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06 Feb 23. China urges restraint as U.S. military searches for balloon remnants. The U.S. military said on Sunday it was searching for remnants of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon it shot down a day earlier, while Beijing urged Washington on Monday not to escalate the issue or take further action to harm its interests.
The drama over the balloon, which Beijing again reiterated was a civilian airship that accidentally strayed into U.S. airspace, has further strained tense relations, prompting Washington to cancel a planned visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The U.S. Navy is working to recover the balloon and its payload and the Coast Guard is providing security for the operation, General Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, said on Sunday.
A successful recovery could potentially give the United States insight into China’s spying capabilities, though U.S. officials have downplayed the balloon’s impact on national security.
A U.S. fighter jet shot down the balloon in the Atlantic off South Carolina on Saturday, a response China described as an “obvious overreaction”.
China has said the balloon, intended for meteorological and other scientific purposes, had accidentally blown off course.
“China firmly opposes and strongly protests against this,” Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said in remarks to the U.S. embassy in Beijing posted on the ministry’s website on Monday.
“The Chinese government is closely following the development of the situation,” he said.
Later on Monday, foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China had found out its balloon had drifted over the United States after being notified by that country.
She said another balloon, sighted in Latin America, was from China and intended for civilian purposes.
On Sunday, Colombia’s military said it sighted an airborne object similar to a balloon, after the Pentagon said on Friday that another Chinese balloon was flying over Latin America.
The balloon incident comes as the United States and China have sought to bolster communications and begin to mend ties that had been under severe strain in recent years over tensions on several fronts, including U.S. efforts to block Chinese access to key cutting-edge technologies.
China has warned of “serious repercussions” and said it will use the necessary means to deal with “similar situations”, without elaborating, although some analysts said they expect any response to be finely calibrated to keep from making bilateral ties even worse.
Brokerage ING said in a Monday note that the incident could exacerbate the “tech war” and would have negative near-term impact on China’s yuan currency.
“Both sides will likely impose more export bans on technology in different industries. This is a new threat to supply chain disruption, although the risk of logistical disruption from Covid restrictions has now disappeared,” it said.
“This new risk is more of a long-term risk than an imminent one,” ING said.
China’s yuan rebounded on Monday after falling to a low of 6.8077 against the dollar in early trade, for its weakest level in nearly a month.
04 Feb 23. This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace. The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters. On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path. After careful analysis, U.S. military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload. In accordance with the President’s direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities. This action was taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government. And we thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through NORAD as it transited North America. Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. (Source: US DoD)
04 Feb 23. F-22 Safely Shoots Down Chinese Spy Balloon Off South Carolina Coast.
A U.S. Air Force fighter safely shot down a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a written statement.
President Joe Biden ordered the action on Wednesday, but it was delayed until the balloon was over water off the coast of South Carolina to ensure no Americans on the ground were harmed.
“The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters,” Austin said.
The action was taken in coordination and support of the Canadian government. “We thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through as it transited North America,” Austin said. “Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Austin said referring to the Peoples Republic of China.
U.S. officials first detected the balloon and its payload on January 28 when it entered U.S. airspace near the Aleutian Islands. The balloon traversed Alaska, Canada and re-entered U.S. airspace over Idaho. “President Biden asked the military to present options and on Wednesday President Biden gave his authorization to take down the Chinese surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to us civilians under the balloon’s path,” said a senior defense official speaking on background. “Military commanders determined that there was undue risk of debris causing harm to civilians while the balloon was overland.”
An F-22 Raptor fighter from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the balloon.
The balloon fell approximately six miles off the coast in about 47 feet of water. No one was hurt.
Long before the shoot down, U.S. officials took steps to protect against the balloon’s collection of sensitive information, mitigating its intelligence value to the Chinese. The senior defense official said the recovery of the balloon will enable U.S. analysts to examine sensitive Chinese equipment. “I would also note that while we took all necessary steps to protect against the PRC surveillance balloon’s collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon’s overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us,” the official said. “I can’t go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable.”
The balloon did not pose a military or physical threat. Still its intrusion into American airspace over several days was an unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty. The official said Chinese balloons briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the prior administration.
While Chinese officials admitted that the balloon was theirs, they said it was a runaway weather balloon. “The PRC has claimed publicly that the high-altitude balloon operating above the United States is a weather balloon that was blown off course. This is false,” the official said. “This was a PRC surveillance balloon. This surveillance balloon purposely traversed the United States and Canada, and we are confident it was seeking to monitor sensitive military sites.”
