Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
19 Oct 18. Microwave Beams Could Power UAS. Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are developing technology that could see the drones powered by microwave beams from the ground, opening up the possibility of continuous flight. Existing wireless power transfer (WPT) systems require very close proximity, such as the charging pads used for smartphones and electric cars, based on electromagnetic induction. Instead, in an EPSRC-funded project, which also involves Qinetiq, the researchers are developing RF-DC technology to wirelessly transfer up to 200W over distances of around 25m, according to Dr Neil Buchanan, the project leader. As part of the project, the researchers will be developing new wireless power transmitters and receivers, said Buchanan.
“We will be trying to send microwaves in the same way you would send a laser beam, so it needs to be focused into a fine beam,” he said. “Current technology doesn’t do that terribly well, the beam tends to be too broad.”
For the transmitter, the researchers are investigating the use of a retrodirective antenna that can automatically direct a microwave beam towards a target.
“It is an antenna that is specially designed to send energy in one particular direction, towards the target,” said Buchanan. “It has been developed for applications like satellite communication, and it’s something that we feel is transferable to wireless power.”
Small, arbitrarily spaced transmitter sub-arrays will be used to enhance the efficiency of the WPT system.
Aerospace engineers at Queen’s will be tasked with ensuring the drones are still able to fly, when equipped with a wireless power receiver. At the end of the project, the team plan to carry out a laboratory demonstration of high efficiency microwave WPT, as well as a vertical take-off and landing, continuous flight by a drone powered by the wireless system. As well as powering drones, the technology could potentially be scaled up to larger aircraft, among other applications, according to Norbert Sagnard, business development manager at the Centre for Wireless Innovation at Queen’s University Belfast. (Source: UAS VISION/The Engineer)
18 Oct 18. World Premiere of Drone Rescue Parachutes at Intergeo. The Austrian provider of parachute rescue systems for unmanned aircraft will present the systems DRS-5 and DRS-10 to the professional public for the first time at the Intergeo in Frankfurt am Main. After completion of the last flight tests for the DRS-5 in late Summer 2018, the first systems will be delivered to end customers in Winter 2018.
The parachute rescue system DRS-5 is designed for multicopters with a total weight of up to 8 kg. The system consists of a carbon cage in which the parachute is stored, as well as the associated electronics. These electronics, including the sensors, monitor the flight status of a drone, independent of the flight controller. A sophisticated algorithm merges this sensor data, through which an automatic crash detection can be realized. Therefore, in an emergency the pilot no longer needs to react and press an eject button. Often, this is technically no longer possible anyway, e.g. with a failure of the radio link. Furthermore, the algorithm reacts faster than the pilot, i.e. the system ejects the parachute itself. All flight data and movements are recorded in a Black Box. In an emergency these can be read out at the request of the customer and made available to insurance companies or authorities.
“Our goal is to ensure, that even in an emergency Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) the drone can be safely intercepted. With our parachute system that is always possible, due to the electronics that are completely separate and independent of the flight controller. In addition, our system has the advantage, that it manages completely without explosive, pyrotechnical solutions. Consequently we have a system that is considerably lighter, and functions even in a worst case scenario”, elaborated Andreas Ploier, CEO and co-founder of Drone Rescue Systems GmbH.
The reliability of the system has been verified in extensive tests by Joanneum Aeronautics in Graz. In the framework of the tests 100 flights were conducted, during which the parachute system was ejected. Half of the flights were conducted with a DJI F550 weighing 1.6 kg. The rest of the tests were performed with the 3.8 kg Vulture, which was developed by the FH Joanneum. In both cases the DRS-5 was attached to the side of the main body of the drone. In each of the tests the parachute was ejected at a height of 30 m. Every test was documented. Furthermore, the data were saved both in the flight controller as well as in the DRS-5 sensor system. After every 10th test the parachute system was subjected to a visual examination and checked for possible damage or wear.
