Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
04 Apr 19. Ukrspec PD-1 UAV at SOFINS. At SOFINS 2019, Ukraine’s Ukrspec presented its UAV solution. The PD-1 unmanned aerial system is specially designed for ISTAR operations. A PD-1 system consists of two PD-1 unmanned aerial vehicles with 50cc gas engine, planar high resolution 35 MP or 50 MP digital camera, rugged case ground control station, communication link, video transmission link, video transmission link, antennas, spare parts and accessories.
The PD-1 is equipped with the USG-212 multi-sensor gyro-stabilized gimbal comes equipped with a Sony Full HD 30x optical zoom block camera and a 40mm IR camera that allows effective detection and tracking of targets even in low-visibility conditions. The integrated anti-vibration damping system ensures high image quality even at maximum optical zoom. It can carry up to 8 kg payload and has a maximum take-off weight of 33 kg. PD-1 UAV features a service ceiling of 3,000 m and an endurance of 10+ hours, while an EFI upgrade gives the platform a flight time of up to 15 hours. Its 4-stroke engine allows a cruise speed of 95 km/h and a maximum speed of 140 km/h.
The PD-1 UAV can be operated at temperatures -20°c to +45°c and wind up to 20 m/s. The system has telemetry link up to 100 km and real-time wireless video link up to 50 km. Total flight range of the PD-1 is over 400 km. Telemetry and video links are encrypted with AES256 and AES128 respectively. PD-1 UAS comes equipped with an autopilot. Autopilot and GCS software allows to program flight route, do specific actions (e.g. take photos at certain point), do automatic runway take-off and landing, automatic launch from pneumatic catapult and parachute recovery and much more. All information from the PD-1 UAV (e.g. fuel level, engine temp, engine RPM, etc.) comes to GCS in real-time. PD-1 can also perform fully autonomous flights.
PD-1 Unmanned Aerial Systems are currently on service in Ukrainian Armed Forces. Their solution has received positive feedback from Ukrainian Army officers, drone operators and intelligence agents. PD-1 comes equipped with anti-jam capabilities, allowing it to be operated without GNSS signal or even when it faces GPS spoofing or control signals interception attempts. (Source: UAS VISION/Army Recognition)
04 Apr 19. US Army Releases RFI For New Small UAS. The US Army is looking for input on industry’s ability to deliver a new small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) for its squads that is capable of being “rapidly deployable in austere, harsh environments.” A Request for Information released Wednesday details the Army’s initial efforts to find a Squad sUAS that can fit in a soldier’s pack, carry an electro-optical/infrared camera payload, and potentially stay operational for up to 90 minutes. “This [RFI] is for a Squad sUAS asset for small combat outposts, route clearance elements, and retrograde operations to provide force protection and maneuver elements real time and near real time situational awareness on the battlefield,” officials wrote. Officials added they’re looking for a developed, tested capability, which is specifically designed to handle vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and be rapidly deployable in harsh environments. Initial requirements for the Squad sUAS include the ability to handle encrypted communication, provide a data link with ranges of up to at least 5 km., work from a single hand controller, weigh less than 10 pounds and operate in temperatures between -30 and 130 degrees
Fahrenheit. Industry has also been asked to identify whether a capability may be able to operate for up to 90 minutes with the payload in use, conduct VTOL from a confined space, operate in high winds and retain functions in a Precision, Navigation and Timing-denied environment. (Source: Defense Daily)
05 Apr 19. Drone risk to aircraft is rising sharply, UK safety experts warn. Number of times a drone endangered safety in British airspace increased by third last year. The UK Airprox Board recorded 125 dangerously close encounters with drones in 2018. The number of times a drone endangered the safety of an aircraft in UK airspace rose by more than a third last year, according to the body that investigates such near misses. The UK Airprox Board recorded 125 dangerously close encounters in 2018, up from 93 in 2017 and 71 in 2016. Of these, 39 were at Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport — slightly more than double the previous year’s total — and 10 at Manchester. Rob Hunter, head of flight safety at Balpa, the British pilots’ union, said the rise was “incredibly concerning”. He added: “A drone coming into contact with an airliner or helicopter could prove disastrous.” Heathrow said: “We have invested significantly over the years to enhance our capabilities to detect and deter drones at the airport.” It added that the government needed to continue creating “the right regulations and enforcement tools to keep the UK’s skies safe as the technology evolves”.