The mission now transitions to one of recovery. There are a number of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels establishing a security perimeter around the area where the balloon came to Earth. They are searching for debris, said a senior military official also speaking on background.
There is no estimate for how long the recovery mission will take, the military official said, but the fact that it came down in such a shallow area should make recovery “fairly easy”.
The military official gave some detail of the engagement. The F-22 fired the Sidewinder at the balloon from an altitude of 58,000 feet. The balloon at the time was between 60,000 and 65,000 feet.
F-15 Eagles flying from Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, supported the F-22, as did tankers from multiple states including Oregon, Montana, South Carolina and North Carolina. Canadian forces also helped track the overflight of the balloon.
The Navy has deployed the destroyer USS Oscar Austin, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the USS Carter Hall, an amphibious landing ship in support of the effort. (Source: US DoD)
03 Feb 23. Air Guard Updates 148th Fighter Wing F-16s with Radar Pods. Subject matter experts from Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command, the Air National Guard, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Reserve Test Center and the 148th Fighter Wing exercised end-to-end employment of the recently fielded AN/ASQ-236 radar pod and planned how the Air National Guard will operationalize the pods for all ANG F-16 fighter aircraft.
The exercise Jan. 24-26 followed months of modifications to the aircraft, software and support equipment. The 148th Fighter Wing was the first to accomplish all of the requirements for the F16 operational fleet.
The AN/ASQ-236 pod is an externally mounted Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) pod that provides detailed maps for surveillance, coordinate generation and bomb impact assessment. The pod enables combat air forces to geo-locate points of interest day or night in adverse weather. It complements the recent fielding of the APG-83 AESA Fire Control Radar by the 148th Maintenance Group.
After Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. Air Force recognized the need for an all-weather precision geo-location and reconnaissance system with the reliability inherent in AESA radars. The Air Force and Northrop Grumman designed, fabricated and tested the system now known as the AN/ASQ-236. The pod is already operational on the F-15E Strike Eagle.
The 148th Fighter Wing, which flies the Block 50 F-16CM, has been designated as the Air National Guard’s center for excellence for the AN/ASQ-236.
“As the center of excellence, the 148th will retain expertise in the loading, distribution, training and employment of the AN/ASQ-236 and the capabilities it brings to the warfighter,” said Col. Nathan Aysta, 148th Fighter Wing commander.
The team of experts from operations and maintenance had clear objectives for the week-long visit, including installing the ASQ-236 and validating flight operations on Post-Block F-16s using unique software programs.
“Pilots were trained by AATC subject matter experts on the pod’s software and aircraft systems integration, including troubleshooting and emergency procedures management,” said Maj. Michael Kuzmuk, chief of wing weapons for the 148th Fighter Wing. “Additionally, we trained to and refined best practices for mission planning and post-flight analysis, which included post-mission intelligence distribution.”
Aircraft armament systems specialists, alongside AN/ASQ-236 program managers, installed the pylons for the pod, while fighter aircraft integrated avionics specialists installed the AN/ASQ-236.
Kuzmuk flew the first Post-Block F-16 with the AN/ASQ-236 Jan. 26.
“This effort has been ongoing for many years,” said Annette Becker, F-16 program manager assigned to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. “The continued partnerships, successful execution and effective cross-talk have established courses of action for the Air National Guard to operationalize the AN/ASQ-236.”
(Source: ASD Network)
03 Feb 23. Windfarm Mitigation for UK Air Defence: 27 January 2023 Webinar. On 27 January 2023, DASA and BEIS hosted a webinar to test the vision for Windfarm Mitigation for UK Air Defence: Phase 3. The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are exploring a Phase 3 of the “Windfarm Mitigation for UK Air Defence” competition, to build on current activities which seek to advance innovative technologies to enable the long-term co-existence of offshore windfarms and Air Defence radar.
The competition is funded by the BEIS Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP) and is undertaken in partnership with the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), and DASA.
On 27 January 2023, DASA and BEIS hosted a webinar to test the programme’s vision with the wider market and provide the opportunity to inform the programme. The scope of Phase 3 is likely to support technologies across the 3 broad categories:
- stealthy materials
- alternative tracking based solutions.
The competition is aimed at any technology providers within those 3 categories, as well as original equipment manufacturers, onshore and offshore owner/operators and developers who would be interested in collaborating with the technology providers as part of Windfarm Mitigation for UK Air Defence: Phase 3.
If you are interested in submitting a proposal when the competition launches in 2023, watch the below webinar.
What is covered in the webinar?
