Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
20 Dec 18. UK Aviation Minister helps Raytheon celebrate Britain’s young engineers. Baroness Sugg CBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, has joined with Raytheon to help celebrate some of Britain’s brightest young talents at the finale of a unique nationwide engineering competition. School pupils from England, Scotland and Wales took to the skies to compete in Raytheon’s fourth annual Quadcopter Challenge in Birmingham this week (12 December 2018).
The contest saw 86 teams of young people from over 30 schools, cadet and youth groups near Raytheon’s sites across England, Scotland and Wales learn to build and fly unique aerial vehicles. Teams from six regions competed in Birmingham, with Kingdown School, Warminster, emerging victorious.
The teams were mentored by Raytheon’s STEM ambassadors; volunteers from the company who support local schools and youth clubs to inspire young people with STEM. The ambassadors volunteered over 2,500 hours of time during the competition.
The teams took on challenges designed to test speed, agility and accuracy, while being assessed on creativity and engineering skill. More than 1,000 young people have been supported by the scheme since its launch.
Baroness Sugg said: “It is great to see the potential of these future engineers and to see Raytheon championing science and engineering skills across the UK with this excellent competition. Through our Aviation Strategy we are exploring how new technologies like drones and urban air mobility vehicles will transform the way we travel, and it is vital that we develop the skills of our young people now so the UK stays at the forefront of transport innovation.“There are many exciting careers in aerospace and aviation. Through our Year of Engineering, we are working to ensure young people from all backgrounds are aware of, and able to access, the many opportunities these jobs offer.”
Raytheon UK engineering director Alex Rose-Parfitt added: “Raytheon is eager to do its part to inspire Britain’s next generation of engineers.”
“A unique aspect of the Quadcopter Challenge is the mentoring that teams receive from our STEM ambassadors, who as well as offering advice on aerodynamics and technical tips, act as relatable, local role models, showing the huge potential of a career in STEM.”
20 Dec 18. Russia’s Carnivora Eats Other Drones. Russia’s Carnivora, a new counterdrone robot, is built to hunt small airborne pray. Announced on Dec. 13, 2018, the robot is produced by Russia’s Mikran and has a stated mission to devour the competition.
“This drone has a very colourful name: ‘Carnivora.’ It was obviously selected due to its mission — attack and incapacitate other drones and UAVs, to ‘cannibalize’ them,” said Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses. “According to the developers, the drone can use nets to intercept quadcopters; can carry several types of fragmentation and high-explosive ammunition, as well as reconnaissance equipment. Currently, according to Mikran, the prototype is undergoing factory flight tests.”
To carry those payloads, Carnivora has a body on the large size for medium drones. It weighs in at a maximum weight of around 88 pounds, with 35 liters of space for payload inside. The fixed-wing drone has a 16-foot-long wingspan, and a top speed of just over 90 miles mph. It is designed to stay airborne for between 10-15 hours. A prototype of the Carnivora was displayed last year at the inaugural “Robotization of the Armed Forces” conference and expo, hosted by the Ministry of Defense, alongside other uncrewed vehicles.
The Carnivora is also billed as made for the future threat environment, where electronic warfare renders remote control difficult and autonomy the order of the day. And Carnivora is hardly the only drone designed for combat in denied environments. Kalashnikov also recently announced an Arctic drone designed to operate without satellite navigation.
“More importantly, the UAV is able to work “in the conditions of radio-electronic suppression with the complete loss of satellite navigation signals.” This is key — Russians are actively training their forces and designing military tech to operate in an EMS-challenged environment, where the loss of GPS and GLONASS navigation would be imminent,” says Bendett. “This is one of the ways Russian forces are preparing to counter what they perceive is a technologically superior adversary that will take aim at the Russian navigation, satellite and other ISR technology.”
The electromagnetically denied environment is the future threat guiding the mission of the Carnivora. But its design is likely also shaped by the experience of Russian forces in Syria, where they encountered small commercial off-the-shelf drones used in simple and sophisticated attacks on Russian military bases and installations.
