Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
22 Nov 18. InstantEye Robotics delivers SUASs to US Marines. The US Marine Corps (USMC) has acquired 32 InstantEye Mk-3 GEN5-D1 small unmanned aerial systems (SUASs), including a total of 64 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), from InstantEye Robotics: a division of Physical Sciences Inc based in Andover, Massachusetts. An InstantEye spokesman confirmed to Jane’s on 21 November that the delivery is complete, but declined to discuss the value of the contract. The contract was made via the US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in support of PMA-263: the US Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office. The Mk-3 GEN5-D1 UAV weighs less than 9 oz (255 g), has a maximum payload weight of 1 oz (28.35 g), a video range of up to 1.5 km, and an endurance of more than 15 minutes. The system requires only one operator, can be deployed from stowed in around a minute, and comes with integrated gimballed electro-optical and infrared cameras. Each SUAS includes two aircraft, one tactical sensor controller, one tablet for video display, a transport case, batteries, a battery charger, and spare parts. The base system of the Mk-3 GEN5-D1 weighs around 400g. The USMC is no stranger to InstantEye systems as it has already purchased 800 Mk-2 GEN3-A0 systems, also via PMA-263, according to a 2 June company press release. A company spokesperson told Jane’s on 9 October that this sale came on top of another contract for “over 150 systems”. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
21 Nov 18. The Winged Drone That Flies Like an Insect. Researchers in the Netherlands have developed a flying drone after studying the flight behaviour of insects. The DelFly Nimble weighs just 29 grams and measures 33 centimetres in wingspan. Its four flapping wings beat 17 times per second. Designer Matej Karasek explains ‘there are two tiny motors and each of them operates one wing pair.’
Its flight is intended to mimic that of winged insects and researchers hope its development will give a better understanding of how insects fly.
Professor Guido de Croon of Micro Air Vehicle Laboratory said ‘it’s so lightweight and safe that it would be really good to have this flying in an environment even around people or above people.’ He thinks the flying drones could be used to monitor stock in warehouses.
Biologists at the Netherlands’ Wageningen University collaborated in the development of DelFly Nimble. A team of experimental zoology researchers are studying flying insects’ complex wing motion patterns and aerodynamics. (Source: UAS VISION/The Telegraph)
20 Nov 18. Japan signs for three Global Hawk UAVs. Japan has signed for three Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), with a USD489.9m contract awarded to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) on 19 November. The US Department of Defense (DoD) contract for the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) covers three Block 30i (international) variants of the Global Hawk fitted with an enhanced integrated sensor suite payload, two ground control elements, spares and support equipment, and programme services. While the contract notification does not specify the nature of the mission equipment to be supplied, the original November 2015 US Defense and Security Agency (DSCA) approval notification for the deal notes each aircraft will be fitted with the Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite (EISS). Developed by Raytheon, the EISS comprises an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, synthetic aperture radar imagery, and ground moving target indicator elements.
“The proposed sale of the RQ-4 will significantly enhance Japan’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and help ensure that Japan is able to continue to monitor and deter regional threats,” the DSCA said in 2015. As noted by the agency, the total value of Japan’s Global Hawk programme is estimated to be USD1.2bn. The Global Hawks are to be delivered by 1 September 2022. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Nov 18. Europe’s First Hydrogen Powered Drone. SKYCORP has officially launched Europe’s first hydrogen powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – the e-Drone Zero is a long endurance quadcopter with a compact package, managed by an advanced Artificial Intelligence-powered drone operating system. It is fine-tuned to pioneer Intelligent Productivity, advanced security and the newest available technologies. As a result of a SKYCORP partner company seeking to extend the flight-time of a small commercial drone by over three times that of traditional Lithium-ion Polymer batteries, hydrogen fuel cells were selected as an alternative power source. In addition to greatly improved flight-time, the use of hydrogen fuel cells as the drone power source provides less downtime due to quick refuelling and increased payload capabilities.
