Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
28 Mar 19. MOD in Blue Bear Drone Swarm Deal. The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has awarded £2.5m to a consortium led by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd to develop drone swarm technology. The “Many Drones Make Light Work” project is the largest single contract awarded by DASA to date. The funding will steer the project for around 20 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the final stage of development, which will ultimately be managed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
UAS are currently in widespread use around the world, but the ability to employ a swarm of these systems to operate collaboratively to achieve a common goal will be of great benefit to Defence. A swarm could support lower operating costs, greater system efficiency as well as increased resilience in the following areas:
- Situational awareness
- Medical assistance
- Logistics resupply
- Explosive ordinance detection and disposal
- Confusion and deception
“The MOD continues to invest in pioneering technology that enhances capability, reduces risk to personnel and enables us to better perform our tasks,” said Defence Minister Stuart Andrew, adding “Drone swarm technology can revolutionise how we conduct intelligence gathering, humanitarian aid, disposal of explosives and supply our troops on the battlefield.”
Managing Director, Blue Bear Systems, Ian Williams-Wynn said: “The ability to deploy a swarm of low cost autonomous systems delivers a new paradigm for battlefield operations. During this project we will deploy next generation autonomy, machine learning, and AI to reduce the number of operators required, the time it takes to train them, and the cognitive burden on any operator during active operations. This allows very complex swarm-based missions to be performed simultaneously against single or multiple targets in a time sensitive and highly effective manner.”
Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd, a world leader in autonomous system solutions, will act as the consortia lead and system integrator, with IQHQ, Plextex, Airbus and the University of Durham as part of the contracted team. Each organisation brings a crucial technology and skill set to the team in this 18-month ‘integration concept evaluation’ phase which will culminate in live flight demonstrations to the military.
Currently, operational systems require one or more operators to pilot the aircraft or to closely manage the flight mission. This is manpower intensive and consumes time and resource to train operators.
Armed Forces Seek Force Multiplier
The UK Armed Forces are actively seeking robotic solutions to provide a ‘Force-Multiplier’ effect whereby a greater military capability is delivered by fewer people and equipment. The swarm system is one possible solution to this multiple domain requirement as it will cover larger areas of battlespace more quickly at lower cost and reduced man hours. It also removes the operator from potentially harmful situations.
The future project phase will seek to establish a more ‘self-sufficient’ UAS swarm, providing the military with the ability to operate in increasingly complex and contested environments. Effective Human Machine Teaming will remain at the core of this research to ensure that the human remains firmly in control of the system.
“The Phase 3 competition requirements were deliberately very challenging,” said Dstl Project Technical Lead, Antony Grabham, “as we wanted to drive rapid innovation and encourage imaginative solutions. The winning consortium really highlights the best of UK Industry, showcasing how our world leading Small and Medium Enterprise Companies can be harnessed to deliver a transformation in military capability. Enabled by an open systems architecture approach, the industry team is focused on developing an underpinning command and control and information management architecture to maximise the swarm’s ability to gather and share battle-winning information.”
This announcement follows the recent allocation of £31m by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson into new mini-drones. Money from the Transformation Fund will provide troops with an eye-in-the-sky to give them greater awareness to outmanoeuvre enemies on the battlefield.
The new £160m Transformation Fund will also develop swarm squadrons of network enabled drones capable of confusing and overwhelming enemy air defences. By working with Britain’s F35B and Typhoon combat aircraft, these swarms will allow pilots to deliver precise, lethal combat power more effectively and safely.