- Recap of Phase 1 and Phase 2
- Windfarm Mitigation for UK Air Defence: Phase 3 scope and timelines
- Proposed Delivery Model
- Collaboration survey
For a potential phase 3, we encourage collaboration between suppliers. To support this, we have a short survey to collect details of suppliers who wish to explore collaboration possibilities. This collaboration list will be circulated to all those who have signed up on a weekly basis. In contrast to phases 1 and 2, the potential phase 3 will likely be a grant competition and require match-funding from the bidders.
The importance of Windfarm Mitigation for UK Air Defence
Offshore wind will play an increasingly critical role in the UK’s renewable energy supply to enable Net Zero ambitions, as manifested by a 50GW target by 2030 and a Climate Change Committee (CCC) central scenario of at least 75GW of capacity by 2050.
The offshore windfarm installations may adversely impact the quality of data obtained from the long-range Primary Surveillance Radars (PSR) which are the backbone of the UK’s Air Defence detection capability. A mitigating solution, or combination of solutions, is needed to enable the co-existence of windfarms and Air Defence and enable the deployment of offshore wind.
Through the Joint Air Defence and Offshore Wind Task Force, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is currently working on procuring mitigation solutions in the near term, to enable the next generation of large-scale offshore windfarms to be built that will become operational from 2025 and beyond. This BEIS funded innovation programme is complementing the MOD work and focuses on helping to find solutions that will enable the long term co-existence of Air Defence and offshore wind.
What happened in Phase 1 and 2?
In Phase 1, £2 million worth of contracts were awarded to fast-track ideas for technologies that could mitigate the impact of windfarms on the UK’s Air Defence radar system. Learn more here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/38-million-in-contracts-awarded-to-mitigate-the-radar-risk-of-windfarms
In Phase 2, seven projects were awarded a total of £3.8 million funding to develop technologies that support the coexistence of offshore windfarms and UK Air Defence systems. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
02 Feb 23. U.S. Tracking High-Altitude Surveillance Balloon. An intelligence-gathering balloon, most certainly launched by the People’s Republic of China, is currently floating above the United States, the Defense Department announced Thursday evening.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during an impromptu briefing Thursday evening. “The U.S. government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely.”
Ryder said the balloon is well above commercial air traffic and doesn’t pose a threat to civil aviation. He also said this isn’t the first time such a balloon has been seen over the United States.
After the balloon was detected, Ryder said, the U.S. government “acted immediately” to protect against the collection of sensitive information, though he didn’t detail what measures were taken.
A senior defense official who participated in the briefing on background only said the U.S. intelligence community has “very high confidence” the balloon belongs to the People’s Republic of China, and that the United States has engaged with Chinese officials “with urgency, through multiple channels” regarding the presence of the balloon.
“We have communicated to them the seriousness with which we take this issue,” the official said. “We have made clear we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people and our homeland.”
Right now, the official said, following recommendations of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley and Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the U.S. position is to allow the balloon to continue to float above the United States, rather than attempt to shoot is down.
The official said the risk of using kinetic force to take the balloon out of the sky might put civilian communities at risk, and that the threat the balloon poses now to both safety and U.S. intelligence doesn’t justify such an action.
“Currently, we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collective collection perspective,” the official said. “But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.”
The official said this is not the first time such a balloon has been seen above the United States, but did say this time the balloon appears to be acting differently than what has been seen in the past.
“It’s happened a handful of other times over the past few years, to include before this administration,” the official said. “It is appearing to hang out for a longer period of time, this time around, more persistent than in previous instances. That would be one distinguishing factor.”
While the senior defense official would not say how large the balloon is, the official did say its size did figure into the calculation to not use kinetic force to take it out of the sky.
“We did assess that it was large enough to cause damage from the debris field if we downed it over an area,” the official said. “I can’t really go into the dimension — but there have been reports of pilots seeing this thing, even though it’s pretty high up in the sky. So … it’s sizable.”
As early as yesterday, the official said, the balloon was seen over Montana. (Source: US DoD)
02 Feb 23. HENSOLDT and Fraunhofer work together on space surveillance radar. Sensor specialist HENSOLDT has agreed to cooperate with the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Technology FHR with the aim of transforming the technology demonstrator GESTRA (German Experimental Space Surveillance and Tracking Radar) into a series-production ready, operationally deployable system called Custodian. To this end, HENSOLDT has acquired the necessary licenses from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and concluded a cooperation agreement.