The aim became to maximise productivity, capabilities, security and safety features of the product. with the highly automated AI operating system capable of running complex operations while advanced security is provided via NATO validated military level encryption. Additional safety features include computer vision assisted obstacle avoidance and various failure management features.
Marek Alliksoo, CEO at SKYCORP, said: “It’s great to be going to the limits of current drone capabilities to see how far you can push, all you need is a great team, fantastic partners who’ve been doing the same in their respective fields and then putting it all together. Although this is still just a first step in enabling some of the dreams of what the future could hold.“
Applications for the e-Drone Zero range from Surveillance & Security to demanding Survey, Mapping and Inspection tasks in a wide range of environments, however SKYCORP expects to see the scope of use widened as the number of customers increases.
Marek Alliksoo added: “We’ve already started working with one of the most innovative Mobile Mapping companies around to test the advantages of combining car and drone based results on their platform. Considering what they have in store for the future of Smart Cities it would be fantastic to be able to help out.“ (Source: UAS VISION)
21 Nov 18. China’s Beihang UAS readies BZK-005E long-range reconnaissance UAV for export. The Beijing-based Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Technology is now seeking the first international order for its export-specific BZK-005E multirole medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV), following the successful grant of an export licence for the air vehicle earlier in September.
The BZK-005E is a modernised derivative of the indigenously developed BZK-005 platform – also known as the Changying (Long Eagle) – in widespread use across the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air, land, and sea services for long-range reconnaissance and electronic intelligence (ELINT) missions, made its public debut at the latest iteration of Airshow China in Zhuhai from 6–11 November.
According to company specifications, the BZK-005E has maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1,500 kg, with a length and wingspan of 10.05 m and 18 m respectively. Powered by a rear-mounted piston engine that drives a three-bladed pusher-propeller, the air vehicle can achieve a stated maximum level flight speed of 210 km/h although it typically cruises at 130–180 km/h up to its flight ceiling of 7,500 m (24,606 ft). Operational radius is understood to be in excess of 2,000 km when employing satellite communication datalinks.
Beihang UAS is quoting a flight endurance of 40 hours when the BZK-005E is in its reconnaissance configuration with a chin-mounted electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) ball turret, although the air vehicle features a 370 kg payload capacity that enables it to be reconfigured for other mission types, including all-weather intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) with a chin-mounted synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system and a ventral EO/IR turret, ELINT, and communications relay.
The airframe of the BZK-005E is constructed from carbon fibre composite material, comprising a main fuselage nacelle that incorporates a dorsal satellite communications antenna fairing and side chines, swept back mid-mounted wings – featuring inset control and lift surfaces – that support twin tailbooms emanating from the trailing edges of structural pod fairings attached to the lower surface of the wings. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Nov 18. US Navy Wants to License Tube-Launched Drone. Civilian contractors from the Office of Naval Research conduct a test on the Nomad drone system aboard the littoral combat ship USS Coronado Meet the Nomad. It travels well in a launch tube, a pair of rotors folded neatly along its long chassis, waiting to take flight. The unique design of this 3-foot-long unmanned aerial vehicle features counter-rotating coaxial rotors, which are pulled into place by torsion springs after being launched from its storage tube by a shot of compressed CO2.
Steven Tayman, a senior aerospace engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory, invented the Nomad for electronic warfare; the name Nomad is an acronym for netted offboard miniature active decoy, and it was designed to be used in small swarms that could confuse incoming missiles.
“Nomad is a low-cost rotary wing vehicle in which researchers can test remote control, autonomous flight control, station keeping, and safe coordinated flight supporting any number of possible future payloads,” Tayman said. “The unique form factor provides compact, lightweight storage in an integrated launch tube, and allows for storage in a ready-to-use condition for quick reaction deployment.”
As Tayman hints at in his statement, the Nomad can carry all sorts of sensors or packages, like a mast-mounted camera sitting above the top rotor like a head.
And with a U.S. patent pending that became public on October 4, businesses and entrepreneurs can potentially license the intellectual property, receive a technical data package from the Navy, and put the Nomad to use in other ways, or manufacture Nomads for commercial sales.