News emerged last year of how advanced China’s own drone swarm technology already is. Over a thousand drones performed in concert at the finale of the Global Fortune Forum in Guangzhou, establishing a new world record. The Blue Bear consortium has its work cut out for it. (Source: Warfare.Today/U.K. MoD))
28 Mar 19. Tengden readies production-ready TB001 armed reconnaissance UAV. China’s Sichuan Tengden Technology Company (Tengden) has test flown a production-ready model of its medium altitude long endurance (MALE)-class TW328/TB001 armed reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), according to reports by local media. Images of the TB001, known locally as the ‘Twin-tailed Scorpion’ and shown bearing the serial number of TB1A0101, was launched from an undisclosed airfield – believed to be Liangping Airport, a civilian-military dual-use facility – in southwest China on 20 March and reportedly flew for about 20 minutes before being recovered. The successful trial marks a key milestone in the air vehicle’s development, the reports said, paving the way for serial production and delivery to undisclosed customers. It is understood that further development work had been done to improve the reliability and stability of the TB001’s electronic architecture prior to the trial. According to company specifications, the TB001 has maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 2,800kg, as well as an overall wingspan of 20 m, a length of 10m, and a height of 3.3m. The air vehicle features a twin-boom airframe design incorporating forward-mounted turbocharged piston engines of unknown output – equipped with three bladed propellers in a tractor configuration – in each boom, terminating in vertical tails joined by a high-mounted tailplane. Retractable undercarriage has also been fitted for reduced aerodynamic drag. This arrangement enables the air vehicle to attain an operational ceiling of 26,246ft (8,000m), with a maximum range of 6,000km and endurance of 35 hours when carrying a 1,000 kg payload. Line-of-sight (LOS) control range is quoted as 280km, although it can also be equipped with a satellite communication (satcom) datalink to extend command radius to up to 3,000km. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
27 Mar 19. USAF reveals Skyborg ‘loyal wingman’ concept. The US Air Force (USAF) is developing an attritable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that it plans to fly as early as 2023, the service disclosed on 27 March. Dubbed Skyborg, the ‘loyal wingman’ designed to help manned aircraft operate in defended airspace is the brainchild of the Air Force Office of Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
“Skyborg is a vessel for AI [artificial intelligence] technologies that could range from rather simple algorithms to fly the aircraft and control them in airspace to the introduction of more complicated levels of AI to accomplish certain tasks or subtasks of the mission,” AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate engineer Matt Duquette was quoted by the USAF as saying.
On 15 March the SDPE issued a capability request for information (CRFI) to conduct market research and concept of operations analysis to learn what is currently commercially available at high technology readiness levels that can meet the requirements and timeline of the Skyborg programme. As noted by the USAF, the Skyborg is envisaged as a low-cost unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) that ‘can bring mass to the fight’ when addressing potential near-peer engagements in the future. While not expendable, the attritable UAV will need to be cheap enough not to deter potential losses. Building on the Have Raider and Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) programmes that have employed AI, the Skyborg has been officially put forward as a fiscal year 2019 funded pathfinder programme. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
27 Mar 19. US Marines’ Plywood Supply Drone in Flight Tests. LG-1K, developed by Logistic Gliders Inc under contract with DARPA and the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, is meant to be a very low-cost drone capable of being released from fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter. The plywood and aluminum drone is 10.4 feet long with a 23 foot wingspan. The LG-1K can carry up to 700lbs of supplies. It’s now flown twelve missions demonstrating its ability to glide—in some cases autonomously—to a landing zone with GPS precision. The drone is pushed out the back of an aircraft or released from a sling load. The wings are folded back during transport but pop out once the drone is airborne. The LG-1K zip at speeds of up to 135 knots and can be programmed to fly to specific waypoints to navigate around rough terrain. On approach to the target, it pops a parachute at 200 feet and comes in for a landing. The company expects it to be compatible with MV-22 and CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, KC-130, C-130, and C-17 transports, and MH-60, UH-60, CH-53, and CH-47 helicopters. The MV-22 Osprey, for example, could carry up to three of the drones, and a C-130 could carry as many as 18, potentially resupplying many units with a single overflight. The drone, which is made from plywood and aluminum, is designed to be cheap and expendable. While the gliding body itself is extremely low-tech, the drone also incorporates electronics and control systems that allow it to fly by remote control or autonomously to a set of preprogrammed GPS coordinates. Logistics Gliders anticipates the cost of each drone at approximately $4,500 to $11,000. The drone could be used to support ground troops in wars such as Afghanistan and against the Islamic State, delivering supplies to friendly columns patrolling miles from a forward operating base. It would also be useful against near-peer threats such as Russia or China with advanced air defenses. In a major war, U.S. ground forces, particularly those operating on small islands, could find themselves close enough to the enemy to be cut off by air. A resupply aircraft could fly right up to the edge of enemy air defenses and release supply drones that could fly the rest of the way on their own without placing human beings at risk. (Source: UAS VISION/Popular Mechanics)
27 Mar 19. USAF Looking to Field New ‘Skyborg’ AI Concept by 2023. The Air Force Research Laboratory is aiming to field the new prototype autonomous, unmanned combat air vehicle dubbed “Skyborg” by 2023, the service said March 27. Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper announced the new initiative March 15, and elaborated on the concept of having a “quarterback in the sky” that would train alongside pilots and eventually partner with attritable aircraft during a media gaggle March 17 (Defense Daily, March 17).
