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01 Aug 19. Korean Air flies KUS-VH unmanned Little Bird. Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) has flown the unmanned version of the MD 500 Little Bird light-attack and observation helicopter for the first time, it was announced on 1 August.
The Korean Air Unmanned System – Vertical Helicopter (KUS-VH), as the platform is designated, performed its maiden flight on 30 July from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute facility in Goheung.
Having been revealed in 2015 and flying for the first time in an optionally piloted configuration in 2016, the KUS-VH has bene developed with help from Boeing, which has previously demonstrated its own H-6U unmanned Little Bird to the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA).
KAL-ASD has previously told Jane’s that the company is seeking a fully unmanned solution by the time that development of the KUS-VH is complete, and that the platform will be equipped with 70mm rockets and air-to-surface missiles for the ground-attack role. Performance details of the KUS-VH have not been disclosed, although the manned MD 500 on which it is based has a top speed of 152kt, a range of 605km, and a service ceiling of 16,000ft.
While KAL-ASD has not identified the RoKA as a customer, the service is thought to have 175 manned MD 500 helicopters still in service (130 MD 500s in the observation role and 45 BGM-71 TOW missile-equipped Defender platforms in the light-attack role). These were licence-built in the 1970s by KAL-ASD, so the Korean company has the proprietary knowledge and skill sets necessary to convert these ageing helicopters into unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
KAL-ASD has previously told Janeʼs that a request for proposals for a MD 500 and Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter replacement for the RoKA was expected in late 2016 or early 2017, although this has yet to be issued (or at least publicised). (Source: IHS Jane’s)
31 Jul 19. US Navy Tests Multiple Unmanned Aerial and Undersea Systems. The US Navy has carried out a series of fleet experiments with multiple unmanned aerial and undersea systems aboard the expeditionary fast transport (EFT) vessel, USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1). Testing was conducted in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Key West, Florida, and included the V-BAT vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Scan Eagle UAV, and Knifefish unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).
The testing during Spearhead’s two-day underway included the assured position, navigation and timing (PNT) system for navigation in GPS denied/degraded environments.
US Naval Forces Southern Command/US 4th Fleet science advisor Dr Christopher Heagney said: “The purpose for these underway [periods] is to get new capabilities that are under development by warfare centres, programme offices, original equipment manufacturers, and academia out in the fleet environment so we can do at-sea testing.
“You’d be surprised how difficult things are when they’re in a maritime environment as opposed to testing on land. That’s why it’s so important for us to be out here.”
The testing assessed the ability of Knifefish UUV to support mine countermeasures missions (MCM) from an EPF as a vessel of opportunity (VOO).
Another experiment involved operating the V-BAT and Scan Eagle to provide improved detection and monitoring in support of counter-narcotics missions. Stressing the importance of such experiments, Heagney said: “In order for the fleet to focus on innovation as a priority, we have to be able to take time to experiment at sea.
“Having a US Navy ship take a week out of operations to test new capabilities makes the final product of our experiments much better and more efficient.”
The fleet experimentation exercise also involved more than 30 scientists onboard Spearhead. Built by Martin UAV, V-BAT is a long-endurance drone designed for shipboard and confined area operation.
The UAV can be launched and recovered in a 20ft x 20ft clearing and has an endurance of more than eight hours, with a payload of over 8lb.
Knifefish is designed for deployment off a littoral combat ship (LCS). The UUV has the ability to detect, classify, and identify both buried mines and mines in high clutter environments. (Source: UAS VISION/Naval Technology)
31 Jul 19. US Army to Procure Hugin Gen 2 Quadrotor from Solute. The US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) – Vicksburg, MS intends to issue a sole source award utilizing Simplified Acquisition Procedures to Solute San Diego, CA for the Purchase of twenty four (24) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). The applicable North American Industrial Classification System Code (NAICS) code for this procurement is 336411- Aircraft Manufacturing with a size standard of 1500 employees. The specific UAV required is the Hugin Gen 2 UAS. Specific characteristics of the instrument that limit the availability to a sole source is military grade encryption, interchangeable arms for additional thrust for heavy payloads up to 22 pounds with extended flight times of up to 30 minutes and collision avoidance, and specific operating parameters. These UAS systems have the capability of limited space take off capabilities, environmental operation conditions of up to 120°, are NIST SP 800 compliant. (Source: UAS VISION/DoD)
01 Aug 19. German Researchers Develop Unmanned Gyrocopter for Heavier Cargo. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is developing a new type of gyrocopter that gets rid of the pilot to provide more cargo space. The focus of the Automated Low Altitude Air Delivery (ALAADy) system, the ALAADy Demonstrator unmanned gyrocopter is designed to autonomously deliver heavier cargoes at low altitudes. With the explosion of online commerce, the problem of transporting goods from warehouse to consumer becomes increasingly difficult. As part of the effort to overcome this bottleneck, many companies and government agencies have shown increasing interest in various Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAVs) that can operate in urban or difficult-to-access areas.
