Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
02 Aug 18. GE Aviation Signs Agreement For Future Systems Studies With Kookmin University. GE Aviation and Kookmin University, Seoul, Korea have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to study various future systems, procedures and possible uses for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
“This collaboration builds upon our experience with Kookmin University in Aviation and recent indigenous new UAV testing in South Korea,” said Alan Caslavka, president of Avionics Systems for GE Aviation. “Our ongoing work with Kookmin will help validate various technologies as we work globally to accelerate safe unmanned air systems.”
Kookmin University established the Defense UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Research & Development Center in April 2018 and will bring resources to obtain defense projects and develop business proposals. This will be combined with GE Aviation’s expertise in aviation, unmanned systems and avionics systems.
“As one of the top universities in Korea, Kookmin University is leading the recent innovations in technologies including autonomous vehicle, information security & cryptology, sensors, 3D printing, and software. Collaboration with GE Aviation will help us further the leadership and extend the leadership to the area of unmanned air systems,” said Dr. Ji Soo Yu, president of Kookmin University. (Source: UAS VISION)
01 Aug 18. Global UAV Flies Drone Using 4G Cellular Network. Global UAV Technologies Ltd., a vertically integrated drone technology company, has announced that its research & development (“R&D”), engineering and manufacturing division; NOVAerial Robotics Inc. (“NOVAerial”) has successfully test flown a UAV (an “Unmanned Aviation Vehicle”) using the 4G cellular network for command and control as well as flight data telemetry feedback. The test flights included multiple takeoffs and landings as well as the execution of an autonomous flight plan with one of NOVAerial’s internal research and development multicopter UAV platforms. The ability to operate a drone utilising a 4G cellular network is aimed at bringing a more robust command and control and datalink telemetry link to the operational personnel and pilot on the ground. Real-time control link and data transfer capabilities offered by existing cellular networks will greatly enhance the overall effectiveness of a UAV’s operation. This technology allows for a pilot at an operations center to launch, fly, and land a UAV anywhere in the world with cellular network coverage, or in an urban setting where structures may obstruct radio communications. NOVAerial will continue the development of proprietary technology with the end goal of commercializing cellular network control as an integration option for NOVAerial UAV’s.
“We are excited to reveal one of the many R&D projects presently ongoing at NOVAerial. The ability to fly drones on the back of the existing cellular network is a large step forward for both consumer and commercial drone applications world wide. Currently, UAV’s fly utilising a direct radio link with the pilot ground station. Using the cellular network as a high bandwidth datalink will provide increased operational range for many applications such as drone surveillance, delivery, search and rescue and emergency response flights in both urban and rural areas. This technology opens the door to a range of new drone applications that have not been possible until now,” stated Michael Burns, CEO and Director of Global UAV Technologies Ltd. (Source: UAS VISION)
31 Jul 18. IAI, DOK-ING to develop autonomous robotic system. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has signed a collaboration agreement with DOK-ING for manufacturing, marketing and sales of a robotic system to be used in high risk areas, IAI announced on 26 July. The system developed under the collaboration will be used in high risk areas including ones contaminated by chemical, biological and radioactive agents. Under the agreement, DOK-ING will provide the platform developed especially to sustain the extreme working environment including strong navigability and transportability in complex terrains. IAI will provide advanced robotic capabilities, algorithms for autonomous movement, broadband communication systems and C2 systems. Special sensors for detecting and classifying contaminants will also be fitted in the system including for radioactive radiation.
Joseph Weiss, CEO, IAI, said: ‘IAI entered the agreement with DOK-ING as part of our strategy to maintain our domestic and global leadership in autonomous systems. Combined with DOK-ING’s engineering and technological capabilities, we will create a technologically and operationally advanced solution that will provide the high quality response required for hazardous environments without risking human lives.’ (Source: Shephard)
31 Jul 18. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) is proud to announce the completion of the fourth wind tunnel test of its MQ-25 design. MQ-25 is the U.S. Navy’s program to develop an unmanned refueling tanker that provides exceptional fuel give and more than doubles the strike range of the Carrier Air Wing. During this most recent low-speed wind tunnel test, the performance of the high-lift system and spoiler-based direct lift control (DLC) were verified in the presence of a heavily instrumented flow-through duct. The results were consistent with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) predictions and further verified the aircraft’s ability to execute launch, recovery, waveoff, and bolter maneuvers on an aircraft carrier.
“The wind tunnel testing helps us to accurately predict the aircraft’s suitability for carrier operations,” said David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “The test results allow us to verify the aerodynamic characteristics of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). These tests are critical to the validation of the system’s ‘up and away’ mission performance and will subsequently lower technical performance risk for the Navy customer.”
Previously, GA-ASI also carried out a high-speed test at NASA Ames’ 11-foot transonic wind tunnel. Results from that test established the aerodynamic characteristics that are needed to verify the mission performance of the vehicle. Additional tests are planned during the EMD phase, such as flowing inlet, powered exhaust, and ice shape tests to further validate the aerodynamic design characteristics. EMD wind tunnel tests will conclude with a special high-speed test to focus on the safe separation of the Aerial Refueling Store and external fuel tank.