The prototype was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Technology FHR on behalf of the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The radar is currently in operation at the Schmidtenhöhe site training area near Koblenz, where it is providing initial proof of performance. Another component of the DLR contract is, among other things, the commercialization of the technology by a suitable industrial partner. Following a call for tenders in an international competition, Fraunhofer has now awarded the rights for series production to the Ulm-based radar specialist HENSOLDT Sensors GmbH. The two companies signed a corresponding license agreement on January 12, 2023.
“This project is a beacon of German capability, founded on close cooperation between cutting-edge research and a high-tech company. It enables Germany to build an important national capability in the field of a key technology and at the same time make a valuable contribution to international partnerships,” said Peter Schlote, member of the HENSOLDT Executive Committee and Head of the Radar Division.
“Based on the GESTRA technology, a global network of ground-based radar systems can be established to monitor near-Earth space. The goal is to detect and track space debris, which increasingly poses a threat to space travel and to the deployment and operation of satellites,” added Professor Peter Knott, institute director of Fraunhofer FHR.
The Fraunhofer FHR and HENSOLDT team is eagerly awaiting the announcement of potential customers’ intentions to award contracts. Particular attention is being paid to the German Armed Forces: “It is known that the German Bundeswehr is aiming to procure independent sensor technology for space reconnaissance,” said Peter Schlote. “Knowing full well that the German Armed Forces have high requirements, the specialists of the Space Command would be our first choice as a partner.”
“Bringing cutting-edge technology developed at Fraunhofer FHR into operational use with the Bundeswehr together with industrial partners is one of our inherent tasks,” said Professor Knott. “GESTRA plays a special role in this for us, as it is one of the largest development projects in our history in Wachtberg.”
HENSOLDT, Fraunhofer FHR and the German Space Agency have established a coordination committee to support the commercialization of the Custodian technology, which also serves as a platform for joint activities to build an international radar network.
A cooperation agreement between HENSOLDT and Fraunhofer FHR ensures that future developments of the technology can also be incorporated into the system as capability enhancements.
01 Feb 23. UK air chief eyes return to five-strong Wedgetail buy. Britain’s top airman says he wants the Royal Air Force to restore the number of airborne early warning aircraft it originally planned to acquire before the number of platforms was reduced to save money in a government defense review.
Officials reduced an order with Boeing for five E-7 Wedgetail aircraft to just three in the course of a wholesale review of British defense and foreign policy in March 2021.
But giving evidence to the parliamentary Defence Select Committee on Feb. 1, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston said he hoped to see the fleet of early warning and control aircraft returned to its required number of five over time.
A refresh of the integrated defense review is due to be published soon, following the changed security landscape after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The under-equipped British Army is expected to be the big winner in the rethink of policy and capability, but the air force is short of firepower too.
“The integrated review refresh is ongoing. The decisions are for the secretary of state. I think what we would recognize as a future fleet and an aspiration of a future fleet is five [Wedgetails],” said Wigston, who is due to stand down from his position as chief of the air staff later this year.
Responding to a question in Parliament last December, Defence Procurement Minister Alex Chalk said the original estimated acquisition cost for five E-7 Wedgetail aircraft program was £2.16 bn, or $2.67 bn The current forecast for the three aircraft program is £1.89 bn, or $2.34 bn.
Britain scrapped its last aging Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne early warning aircraft in 2021 and has been living with a capability gap awaiting the delivery of the Wedgetails.
The three Wedgetails are being converted from second-hand Boeing 737NG airliners by STS Aviation at a site in Birmingham, England.
Delivery of the first aircraft is planned for next year, but Wigston ducked questions from Committee members over exactly when the aircraft would meet its initial operational capability.
The air force chief said the change in the program from five to three aircraft still required the business case for the reduced number of airframes to get through the approval process.
“Part of that approval process is when we actually define the initial operating capability and set a date. That will happen in the next few months, so the middle of 2023,” he said.
British air crew, engineers and technicians are currently embedded with the Royal Australian Air Force training on operating Wedgetail, which should speed the delivery into service, Wigston said.
Australia was the launch customer for the Wedgetail and is currently the leading operator of the aircraft, although that will change with the U.S. Air Force also becoming a customer. (Source: News Now/Defense News)
31 Jan 23. LeoLabs unveils operational West Australian Space Radar. LeoLabs has unveiled its fully operational West Australian Space Radar site in a commissioning ceremony on 31 January.
The new radar site adds significant coverage of the Southern Hemisphere as part of the company’s planned expansion of its global space radar network of 10 independent radars across six sites.
There are plans to expand further this year and in 2024.