“After conclusion of the tests it can be recorded, that all 100 flights were successfully completed”, rejoiced Ploier. “In every test the multicopter landed safely. Thereby, the kinetic energy was significantly below the limit of 79 J. Therefore all requirements specified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) were observed”, elaborated Ploier.
Besides the DRS-5, the structurally identical parachute system DRS-10, which is designed for multicopters with a total weight between 5 and 20 kg, will also be presented at the Intergeo 2018. “Das DRS-10 system functions exactly the same as the DRS-5 and falls back on the same components. These are constructed identically, just oriented for a higher payload. The functioning method of both parachute systems is identical”, stated Ploier. (Source: UAS VISION)
18 Oct 18. Enhanced Trinity F9 eVTOL UAV on Display. Quantum-Systems GmbH, a German-based eVTOL fixed-wing UAV company founded in 2015 and currently present at the market with its Trinity and TRON UAV systems, just announced the enhanced version of the Trinity – the Trinity F9. With the PPK module leading the way in the newly announced enhancements, the user now enjoys more accuracy, reliability and flight safety when choosing a Quantum-Systems Trinity F9. Comprehensive and state-of-the-art features are available on both sides, hardware and software. (Source: UAS VISION)
16 Oct 18. Is the new US drone base in Niger worth the cost? For decades, large parts of Africa have been home to local radicals and militants. But these local radicals do not present a direct threat to U.S. national security — so does their mere existence justify the construction of a new drone base that has a price tag of $100m? The cost of operating the facility, located in the middle of the Sahara desert in Agadez, Niger, is estimated at $30m a year. By the end of the 10-year agreement for the use of the site in 2024, named Nigerien Air Base 201, the U.S. will have spent around $280m.
That is $280m of U.S. taxpayer money that could be spent on domestic infrastructure, border security and more. Before signing the checks, there should be an open discussion and debate in Congress on the necessity of this facility, or the need for such direct U.S. involvement in the security of Niger and neighboring countries in the Sahel — the dry strip of land at the southern edge of the Sahara notorious for harboring militants in poorly governed spaces.
In addition to the base at Agadez, which is run by the U.S. military, the CIA maintains a drone base at Dirkou, in northeastern Niger, close to Libya, though it is not clear to defense analysts why two U.S. bases are needed in such close proximity. Niger’s own interior minister does not seem to know what exactly the U.S. drones in his country are doing.
Secret US base in Somalia is getting some ‘emergency runway repairs’
The new runway repairs appear to be stepping up the capabilities of the airfield at Camp Baledogle, and could be the harbinger of an expanding U.S. foot print in Somalia. U.S. involvement in Niger and neighboring Mali dates to 2013, when parts of northern Mali were briefly overrun by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other Islamist militants after hijacking a local ethnic Tuareg rebellion and acquiring weapons from Libya after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, an event precipitated by poor U.S. strategy.
While the militants of northern and western Africa are undoubtedly dangerous, they are not a direct threat to the United States and seek to establish a local regime, hence their focus on the Maghreb (northwest Africa).
Yet the American presence in the region endured and deepened, with around 800 U.S. Army Green Berets working in Niger by 2017 training Nigerien troops and with the construction of Air Base 201. Inevitably, U.S. forces got drawn into skirmishes between the Nigerien government and local militants, and so became targets in their own right. This was made manifestly clear last October when U.S. special forces were ambushed in Tongo Tongo, Niger, leading to the deaths of four U.S. soldiers.
In a recreation released by the Pentagon, see the October 2017 ambush in Niger that left four Green Berets dead.
Yet, instead of sparking a thorough debate over the presence of U.S. soldiers in Africa, the Tongo Tongo debacle seems to have become a rationalization for an ever-greater American footprint in Niger.
American military power does not need to be used to combat every militant, terrorist and radical in every corner of the world, and should be reserved against only those extremists who are actively planning attacks against the United States and its core allies. By inserting itself into Niger and other poorly governed spaces in Africa, the United States is inviting attacks against its soldiers by making local problems our problems, a formula for perpetual war in all corners of the globe. We are furthermore incentivizing poor governments to persist in failed policies and lackluster governance because they can outsource their security operations to our military.
