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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

09 Mar 12. Watchkeeper flying through final safety hoops. The entry of the first Thales Watchkeeper system (UAS) into British Army service has been delayed again after concerns were raised by safety case officials. It had been hoped that the first Watchkeeper UAS would be deployed to Afghanistan by the end of 2011, but the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has told IHS Jane’s that it will not know until the end of this month when Watchkeeper will be able to formally enter British Army service. (Source: Jane’s, JDW)

22 Mar 12. A team of students from Middlesex University, London will take on some of the world’s top engineers after making the final of UAVForge, an international competition for unmanned air vehicles, held in the USA in May. The contest is run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (US equivalent of the MoD) and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, and sees the 12 best teams in the world battle it out at Fort Stewart military base in Georgia. The Middlesex team are flying the flag for the UK, competing against teams from countries including India, Singapore, Holland and the US in challenges that will see their unmanned flying vehicles carrying out tasks like flying for two miles, observing a target for three hours, relaying information back to base and vertical takeoff and landing. All UAVs taking part must be small enough to fit in a rucksack and capable of being operated by a single person. Middlesex University is the only team to have two UAVs through to the final after impressing a panel of expert judges, an evaluation of the vehicles manufacturability and high scoring in a public vote. And if they are successful they could scoop a US$100,000 prize and work with a manufacturer to create up to 15 systems which will shown at an exclusive DARPA operational military demonstration. Middlesex robotics expert Dr Stephen Prior led the team who created the two UAVs (called HALO and SQ-4 Recon) alongside engineering students Mehmet Ali Erbil, Mantas Brazinskas, Witold Mielniczek and Siddharth Odedra.

22 Mar 12. A team at nearby Webster Field Annex is working briskly to support an urgent Navy request to weaponize the MQ-8B Fire Scout, marking the first time the Navy will arm an unmanned aircraft. The Fire Scout team and NAVAIR’s structures rotary-wing division personnel conducted the first of a series of tests March 7 on the newly installed hardware, which will gauge how the system will operate in the shipboard environment.
“This is the very first weaponization program on this aircraft,” said Jeremy Moore, Fire Scout weapons system integration lead. Part of the Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC) acquisition process, “it was identified by the fleet as an urgent need for joint forces, so we are pressing forward as hard as we can to get it out there.”
The Navy plans to arm the MQ-8B Fire Scout with a laser-guided rocket, the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), in just 18 months. Typically, this type of development would take two to three years at a minimum, Moore said. Arming the Fire Scout with a guided rocket will enable the fleet to engage hostile threats with the Fire Scout independent of air support from carrier or shore-based aircraft. This capability will keep the warfighter out of harm’s way, Moore said. (Source: ASD Network)

12 Mar 12. HoverMast promises extended surveillance capability for vehicles. Israel’s Sky Sapience has developed a tethered, hovering unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can be launched from a vehicle. The system is known as HoverMast and can hover in one place for extended periods and land without additional recovery systems, using a central fan for lift and four additional thrusters for stabilisation and manoeuvring. The system comes with the four thrusters folded in an 80 cm-diameter container that can be fitted onto the roof of a vehicle of opportunity. (Source: Jane’s, IDR)

20 Mar 12. Watchkeeper: Further Delays. The Defence Equipment

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