“C-UAS efforts are receiving lots of attention across the Russian armed forces — taking down small adversary drones is now getting built into the Russian military’s TTPs,” says Bendett. “This ‘Carnivora’ drone that can hunt and destroy other small drones fits into that larger CONOPS.” (Source: UAS VISION/C4ISRnet)
20 Dec 18. Estonia’s Threod Systems STREAM C UAV Adds VTOL. Estonia’s Threod Systems announced that it has successfully integrated VTOL capability into our NATO class I UAV Stream C. The transition algorithms and VTOL-fixed wing functions have been developed in-house for Threods proprietary autopilot. VTOL brings a lot of mobility and convenience, especially in difficult terrain conditions. It enables the UAV usage in confined space, inside compounds and urban conditions. It also aids the operations in the natural environment like forests or mountain areas. Foremost it can be operated from a battleship or a rescue vessel. The trend in the industry is to implement VTOL capability to bigger UAVs. Stream C is perceived as NATO class I UAV that does the class II job and with the new feature Threod is aiming for an utterly competitive position on the market. The first public presentation of Stream C VTOL will be at the international defence exhibition IDEX 2019 in Abu Dhabi from 17th to 25th of February. (Source: UAS VISION)
19 Dec 18. Morphing Drone Solution for Search and Rescue. A research team from the University of Zurich and EPFL has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters. Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying robot could look for people trapped inside and guide the rescue team towards them. But the drone would often have to enter the building through a crack in a wall, a partially open window, or through bars – something the typical size of a drone does not allow.
To solve this problem, researchers from the Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich and the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL created a new kind of drone. Both groups are part of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Robotics funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Inspired by birds that fold their wings in mid-air to cross narrow passages, the new drone can squeeze itself to pass through gaps and then go back to its previous shape, all the while continuing to fly. And it can even hold and transport objects along the way.
Mobile arms can fold around the main frame
“Our solution is quite simple from a mechanical point of view, but it is very versatile and very autonomous, with onboard perception and control systems,” explains Davide Falanga, researcher at the University of Zurich and the paper’s first author. In comparison to other drones, this morphing drone can maneuver in tight spaces and guarantee a stable flight at all times.
The Zurich and Lausanne teams worked in collaboration and designed a quadrotor with four propellers that rotate independently, mounted on mobile arms that can fold around the main frame thanks to servo-motors. The ace in the hole is a control system that adapts in real time to any new position of the arms, adjusting the thrust of the propellers as the center of gravity shifts.
“The morphing drone can adopt different configurations according to what is needed in the field,” adds Stefano Mintchev, co-author and researcher at the EPFL School of Engineering. The standard configuration is X-shaped, with the four arms stretched out and the propellers at the widest possible distance from each other. When faced with a narrow passage, the drone can switch to a “H” shape, with all arms lined up along one axis or to a “O” shape, with all arms folded as close as possible to the body. A “T” shape can be used to bring the onboard camera mounted on the central frame as close as possible to objects that the drone needs to inspect.
First step to fully autonomous rescue searches
In the future, the researchers hope to further improve the drone structure so that it can fold in all three dimensions. Most importantly, they want to develop algorithms that will make the drone truly autonomous, allowing it to look for passages in a real disaster scenario and automatically choose the best way to pass through them.
“The final goal is to give the drone a high-level instruction such as ‘enter that building, inspect every room and come back’ and let it figure out by itself how to do it,” says Falanga. (Source: UAS VISION/EPFL Press Release)
18 Dec 18. Thales teams up with MSubs for research into UUVs. Thales has signed an agreement with UK-based company MSubs to form a research partnership relating to unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). The agreement comes after Thales opened a new UK maritime autonomy centre at Turnchapel Wharf in south-west England in October to help strengthen its autonomous systems capabilities. With an investment of £1m, Thales aims to bring together industry and academia for a UK research and development facility. Thales UK Maritime Autonomous Systems lead Matt Hunt said: “Together we are looking to establish a globally recognised base in Plymouth for surface and sub-surface assets for both the domestic and international markets.