However, the drone sighting that triggered a three-day shutdown at Gatwick airport last year was not reported to the board because pilots and air traffic controllers did not feel the safety of aircraft was endangered. The initial reports of a drone over Gatwick’s airfield came from airport security officers, rather than pilots, and led to an immediate shutdown over broader operational and safety concerns. In total, 140,000 people had their travel plans disrupted. In the wake of the incident Gatwick, the UK’s second busiest airport, spent about £5m on anti-drone equipment and is now looking at buying more. It said: “The safety of Gatwick’s passengers and employees will always be the priority in our decision-making.” Airprox figures showed that Gatwick reported only one drone incident last year, despite handling 284,000 flights. The airport’s air traffic control operates within a much smaller airspace than Heathrow with fewer opportunities for incursions. Mr Hunter said the actual number of drone incidents at all airports last year could be “much higher” than 125 as drones were hard to spot and because Airprox reports “can be quite restrictive in what is considered a near-miss”. The International Civil Aviation Organization’s definition of an airprox incident — when an object comes close enough to endanger an aircraft — depends on “the opinion of a pilot or air traffic services personnel”.
Rupert Dent, regulations director at Arpas, the drone trade association, said: “The issue [with the definition] is that you can only start with a visual report and a pilot can only report what he thinks he saw. There is no mechanical absolute definition.” Recommended Izabella Kaminska Do not blame the drones for outpacing airspace regulation In one incident from February 2019, the board disagreed with a pilot’s assessment of the risk posed by a drone to an A320 aeroplane, saying that “safety had not been assured”. The government cited the UK Airprox Board’s figures in its consultation on the future of drone regulation, in which it is looking at whether it should tighten restrictions on drone flights near airports. Respondents to the consultation said drone reporting needed more scrutiny “as some felt that incidents with drones are being over reported”. Following the Gatwick incident, the government rushed through legislation to enlarge drone exclusion zones around airports to a maximum of 5km, from the previous 1km. It had already announced that drone operators would need to register their drones and pass a test from November 2019. (Source: FT.com)
03 Apr 19. Brazilian and Russian companies team to offer Orlan-10E UAS in Brazil. Brazilian company SIATT-Engenharia, Indústria e Comércio has initiated talks with Russian state-owned organisation Rosoboronexport to market and build Orlan-10E multimission surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned aerial systems (UASs) in Brazil, Jane’s was told on 2 April.
Speaking at the 2019 LAAD defence and security exhibition, being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 2–5 April, officials said Russian UAS manufacturer Special Technology Center (STC) and Brazilian consulting firm Logitec Assessoria em Logística also are involved in the talks gearing at selling the vehicle for military, homeland security, and civil applications.
Designated as Águia-10E in Brazil, the UAS is being proposed with three different gyro-stabilized electro-optical payloads, as well as in two variants equipped with radio frequency monitoring unit and photography, video, or thermal imaging kits respectively. Other associated equipment includes a ground control station and transport cases.
The catapult-launched Orlan-10E feature maximum take-off weight of 18.7kg, 3.1m wingspan, 4.5kg payload capacity, maximum 150km/h speed, endurance of more than 10 hours, a maximum service ceiling of 5,000m and range in excess of 500km. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
03 Apr 19. IAI expands Heron UAV unified control station availability worldwide .Key Points:
- IAI is making its Heron UAV unified control station available worldwide
- The company focused on touch-screen simplicity and reducing information overload
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is expanding worldwide the availability of the unified control system (UCS) for its family of Heron medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Santiago Machtinger, IAI Americas desk director, told Jane’s on 2 April that the company developed the UCS with simplicity in mind. Instead of adding more information and sophistication, Machtinger said the UCS was designed with touch-screen simplification. He said the goal was to provide efficient user interfaces.
“It’s much less stressful,” Machtinger said at the 2019 LAAD Defence and Security exposition. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
02 Apr 19. Schiebel to equip S-100 Camcopter with new engine to meet RAN requirement. Austrian unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) manufacturer Schiebel is developing a new JP-5-powered heavy fuel engine for its S-100 Camcopter after its initial choice of heavy fuel engine failed to meet endurance requirements set by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
Andrew Watson, general manager at Schiebel Pacific, confirmed to Jane’s on 2 April that two JP-5-powered S-100 rotary-winged unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) contracted by the RAN as lead customer in December 2016 had been replaced by two aviation gasoline (avgas)-powered S-100s after the former failed to meet the RAN’s endurance requirement of six hours with a 20kg payload. The air vehicles had been acquired to meet the RAN’s interim maritime vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) requirements. The contract included three years of technical support, and options for sensor and platform upgrades. The RAN started shipborne evaluation trials of the two heavy-fuel variants in 2018, replacing a single on-loan S-100 that was powered by a Diamond piston engine, the aviation gasoline fuel of which was deemed unsuitable for shipborne evaluations because of its relatively low flashpoint.