The Nomad’s patent application points out why its design is so awesome.
“Relative to other tube-launched equivalent fixed-wing options, the (Nomad) has more payload volume, ability to hover and station keep relative to slow-moving targets, and the ability to point independent of vehicle velocity,” it reads. “Compared to other tube-launched rotary-wing aircraft, (Nomads) have a larger more efficient rotor diameter, increased modularity, and can be deployed in higher relative winds and airspeeds due to the much larger rotor blade separation.”
During flight tests aboard the USS Coronado several Nomad UAVs demonstrated their ability to quickly launch and fly in formation
Could you repurpose the Nomad for other applications? This is a business opportunity for you.
“Licensing the Nomad and building it into a commercial product is possible through a special business process called technology transfer,” said Brian Metzger, senior technology manager at TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer.
Through a patent license agreement, businesses and entrepreneurs, large and small, can acquire technical data and the intellectual property rights to Department of Defense inventions.
Drafting and submitting a patent license application, including a commercialization plan, is our core service, Metzger said.
The agreements contain financial terms paid by the licensee to the military lab, but TechLink’s services are provided to businesses at no cost.
“We’ve helped hundreds of companies understand the process of licensing DoD inventions,” Metzger said. “And the majority find it a lucrative decision.” (Source: UAS VISION/TechLink)
19 Nov 18. Completion of US drone base in Niger to be delayed. Niger Air Base 201, a future hub for armed drones and other aircraft, won’t be completed until the middle of 2019. The base was originally intended to be operational by the end of this year, but the region’s difficult weather and harsh environment is pushing completion back, an official with U.S. Africa Command told Air Force Times.
“Weather (rainy season) and other environmental complexities are a few reasons for this minimal delay,” the official said in an email. “Because construction on the airfield and runway is ongoing, there are no U.S. ISR aircraft operating out a Nigerian Air Base 201.”
The base’s total cost will be roughly $100m, according to previous AFRICOM estimates. Officials did not immediately respond when asked whether the delays into next year are expected to increase the cost.
Air Base 201 will eventually house the U.S. armed drone mission in Niger that currently operates out of Niger’s capital, Niamey.
U.S. officials have described the construction of Air Base 201, located near the Nigerien city of Agadez on the edge of the Sahara Desert, as the largest Air Force-led construction project in history.
The armed drone mission in Niger was approved in early 2018 with consent of the local government. The drones are part of a long-term partnership between the U.S. and Niger to counter violent extremists in the region, such as Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
The U.S. military is reducing its personnel in Africa by about 10 percent in the coming years so the Pentagon can reallocate forces to address threats from China and Russia.
The U.S. currently has about 7,200 troops deployed in Africa.
That shift in strategy likely won’t have a huge impact on Air Base 201′s role in Africa, though.
“In West Africa, specifically, we will decrease emphasis [on] tactical level advice and assistance and move to a more strategic approach,” the AFRICOM official said. “This adjusted approach relies more heavily on advising, assisting, liaising and sharing intelligence at key nodes throughout the region.”
The drone mission from Air Base 201 will serve as an important ISR provider for local forces in West Africa, and could even pick up the slack from a decreased ground presence by U.S. troops who work in the region to train partner forces.