In Niger and the rest of the Sahel, France — our ally and partner — is already taking the initiative. Much of the Sahel was previously colonized by France, so it continues to have strong ties with Niger as well as neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali. It is therefore in a better position politically and diplomatically to conduct successful operations in that part of Africa because it can use its influence with its African partners to nudge them toward viable settlements with local actors.
The United States does not need to meddle in every part of the world that faces a lack of security, especially if we can count on our friends. Moreover, by getting involved in local fights against radicals — most of which can be dealt with by regional powers — we often go looking for trouble. American interests are better served by a more hands-off approach to Niger and the Sahel. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
16 Oct 18. Will drone bases in the near future be staffed by robots? If there is a poster child for light-footprint counterinsurgency, it’s the MQ-9 Reaper. Flying over vast swaths of territory and launching missiles at small bands of suspected fighters, Reapers require relatively little on-the-ground support compared to what that same coverage would have required decades ago. Little support is not no support, however, and even drone bases take hundreds of people to run, support, and maintain. It’s likely impossible to reduce the human presence at an airbase to zero, but a pair of technologies suggest a way that drone bases could drastically shrink their labor needs.
Consider the SEFIAM 1602, built by Turgis et Gaillard Industrie and displayed at the Aero Defense Support Show in Bordeaux in September. The wedge-shaped ammunition loader is electrically powered, which is neat, but far more importantly, it’s an optionally crewed vehicle. While the SEFIAM 1602 is built for a narrow purpose, loading ammunition onto Rafale jets, the concept is promising for a range of aircraft, none more than drones. Removing even some humans from the reloading process is good, and could lead to a future of robots resupplying robots.
Another way to remove people from drone-centric airbases is automatic takeoff and landing. In January 2018 Reaper-maker General Atomics demonstrated the Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability for the drone. Using a satellite link, the drone taxied, took off, and landed under the control of a remotely situated human crew. As suggested in advance of the demonstration, this process removes the need for pilots and sensor operators physically located at the in-theater airbase to control the drone and then hand it off to the stateside crew that manages the drone for the majority of its flight time. For the future, these technologies could mean drone bases, like those in Niger, could cut back on how many people they need to operate, reducing the human footprint of counterinsurgency by gradually increasing the reliance on remote and robotic controls. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
16 Oct 18. Drone Rescue Presents Intelligent Parachute Rescue System for DJI M600. Drone Rescue Systems GmbH from Austria will present the parachute system DRS-10 for the first time at the Intergeo 2018. Based on this product, especially for the DJI Matrice 600 (M600) the parachute system DRS-M600 was developed, that has been coordinated purely to this flight system. The parachute system DRS-10 is designed for multicopters with a total weight of 5 to 20kg and is therefore well suited for adaption to the DJI M 600. This multicopter model is employed in the field of professional aerial photography and for industrial applications.
“The M600 is the workhorse of the drone fleet for many service providers. Many different cameras and gimbals are compatible and fully integrable, which makes the M600 very versatile. For this reason it is all the more important, that the aircraft as well as the payload are protected from crashes”, explained Andreas Ploier, CEO and co-founder of Drone Rescue Systems GmbH.
Besides the carbon cage, in which the parachute is stored, the rescue systems of Drone Rescue consist of intelligent electronics, which monitor the flight status independent of the flight controller. A sophisticated algorithm merges the sensor data, through which an automatic crash detection is realized. Therefore, in an emergency the pilot no longer needs to react and press an eject button, as this is often not possible anyway, for example with a failure of the radio link. Furthermore, the algorithm reacts faster than the pilot, i.e. the system ejects the parachute itself. All flight data and movements are recorded in a Black Box. In an emergency these can be read out and made available to insurance companies or authorities.
