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14 Feb 19. FAA Initiates Multiple Actions on Small Unmanned Aircraft.
(84 Fed. Reg. 3669) – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an interim final rule requiring small unmanned aircraft owners to display the unique identifier assigned by the FAA upon completion of the registration process (registration number) on an external surface of the aircraft. Small unmanned aircraft owners are no longer permitted to enclose the FAA-issued registration number in a compartment.
(84 Fed. Reg. 3855) – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes to amend its rules applicable to the operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). This rulemaking would allow operations of small unmanned aircraft over people in certain conditions and operations of small UAS at night without obtaining a waiver. It would also require remote pilots in command to present their remote pilot in command certificate as well as identification to certain Federal, State, or local officials, upon request, and proposes to amend the knowledge testing requirements in the rules that apply to small UAS operations to require training every 24 calendar months. This proposal would be the next phase in integrating small UAS using a risk-based approach. These amendments would allow expanded small UAS operations and reduce the knowledge testing burden on remote pilot in command certificate holders. Send comments on or before April 15, 2019.
(84 Fed. Reg. 3732) – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering additional rulemaking in response to public safety and national security concerns associated with the ongoing integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA is seeking information from the public in response to the questions contained in this Federal Register notice. Specifically, the FAA seeks comment on whether and in what circumstances the FAA should promulgate new rulemaking to require stand-off distances, additional operating and performance restrictions, the use of UAS Traffic Management (UTM), and additional payload restrictions. The FAA also seeks comment on whether it should prescribe design requirements and require that unmanned aircraft be equipped with critical safety systems. Send comments on or before April 15, 2019. (Source: glstrade.com)
12 Feb 19. AeroVironment Introduces Next Generation of Quantix Drone and AV DSS with New Product Updates, FMS Integration, Plant Count Beta Trial and Custom-tailored Pricing Packages for Growers to Ag Service Providers.
- Next generation of Quantix™ and AV Decision Support System™ (AV DSS) delivers performance improvements that optimize the user experience – on the ground, in the field, and in the air
- New features include Variable Rate Layer for integration with a wide range of Farm Management Software including John Deere Operations Center, and Quick resolution option that decreases total data upload and processing time by 50%
- Coming Soon – Plant Count Beta Trial program will provide growers with access to on-demand data analytics that quantify stand count and plant emergence
- Starting at $5,500, three new pricing options enable individual growers, enterprise agriculture businesses and ag service providers to choose the right Quantix & AV DSS product package to drive their business forward
AeroVironment’s powerfully simple to use Quantix VTOL hybrid drone and Decision Support System includes new features optimized for the needs of growers, enterprise ag businesses, and ag service providers (Photo: AeroVironment, Inc.)
AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems for both defense and commercial applications, today introduced the next generation of its Quantix™ VTOL hybrid drone and the AeroVironment Decision Support System™ (AV DSS) for precision agriculture. Enhancements across the Quantix & AV DSS ecosystem deliver a combination of new features, performance improvements and product package offferings – designed to meet the needs of individual growers, precision ag service providers and large-scale farming operations.
“The response from growers to Quantix & AV DSS across the country has been very positive,” says Jeff Rodrian, director, Commercial Information Solutions, AeroVironment. “The ag community values a powerfully simple to use drone and data analytics ecosystem that captures field data quickly, and quantifies it in a format they can act on immediately.”
Featuring an innovative VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) hybrid design, Quantix is purpose-built for crop scouting and can survey up to 400 acres in just 45 minutes. During flight, integrated sensors capture high-resolution color and multispectral imagery via dual 18MP cameras. On-board processing delivers true color and NDVI imagery on the included operating tablet as soon as the drone lands, allowing growers to ground-truth issues while still in the field. For more detailed analysis, Quantix seamlessly integrates with AV DSS to perform advanced image processing and data analytics including True Color, NDVI, GNDVI, canopy coverage, anomaly detection and more, providing users with deeper insights into plant emergence, vegetative health, inputs and resource management.
“We worked closely with our customers to develop the next generation of Quantix & AV DSS and deliver the actionable intelligence that today’s growers need to drive their business forward and maximize every acre,” added Rodrian.
On-Demand Field Intelligence – Optimized
Ready for the 2019 growing season, Quantix & AV DSS include a number of new features, performance improvements and safety enhancements designed to optimize the user experience – on the ground, in the field and in the air. Best of all, these new features are available to current and future Quantix & AV DSS users at no additional cost.
- Variable Rate Layer – Users can now view, download or import a Variable Rate Layer into a wide-range of Farm Management Software to create geo-referenced application maps and prescriptions for use with variable rate controllers and hardware systems
- John Deere Operations Center Connected – With single click data transfer, exporting Variable Rate maps from AV DSS into John Deere Operations Center is as easy as 1,2,3. Plus, John Deere Operations Center users can now easily import field boundaries into AV DSS to create geo-referenced locations for future Quantix flights
- Quick Resolution Imagery – In areas with slower internet connection, users can select Quick resolution imagery, decreasing total upload and processing time by 50%, while still performing AV DSS’ full suite of data analytics
- Coming Soon – Plant Count Beta Trial – Just in time for the 2019 growing season, AV DSS users will be able to participate in a Plant Count Beta Trial program at no additional cost. Utilizing machine learning and advance image recognition algorithms, this on-demand data product will provide growers with access to data analytics that quantify stand count and plant emergence
New Pricing Packages – Maximize the Return On Every Acre
Also new this season, Quantix & AV DSS will be available in three product packages that range from $5,500 to $16,500 – allowing customers to find a solution that’s right for their business. Each product package includes the ready-to-fly Quantix hybrid drone, and access to AV DSS data analytics platform.