The ceremony was attended by LeoLabs leadership and international guests, federal and state politicians, local elders and community leaders, Australian Space Agency and Australian Defence Force members.
“Australia is now host to a landmark in the world of space safety,” LeoLabs chief executive officer Dan Ceperley said.
“At LeoLabs, we are honoured and humbled to be a part of the Australian space ecosystem and to have found so many supporters and partners in Australia.”
LeoLabs Australia supervised the assembly of the US manufactured radars as local engineering companies completed the work in eight months.
The project was originally announced in October 2021, followed by site work beginning in April last year, construction completed and operational testing in December.
The WASR site hosts two S-band active phased array radars that add critical surveillance capability for the Southern Hemisphere.
The site will allow superior tracking and monitoring of median to high inclination resident space objects, with the collaboration of the LeoLabs Kiwi Space Radar in the South Island of New Zealand.
The two radar sites will increase LeoLabs capacity to discover new objects including lethal, small debris that are currently non-trackable.
(Source: Space Connect)
27 Jan 23. UK government funds GBP8m drone surveillance programme to protect sensitive infrastructure. Anti-drone detectors are to be deployed around nuclear plants, transport hubs, oil rigs and other sensitive infrastructure across the UK to protect them from aerial terrorist attacks under a GBP8m Home Office project, says an article in The Telegraph.
The Government has quietly commissioned the counter-drone technology which will also be deployed at major public events such as the Coronation of King Charles, the Commonwealth games and Eurovision song contest, says the article
“The systems will be designed to enable police and security services to track any small or medium-sized drone and use scanning technology so they can be spotted even if they do not emit a signal. They will enable law enforcement agencies to better police no-fly zones around restricted sites such as nuclear plants, Government buildings, military bases, prisons and royal palaces as well as major national events.
“It is understood that security officials are concerned at the growing capability of drones for terrorists to inflict serious harm and physical or economic damage at strategic sites or major events. Some 1,000 flights, affecting 140,000 passengers over three days, had to be cancelled or diverted when an unauthorised drone entered Gatwick’s airspace in January 2019,” concludes the report. (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
25 Jan 23. Indian defence ministry invites proposals for mobile counter drone systems. India’s defence ministry has issued an Acceptance of Necessity (AON) for 20 vehicle-based and a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 200 man-portable drone jammers, according to a report published in The Week.
“On January 12, during the customary press conference before the Army Day celebration, Indian Army chief General Manoj Pande voiced concern about the use of drones by adversaries to ferry weapons, ammunition and explosives from across the border in Kashmir, Jammu and Punjab. “We have deployed drone jammers and spoofers in these areas. According to reports, their efficacy is good,” Gen Pande had said,” says The Week.
“The new systems being sought will be deployed on the borders—both on the Line of Control and International Border with Pakistan and along the Line of Actual Control with China. On the AON, the document says the vehicle-based drone jammer “should provide Multi Sensor based (at least two sensors) complete and comprehensive solution with regards to UAS/Drone and SWARMS. The system should be capable of UAS/Drones/SWARMS detection, tracking, designation & neutralization of swarm/ drones/ UAS approaching simultaneously from multiple directions. It should integrate all detection sensors and identify threats to provide operator with a composite air situation pictures and facilitate selection and management of responses for countering UAS/Drone, using jammer systems,” it added.
“In the RFP for 200 man-portable drone jammers, the defence ministry document says the platform should be capable of detecting and jamming all types of drones and quadcopters in field conditions. The system will consist of Radio Frequency (RF) and other requisite sensors to achieve target detection and engagement. The inputs of all sensors should be amalgamated through a C2 (Command and Control) system to facilitate the efficient operation of the system. While the detection (target acquisition and identification) range should be a minimum of 5 km, the countermeasures (jamming) should be effective from at least 2 km. The platform should be suitable for employment in a high-altitude area with extremely cold climatic conditions in the temperature range of – (minus) 10 to + (plus) 45° C.
“The specifications detailed point towards the deployment of these counter-drone systems in the Indian borders,” says the report.
For more information visit: www.theweek.in (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
23 Jan 23. Scotland’s Metahelios’ tech entrepreneurs funding will develop first long-distance camera to capture 100,000 frames per second.
The Metahelios proprietary Pol-RGB imaging technology leverages the first ultrafast SPAD camera for imaging both in color and polarization. This metasurface-enhanced sensor can operate at a maximum speed of 100,000 frames per second, all-the-while sensing both polarization and color of light, thereby dramatically boosting the information collected per pixel.