“Our goal is to ensure, that even in an emergency Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) the drone can be safely intercepted. With our parachute system that is always possible, due to the electronics that are completely separate and independent of the flight controller. In addition, our system has the advantage, that it manages completely without explosive, pyrotechnical solutions. Consequently we have a system that is considerably lighter, and functions even in a worst case scenario”, elaborated Ploier. (Source: UAS VISION)
16 Oct 18. Orbital UAV announces extension of long-term agreement worth $120m+. Perth-based Orbital UAV has announced the expansion of its long term agreement (LTA) with Insitu, a wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing.
The expanded agreement has a potential value between $120m and $350m over a period of five years, with the full value dependent on confidential Insitu customer contracts and the volumes identified therein.
Todd Alder, CEO and managing director of Orbital UAV, said, “The increased scope and scale of work within the agreement demonstrates Orbital UAV’s ability to meet the growing requirements of the rapidly evolving unmanned aircraft system (UAS) market and represents a key milestone in the company’s strategy to deliver sustainable growth.”
The expanded LTA covers the delivery of multiple propulsion systems and services that will be applied across Insitu’s entire range of UAS platforms, including:
- The assembly, supply and overhaul of three highly configurable propulsion systems, forming Orbital UAV’s Modular Propulsion Solution; and
- The assembly, supply and overhaul of two Insitu designed engines – built and serviced from Orbital UAV’s new operational facility in Hood River, Oregon, US.
The agreement builds on Orbital UAV’s existing partnership with Insitu and increases the scope, scale and term of work outlined in the original LTA, signed in December 2016.
“Orbital UAV’s Modular Propulsion Solution offers the customer improved production lead times, greater volume flexibility, tailored performance applications and guaranteed quality across the range due to the core common components that form the basis of the modularised approach,” Alder said.
Orbital UAV is currently working closely with Insitu during the development phase, with delivery of the first units under the expanded LTA due in Q1 2019. Not only does the LTA cover the delivery of Orbital UAV’s revolutionary Modular Propulsion Solution, it also recognises the win of two additional multi-source awards for the manufacture and assembly of Insitu designed engines.
The two Insitu in-house designed engines, for use in its Integrator and ScanEagle aircrafts, will be assembled, tested and shipped to Insitu from Orbital UAV’s purpose built US facility. The significantly increased product and service offering to Insitu, outlined in the LTA, recognises the continued growth of the tactical unmanned aerial vehicle market and Orbital UAV’s ability to keep pace with that growing demand. (Source: Defence Connect)
15 Oct 18. Antonov to Develop Attack RPAS to NATO Standards. Antonov State Enterprise (Kyiv) is working on a project on the creation of the strategic attack remotely piloted air system meeting NATO standards as part of defense cooperation. Director of the attack remotely piloted air system program at Antonov Mykola Vorobiov said on October 10 at the sixth International Scientific Conference entitled “Challenges of coordination of military technical and defense industry policies in Ukraine” as part of the 15th international specialized exhibition Arms and Security 2018 held in Kyiv on October 9 through October 12 that the issue of remotely piloted air systems is one of the priority issues of the enterprise in the new conditions of research and advanced development.
Vorobiov said that along with the Horlytsia multipurpose tactical unmanned aerial system being created by Antonov under its initiative as part of Ukrainian defense industrial cooperation, today the enterprise is working on the creation of a strategic attack remotely piloted air system with a maximum take-off weight capacity of 6 tonnes.
“This is a very serious complex, it’s not possible for Ukraine to make it alone,” the program director said, adding: “This is possible in the option of defense cooperation with a foreign customer… with a portfolio of orders. We are working together with Ukrspecexport in this direction.”
“It is very important that this complex is created meeting the NATO standard STANAG4671 and will be able to fly in civil airspace,” he said.
Vorobiov said that according to the conditions of the cooperation being worked out, the creation of the platform and the engines is provided by the Ukrainian side, the foreign partner is responsible for the supply of the equipment. Today, equipment for the system has already been agreed with the foreign partner, he said.
Photo: The initial flight test of the Antonov’s prototype strike drone “Horlytsya” takes stage at the Hostomel Airport on Nov. 8, 2017 – Volodymyr Petrov. (Source: UAS VISION/KyivPost)
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