So far, there’s been considerable success, but there is still something of a gap because some cargo is too large for small quadcopters and the like, and too small to justify larger conventional aircraft. It’s into this niche that the ALAADy Demonstrator is intended to fit.
A gyrocopter or autogyro is an odd machine that was once considered the symbol of aeronautical progress, but is now largely remembered for fictional secret agent James Bond using one to combat a squadron of Spectre helicopters in the 1967 spy thriller You Only Live Twice.
Though it looks like a helicopter, a gyrocopter isn’t capable of vertical flight except in very high wind conditions. The top rotors aren’t usually connected to the engine and spin freely in flight. As they do so, they provide lift. Meanwhile, forward propulsion is supplied by a second horizontal propeller.
The advantages of the gyrocopter as an autonomous delivery craft are that it is relatively simple from a mechanical point of view, as well as small, versatile, and cheap to operate. With its short takeoff and landing ability, it can land and take off almost anywhere. It can also fly very low and slow, and if the engine should fail, the rotor acts as a sort of automatic parachute to bring it safely to the ground like the maple seed that inspired its design.
For the ALAADy system that’s been under development since 2016, DLR is working on an unmanned gyrocopter that can gradually be developed into a fully autonomous delivery UAV that can be used for both commercial and humanitarian tasks. The latest step in this quest came this month at the National Experimental Test Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Cochstedt, Germany, when an unmanned, radio-controlled gyrocopter was put through a series of flightworthiness tests as a precursor to installing fully automated avionics.
“As part of DLR’s aeronautics research program, we are developing and testing a demonstrator for uncrewed freight transport, thereby opening up the prospect of carrying loads of up to 200 kg (440 lb) for distances of up to 500 km (310 mi) in lower-level airspace,” says Rolf Henke, Member of the DLR Executive Board responsible for Aeronautics Research. “Below normal air traffic, the concept allows for flexible operations on regional routes, away from populated areas.”
The latest gyrocopter is a 450-kg (992-lb) commercial craft that has been extensively modified. The seats have been removed and converted into a cargo bay, new sensors have been fitted, and control actuators installed along with a flight computer capable of autonomous operations.
According to DLR, several flight tests have been completed to altitudes of up to 150m (500ft) and speeds of up to 100 km/h (62 mph). Building on this success, the project will concentrate on making the gyrocopter autonomous.
“The next step is for the uncrewed gyrocopter to make its first automated flight,” says Sven Lorenz, leader of the construction and trial operation of the technology demonstrator at the DLR Institute of Flight Systems. “We are currently developing automatic flight control functions for all phases of flight: taxiing, take-off, cruise and landing.”
In order to achieve this, DLR has had to modify many systems, like throttle actuators, to make them more suitable for autonomous flight, as well as developing new flight procedures. Additionally, the center has had to work on the legal implications of such a UAV and how to integrate it into the conventional air traffic system over built-up, populated areas, and the logistics of existing air-fright firms. (Source: UAS VISION/New Atlas)
01 Aug 19. French Navy Aiming For 1,200 Unmanned Systems By 2030. There will be 1,200 drones in the French Navy in 2030, Marine Nationale’s Chief-of-Staff admiral Christophe Prazuck recently declared to the Commission of National Defence and Armed Forces of the French Assemblée Nationale.
“I have fifty unmanned systems today, none of which are yet operational. They are all being experimented, many of them in the FORFUSCO maritime force (ed. note: consisting in the naval infantry and commandos marine naval special forces) “, said Prazuck.