The Diamond engine was replaced by Schiebel with the two-disc Rotron 600, sourced from UK company Rotron and modified in-house. The Rotron engine accepts JP-5, a kerosene-based fuel with a flash point above 60° C and specified by the RAN for safety reasons.
Watson said endurance with the Rotron 600 had peaked during the 2018 trials at about five hours with a 20 kg payload. It had been expected to at least equal – if not better – the six hours delivered by the Diamond-powered variant.
“The Rotron engine is now dead and buried and the urgent replacement is Schiebel’s own-design S-2 engine, which is based on the company’s wide experience with heavy fuels,” Watson said. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
01 Apr 19. DARPA claims drone autonomy program an undeniable success. Six tigersharks and 14 ghosts took to the sky above Yuma, Arizona. The tigers were drones specially outfitted as part of DARPA’s CODE program, or “Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment,” and the ghosts were virtual doubles of the tigersharks, following along with the tiger drones in simulation. The exercise was the capstone in a program designed to teach drone how to work together in the absence of modern communications infrastructure.
Modern drones are heavily dependent on satellites. The most obvious ways is through GPS, which has in a few decades moved from cutting edge military enabler to an integral part of modern life for the military and civilians alike. GPS enables far more complex and accurate navigation than the high error tolerances of inertial management before it, but GPS signals can be jammed or, in a truly grim scenario, the satellites in orbit could be destroyed. Besides GPS, modern military drones are mostly remotely piloted, signals relayed through permissive electromagnetic spectrum and sometimes carried by satellites in orbit.
CODE is, as the full name suggests, about operating in those denied environments, regardless of how they are denied. DARPA started this program in 2015, and has been ramping up the program for a conclusion in spring 2019. The end product is a bundle of, well, code that is government owned and designed airframe-agnostic, so that the Navy and Air Force can adapt it as they see fit to their existing platforms.
This isn’t the first time the Pentagon’s had to design drones without the aid of satellite infrastructure. Recently published documents from the National Reconnaissance Office’s D-21 program show the challenges of making drones work without direct control. Virtually all aspects of the technology have improved since then, but it’s still informative for how a drone was supposed to operate on its own in hostile territory. CODE takes advantage of modern systems, and also has the drones rely on each other for communication relays, input, and navigation when cut off from external communications and navigational aids.
The end result is a new sort of software infrastructure, a tool to iterate and improve upon that lets drones work together to meet mission goals without the need for a dedicated human pilot to remotely control each vehicle. Autonomy is designed and sold primarily as a way to overcome jamming and continue operations in denied environments, but it’s also a labor saving (or labor-amplifying) tool. Mostly autonomous swarms mean dozens of vehicles can be overseen by the same crew it once took to pilot a single craft, and that has huge implications for filling the skies of future wars. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
01 Apr 19. Vietnam to Acquire ScanEagles. Boeing is close to sealing a deal to sell unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Vietnam, an official from the U.S. company revealed. The sale will be supported through U.S. Foreign Military Financing and the recipient will be the Vietnamese Coast Guard, Yeong Tae Pak, Boeing’s marketing director for defense sales in Southeast Asia, said Wednesday at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia.
“The sale is in progress,” British security magazine Jane’s quoted him as saying.
The number of UAVs to be bought is not known. Yeong said the deal is as an indicator of Boeing’s defense sales strategy in newer regional markets like Vietnam, where opportunities to grow its defense presence is “being pursued through lower-tier platforms.”
The drone can operate above 15,000 feet and hover over a battlefield for extended missions of up to 20 hours, depending on system configuration. The five-foot-long ScanEagle UAV has a 10-foot wingspan and can operate in land and maritime environments. In February the U.S.’s Indo-Pacific Command chief, Admiral Phil Davidson, said in a statement that Vietnam is acquiring equipment from the U.S., including Boeing Insitu ScanEagle UAVs, Beechcraft T-6 Texan II trainer aircraft and a second decommissioned US Coast Guard cutter. In August last year a local newspaper quoted an unnamed U.S. State Department official as saying that Vietnam had signed contracts to buy U.S. military equipment worth $94.7m. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry has neither confirmed nor denied the information. (Source: UAS VISION/VN Express)
01 Apr 19. INVOLI joins Swiss U-Space Initiative. INVOLI has joined the Swiss U-Space, the first country-wide collaborative effort for safely and securely integrating drones into the airspace, which was initiated in 2017 by skyguide, the national air navigation services provider.