“This agreement is the first of many anticipated in the creation of a local ecosystem where Thales is investing in making Plymouth the centre for the development of UK Maritime Autonomy.”
The centre seeks to revolutionise the development of autonomous capability over the next decade through the exploitation of emergent and disruptive technologies.
It will primarily be used to carry out trials and development of maritime autonomous systems.
In addition, the facility will serve as a key platform for a joint programme between the UK and French governments to develop the next-generation of autonomous mine hunting systems.
MSubs project manager Paddy Dowsett said: “We are excited about the prospect of working closely with Thales as the role of military unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) expands into deeper water.
“Together we are well placed to support the RN and Nato partners with a range of unmanned underwater vehicles capable of conducting sophisticated and discreet anti-submarine and intelligence gathering missions.”
The partnership is expected to leverage MSubs’ experience in the design and manufacture of manned and unmanned military submersibles and Thales’ expertise in sensors and command and control systems. (Source: naval-technology.com)
17 Dec 18. Robot skates on the cutting edge with soft fins. Beyond the world of wheels, rotors, legs, and tracks is a whole animal kingdom full of inspiration for how to move a body through space. Consider, if you will, the undulations of an eels fins or a manta ray’s body, a continuous flapping motion that propels through water.
The Velox, by Plaint Energy Systems, is inspired by a whole menagerie of creatures, creating a robot that moves naturally through water, over land, and across ice. As sketched out by Plaint, this surreal biomimicry machine could have a role to play in future beach landings.
The Velox is an electric platform and an eclectic platform explicitly based around the movements of rays, millipedes, squid, and snakes. The body seems somewhat scalable, with larger versions adapted for more payload or cargo storage and smaller models for more constrained spaces.
In most of the released video of the Velox, it is a tethered machine, trailing a long physical cord behind it for data transfer and remote controls, but the company also says it can operate autonomously. And there is video of it skating across ice, free from tethers and as wild and strange as a hockey team’s mascot.
What those sensors might be are likely still to be determined. Video shows it carrying a GoPro-style camera, with another camera pod mounted in a flexible casing on the front of the vehicle. Concept art suggest this as the ultimate direction for the vehicle, electro-optical and other cameras pointed forward. Cargo carried could include medical supplies and even ammunition, as shown in another piece of concept art.
Pliant boasts of applications in environmental research and aquaculture, the soft fins far gentler on plants and the surrounding environs than traditional propellers would be. Those same traits make it a stealthy, somewhat discreet machine, and while it may not be as camouflaged as robots in the shape of actual animals, it could be used as a sand-combing scout or riverine infiltrator alongside Marines.
There’s even a whole concept of operations outlined for how the Velox might work in a littoral incursion. First, a Velox would deploy far from shore and then travel autonomously underwater. Swimming closer to or on the surface, it could send video feed and other data back to surface vessels, drones or satellites. Once on the shore, it would transition to a land vehicle, working much the same and available for remote control.
It should, at this point, come as no surprise that the Office of Naval Research is one of the funders for the Velox’s development. The future of robots at sea is at least as strange as that of robots in air and on land, and wars of the future could include creatures pulled straight from the uncanny valley and given waterproof flesh. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
18 Dec 18. GENIUS NY Round Three Finalists Announced. GENIUS NY, a business accelerator program at CenterState CEO’s Tech Garden, has announced the five finalists companies selected for its third round. These startup drone companies will participate in the year-long program and will compete for a total of $3m in direct investment, with one grand prize of up to $1m and four $500,000 awards.
“We are excited to welcome these latest innovative entrepreneurs to Central New York for Round Three of the GENIUS NY competition,” said Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “This unique contest supports UAS startups in developing the next-generation technologies that will further support the burgeoning drone industry in the region.”
The five companies will move into The Tech Garden, in Syracuse, in January to begin competing for $3m in investment. The companies were selected from a pool of more than 350 submissions. Finalists include teams with international and regional representation.