The Air Force office of Strategic Development, Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) issued a request for information to industry March 15 to conduct market research and find commercially available technologies that could meet the requirements and timeline of the Skyborg program. Responses are due April 15. Skyborg was stood up as a fiscal year 2019-funded pathfinder program through SDPE in October 2018, said Ben Tran, the effort’s program manager in a Wednesday release.
He noted that the Pentagon’s near-peer adversaries are investing heavily in artificial intelligence and autonomous capabilities. “We know that when you couple autonomy and AI with systems like low-cost attritables, that can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for our Air Force.” The 2023 goal for early operational capability “is our attempt at bringing something to bear in a relatively quick time frame to show that we can bring that kind of capability to the fight.” The new system is not currently scheduled for a specific aircraft platform, and incorporating modularity and open system architectures into Skyborg will be important, Tran said. Matt Duquette, an AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate engineer, called Skyborg “a vessel for AI technologies that could range from rather simple algorithms to fly the aircraft and control them in airspace to the introduction of more complicated levels of AI to accomplish certain tasks or subtasks of the mission.” (Source: Defense Daily)
27 Mar 1. Iraq unveils indigenous UAV. Iraq’s State Company for Military Industries (SCMI) unveiled a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during the IQDEX show held in Baghdad in March.
“The UAV has [been] intensively used in the recent Iraqi security forces war against Daish,” Jalal Hussein, SCMI’s chief engineer, told Jane’s, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State militant group.
He added that Iraqi security forces have shown serious interest in acquiring the UAV to support their operations, while he indicated that his engineers are developing more capable cameras for it and considering the possibility of arming it with bombs. The fixed-wing UAV has a 3m length, 4m wingspan, and is powered by a 220cc engine. It has a maximum speed of 175 km/hour, a cruising speed of 135km/hour, a service ceiling of 3,500m, a range of up to 80km, an endurance of up to 8 hours, and a 30kg payload, according to SCMI. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
26 Mar 19. Belgium approved for SkyGuardian. Belgium’s planned procurement of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has taken a step forward after the US State Department announced on 26 March that it had approved the deal. Announced by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the approval for the Foreign Military Sale covers four SkyGuardian medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and two fixed ground control stations (GCSs), as well as sensors, ancillary equipment, training, and a five-year support package. As noted in the approval, Belgium plans to use the SkyGuardian for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) in support of national, NATO, United Nation-mandated, and other coalition operations. “The current fleet of Belgian Air Component aircraft have proven insufficient to support sustained and persistent ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] operations,” the DSCA said. The country did not request weapons as part of its buy. The estimated cost of the planned procurement is about USD600m. With the granting of State Department approval, the deal must now be confirmed by Congress before being signed off. Jane’s has previously reported that Belgium is looking to procure two SkyGuardian UAS’, and so this DSCA notification for four aircraft likely covers two additional options to be exercised at a later date. Deliveries are planned for 2022-24, with a full operational capability being reached in 2025. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
27 Mar 19. $43m Deal to Trial Heavylift UAS Freighters in Alaska. Sabrewing Aircraft Company, Inc. and the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island (ACSPI), the Unangan (Aleut) Tribe of Native Alaskans, located on St. Paul and St. George, Pribilof Islands, jointly announced that they have signed a history-making agreement for Sabrewing to provide a mix of up to ten aircraft – featuring both the 800-pound-payload “Rhaegal” and the 4400-pound-payload “Wyvern” aircraft. Both aircraft will be tested in a new test range that was created by ACSPI following the ratification of the FAA Reauthorization Bill by Congress last fall. The ACSPI is creating the largest aircraft test range – both manned and unmanned – on the Bering Sea, centered about St. Paul Island.
