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04 Jan 19. Spanish Typhoons Join nEUROn Testing Campaign. A detachment of the Logistics Center of Armament and Experimentation (CLAEX), with two aircraft and the support of maintenance personnel of Wing 11, has moved to the air base of Istres (France), where, where it has participated in a campaign of trials in flight with the demonstrator UCAV (unmanned air combat aerial vehicle) nEUROn. The development of the nEUROn demonstrator is the result of a European consortium led by the French company Dassault Aviation, with the technological contribution of the industrial partners of the different countries involved (for Spain, the former EADS-CASA), with participation in the aforementioned campaign of tests, consequence of an invitation of the General Direction of the Armament (DGA) French, so that Spain took part in her with an aerial means of hunting of the Army of the Air.
The aim of the trials was to evaluate the detectability of a stealth UCAV with the panoply of sensors available on the Eurofighter aircraft: air-to-air radar, IRST (Infrared Search and Track) and IRIS-T missile. It must be taken into account that the nEUROn was conceived as a stealth aircraft with very low radar and infrared signatures; hence the interest of facing this system with radars and other aerial sensors. (Source: UAS VISION/Spanish Ministry of Defense)
28 Dec 18. China’s CASC eyes heavy fuel engine for CH-4 armed reconnaissance UAV family. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) is developing a new variant of its Cai Hong 4 (Rainbow 4, or CH-4) armed reconnaissance medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV), which will feature an indigenously manufactured heavy fuel engine (HFE), company sources confirmed with Jane’s on 21 December. Produced by CASC’s flight technology division, China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), the baseline CH-4 has a carbon fibre-based composite airframe with an 8.5m-long fuselage and 18m wingspan. The UAV has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1,330kg and payload capacity of 345kg. The baseline air vehicle is currently powered by a 100-hp piston engine, which drives a three-bladed variable pitch pusher propeller and enables it to achieve cruise and maximum speeds of up to 180 km/h and 230 km/h, and a maximum endurance of up to 30 hours. It typically performs its missions at altitudes of 9,800-19,600ft (3,000-5,000m), although it can operate up to a service ceiling of 23,600ft. CAAA has also developed two other variants of the CH-4 platform: the CH-4A, which has a MTOW of 1,260 kg and is configured primarily for reconnaissance missions with a flight endurance of 30 hours; and the strike-oriented CH-4B, which can carry a 345kg payload but has a shorter flight endurance of 14 hours. A new variant, the CH-4C, is also being developed based on operational data and customer feedback that the company accumulated since the CH-4 family entered the market in 2014. New features include an improved load-carrying ability and electrical power generation capacity, as well as an updated data processing and electronic architecture. The air vehicle’s build quality and flight-control systems have also been upgraded to improve its ability to operate in adverse weather conditions. CAAA is planning to install an indigenous HFE propulsion system to further push the CH-4’s flight envelope and performance. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
27 Dec 18. Are robot swarms the future of destroying sea mines? A sea mine is a promise of tragedy in the future. Built for the immediate demands of a naval conflict, deployed for some once-pressing strategic end, and now left in place for decades, sea mines are an enduring risk. Clearing the sea from the dangerous refuse of the past can be a high-stakes proposition. Why not, then, let robots do it?
In August 2018, a loose mine was spotted off the coast of Washington state, and then detonated without harm (or secondary explosion, indicating that it was an inert training mine). This detonation work is typically done by human divers, and while the mine spotted in Washington was luckily inert, there are plenty of sea lanes where live weapons of dead wars persist. In the Baltic, for example, NATO estimates there remain 80,000 sea mines, a number that’s been unchanged for nearly a decade.
On Dec. 21, Thales and Aquabotix announced a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the research and design of autonomous robot minesweepers. Formally described as a “rapidly deployable Mine Counter Measures (MCM), Rapid Environment Assessment (REA) and Military Hydrographic autonomous system mission solution,” the robots the companies hope to collaborate on will be an alternative to sending humans immediately into the danger of aquatic unexploded ordnance. Acronyms aside, this robot has a much simpler, clearer title: the Swarm Diver, named because it will do just that. As described, a sort of mothership surface drone or underwater drone will release swarms of smaller autonomous underwater robots to scout, identify and ultimately neutralize discovered mines in littoral waters. Autonomy is key here, as communicating underwater is difficult and communicating with above-water assets from underwater especially tricky without an intermediary. Should the Swarm Diver project work as intended, swarms of autonomous robots could be the long-awaited answer to the enduring threat posed by autonomous explosives, new and old alike. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
21 Dec 18. Algeria shown to be operating UAE-developed UAVs. Algeria has received into service several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) originally developed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as seen in footage aired on national TV and posted to the official Facebook page of the Algerian Ministry of Defence (MoD). The footage posted on 20 December confirms the long-expected delivery of the Adcom Systems medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs to the North African country, with at least two armed Yabhon United 40 (named locally as ‘Algeria 54’) platforms and two smaller unarmed Yabhon Flash-20 (‘Algeria 55’) platforms shown on the flightline at Polygone Central de l’Air à Hassi Bahbah ahead of a military demonstration.
Jane’s was the first to report Algerian interest in the Block 5 version of the Yabhon United 40 armed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) MALE UAV at the Dubai Airshow in 2013. At that time, the CEO and general designer for Adcom, Ali Al Dhaheri, said that the country was looking for an unmanned platform to track militants and traffickers in its vast southern desert regions. The Yabhon Flash-20 was first showcased at the same event two years later.
While the Yabhon United 40 Block 5 and Yabhon Flash-20 are two of a number of UAVs developed in the UAE by Adcom Systems, the company’s website and social media accounts appear to have become inactive from 2016 and the manufacturer did not appear at the most recent Dubai Air Show in 2017. This lack of activity chimes with a statement issued by the Algerian MoD in which it notes that the Algeria 54 and Algeria 55 UAVs have been domestically manufactured, suggesting that it has bought the rights from Adcom. “It should be noted that these drones were built locally by engineers, technicians, and executives of the National People’s Army,” the MoD said.
First revealed in scale-model form in 2007, the Yabhon United 40 Block 5 UAV features Adcom’s distinctive double fore and aft main-wing configuration. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Dec 18. Airbus Helicopters VSR700 demonstrator flies unmanned. Performs compliance flight without safety pilot onboard. The Airbus Helicopters VSR700 demonstrator took off for a fully unmanned autonomous flight at the military airbase in Istres in the south of France. The purpose of the flight was to establish compliance with the demanding regulatory and safety systems necessary for future unmanned flight in France. During the exercise the demonstrator performed a 30 minute flight successfully executing a variety of flight patterns before landing in an autonomous mode. The unmanned air vehicle was piloted and monitored from the ground station located at the base. The VSR700 demonstrator has been flying autonomously since May 2017 with a safety pilot as part of its development programme. The diesel engine installed to meet naval and military requirements has been fine tuned during this period and the automatic flight control systems have been developed to meet the new regulatory standards. This new critical operational capability is pursuing its development plan and 2019 will see the rollout of the prototype. The VSR700 is a light military tactical unmanned aerial system able to carry multiple payloads, with an endurance of around 8 hours at 100 NM. The system will initially offer extended surveillance capabilities for navies, allowing them to preserve manned helicopter flights for critical missions. Users will benefit from the system’s low operational cost thanks to its proven civil certified Cabri G2 platform and its low consumption diesel engine. The ideal size, it is designed to complement manned helicopters, without replacing them, on ships ranging from small corvettes to major warships.
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.