The five finalists selected for GENIUS NY 3.0 finalists are:
EagleHawk (Buffalo, NY): EagleHawk is a drone powered technology company revolutionizing the way commercial roofs are inspected and managed. In just two years, EagleHawk has inspected over 500 buildings and 11 million square-feet of rooftop, and is helping customers detect unknown issues, mitigate risk, and reduce roof maintenance costs.
Vermeer (Brooklyn, NY): Vermeer is an augmented reality drone solution that enables anyone to capture aerial photos, videos and data. A user can now design their aerial shot in an augmented reality environment and then send it to a drone to execute autonomously in the real world.
Civdrone (Israel): Civdrone develops fast, reliable and autonomous marking solutions on enterprise drones for the construction industry. Digitalizing and automating land surveying services will increase productivity and shorten time of construction while lowering its costs.
Sentient Blue (Italy): Sentient Blue develops efficient, more environmentally friendly micro gas turbine based power plants for use in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to increase flight endurance.
ResilienX (Syracuse, NY): ResilienX is focused on improving safety in the UAS traffic management ecosystem. Their products will increase system resilience and operational uptime by automating fault detection and contingency management, benefiting adopters through decreased expenditures in operations, regression testing and maintenance.
The year-long competition is the largest business accelerator competition for the UAS industry in the world. Previously, the program awarded three grand prizes of $1m, $600,000, and $400,000 and three runner-up prizes of $250,000 each with an additional $250,000 available for follow-on funding. Doubling the investment for the finalist teams in this round will provide them with an even greater opportunity to succeed and grow their business in Central New York.
“These companies were selected from an incredibly competitive pool of applications,” said Rick Clonan, vice president of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at CenterState CEO. “This year’s applicant pool and high-growth finalists are a reflection of the success of prior rounds and the program’s overall impact on participating teams. As round three teams join the innovation ecosystem we have created at The Tech Garden, they too will benefit from a network of resources needed to rapidly grow their companies as previous participants have.” Recent announcements by GENIUS NY teams demonstrate the quality of the program, which is funded by Empire State Development in a model similar to Buffalo’s highly successful 43North program. Teams from GENIUS NY round one and two continue to hit growth milestones and have attracted outside investments, made connections and established partnerships with local businesses, and have made hires or currently have openings.
“This region is committed to making the investments and providing the resources these companies need to scale in the region,” said Rob Simpson, president of CenterState CEO. “We have seen the impact this targeted ecosystem has had on accelerating the growth of GENIUS NY companies to date, and how those successes have in turn supported regional efforts to lead the unmanned systems industry.”
The advancement of the GENIUS NY program builds on the progress of CNY Rising, the region’s award-winning strategic plan to generate robust economic growth and community development.
Throughout the program, teams will engage with community leaders, mentors, and advisors from leading companies in Central New York while also participating in tourism activities. The goal is to encourage all participants to put down roots and stay in the region following the conclusion of the program.
“We are excited to welcome these teams to grow their businesses in Onondaga County. We know that local businesses are the backbone of our economy and help create a more vibrant community,” said Onondaga County Executive, J. Ryan McMahon. “We are committed to providing them the support they need and showcasing why Central New York is an exceptional place to grow a business.”
“GENIUS NY has served as a catalyst for growth at Oneida County’s UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport by fostering new business innovation in the Central New York UAS Corridor,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “I’m sure this year’s round of finalists will continue in that tradition, and provide a huge benefit to not only the county and our partners at CenterState CEO, but all of New York State, as we work together to move the industry forward.”
All five of the round three teams will begin the program in January focused on enhancing their business plan, and will pitch their technologies at an event in April to a panel of judges and audience of more than 250 people, where the grand prize and runner up awards will be decided and announced. (Source: UAS VISION)
18 Dec 18. Sky Power Presents Newly Developed SP-110 Fits. Sky Power GmbH introduced itself to the specialist public for the first time at this year’s AUVSI Xponential in Denver. Since then a series of new engines has been developed for a wide variety of Unmanned Aerial System applications (UAS). Now, with the newly developed 110 ccm engine, SP-110 FI TS, a completely new engine concept is presented, which focuses squarely on performance- and fuel optimization, ease of maintenance and space saving.