“Completing these low speed and transonic wind tunnel tests further supports GA-ASI’s design verification and validates our long lead manufacturing activities,” Alexander said. “This will help GA-ASI to meet the Navy’s aggressive MQ-25 development schedule.”
30 Jul 18. RQ-7B Shadow makes its last flight in the Corps. A small surveillance drone known as the RQ-7B Shadow made its last flight with the Corps on Sunday at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, according to Corps officials. The RQ-7Bs last flight with the Corps took place during the culminating event for the world’s largest maritime exercise known as the Rim of the Pacific.
“Transitioning from the Shadow is a major milestone,” Maj. Clayton Holland, executive officer for VMU-3, said in a command release. “We have certainly put this aircraft to work, and learned a great deal from it. This is a historic moment for the squadron, UAS community and Marine aviation as a whole.”
The tactical drone has been in the Corps’ arsenal for nearly ten years racking up 39,000 hours of flight hours over 11 deployments. And the unmanned vehicle has supported Marines in Helmand, Afghanistan surveilling Taliban movements across the rural farmland to spotting ISIS militants in support of U.S. forces in Iraq. The RQ-7B was also used to track ISIS militants in the Philippines. The first two Marine unmanned aircraft operators to earn the “R” device piloted the small surveillance drone in support of combat operations in the Philippines. The two pilots helped track targets and direct fires in support of allies battling ISIS militants in the region. The Philippine city of Marawi was by liberated in October by the Philippine military in a bloody five-month intense urban battle. But the Corps is in the midst of a changeover to the RQ-21 Blackjack, another surveillance drone that boasts the added capability of being launched from ships at sea. The Corps plans to equip the RQ-21 with the Intrepid Tiger II counter radar capability payload, which would provide electronic warfare support to Marines downrange. The Marines have invested heavily in drone technology over the past several years. On the Corps’ wish list is swarming suicide drones controlled by a single operator. Tests are currently underway where a Marine has already successfully operated six drones at one time. And a popular program pushed by the top Marine known as “Quads for Squads” has seen hundreds of small Instant Eye quadcopters pushed to rifle squads across the Corps.
Lacking from the Corps’ emerging unmanned aircraft capability is a large group five drone. But the Corps is working on plugging that gap with its futuristic MUX drone. The Corps wants its large high-tech drone capable of landing on amphibious ships, electronic attack, and equipped with an airborne early warning system. The drone is still in the early stages of development as the Corps hosted its first industry day with potential builders in June.
“We have employed this aircraft [RQ-7B Shadow] to the maximum extent of its capabilities in combat, with great effect. As we look to the future, we intend to do the same with the Blackjack, and leverage the expeditionary nature of the system to provide support anywhere in the world,” Lt. Col. Peter Ban, commanding officer for VMU-3, said in a command release. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
30 Jul 18. DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy program tests the scouting software of tomorrow’s wars. Every map is an outdated map. Buildings change, people relocate, and what was accurate a decade ago may mean nothing to someone on patrol today. Which is one reason the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is pursuing Fast Lightweight Autonomy, a program designed to teach drones to effortlessly scout and map unfamiliar locations, without the help of GPS or external guidance tools, so that the military can rely on the freshest scouting information possible. For Phase II of the program, DARPA split the task into three parts. One team worked on better flight outdoors in a natural environment at full speed. Another team pursued drone flight in an urban environment, with the drone building a semantic map of the cars and buildings it encountered, while a third team focused on navigating indoors. Taken together, the teams are demonstrating in part the way robots can do what humans do when in unfamiliar terrain, but then speed it up and transmit that information back to humans following behind.
First and foremost are the military applications. If DARPA’s program results in workable code and sensors, future missions equipped with quadcopters could let the robots scout a contested area before putting any humans at risk. And that area could include dense woods, civilian-lined streets in an area that’s seen some insurgent action, or even shelled-out buildings that may be hiding snipers or other traps. The robot explores and informs, and then the humans can follow afterwards, with fresh information loaded onto their tablets and guiding their movements. There are applications for the technology beyond a shooting war. Rescue workers could use drones based on this software to see if a damaged building is safe enough to send rescuers into, or to see if there are even people alive inside who might need rescuing. Drones that can fly quickly through forests could seek out lost hikers, shifting the human energy from search to rescue.
Some of this, notes FLA program manager Jean-Charles Ledé, could be done at present by skilled human pilots, the kind that race drones with first-person view goggles. But, says Ledé, “We don’t want to deploy a world-class FPV racer with every search and rescue team.”
Drones that can navigate by software alone reduce the skill needed to manage the flying robots. In a pinch, the algorithm is a substitute for expertise, and far more scalable a solution. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
30 Jul 18. DARPA Picks Silent Falcon for Power Beaming Demo. Silent Falcon UAS Technologies solar electric, fixed wing, long endurance, long range Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) has been selected by DARPA as the unmanned aircraft system for its Stand-off. Ubiquitous Power/Energy Replenishment – Power BeamingDemo (SUPER PBD).