For him, the objective is now to multiply this figure by 25 during the next decade. Which means around 1200 drones: 900 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to equip boats, ashore bases and semaphores (ed. note: land-based signalling and monitoring station), about fifty unmanned surface vehicles (USV) for surveillance and 200 unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) and underwater gliders for mine warfare and environmental monitoring.
My goal, you know it, is to have one drone per boat in 2030 – small drone, small boat; big drone, big boat.Admiral Christophe Prazuck , Chief of Staff of the French Navy
The French Navy needs will cover the entire spectrum of unmanned systems, from mini UAVs to “Medium Altitude and Long Endurance [MALE] UAVs that can fly several hours, to supplement our patrol and maritime surveillance aircraft, as well as our helicopters “, added Prazuck. But UAVs will also operate from smaller ships, such as patrol vessels in order to multiply by six to ten the area typically covered by the French Navy ships.
Then the question is: who will provide a thousand of brand-new unmanned systems ? In France and Europe, Prazuck pledges. « Will we need to purchase drones from the United-States ? I do not think so, » he said. The French and European defense markets are likely to meet the French Navy needs both for small or large (MALE) drones.
It has to be noted however, that until recently, the French Navy was reportedly looking at General Atomics’ SeaGuardian MALE UAV. According to our colleague at MARS ATTAQUE, the French Navy mentioned the Sea Guardian (naval version of the MQ-9 Reaper) by General Atomics as a possible interim solution for a MALE requirement, during a symposium in mid-march. Naval News understands that other systems such as the Portuguese Tekever AR5 and the French Patroller by Safran were also being considered. The SeaGuardian however was presented as “very high-end spectrum with its capabilities”, but with its almost 6 million flying hours is “more than interesting” in terms of maturity.
Among others solutions being developed in France, Naval Group and Airbus are currently working on the VSR700 VTOL UAV (top picture). « The goal would be that it could automatically land and take-off, fly for ten hours at 100 Nm and carry 100 kilos of payload, i.e. radar and optronics, » explained Prazuck.
But the future French fleet of drones will also swim. Hundreds of them will be deployed in what is known as the SLAMF system (système de lutte anti-mines marines futur), developed under the French-British MMCM program.
“Procuring an autonomous mine warfare capability is an absolute necessity”, declared Prazuck. “This program is a true conceptual evolution: In the past, the boat which crossed a field of mines, if it did not explode, was in charge to detect them; from now on, the idea is to send autonomous drones into the mined area to detect the mines and then destroy them”, he reminded. (Source: UAS VISION/Naval News)
31 Jul 19. CISA Plans To Use Small UAS For Infrastructure Security Exercises. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) plans to use small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in infrastructure security exercises both to record the exercises to improve training and as a potential threat requiring responsive action. A privacy impact statement released by the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday says that CISA’s Infrastructure Security Division Soft Targets and Crowded Places Task Force has acquired three U.S.-made sUAS for the exercises.
“Aerial photo and video footage of an operational exercise would capture images, and video, of those individuals located within the predesignated exercise areas while also capturing the broader exercise location for exercise map-making purposes,” says the assessment, which is
dated July 25. “It is an exercise best practice for controllers and evaluators to capture video and photographic evidence during the course of the exercise, so that exercise participants can fully understand what certain findings may be identified during the course of an after action.”
As part of the equipment used in an exercise, the assessment says one example would be to employ an unmanned system as a “non-sanctioned” sUAS in a sporting venue to deploy a suspicious package and have disaster responders deal with it just as they would in a real-life incident. In the second use case, DHS says the sUAS would not record any images. It also says that the aircraft would only be operated within the operator’s line-of-sight, per Federal Aviation Administration regulations, and have fail-safe mechanisms to return to the launch point in case a signal is lost with the ground terminal. The aircraft can either be flown remotely or along a prescribed flight path. The purpose of the PIA is to explain that the sUAS would not be used to capture faces and other information that would identify either exercise participants or nearby bystanders. It also lays out the steps that would be taken to ensure personally identifiable information isn’t obtained by the systems. (Source: Defense Daily)
29 Jul 19. USAF Invests $1m in Drone Tech During Pitch Day. Program Executive Office Digital granted 13 drone technology contracts to innovative companies during a Pitch Day held July 24 at the Northeastern University Innovation Campus in Burlington. The day-long event began with thirteen pitches from businesses, followed by deliberations by Air Force junior officers and civilians, who chose to award Phase 1 small business contracts to every Pitch Day participant. The afternoon included demonstrations from Northeastern University researchers, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and two entrepreneurs selected earlier in the day.