“Sky Power has dedicated itself to the development of high-performance engines based on 2-stroke and Wankel engine technology, that are used in demanding UAS applications. For this reason, we have optimized the existing SP-110 FI TS yet again, in order to make it even more efficient for the future tasks of our customers”, declared Karl Schudt, CEO of Sky Power GmbH.
This not only includes the engine performance, but also the engine design.
The newly developed SP-110 FI TS has a system carrier, which is mounted above the two cylinders. Besides the two electronic systems of the HKZ215 ignition, the engine injection system is also mounted on this system carrier. Both the injection system as well as the system carrier are screwed firmly together with the engine. All data lines of the sensors, which gather engine data at a variety of measuring points and transmit these to the ECU030, are bundled on the system carrier.
“The system carrier is fixed to the engine with screws. If faults occur, this can be completely dismantled together with the injection system. To do this, the screws and all plug connections are detached. A new system carrier with all modules and data cables can then be mounted and screwed together. As a result the engine is operational again after just a few minutes, since the ignition system is passive and is controlled by the ECU”, explained Schudt.
Plug connectors from racing were chosen for the data cables. Plug connectors according to MIL specifications are also possible. “At the request of the customer, the system carrier can also be left out. In that case, all systems are positioned in the UAS body, whereby longer cables are required and the integration of the engine is more complex”, stated Schudt.
Engine, system carrier and all electronic modules thus form a compact unit, that can be installed in the UAS, thereby saving space. In addition, the engine performances and the smooth running were further optimized. The latter is important, especially for land survey or reconnaissance flights. The improved engine performances are dependent on the muffler and propellers and were determined on a dynamometer test rig. Particular attention was thereby given to a reduced fuel consumption, in order to make the operation of the UAS even more efficient. Due to the newly developed ECU030 and the new HKZ215 ignition, the development team already knew in advance, that fuel savings of 20% and more are possible. “This trend proved to be true. We were able to save a further 5%, dependent on the speed, as the dynamometer tests verified. Consequently, we will meet the current and future requirements of our customers, who are looking for efficient and fuel-saving drive solutions, in order to increase their range, the flying time or the payload”, stated Schudt happily.
The SP-110 FI TS is available as petrol engine. A Heavy Fuel (HF) variant will follow in the middle of 2019.
“We are working on a new, lighter HF system, that besides the reduction in weight, also has a reduced fuel consumption of the HF engine as objective”, declared Schudt looking ahead.
Sky Power GmbH is a leading manufacturer of 2-stroke combustion- and Wankel engines for UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) and hybrid applications. Besides in-house development and manufacture, Sky Power produces all engines in Germany. Customer adaptations, new developments and the improved performance of the combustion engines are a further company objective. (Source: UAS VISION)
15 Dec 18. India’s first private Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drone manufacturing facility has been inaugurated in Hyderabad. The facility has been set up by Adani Defence and Aerospace, and Elbit Systems. The 50,000 square feet facility would also be the first facility outside Israel to manufacture Hermes 900 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV. It was inaugurated by Telangana Home Minister Mohammad Mahmood Ali on Friday. Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani said, Our foray into defense and aerospace has a deep personal significance for me. I want us to be able to look back and reflect that Adani Group did its bit to help build a more self-reliant India, the nation that is second to none in its defence manufacturing capabilities. The factory will be engaged in manufacturing complete carbon composite aerostructures for Hermes 900, followed by Hermes 450, catering to the global markets and will be further ramped up for the assembly and integration of complete UAVs. Apart from the UAV Complex, the Adani Aerospace Park was also inaugurated by the Home Minister of Telangana. Elbit Systems CEO and president Bezhalel Machilis said, This facility where the Hermes 900 (MALE) and the Hermes 450-the most advanced UAV systems in the world-will be manufactured, is in line with Indian government’s strategic plan and enables us to share our extensive experience in defense systems and benefit from the dedicated Indian workforce as well. (Source: Google/www.newkerala.com)
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.