SUPER PBD is an innovative project designed to prove the feasibility of recharging an electric powered UAS while in flight using a laser light source, allowing for indefinitely long flight times by using concatenated “Fly” and “Fly & Charge” cycles removing the need to land to refuel. The Silent Falcon UAS is uniquely suited for this important project as it is a proven solar electric powered system and the addition of the SUPER PBD capabilities builds on the established Silent Falcon™ solar electric technology. This is another important milestone for Silent Falcon™ as it continues to increase the deployment of its Silent Falcon™ UAS in a wide variety of commercial, public safety and military applications. Other partners in the SUPER PBD project include Optonicus LLC (http://www.optonicus.com/), SolAero Technologies Corporation (https://solaerotech.com/solaerotech/) and Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. (http://www.ascentsolar.com/).
“We believe that this project will demonstrate that remote electric refueling of DoD systems via high energy laser power beaming to extend mission operation time in contested and remote environments can be delivered to the war fighter in the near future”, said the project’s DARPA lead, Joseph A. Abate PhD.
“We are extremely fortunate to partner with DARPA in this first of its kind demonstration of new and innovative UAS technologies. The SUPER BPD project will set the stage for future applications of the power beaming capabilities and further demonstrates the versatility of the technology embedded in the Silent Falcon, the only solar electric, long range, long endurance UAS”, said John W. Brown, Silent Falcon™ UAS Chairman. (Source: UAS VISION)
28 Jul 18. Congress looks to gut funding for the Corps’ futuristic sea drone. In the latest version of the annual defense legislation Congress has gutted nearly $14m for the Corps’ futuristic expeditionary sea drone known as the MUX. The original funding request was $25,291,000, but the approved funds are only $11,291,000, that’s more than a 50 percent slash. But the steep cuts pale in comparison to the $100m Senators originally approved in their mark-up of the Senate version of the annual defense authorization bill in late June. House members argued in a report there were a number of capabilities and platforms across the services that could “likely mitigate” the Corps’ identified shortfalls.
“The committee believes the Marine Corps underestimates the required communications, data link, launch, mission execution and recovery infrastructure, or the human capital resources required to train, operate, maintain and sustain such a system,” the House Armed Services Committee, or HASC, said in a report that followed their version of the defense bill in May.
“The Marine Corps also underestimates the necessary human capital resources required to meet current deployment-to-dwell policy and guidance issued by the Secretary of Defense,” the report added.
The HASC also called for a report from chairman of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council by February 2019 on how existing capabilities across the services can plug the Corps’ perceived gaps.
The committee also directs the Secretary of the Navy to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services, not later than February 5, 2019, that explains the acquisition and funding strategy of the Marine Corps to affordably develop and field an unmanned capability of this nature, and then personnel, funding, infrastructure, and mission-execution resources that would be needed to viably sustain and support this capability, the report reads. The Corps is amid plans to develop a futuristic group five drone capable of landing on amphibious ships at sea. The Corps wants its high-tech platform to conduct electronic and kinetic strikes and come with an early airborne warning capability. The airborne warning feature will afford Marine Expeditionary units the ability to operate independent of aircraft carriers. Carriers deploy the E2D Hawkeye for early airborne warning. The MUX will also have long-range networking capabilities allowing the drone to patch into and cue weapon systems from other ships and aircraft. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Marine Times)
27 Jul 18. China’s AVIC reveals solar-electric UAV development. The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is pursuing a solar-electric, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) development programme called Qi Mingxing (Venus), Chinese aviation news portal CAN News reported in late July. According to the report, AVIC’s First Aircraft Institute has partnered with carbon fibre and composites manufacturer Jiangsu Hengshen to complete assembly of a prototype with a 20m wingspan. The prototype is understood to have entered production at the end of 2017 and to have been completed on 15 July. It also reportedly features a composite structure with all-weather flight capability, with the main wing structure having a chord length of 1.1m and a weight of 18.9kg. The company is expected to begin ground-based electrical and mechanical testing in anticipation of its maiden flight. Official details of the Venus development remain unknown, although a conceptual model of the envisioned final product – an air vehicle with a wingspan of 50m and an overall fuselage length of 21m – was shown at Airshow China 2016. An AVIC spokesperson told Jane’s then that the company was committed to pursuing its development. The concept shown at Airshow China 2016 depicted an airframe with a main fuselage pod that supports a shoulder-mounted wing and a cruciform tail assembly. According to company-supplied specifications, the air vehicle will be propelled by four electric tractor motors that draw power from fuel cells that are recharged via solar cells covering the upper section of the entire fuselage and wing, providing a projected cruising speed of 100–125 km/h and endurance of more than 30 days. Besides AVIC, the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA) – a subsidiary of defence prime China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) – is also pursuing an unmanned solar-electric platform under the development name of the Cai Hong (CH) Solar UAV. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
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