and mobile phones) to command and control swarms
“OFFSET has cultivated a community in addition to swarm capabilities in the last four years,” said Timothy Chung, the OFFSET program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “We have demonstrated in the field that these swarm capabilities are rapidly nearing availability for future operations, and the lessons learned from OFFSET will certainly contribute to future swarm advancements.”
In addition to the technology developments, systems integrators were tasked with creating a tactics exchange to foster community interaction. The OFFSET community includes the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific (NIWC Pacific) experimentation team and a myriad of swarm sprinters, which were focused on specific thrust areas to encourage rapid innovation and continuous incorporation of the very latest technologies. OFFSET swarm sprints had six themes: swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment, application of artificial intelligence, and physical testbed.
Three swarm sprinters attended FX-6 and demonstrated their integration into the OFFSET ecosystem:
- Sentien Robotics showcased their HiveXL “drone carrier” units, enabling up to 80 drones to be automatically launched, recovered, and charged.
- Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory demonstrated multiple fixed-wing aircraft capable of aggressive flight maneuvers in tight urban environments enabled by onboard collision avoidance.
- Michigan Tech Research Institute integrated developments from multiple swarm sprint efforts, including an acoustic spoofing payload and see-through-wall sensing payload capabilities for the virtual part of the experiment. As OFFSET focuses on transition opportunities, the program is scheduled to demonstrate its capabilities at Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2022 at Fort Benning, GA in February.
Previous OFFSET field experiments took place at the New York Fire Department Training Division in Randall’s Island, New York; the U.S. Army’s Camp Roberts in Paso Robles, California; the Selby Combined Arms Collective Training Facility in Fort Benning, Georgia; the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Mississippi; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Washington. (Source: ASD Network)
09 Dec 21. China Tests Turboprop Drone Engine at High Altitude. China has successfully tested a new homegrown powerful turboprop engine especially designed for drones to be used in the country’s southwest plateau regions, overcoming a technical barrier that limited the performance of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) at high altitudes, with analysts speculating that it will boost the logistics support and monitoring capabilities of border defense troops. The new engine was developed by the No.7 Research Academy of the state-owned aerospace giant China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC) and researchers tested it from mid-September to mid-October in the Qinghai-Xizang (Tibet) Plateau region, media reports said.
Developers flew an unmanned helicopter powered by the engine at an altitude of 5,191 meters above sea level, and they also conducted a night flight at 4,300 meters above sea level, as well as testing other functions including logistics supplies.
According to sources with the academy, research and development of engines for drones in extremely harsh environments has been long monopolized by some foreign countries, and the traditional piston engines could only enable flights up to 3,000 meters above sea level.
Chinese researchers started to develop the small-yet-powerful turboprop engine in 2016, with the aim to fill the gap.
The new “heart of drone” weighs only 18 kilograms and it can support flights for fixed-wing aircraft of 400 to 600 kilograms or helicopters of 240 to 360 kilograms at altitudes of 4,000 to 5,200 meters above sea level, according to the developers.
The latest test showed that the performance of the new engine could meet the flight requirements for most of the plateau regions, they said.
Although the developers have not disclosed the military use of the new engine, Wang Ya’nan, the chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times that the engine could work particularly well with small- or medium-sized drones that can be deployed in Southwest China’s plateau regions for border patrol and supply transport missions.
If drones powered with these engines can reach such high altitudes, they can replace border defense troops in some routine patrol tasks, where challenging environments could be overwhelming and too risky for people, and they could perform monitoring tasks possibly better than people, Wang said.
Drones can also quickly deliver supplies to high-altitude border areas as part of logistics support, Wang said, noting that if the engines are powerful enough, the drones can even transport troops wounded in combat quickly back to the rear areas for better medical treatment.
For the next step, the engine could be installed in aircraft and undergo more tests, including under extremely high and low temperatures as well as in dusty weather, so that it can become really operational, Wang predicted.
China has also developed large engines for plateau-operable helicopters, including those used on the 10 ton-class Z-20 utility helicopter and the 13 ton-class Z-8G large transport helicopter. (Source: UAS VISION/Global Times)
10 Dec 21. tpgroup has secured a one-year contract to develop a software-based emulator that will help to de-risk the integration of equipment for a multi-billion maritime defence programme. The software will enable the MOD customer to test and adopt multiple mission-critical systems more safely, efficiently and quickly. This award forms part of a framework agreement that has already seen a further contract awarded to tpgroup for support to the programme. The advancements in tpgroup’s software capability has enabled the development of emulation solutions that execute within synthetic and benign environments, mimicking real-life systems and situations, to verify the integrity, safety and behaviour of single equipment and multiple systems working together. The software enables testing to be done in an office environment with the capability to rapidly build different emulated scenarios to meet the customer’s requirements. This approach brings verification forward in the overall platform lifecycle and reduces the reliance on trials with high operational overheads. The software intellectual property is owned by tpgroup and offers commercial opportunities beyond the defence sector to support organisations developing complex equipment for often challenging missions and environments such as the space and air domains.
Rob Harwood-Smith, tpgroup’s Capability Director for Critical Software, commented: ’We are proud to be part of this strategically important UK defence programme. The contract provides a great opportunity to demonstrate our broad capabilities and collegiate working across our software and consulting businesses. We have already developed a good rapport with the customer, and look forward to building the relationship and providing further support.”
Oxley Group Ltd
Oxley offer a range of Military Marine NVG friendly LED lighting that includes navigation lights and controls, flight deck landing lights and interior compartment lighting. Our lighting products are used by Navies around the world including our own Royal Navy on UK Aircraft Carriers, Canadian Frigates, Swedish Submarines, Australian Surface vessels and Submarines, on board French Naval Carriers and in Naval Gun Turrets.
The technology is extremely energy efficient and built robustly, with proven long life. The lighting is NVG friendly, dimmable and programmable to allow for operations with aircraft pilots using military night vision goggles. They offer superior design giving high reliability for the most demanding environments with high sealing and the ability to meet the most stringent EMC standards.
Oxley are proud to say that we are working in partnership with SeaKing to enable a control panel to be offered with our LED Navigation Lighting. All of Oxley navigation lights have been specifically developed for vessels over 50 metres.
Contact Marcus Goad here or on 07850 917 263 for more information or to arrange samples.
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.