A Glasgow-based start-up, Metahelios, specializing in advanced imaging technology is hoping to send its cameras to space after securing support from the Start Up Loans program to take the business to new heights.
Launched in January 2022 by metasurface physicists, Charles Altuzarra, and Yash Shah, Metahelios has created a first-of-its-kind long-distance camera that can distinguish between different materials from a still image and could benefit a range of sectors. To prove the capabilities of the remote imaging technology, the pair are in talks with the UK Space Agency to join one of this year’s rocket launches from British soil.
Charles and Yash recently each received a £25,000 loan through the British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans program, with the support of TransmitStartups. The combined £50,000 finance will enable them to invest in manufacturing and testing prototypes, as well as growing the team.
By capturing 100,000 frames per second and using metasurfaces to manipulate light passing through a material, Metahelios’ cameras can tell the difference between objects which, to the naked eye, would otherwise appear to be exactly the same in a still image. The cameras could, for example, be used in agriculture to monitor crops remotely, by climate scientists to look at cloud formations, or by the aerospace sector to monitor any orbiting space debris.
Metasurfaces are engineered electromagnetic materials designed specifically for the way they impact radio, microwave, optical and acoustic waves and the emerging technology was identified as a priority area in the UK Government’s 2021 Innovation Strategy.
While remote sensing has been explored since the 1970s, the only devices that can currently detect different materials using imaging are large and comprise of many moving parts including rotating mirrors, which would likely not survive the turbulent journey into space. Metahelios’ new pixel metasurface-integrated technology is compact in comparison and could provide a significant boost to satellite imaging systems.
According to a report by Lux Research, the global market for metasurface technology could reach $10.7bn by 2030, with sensing accounting for $5.5bn of that figure.
Dr Charles Altuzarra, co-Founder and CEO of Metahelios, said, “It has always been a dream to be involved in a space mission and the development of this imaging technology could soon see that become a reality. We have so far conducted a range of tests in labs and on the ground, but the evidence and data that could be collected via a satellite will be invaluable for growing the business and taking our cameras to the next stage.
“Scotland’s space and satellite technology scene is booming and we have spoken to a number of companies interested in trialing our imaging technology for a range of applications. We are a small business with big ambitions to be at the forefront of the emerging market for metasurfacetechnology and the funding from the Start Up Loans program has provided a welcome boost to help us to achieve our goals.”
Metahelios is one of more than 900 businesses based in Glasgow to have received over £7.5m in funding from the Start Up Loans program since the program launched in 2012.
The entrepreneurs have plans to develop additional imaging products over the next six months and will be exploring additional sectors including healthcare, to support the early diagnosis of cancer and research into other illnesses.
Barry McCulloch, senior manager, UK Network, Scotland at the British Business Bank, commented, “The technology industry in Scotland is thriving and it is great to see ambitious start-ups like Metahelios bringing pioneering technology to the market that could transform a range of sectors. Supporting innovative entrepreneurs is a key part of strengthening the UK’s position as a science superpower and access to finance can help business owners with essential research and development activities to take their ideas to the next level.”
Charles and Yash submitted their business plan to Transmit Startups, where Senior Business Advisor Alan Tweddell supported the pair through the application process. Alan stated, “It has been fascinating to see science and entrepreneurship come together in this Scottish start-up. I really admire how Charles and Yash have combined their different areas of technical expertise to potentially change the future of imaging technologies. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to help them bring their unique cameras to market.” (Source: Satnews)
Blighter Surveillance Systems is a world-leading designer and manufacturer of best-in-class electronic-scanning ground-based radars, surveillance solutions and Counter-UAS systems. Blighter’s solid-state micro-Doppler products are deployed in more than 35 countries across the globe, delivering consistent all-weather security protection and wide area surveillance along borders, coastlines, at military bases and across critical infrastructure such as airports, oil and gas facilities and palaces. Blighter radars are also used to protect manoeuvre force missions when deployed on military land vehicles and trailers, and its world-beating multi-mode radar represents a great leap in threat detection technology and affordability for use in a variety of scenarios.
The Blighter range of radar products are used for detecting a variety of threats, from individuals on foot to land vehicles, boats, drones and low-flying aircraft at ranges of up to 32 km. Blighter Surveillance Systems employs 40 people and is located near Cambridge, UK, where it designs, produces and markets its range of unique patented solid-state radars. Blighter prides itself on being an engineer-led business committed to providing cost-effective and flexible solutions across the defence, critical infrastructure and national security markets.