“Whether you’re a grower looking to put aerial drone data analytics to work on your farm, an enterprise ag business or an ag services provider looking to begin scouting fields and scaling your business, our goal is to provide flexible packages that meet your needs and budget,” says Rodrian.
- Quantix & AV DSS Bundle ($16,500 MSRP) provides the entire hardware and software ecosystem and includes a 3-year subscription to AV DSS online data analytics platform with unlimited data storage
- Quantix Enterprise Bundle ($8,000 MSRP) developed for large-scale farming operations, providing pay-as-you-fly flexibility with a $0.50 per-acre image processing fee, unlimited data storage and no monthly AV DSS subscription fee
- Quantix Professional Package ($5,500 MSRP) ideal for Ag Service Providers, offering a turnkey “Franchise-in-a-box” solution with everything needed to start scouting fields and building a business. This package includes a $150 monthly subscription to AV DSS that provides access to exclusive Client Management and publishing tools, and a $0.30 per acre image processing fee
Quantix & AV DSS product packages are available starting today at authorized dealers nationwide. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
12 Feb 19. New Company for US Army’s Elite Aviation Regiment. For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment has added a new unit to its ranks. The creation of the additional separate company comes as the Regiment, also known as the Night Stalkers, which is best known for providing premier special operations helicopter support for U.S. special operators, is expanding its drone capabilities.
On Aug. 16, 2018, Company F, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment stood up at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, according to an order from U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), which we obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
Though we don’t know for sure what Company F’s composition or mission set is, it seems very likely that the unit will take control of 160th’s future fleet of MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) drones. The order, somewhat confusingly, says that personnel destined for the new company would first go to the unrelated Company F, 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
In September 2018, the Army publicly acknowledged that special operations aviators from this other Company F, which is the battalion maintenance company, had taken part in testing of the GE-ER drone at Fort Hood in Texas. The most recent annual report from the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, or DOT&E, also stated that the Army would establish a company of the improved MQ-1Cs within the 160th.
In development since at least 2013, the GE-ER, previously known as the Improved Gray Eagle (IGE), is larger and significantly more capable than the original MQ-1C. The Army completed Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation of the GE-ER variant in October 2018, the last step before operational units begin receiving the aircraft.
The GE-ER’s maximum gross takeoff weight is 600 pounds greater, primarily due to its more powerful Lycoming DEL-120 Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE). It also has a deeper fuselage that can accommodate 50 percent more fuel and a payload bay that is 50 percent larger. This means the GE-ER can stay aloft for more than 40 hours, almost an entire extra day compared to the earlier MQ-1Cs, while also carrying a more robust suite of sensors and weaponry.
It’s easy to spot the new variant from the new winglets on the end of each wing and the relocation of the vertical mount with data link antenna on top from the middle of the fuselage to the rear. The added endurance of the MQ-1Cs will allow a single platoon of three of the drones to perform persistent surveillance of a particular area 24 hours a day without interruption, according to the latest annual DOT&E report.
The extra internal space in the upgraded model will also make it easier to integrate new sensor systems or other payloads, such as electronic warfare systems, as they become available in the future. The Army is already buying signals intelligence packages for its existing Gray Eagles, as well.
It will also have improved performance with various underwing stores. As with the earlier MQ-1Cs, it can carry up to four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, as well as wide-area persistent surveillance systems, electronic warfare packages, and more. The Army is also exploring adding dispenser pods that can each carry a dozen of Northrop Grumman’s Hatchet precision-guided miniature munitions to the Gray Eagle’s arsenal,
A company of GE-ERs will significantly boost the 160th’s drone capabilities. Company E also has a mix of earlier model MQ-1Cs and pre-production Warrior Alphas, the latter of which are only capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
The 160th has used the unmanned aircraft for armed overwatch during operations, as well as communications relays. A single drone can operate in multiple modes at once, too. The added endurance and payload capacity of the GE-ER will only add to this flexibility.
Having a company of the improved Gray Eagles will also expand the total force of medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft available within the U.S. special operations community in general. At present, the vast majority of this capability comes from MQ-9 Reaper squadrons assigned to both Air Force Special Operations Command and the non-special operations Air Combat Command. There are also conventional MQ-1C units across the regular Army. (Source: UAS VISION/War Zone)
11 Feb 19. Royal Navy receives C-Enduro USV. L3 ASV has delivered a C-Enduro long-endurance autonomous USV to the Royal Navy, the company announced on 5 February. The 4.8m USV is equipped with ten sensors combining scientific and hydrographic survey equipment. The vessel operates using the ASView control system and is fitted with an autonomy package to ensure situational awareness and smart path planning. ASView enables a range of autonomous control modes, including line following, station-keeping and geofencing. The USV will be used for military data gathering trials by the Royal Navy’s Mine countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) programme.
