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30 Dec 21. Drone innovation moves from hardware to software Self-flying, networked drones predicted to unleash whole host of new applications. US drone company Skydio predicts that human operators would be able to fly a fleet of drones simultaneously . In San Diego, the defence start-up Shield AI is designing software that will fly drones without any human involvement. Its software, Hivemind, lets drones “go inside a building without GPS, without communications — these are jammed by adversaries — so it can scope out a building ahead of soldiers”, said Brandon Tseng, Shield AI’s co-founder. “That’s a huge value added,” he said, explaining that it would open up all sorts of new ways of using drones for law enforcement and the emergency services, as well as the military. Ultimately, he said, he could see his software powering all sorts of commercial drones, such as those carrying out deliveries, for example. Shield AI is just one of dozens of companies that are working on ways to transform the way drones are used, turning them from piloted point-and-shoot flying cameras into self-flying computers that can work in teams and transmit data straight into the cloud. While there have been huge leaps in the designs and battery life of drones, the real innovations are coming not in hardware but in their computing capabilities. A running tally from ModalAI, a unit spun out of chipmaker Qualcomm that sells tech to drone companies, counts about 65 start-ups in the US trying to equip drones with the latest software and artificial intelligence. Lorenz Meier, chief executive of Auterion, an open-source software platform for drones, said the drone market, which was worth $13.4bn last year, is on the cusp of a revolution. “It’s a little bit like computing — it was interesting in the ’70s, but they were in some buildings to process tax records,” he said. “But computers changed our lives once they started to talk to each other. And how we use drones will fundamentally change once they start to be networked.”
In June, the Federal Aviation Administration, noting an explosion in the use of registered industrial drones — from 12,000 in 2015 to nearly 500,000 by 2020 — said the industry “appears to be at an inflection point demonstrating powerful stages of growth”. Meier said he expected drones will shortly operate largely on their own, emerging from a charging station to carry out routine jobs and inspections and flagging relevant data into a Slack channel like any other employee. “They essentially will become like a person and be part of the conversation,” he said. “So you’ll have real-time footage from a drone in a chat between construction workers. They’ll be like chatbots that start to add information in real time.” Recommended The FT ViewThe editorial board Rules of war need rewriting for the age of AI weapons Aerobotics, a South African drone start-up with commercial operations based in Los Angeles, is already helping citrus growers in Florida save their crops from disease. Its drones fly within a few feet of crops to collect microscopic images that can help farmers determine which ones are growing and which need help. “We’re using computer vision algorithms to detect that fruit, size that fruit,” said Stuart van der Veen, chief platform officer. “Then, based on production and training data, we project the size of that fruit growing out over a season, and we calibrate that with different collections. And then we calculate the weight estimate, in cartons or kilogrammes.” He added that by scanning large areas of crops, his drones can learn how to combat citrus greening, a disease, and share best practice. “I think drones are going to save Florida citrus,” he said. “There’s just no other way to collect data like this.” With all the data Aerobotics has collected, it has even started to write insurance for farmers. “In Florida, we have algorithms which estimate the age of the trees for tree insurance and algorithms to estimate yield for production insurances. [These are] humanly impossible tasks.” Another innovation has been the advent of “tethered drones” which fly hundreds of feet in the sky but remain connected to a power source for persistent flight. Easy Aerial, based in Brooklyn, said its tethered “drone in a box solution” can scan miles of forest, national borders or wildfire areas for more than 24 hours at a time. They can be operated automatically or be commanded remotely, anywhere, and even take-off or land on moving vehicles or ships, said Ivan Stamatovski, chief technology officer.