Known in the USA as “UTM” or “Unmanned Traffic Management”, the U-Space designates a set of services and procedures developed at European level to enable situational awareness, data exchange and digital communication for the European drone ecosystem. With millions of drones expected in the years to come, the U-Space services will power the ever-increasing drone ecosystem in Switzerland for advanced commercial applications. To name a few, these include drone delivery, large-scale inspection of infrastructure and so on and usually require geo-awareness, tracking, and risk management.
INVOLI will contribute to the U-Space its unique low altitude air traffic data for drones, data gathered through a network of in-house developed detection devices, deployed as a dense network covering the whole country. Nothing is added onto the drone as to not diminish its autonomy, the system is decentralized on the ground over existing infrastructure, such as Swisscom cell towers or the rooftops of Swiss Prime Site properties. The technology detects aircraft in real-time, especially the ones flying low and at risk of hitting drones (including helicopters, aircraft, gliders etc.).
In partnership with Swisscom, the leading Swiss telecommunication and one of its leading IT providers, pilot deployments of the INVOLI system are currently being tested in Switzerland for flight awareness purposes, especially in the low altitudes.
INVOLI is continuing its deployment, which covers today an area of approximately 10,000 square km and the whole of Switzerland by 2020.
“Being a part of the Swiss U-Space is an important milestone for us, the result of hard work put into continuous technological developments, but it is also a reward for the dedication of the amazing team which INVOLI has today. We are at the same time humbled and proud to be part of the history of aviation being written today.” says Manu Lubrano, CEO and co-founder of INVOLI. (Source: UAS VISION)
01 Apr 19. US supporting Bangladeshi development of UAS for UN deployment. The US Department of State has pledged at least USD13m in support of Bangladesh’s commitment to developing an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capability for deployment to UN peacekeeping operations.
The move is part of Washington’s “commitment to assist the UN in addressing capability shortfalls, including critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that will strengthen mission operations”, the State Department said in a 29 March statement, adding that the US Department of Defense will be “further providing training, technology, and subject matter expertise on a variety of topics, including advising the UN on how to incorporate and more effectively employ UAS capabilities into their missions”. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
01 Apr 19. Skyborg Program Seeks Industry Input for AI initiative. The US Air Force office of Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation at the Air Force Research Laboratory is working on fielding a prototype Autonomous, Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle as an Early Operational Capability as early as 2023.
The program is known as Skyborg, and the SDPE office issued what is called a “Capability Request for Information” to industry March 15 to conduct market research and Concept of Operations analysis to learn what is commercially available now as high technology readiness level capabilities which can meet the requirements and timeline of the Skyborg program.
Skyborg officially stood up as an FY19 funded pathfinder program through SDPE in October 2018, according to Ben Tran, Skyborg Program Manager.
“There was a lot of analysis that determined what was put into the CRFI,” said Tran. “We’ve been given the overall objective to have an early operational capability prototype fielded by the end of calendar year 2023, so this is our first step in determining what the current state of the art is from a technology perspective and from a systems engineering perspective to provide that EOC capability in 2023.”
Low cost, attritable, unmanned air vehicles are one way to bring mass to the fight when it comes to addressing potential near-peer engagements in the future, according to Tran.
“We also know there is heavy investment by our near-peer adversaries in artificial intelligence and autonomy in general. 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 and so the 2023 goal line is our attempt at bringing something to bear in a relatively quick timeframe to show that we can bring that kind of capability to the fight.”
Matt Duquette, an engineer from AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate, brings a background in UAV control, autonomy, and modeling and simulation of UAVs, especially teams of UAVs to the effort while assisting the Skyborg program with formulating its approach to the autonomy system and some of the behaviors that the UAVs will have.
“Skyborg is 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 sub-tasks of the mission,” said Duquette.
This builds on much of the AFRL foundational work with AI shown with programs such as Have Raider and the Auto Ground and Air Collision Avoidance systems, which prove that levels of autonomy in high performance aircraft are not only possible, but also practical.