“We currently test small drones under the FAA rules on our island. Under the H.R. 302, the FAA Reauthorization Act signed in October of 2018, our community is able to establish its own test range, allowing us to serve the flight test needs of the Department of Defense and industry as well,” stated Amos Philemonoff, Tribal Council President, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island.
Under the agreement, Sabrewing will provide equipment and training to allow the ACSPI community to initiate and operate a complete test range complex, known as the St. Paul eXperimental Test Range (SPxTR) Complex (“Spectre Complex”). St. Paul Island is located approximately 230 miles to the north of Unalaska-Dutch Harbor and 770 miles west of Anchorage. Centered in the Bering Sea, St. Paul Island and the SPxTR Complex, will be one of the largest aircraft test ranges in North America.
Also as part of this agreement, Sabrewing will use the SPxTR Complex to conduct research and development on its aircraft designs, and to conduct FAA certification of its aircraft as well.
“It’s the best large UAV test range that I’ve ever seen in the 31 years that I’ve been testing and certifying aircraft,” said Ed De Reyes, CEO of Sabrewing Aircraft Company.
Not only will Sabrewing be testing in the SPxTR Complex, they will also provide the test equipment, telemetry and other equipment to allow the ACSPI to operate the test complex for other customers besides Sabrewing. Sabrewing is also providing portable, remote operations and telemetry stations to the ACSPI to use in aircraft testing.
According to John “Nevada” Nevadomsky, former Flight Test Manager for Northrop Grumman and former Director of the Pan Pacific UAV Test Range Complex, and now the Director of Research, Development, Test and Evaluation for Sabrewing,
“The SPxTR Complex has the capability of testing any aircraft over the Bering Sea – with more space and capability than any test range that I’m familiar with.”
In addition to the aircraft and test range, Sabrewing and ACSPI are creating a joint venture corporation to provide UAV pilot training, maintenance and dispatcher training, and aircraft replacement and spare parts. The joint venture provides a vehicle for military and governmental contracting. Under this agreement, Sabrewing will build and sell (or lease) its cargo aircraft to commercial customers, and the joint venture will train the aircraft’s remote operators, mechanics and dispatchers.
“We’ve been discussing the possibility of using pilots trained by the University of Alaska – Anchorage to train new pilots to a Commercial/Instrument-pilot level of competency, after which we would them train them to operate our aircraft. This would help the new pilot to build hours towards an Air Transport Pilot rating – and also help alleviate the current pilot shortage as well. In discussions with the FAA, they’ve been very open to ways to train pilots to help reduce the shortage,” said CEO De Reyes.
He also stated that their remote pilots follow all the current procedures that “on-board” pilots follow, including flying instrument approaches and taking directions from air traffic control (ATC). Following published procedures and maneuvering the aircraft under ATC command is one of the most critical tasks that a pilot must perform.
Sabrewing and ACSPI have also agreed to jointly bid on Department of Defense and Federal contracts as well.
“This agreement fits nicely with our plan to build and test the aircraft in Anchorage, Alaska for both commercial and DoD customers” continued De Reyes, “It’s a perfect combination of two entities: the ACSPI – who is already testing, flying and training operators of small drones and is leading from the front on modernizing their community – and us, who provide an aircraft that can not only bring much needed supplies to their community in any weather, day or night. This is a convergence of two innovative entities,” stated De Reyes.
St. Paul Island is located about 250 air miles to the west of the western shore of Alaska, almost directly in the center of the Bering Sea. The island community of about 500 inhabitants has steadily led their population forward in both education and technology – even teaching classes in both Anchorage and St. Paul is drone pilot licensing, software development and conservation. St. Paul has also kept their native traditions alive by teaching their language in school to make sure that it will always be a part of their culture.