“You can leave in the middle of a desert, push a button and it will go up with a camera and run for a couple of hours, then land,” he said. “Nobody has to be there to man it.” Among its clients are the Travis Air Force Base and the US Customs and Border Protection agency, which tethers its drone to a giant battery that sits in a truck so the aircraft can run up to 12 hours a day without a generator or external power source. Easy Aerial has also made a tethered drone it calls the Raptor, which can hover indefinitely. It uses AI to scan from a distance, and upon detection of a person, object, or an incident such as a fire, it untethers itself and flies over for closer inspection. Mike Ross, product lead at Skydio, a US drone company valued at more than $1bn, said drones were moving quickly along what he called the “arc of autonomy”. He predicted the next step would be for human operators to fly a fleet of drones simultaneously. “So if I want to go out and build a 3D scan of a building, I can do that with one drone in 30 minutes, or I can do it with two drones in 15, or four drones in less than 10 minutes.” Adam Bry, Skydio’s chief executive, predicted that within two to four years, cities could be equipped with, for example, a fleet of drones at every fire station that could instantly respond to emergencies. Police forces are already building systems that automatically fly to areas where gunfire is heard and start taking images. For Shield AI’s Tseng, the shift in focus from hardware to software is likely to give US companies the edge over other countries, such as China, which have so far cornered the market in drone manufacturing. “[We are at] the tip of the iceberg in terms of capabilities that are going to be unlocked by software,” he said. (Source: FT.com)
30 Dec 21. Indian Army sets up Quantum Laboratory in Madhya Pradesh. The new laboratory will help the Indian Army with advance research and training in emerging technology domains. The Indian Army has established the Quantum Laboratory at Military College of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE) in Mhow, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The new laboratory has been launched to advance research and training in emerging technology domains. At MCTE, an artificial intelligence (AI) centre has also been set up with more than 140 deployments in forward areas. According to a press statement issued by the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD), cyber warfare training is being provided through advanced cyber range, and cyber security labs. In October last year, the ideation of Indian Army’s involvement in Electromagnetic (EM) Spectrum Operations had emerged at a seminar organised on EM Spectrum and National Security. Since then, Indian Army’s technology institutions have been encouraged to invest in AI, quantum and cyber domains. Indian Army’s research in the field of quantum technology will enable next generation communication. This research work is expected to transform the existing system of cryptography in the Indian armed forces to post quantum cryptography. Quantum key distribution, quantum computing, post quantum cryptography and quantum communication will be the key focus areas in the research.
MoD stated: “By undertaking a multi-stakeholder approach incorporating academia (such as IITs), DRDO organisations, research institutes, corporate firms, startups and industry players, this initiative is an apt example of civil military fusion with Atmanirbhar Bharat a key driving factor.”
Aatmanirbhar Bharat is the government’s vision of making India a self-reliant nation. According to the MoD, progressive fielding of solutions is expected on a priority basis, and timelines-based objectives and funding for the projects have been worked out. (Source: army-technology.com)
24 Dec 21. uAvionix Successfully Tests SkyLink C-Band Command & Control (C2) Radio. uAvionix announced the successful completion of the first series of flights with its newly developed SkyLink Control & Non-Payload Communications (CNPC) C-band radio, intended to meet the needs of safety-critical & BVLOS missions as well as operators and manufacturers with airframe certification in mind.
The flight tests were conducted at a range of up to 25 miles at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) locations south of Grand Forks, ND. In August, uAvionix announced FAA and FCC approvals for testing C-band CNPC radios at several locations.
Regulators increasingly focus on the performance of safety-critical control data and recent RTCA standards recommend separating it from payload data for scalable commercial Unmanned Airborne Systems (UAS) operations. While most UAS still operate on public spectrum such as ISM or 4G, current BVLOS waivers are primarily focused on recovery procedures to deal with the probability of a lost C2 link.
uAvionix SkyLink CNPC radios and the paired SkyLine application are entirely focused on preventing lost links, through aviation-grade software & hardware design, full compliance with RTCA Minimal Operational Performance Standards (MOPS DO-362A), and a network management system that monitors network and radio link health, built to Minimum Aviation System Performance Standards (MAPS DO-377A).
In a previously released article, “A Radio Isn’t a Radio,” uAvionix discusses the need for protected spectrum and certified radio hardware for BVLOS operations.
“A reliable and predictable C2 link built to aviation standards (e.g., RTCA DO-362A) is a critical component in obtaining scalable BVLOS operations,” said Jim Cieplak, Program Manager of Vantis. “The uAvionix SkyLink radios and SkyLine Command & Control infrastructure are an essential component of the Vantis deployment to obtain a path to commercially viable BVLOS operations in the State of North Dakota.”
The SkyLink C Band CNPC radio is fully DO-362A compliant utilizing key concepts such as the ability to accept dynamic frequency inputs for Frequency Allocation Management (FAM), utilizing protected aviation spectrum for a stable and predictable C2 link performance to support BVLOS operations and safety-critical missions. SkyLink radios are built to anticipated TSO C-213A standards and targeted at demanding customers including those pursuing airframe certification.