Alex du Pre, MHC team lead at Defence Equipment And Support, UK Ministry of Defence, said: ‘The different ways in which the C-Enduro can be operated will allow the navy to test and develop the ability of an autonomous USV to effectively gather important hydrographic data and potentially form part of a future capability to be delivered by the MHC programme.’ (Source: Shephard)
11 Feb 19. UK to use ‘swarming drones’ to defeat enemy air defences. The UK is to field ‘swarming drones’ to confuse and overwhelm enemy air defences by the end of this year, the Secretary of State for Defence said on 11 February. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, Gavin Williamson said that the Royal Air Force (RAF) will employ “swarm squadrons of network-enabled drones capable of confusing and overcoming enemy air-defence systems”, to be deployed by the end of 2019. Responding to a request for further information from Jane’s, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson said, “The RAF will form a new squadron with a new [swarming drone] concept. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
08 Feb 19. Can drone swarms help the USAF fight wildfires? The USAF wants to enlist robots to fight forest fires. A new competition aims to test the ability of artificial intelligence — generated by teams in the United States and the United Kingdom — to plot search-and-rescue missions, among other tasks. The competition, which opened Jan. 15, and is expected to conclude March 31, will reward the teams with cash, travel and possibly a trip to Washington, D.C., and meetings with the Air Force. For the military, it might gain another new tool for managing swarms.
The competitions are put on by the Air Force Research Laboratory, United Kingdom Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, or DSTL, in collaboration with Wright Brothers Institute and University of Dayton Research Institute. Using videos provided by the United Kingdom Forestry Service, the teams competing in the parallel competitions on both sides of the pond will program AI for simulated swarms of robots. The simulated drones will all be based on an AFRL platform and use the same sensors so that, like in stock car races, the competition focuses entirely on the differences in how the vehicle in controlled and not disparities in how the vehicle is built.
While the overall competition is billed as primarily about search and rescue in a natural disaster situation, both the Air Force and Wright Brothers Institute announcements note that these technologies may have defense applications.
That’s an understated way to put it.
Wildfires are, perhaps, the natural disaster that best maps onto a dynamic battlefield, especially one created suddenly by an insurgency. Using drone swarms to autonomously map the points of interest, changes in the presence of danger and where civilians are could help in both kinds of firefights. Anticipating the spread of fires is aided by having information delivered in as close to real time as possible. Fires may appear suddenly and move at great speed, but the movements are dependent on where the fires start and the conditions of the environment in which it is trying to spread. And, of course, forest fires and battlefields are hardly exclusive events, so knowing how to handle the former still has relevance for commanders in the field.
Once in the competition, the teams will go through three phases. The first will feature the easier challenges and teams will be allowed to upload their results as many times as they like, while being judged only on the highest submitted score. That phase will run until Feb. 15. The second phase will see a harder, more complex challenge, which will run through March 15. After March 15, the field will be winnowed to the top 10 teams, who will be invited to compete in the final showdown, where their drone-code will be scored in real time.
Dynamic swarm operations are a new enough field that competitions like this seem as good an opportunity as any to shape the future of robots finding people in war. Or in fires. As the Pentagon flies an increasing number of drone missions over the United States in support of firefighting efforts, it wouldn’t hurt for those drones to know what they’re supposed to be doing. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
08 Feb 19. US Coast Guard lifts SUAS for NSC stop work order.
- The US Coast Guard has lifted its stop work order to Insitu for the SUAS for NSC programme
- This allows the company to move forward on the effort to provide ISR services
The US Coast Guard (USCG) has lifted its stop work order to Insitu for the Small Unmanned Aerial System (SUAS) for National Security Cutter (NSC) programme, allowing the company to move forward on the effort.
USCG spokesman Chad Saylor said on 5 February that the stop work order was lifted on 15 January while the service was shut down due to a lack of appropriations. The shutdown ended on 25 January. Saylor said the USCG is now working towards the installation of infrastructure and vendor-owned equipment necessary for the programme’s operation, starting with USCGC Kimball and USCGC Munro .
The stop work order was issued in June 2018 following a Textron protest of the SUAS for NSC award to Insitu. Saylor said the corrective action notification to Insitu was provided to vendors on 17 December, prior to the shutdown, and that the stop work order technically could have been lifted on 28 December after the close of the 10-day waiting period. However, the shutdown prevented the USCG from rescinding the stop work order until 15 January, he added.
Insitu spokesperson Jennifer Beloy said on 6 February that the company was to meet with NSC commands to brief them for their upcoming installations. Insitu was prepared to deliver and install, and was waiting for the USCG to give the company its schedule, she added.
USCGC James and Munroe are already configured with the vendor-agnostic core infrastructure to accept the SUAS. Saylor said on 7 February that this work was not affected by the stop work order. These cutters still need to have the work that is specific to vendor completed. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
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