“Part of our autonomy development is building assurance into the system. You can either build assurance by using formal methods or approaches where at design time, as you develop these autonomous capabilities, you guarantee certain behaviors, or a more practical approach is to assess the capabilities of these behaviors at run time, meaning while they’re running on the aircraft. So, those are the capabilities that we’re interested in looking at from the experimentation level to see what type of assurance you need in the system so you can mix high and low criticality.”
Patrick Berry, from AFRL’s Sensors Directorate, is supporting the Skyborg program by conducting modeling, simulation and analysis and said,
“We’re looking at a range of vehicle performance parameters – mission analysis will help us determine what the final outcome is and the responses from the CRFI will help us understand what the performance is of currently available systems and whether those will meet the needs or not. Everything from keeping up with combat platforms to slower platforms for sensing. There will be a range of possibilities there,” he said.
Although Skyborg is not scheduled for any particular type of aircraft platform at this time, Tran said the CRFI emphasizes the importance of an open systems architecture, having modularity in the system, not only from a sensing capabilities standpoint, but overall mission systems, as well as the autonomy associated with the mission capability for the platform.
“We’ve partnered with the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and specifically an organization called the Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force and we’re working with them beginning with small, fast-moving UAVs to test the current state of the art in AI and autonomy in those airplanes and the ability for them to autonomously team and collaborate in flight,” said Tran.
Machine Learning has progressed greatly over the last few years and we’re very inspired by those results and excited by things that are going on in the gaming industry for instance,” said Maj. Ryan Carr, from AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate.
“We expect that that technology will continue to mature fairly rapidly. What we really need to understand is, ‘How do you take that and do something like bring it to the real world and fly with it for example?’ The thing we’re trying to get at early on is how to do that safely. We’re talking about run-time assurance, working hand-in-hand with the flight test community who have a very long record of safe flight testing. That’s really what we want to focus our attention on in this early period,” Carr said.
“We want to do this in a way that builds trust in the system as you go along so that when you get to that EOC, you will have established a baseline of trust so that operational youth will believe what the system will do or believe it’s safe. It’s not just that end state capability, it’s the trust as you go along,” he added.
Before operational AI innovation can occur, the Air Force must field an autonomous system that meets an immediate operational need and can serve as an iterative platform to facilitate complex AI development, prototyping, experimentation, and fielding, and that system is Skyborg, the CRFI says. (Source: UAS VISION)
28 Mar 19. The Army picks 2 drones to try out to replace Shadow. The Army has selected Martin UAV and Textron, AAI Corporation to provide unmanned aircraft systems for platoons to try out as possible candidates to replace the Shadow tactical UAS. The contracts are each worth up to $99.5m, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity, over a three year period. The plan is to deliver several systems to six platoons – assigned through Army Forces Command – that will evaluate systems during Combat Training Center rotations. The designated platoons are expected to be announced soon.
The service dropped a solicitation to industry last fall calling for UAS that could participate in a fly-off ahead of the Army’s effort to buy, then try, then decide on a path forward in terms of future procurement.
The UAS were selected after the rigorous fly-off over December and January at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, who is in charge of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) modernization efforts, told a group of reporters at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium March 28.
The Army was looking for systems that improved upon the Shadow UAS’ performance, according to Rugen, particularly better acoustics (Shadow sounds like a flying lawn mower) and runway independence (Shadow relies on a runway to take off and an arresting device to land).
“The offers were graded on the ability to not only improve upon the Shadow, but to do the Shadow’s missions as well,” Rugen said. “I was pleased with the response, a very healthy response,” to the UAS that showed up to fly in the demonstration, Rugen said. “I think there has been quite a bit of development that has been going on in industry and in the civilian sector and we were happy to leverage that.”
While the fly off played a major part in the selection process, the Army also evaluated technical proposals – roughly 50 percent of the grade was based on that proposal.
The platoon-level evaluations of the winning systems over the course of fiscal year 2020 will help the Army decide how it would like to proceed in not only replacing Shadow but in acquiring a Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) system that will play an integral role in the future fleet alongside manned and optionally manned helicopters in advanced teaming.
“We are very focused on 2021 and seeing the outcomes,” Rugen said, “but our goal is that in 2012 that this could fully inform our requirement and if things go tremendously, which they don’t always do, we are postured to exploit that success in 2021.”
Replacing the Shadow is seen as a quick win for the Army’s effort to modernize its force. Shadow has been the UAS with the most problems, according to a review of mishaps over the course of several years. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
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