The SkyLink CNPC radio system is developed to aviation-grade software & hardware requirements and consists of three main components:
* SkyLink airborne radio (ARS), a low Size, Weight and Power (SWaP), Multiple Input, Single Output (MISO) dual airborne radio system
* SkyLink ground radio (GRS), an IP67 all-weather dual dipole ground radio system, compliant with DO-362A GLXS
* SkyLink HUB, an ip67 network-ready communications hub, and TSO certifiable GPS receiver and antenna for multiple SkyLink GRS radios
The SkyLink radios can be used as a standalone radio system for a single Ground Control Station (GCS) or can be networked to provide linear or area coverage for larger-scale BVLOS operations, such as currently being deployed at VANTIS in North Dakota, where the combined system will operate as the C2 Communications Service Provider (C2CSP) for the State network.
“Together with our partners at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, VANTIS, Thales, the FAA, and MITRE, we completed this significant milestone which will propel commercial UAS operations”, said Christian Ramsey, President of uAvionix. “We maintained a stable connection at a range of well over 25 miles at a 400’ operating altitude with a DO-362A compliant radio system, a first of its kind”
SkyLink provides the data exchange required for safety-critical operations to control, monitor, and manage a UAS in real-time. SkyLink radios seamlessly integrate with other certified avionics designed with airframe certification in mind such as truFYX GPS, ping200X, and the George autopilot. Accelerate your BVLOS approvals and airframe certification process through SkyLink. (Source: UAS VISION)
24 Dec 21. DroneSense Launches ‘Magic Video Link’ Allowing Unmatched Situational Awareness. DroneSense, a developer of operational and management platforms for unmanned aircraft systems, has released its new Magic Video Link feature, which provides easy sharing of critical real-time information with all who need it. The unique Magic Video Link technology allows drone operators and managers to provide information sharing to users who do not have DroneSense accounts. That means everyone involved in an emergency response, from first responders on-site to command center experts, all can have access to real-time critical information.
“DroneSense understands what first responders and safety agencies need in emergency and recovery situations because they are part of our planning and design process,” said DroneSense CEO Chris Eyhorn. “The Magic Video Link is sophisticated technology, but more importantly, it’s a game-changer on the ground in practical terms. Being able to share precise real-time information not only within emergency response teams and public safety agencies, but also between them, can save lives.”
First responders in the field agree.
“DroneSense has hit it out of the ballpark with Magic Video Link,” said Lt. Ricky Pena, special operations paramedic with the Washington County, Texas, Department of Emergency Medical Services. “The first time we used Magic Video Link was on a search for a young boy who was lost. Mission base was at a distance from the drone operations area. Sending them the Magic Video Link, and giving them instant access to the live feed, completely changed the operation. Having an ‘eye in the sky’ and easy access to the feed has changed the game.”
When enabled in the administrative settings of the DroneSense web app, the “Magic Video Link” generates a link or QR code to activate a mission in DroneSense OpsHub and allows access to all video feeds within a mission without requiring a DroneSense account. This provides key stakeholders direct access to streamed video within the mission by navigating to that link directly.
Magic Video Link also can provide email and text notifications to mission participants when the drone and camera activate on-site, saving critical time in situations such as floods or fire response missions. These notifications allow responders still en route to see what is happening in real-time and better plan, prepare and adjust.
Magic Video Link is the latest feature to further DroneSense’s mission to empower public safety organizations to make faster, better, and safer decisions. DroneSense recently introduced the Mobile Streaming and Tracking feature to improve timely access to critical information and increase the safety and functionality of public safety operations. Mobile streaming dramatically increases the amount of information users can readily access and extends to any device that has a video output, including planes, helicopters, robots and external cameras. DroneSense’s new Mobile Streaming feature allows users to augment drone feeds with all participating mobile devices together on a map, providing the ability to combine aerial views while seeing what is occurring on the ground.
“We don’t ask responders and safety officials to adapt their operations to the limits of technology. We design and create systems that support and enhance the work they do,” Eyhorn said.
DroneSense clients appreciate that philosophy.
“DroneSense has a top-notch product. The fantastic support staff and instant reply to feedback and questions is what I most value,” Lt. Pena said. “They listen to the end users in the field and are consistently working to give us what we need. Magic Video Link is a direct reflection of that.” (Source: UAS VISION)
23 Dec 21. Thales on board France’s 169 Guépard helicopters.
- Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces, announced the start of the development phase of the HIL future joint light helicopter (Guépard) programme on 22 December 2021.