“When we first saw St. Paul Island, we fell in love with the quiet serenity of the location, the ability to test our aircraft in a location with hundreds of thousands of square miles of test range, and the friendly, family-like attitude of the people there. We’re looking forward to starting our testing there as soon as we’re able,” said De Reyes. (Source: UAS VISION)
26 Mar 19. ECA GROUP introduces UMIS Containerised: An air-transportable drones system for MCM missions. To be ready for the mission, anywhere and with a full operational capacity, is one of the main concerns of today’s navies. Thus, their unmanned systems are meant to be easily deployable, from the mothership, an opportunity vessel or ashore – the transportability is a must.
That is the reason why, from the beginning, ECA GROUP designed its UMIS™ (Unmanned MCM Integrated System) as a modular and compact “toolbox” of drones, configurable according the mission.
UMIS™ is a comprehensive naval drones system developed by ECA GROUP and adopted by several navies such as Belgium and Netherlands, a NATO reference for mine clearance missions at sea.
UMISTM is composed of naval drones (USV/AUV/ROV/MIDS), their autonomous systems (LARS – Launch And Recovery Systems) and a new generation of command and control (C2) software suite UMISOFTTM which makes this system totally integrated and autonomous for standoff mine warfare.
Operators are safe while controlling a situation from the distance via radio communication and receiving information or data gathered by the USV or AUV and ROV. According the mission, the environment or other constraint, they choose their drones configuration (the team) and deploy it to work autonomously or remotely operated on the battlefield. Of course, crucial decision (neutralizing the mine) are still being made by the operator.
Each naval drone, each autonomous or remotely operated equipment of a ECA GROUP drones system, integrates an embedded UMISOFTTM module which is linked to the main supervision core dispatched in the control consoles of the operation center located onboard the mother ship or ashore.
Containerise & take away
UMISTM Containerised is a flexible and stand-alone unmanned solution. To meet navies’ requirements and their logistic constraints, ECA GROUP designed specific storage and transportation equipment for each possible configuration. The containerized facility can be deployed in coastal areas, canals, ports and harbor entrances.
A typical UMISTM Containerised configuration can be made of a dedicated C2 container and its “tools” dedicated containers for several drones of the “team”.
The C2 container will be deployed on land or on a non-dedicated ship (COOP or NATO), while the drones will be able to be deployed from beaches, river banks, port docks. The main functions of the C2 are to operate the drones like USV INSPECTOR 125, mid-size AUV A18-M, towed sonar T18-M, MIDS configuration made of inspection ROV SEASCAN and the “mine killer” K-STER and men portable AUV A9-M and its equipment such as LARS. A complete UMISTM Containerised configuration is air-transportable and can be deployed very quickly anywhere in the world. It is fully compliant with safety and transportation norms. This solution is already used by several world’s navies.
26 Mar 19. South Africa Sends Hand-Launched UAVs to the Congo. The South African National Defence Force is deploying hand-launched unmanned aerial vehicles to its peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the first time. This appears to be the Indiza, locally developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was displayed during Exercise Phirima 3 held on 21 March at Potchefstroom. It was designed to provide final combat readiness for 2 South African Infantry Battalion’s deployment to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been testing the UAV since at least last year – this has included successful evaluations in the Kruger National Park. In October 2018 an SANDF official told defenceWeb that the evaluations were ahead of a potential deployment to the DRC.
The Indiza was developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and can be folded up into a small container for deployment. The CSIR revealed that the aircraft is in production for a client but was not allowed to reveal who it was.
A CSIR official told defenceWeb that the Indiza has been flying a lot, and recorded over 100 flights and 70 flight hours in the current financial year. This included successful testing in 50 km/h winds and on border safeguarding missions with the SANDF.
Indiza is a hand-launched two metre span, rugged mini-UAV that can fly for over an hour at distances of up to 10 km using a brushless electric motor powered by a lithium battery pack. The Indiza airframe can house a number of generic camera pods, including day and night cameras. Various payloads up to 500 grams can be accommodated in Indiza’s modular payload bay. The camera is retracted on landing, which is assisted by a laser ranging system that is able to determine the UAV’s height above the ground.