“The majority of DoD personnel in Niger are supporting air operations at the airfield in Niamey, or at an airfield in Agadez [Air Base 201],” Robert Karem, the former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, said this spring. “The establishment of the Agadez airfield will help provide additional ISR coverage in the region.” (Source: Defense News)
19 Nov 18. UK plans trial of rescue UAS system from RN ship. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is funding the at-sea demonstration of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed to find and aid personnel who have fallen overboard. The demonstration will be staged from a Royal Navy (RN) vessel. Developed by Roke Manor Research under the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s Project Minerva initiative, the Autonomous Man Over Board Response (AutoMOBR) UAS is intended to provide autonomous launch, search, location, and life raft deployment. Under a Phase 1 Minerva contract, Roke Manor Research developed an AutoMOBR concept that demonstrated a level of technical feasibility over land. The six-month Minerva Phase 2 contract, valued at GBP250,000 (USD320,600), is designed to provide the additional input necessary to inform any potential future acquisition decision. (Source: News Now/IHS Jane’s)
19 Nov 18. ZALA Aero unveils updated ZALA-421-16E5 UAV. Russian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer ZALA Aero, a subsidiary of Rostec’s Kalashnikov Group, has developed a new variant of its fixed-wing ZALA-421-16E5 UAV. Unlike the baseline air vehicle that is powered by an electric motor, the ZALA-421-16E5 ICE variant features an electronically managed internal combustion engine powering a pusher propeller. The new variant is intended for reconnaissance and border control missions. The ZALA-421-16E5 ICE has a wingspan of 5.3m, a maximum take-off weight of 29.5kg, a range of approximately 100 km, and an endurance of up to 20 hours. The vehicle can be operated at temperatures between -50 C° and +50 C° and can withstand wind speeds of up to 15m/s. The air vehicle is launched by a catapult and carries an integral parachute and shock absorber for landing. “The vehicle’s structure comprises two detachable wing consoles and a fuselage,” a company source told Jane’s. “When stripped down, the UAV is transported in a single polymer box.” The ZALA-421-16E5 ICE can carry up to 5 kg of mission payload, with a guidance system comprising a GPS/GLONASS receiver and inertial measurement unit. “The drone can be fitted with an HD daylight camera, zooming thermal imager, and gamma-ray detector,” the source added. “All the sensors are integrated onto a gyrostabilised platform.” (Source: IHS Jane’s)
15 Nov 18. Naval Group and Dutch Company Atmos UAV sign a Letter of Intent at NIDV. The Dutch company Atmos UAV has been selected by Naval for the testing of its innovative fixed-wing VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) UAV solution for evaluation purposes. With this agreement, Naval Group deepens its existing commitments to the Dutch innovative industry building and expanding existing relationships with more than 70 companies and knowledge centers. On the occasion of the 30th edition of NIDV, the Netherlands Industries for Defence & Security exhibition held in Rotterdam, both companies have signed an agreement to explore a preliminary phase of the technology in the frame of a comprehensive UAV testing and integration program. As a reputed surface and submarine vessels and combat systems integrator, Naval Group is very proud to announce this partnership with Atmos UAV. Atmos UAV is specialised in innovative UAV solutions, and their fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing solution presents key operational opportunities for navies.
“We are grateful leveraging the best innovative capabilities in The Netherlands, relying on a rich network of partners. New capabilities such as UAVs will play a key role in future operational requirements, and we believe that by testing them at a very early stage, Naval Group will be able to offer cutting-edge solutions to its international customers”, Mark van Rooij, Naval Group Netherlands CEO said.
“The design philosophy behind our technology is to create a platform that can be deployed from practically any location without compromising the high performance of a fixed wing”, says Sander Hulsman, Atmos UAV CEO. “As this capability has key benefits for deployment in marine environments we are looking forward to a fruitful collaboration with Naval Group. The environmental commitments of the group towards 2018-2020, make this partnership even more meaningful to us.”
As a first step of this partnership, the two partners will closely work together to further detail and finalize the development plan of integrating Atmos UAVs capabilities in the operational environment of Naval Group’s systems.
The British Robotics Seed Fund is the first SEIS-qualifying investment fund specialising in UK-based robotics businesses. The focus of the fund is to deliver superior returns to investors by making targeted investments in a mixed basket of the most innovative and disruptive businesses that are exploiting the new generation of robotics technologies in defence and other sector applications.
Automation and robotisation are beginning to drive significant productivity improvements in the global economy heralding a new industrial revolution. The fund allows investors to benefit from this exciting opportunity, whilst also delivering the extremely attractive tax reliefs offered by the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). For many private investors, the amount of specialist knowledge required to assess investments in robotics is not practical and hence investing through a fund structure makes good sense.
The fund appoints expert mentors to work with each investee company to further maximise the chance of success for investors. Further details are available on request.