- Latest-generation onboard equipment from Thales, including FlytX cockpit avionics, the AirMaster C radar, an optimised defensive aids system and a complete communication, navigation, identification (CNI) suite with the ERS-a airborne version of the new CONTACT software-defined radio, will ensure unprecedented operational flexibility for the armed forces.
- The French defence procurement agency (DGA), the contracting authority for the programme, and industry partners Airbus Helicopters and Thales, have worked together for many years to develop the new technologies and intuitive touchscreen interfaces that will enable aircrews to accomplish their missions in all operational environments.
The Thales technologies selected by Airbus Helicopters, industrial prime contractor for the programme, and the French defence procurement agency (DGA), the contracting authority, will provide the 169 Guépard joint light helicopters with a complete set of high-performance solutions relying on innovative connected touchscreen interfaces for all three branches of the armed forces from 2027.
The Guépard (“Cheetah”) is the military version of the H160 from Airbus Helicopters. It will be capable of performing up to 20 different mission types, including reconnaissance, fire support, special forces infiltration and command support for the 80 Guépards for the French Army; naval air combat, naval group protection and support, special forces operations and State action at sea for the 49 Guépards for the French Navy; and airspace surveillance and protection, search and rescue, fire support and intelligence for the 40 Guépards for the French Air and Space Force. The joint forces dimension of the programme will optimise crew training as well as equipment maintenance and repair.
The helicopter’s new cockpit will be equipped with the FlytX avionics suite, which features the most advanced technologies and an all-new ergonomic design. Co-developed with pilots over the last 10 years, the compact FlytX avionics suite for helicopters is fully connected and customisable to offer an unprecedented level of operational flexibility. Direct, intuitive touchscreen user interfaces improve the pilot’s interactions with the cockpit systems and enhance situational awareness so that aircrews can focus on their core mission tasks.
Rounding out the array of tools available to pilots, the TopOwl Digital Display, the latest addition to the Thales range of helmet-mounted sight and displays, heralds a new era of augmented reality in the cockpit. TopOwl combines sensor data and video feeds to enable pilots to fly the helicopter in a virtual environment in degraded conditions, and supports closer cooperation between crew-members to maximise operational capabilities.
Developed under joint funding by Thales and the DGA, the compact fixed-panel AirMaster C radar weighs less than20 kg for longer endurance and higher cruising speeds. Its ability to detect multiple targets simultaneously at long range and very short range reduces aircrew workload by providing an extended surveillance capability in all weather conditions and operational environments. AirMaster C is designed for all types of maritime, ground and air surveillance missions. The armed forces will rely on the radar’s scalable architecture and self-learning capabilities to classify and share huge volumes of operational data.
Crews will be protected by a defensive aids system optimised for the Guépard. This self-protection system will detect threats across the entire electromagnetic and optical spectrum and automatically initiate decoy launchers and other countermeasures. Self-protection strategies and protocols will be developed prior to deployment by groups of experts from the armed forces using an advanced mission planning and analysis infrastructure. A Thales architecture based on the CATS-150, which has been proven in operations on board the NH-90, was selected for its competitive and technical performance, its scalability and its capacity to handle sensitive electronic warfare data.
To meet the multi-mission requirements of all three branches of the armed forces, the Guépard will rely on an advanced connectivity suite providing a wide range of secure communications services. The suite will include the software-defined radio developed for the CONTACT programme, associated with a compact airborne encryption system, making it possible to integrate the helicopter with the cooperative systems developed under the SCORPION programme for the French land forces, interact with other aircraft deployed by the French Air and Space Force, and guarantee interoperability up to NATO Secret level. With the Micro-TMA resilient high-data-rate datalink, and interoperability with 4G/LTE networks, the joint light helicopter will pave the way for hyper-connected operational missions. The Guépard will also feature a radionavigation suite and a new, small form factor IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) system.
In addition, the latest-generation TopStar M GPS/Galileo multi-constellation receiver will enhance the capabilities of the helicopter’s navigation system.
“Airbus Helicopters and the French defence procurement agency are placing their trust in the latest generation of Thales technologies to meet demanding new standards for military aviation. We are proud to be taking part in such a crucial programme for the armed forces.” Patrice Caine, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Thales
Oxley Group Ltd
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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 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.