Indiza’s ground-based equipment consist of a laptop with data link modems and optional tracking antenna system to extend the range and improve the communication quality of the video and data links. An optional radio control transmitter can be used for man-in-the-loop control of both the airframe and camera system.
The CSIR said Indiza can be used for surveillance activities such as public order policing, border management and infrastructure monitoring as well as research and development projects.
“There are very few other unmanned aerial systems that can match Indiza in terms of low-cost, advanced functionality, ease of operation, adaptability and open architecture design. The culmination of all of these renders Indiza unique in its class and our engineers and test facilities are readily available to perform adaptations or to evaluate new concepts of use. The next variant of Indiza will be able to perform up to a four hour mission by maintain the existing design baseline, but switching to a different propulsion option,” the CSIR said. (Source: UAS VISION/Defence Web)
25 Mar 19. Landmark Gulf of Finland complex UTM trials to start soon. The SESAR JU reports that the Gulf of Finland (GOF) U-space demonstration project members have announced more details of the ambitious trials they will run in the coming months. Funded by the SESAR Joint Undertaking, the demonstration taking in Estonia and Finland will showcase how U-space can serve both unmanned and manned aviation.
“The demonstration brings together a broad consortium with 19 members, including three world-leading UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) technology vendors, two air navigation services providers as well as deep ATM experience is developing interoperability and data-sharing solutions, which are aligned with SESAR’s overall U-space architecture. A pre-operational authority SWIM-based Flight Information Management System (FIMS) integrates existing commercial off the shelf (COTS) UTM components. The consortium is also proposing and demonstrating new interoperability solutions to bridge gaps when needed,” says the SESAR press release.
“Seven advanced drone operational scenarios including both manned and unmanned aircraft in shared airspace demonstrate many of the most attractive use cases, relying on U-space services to be safe as well as cost effective with the aim to accelerate the realisation of a shared U-space in Europe, starting with low-level airspace. All three UTM technology vendors share responsibility for providing U-space services to the drone operators and authorities in the trials. Data sharing will happen through the FIMS as well as delegated directly from UTM to UTM serving the same airspace.
“The seven ambitious trials include ten drone operators in addition to manned aircraft: International parcel delivery between Helsinki and Tallinn, dense urban drone fleet operations in Helsinki with Police intervention and also in Tallinn in controlled airspace, 100km+ beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) multisensory inspection flights in forestry and utility inspection, co-operation with general aviation and recreational users at uncontrolled airfield, maritime search-and-rescue with drones and helicopters, and an electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) Volocopter Air Taxi flight from Helsinki-Vantaa airport to Helsinki.
“The GOF concept enables shared situational awareness for all aviation stakeholders. The proposed SWIM-based, service-oriented architecture (SOA) underlines that the proposed data exchange layer might be subject to a centralised regime owned by the ANSPs providing unique services to U-space service providers (USSP). GOF addresses not only FIMS to USSP connectivity, but also proposes an open industry standard for connecting unmanned systems (UAS) to selected USSP services. ATM data, such as traffic information, is available to USSP’s through the FIMS, and vice versa, making U-space immediately relevant for low-level aircraft, such as Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS), air taxis and state aviation. FIMS’s in different Flight Information Regions (FIR) can also be interconnected, which will be demonstrated by connecting the FIMS in Estonia to the FIMS in Finland to handle cross-border operations in one of the trials.
The Gulf of Finland project
…Aims to establish a pre-operational flight information management system (FIMS) with an architecture capable of integrating existing commercial-off-the-shelf UTM components. The capabilities of the FIMS will be demonstrated in different live cases representing the most typical visual line of sight (VLOS) and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) missions:
- International parcel delivery between Helsinki and Tallinn
- Dense urban drone fleet operations in Helsinki with Police intervention
- Dense urban drone fleet operations in Tallinn in controlled airspace
- 100km+ BVLOS multisensory inspection flights in forestry and utility inspection
- Co-operation with general aviation and recreational users at uncontrolled airport
- Maritime traffic surveillance combined with search-and-rescue over Gulf of Finland
- Drone Taxi flight from Helsinki-Vantaa airport to downtown Helsinki. (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
22 Mar 19. Cutting-edge UAV further improves firing range safety. A team at DE&S responsible for ensuring firing ranges are safe have acquired a cutting-edge unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to further eliminate the risk of danger at the sites. The DE&S Defence Ordnance Safety Group (DOSG) provides safety advice for the safe procurement of ordnance munitions and explosives. It also advises on the safe use of weapon systems in training on the Defence estate, both in the UK and abroad. DOSG use a ballistic computer model to simulate the effects of firing weapons. Statistical probabilities are produced which are used to determine the weapon danger area that must be applied on firing ranges to ensure the safety of users, observers and the general public. To ensure that the most accurate danger area can be determined, detailed representation of the topography of the range is required – the relative height of the range floor and its extent. To do this, an Aibotix X6 was acquired by the team to capture data in the form of photographs, which are orthorectified (oriented north and adjusted for mapping) using the onboard differential GPS data. The UAV allows the team to provide accurate coverage of six to eight hectares in approximately six hours – a process that would have taken several days beforehand. The six-rotor UAV, with a lift capacity of two kilograms, enables a number of different sensors to be deployed. Flight planning software is used to ensure the target area is covered with a sufficient density of photographs. Once the flight plan is uploaded, the UAV becomes wholly autonomous and will take photographs at pre-determined waypoints. This data is processed to produce a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the 3D surface. Using a high resolution digital camera and software incorporating stereoscopic techniques, an accuracy of 12 millimetres can be achieved in both location and height. The photographs are downloaded from the UAV and the photogrammetry software splices all the images together, creating a mosaic covering the area under the flight plan route. The software also quickly creates a 3D representation of the surface by draping the mosaic over the DEM. DOSG UAV Duty Holder, Major (ret) Charles Ross, said: “Using a drone greatly increases the DOSG modelling capability by providing highly accurate data in a relatively short space of time. It is possible, now, to provide accurate coverage of six to eight hectares in approximately six hours from launch to finished product. It would have taken several days in the past. “The system is now effective and valuable, but the complexity of the processes faced by the team to arrive at this place proved daunting and at times the goal seemed almost unachievable. Innovation can only advance if a climate to accept it exists – at every level. (Source: U.K. MoD desider)
22 Mar 19. First Flight for China’s Energy Battery-Powered UAV. The China-developed new energy battery-powered demonstration unmanned aerial vehicle, known as LQ-H, has conducted a successful maiden flight. LQ-H, the technical demonstration UAV, conducted the flight at an airport in Zhengzhou in central China’s Henan Province, said its developer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, which is also the developer of China’s C919 large passenger airplane.
Powered by a hydrogen fuel battery, LQ-H had a smooth flight with all systems in good condition. And its battery power system has been fully validated, COMAC said.
COMAC said it was substantial progress for them in terms of exploring new energy aircraft.
With a wingspan of 6 meters, LQ-H uses a hydrogen fuel cell for its main power and a lithium battery as supplementary power. The demonstration UAV model uses multiple new technologies, such as 3D printing and compound materials, to lower its weight and pave the way for new-technology application in further manufacturing. Hydrogen energy could be acquired and through various sustainable energy sources such as solar power and wind energy.
“It is one of the major research directions of global aviation industry to construct a low-carbon sustainable transportation system by utilizing hydrogen energy,” said Yang Zhigang, pre-research chief designer of Beijing Aeronautical Science and Technology Research Institute of COMAC.
The LQ-H series technical demonstration aircraft includes four configurations, which feature in fixed and retractable landing gears, and three different empennage types.
Through iterative evolution, the endurance of the LQ-H aircraft is expected to reach 24 hours.
The LQ-H series was jointly developed by a research team from subsidiaries of COMAC and State Power Corporation Limited, generating professional and technical resources from a domestic university and several companies.
More new configurations and technologies of the LQ-H series will be developed through the new energy-powered aircraft as a platform. Moreover, plans for its industrialization development are underway, according to COMAC. (Source: UAS VISION/Shine)
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