“Hanscom Air Force Base plays a huge role in bringing small businesses, and their technology, into the fold for us,” said Dr. Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “We must be better at working with the most innovative and creative companies in tech hubs like Boston, San Francisco and Austin [Texas].”
Northeastern University facilities at the Innovation Campus provided the backdrop for presentations on small drones that can fit in tight spaces, like fuel tanks, and swarms of drones, that can autonomously team up to track people and vehicles.
“We have ongoing efforts to form defensive capabilities against small drones,” said Steven Wert, program executive officer Digital at Hanscom. “That’s an urgent need for the Air Force, and it’s a very hard physics problem. What we don’t want to do is acquire very expensive equipment to counter what is essentially a toy.”
Wert’s portfolio in PEO Digital is $19bn. The more than 3,500 Airmen, civilians and support contractors work on Air Force priorities like counter-drone defense, software development and battle management technology. The Pitch Day selection panel mostly consisted of PEO Digital employees.
As a result of Unmanned Aerial Systems Pitch Day, and an earlier Pitch Day held in New York City in March, PEO Digital is working with nearly 30 innovative companies. Wert said his goal is to have 100 or more on contract with PEO Digital, targeting solutions to the Air Force’s toughest problems.
UAS Pitch day awarded 13 companies $75,000 for a total of $975,000 in less than two-and-a-half hours. The fastest time to contract was 4 minutes and 30 seconds. (Source: UAS VISION)
26 Jul 19. Four Companies Now Will Compete to Replace Army Shadow Drones. Four companies now will compete to build a replacement for the U.S. Army’s RQ-7 Shadow drone after the service added another two challengers to the $100m program. The Army announced July 24 that Arcturus UAV of Rohnert Park, Calif., and Ashburn, Va.based L3Harris Technologies [LHX] would join Textron [TXT] subsidiary AAI Corp. and Martin UAV to compete for each order of the firm-fixed-price procurement contract running through 2022, with a $99.5m ceiling cap for the award. Eleven total bids were received for the work, according to a government contract award announcement. The Shadow replacement, dubbed “Future Tactical UAS” or FTUAS under the Army’s Future Vertical Lift modernization program, seeks to procure non-developmental scout drones that are quieter, smaller and easier to transport and deploy than the Shadow. The Army also wants its new scout drone to employ “Air Launched Effects,” or ALE, meaning it should be deployable from a helicopter mid-air. The Army has budgeted $132m for FTUAS through fiscal 2024, and a competitive fly-off is planned for fiscal 2020. In March, the Army selected Martin UAV and Textron’s AAI Corp., which builds the Shadow to compete for orders under the program. Martin UAV has teamed with Northrop Grumman’s [NOC] Technology Services segment to develop its V-BAT system, a tail-landing VTOL drone with a ducted fan. TheV-BAT takes up a 9foot by 8-foot space, can fly for up to 8 hours at a time and can dash at up to 90 knots. Incumbent manufacturer AAI put out a statement acknowledging the award, stating its Shadow drone “continues to deliver thousands of monthly flight hours” for the Army.
The company plans to offer an updated version of the Shadow it calls Block III enhancements. L3Harris builds a small, electric, rail-launched UAV called Apex with a seven-hour endurance and 100km range. Arcturus makes both catapult-launch and vertical takeoff and landing drones. The VTOL variants sport quad vertical rotors, two in front and two behind conventional fixed wings that provide lift in forward flight. The Army has requested $12.1m for procurement of 12 Shadow replacement drones at a unit cost of $632,500, plus training and project management support, according to the Army’s fiscal 2020 budget justification documents. The service is also requesting $18m to test the new aircraft in its Multi-Domain Task Force and an additional $20m to support “ALE Early Systems Analysis.” The future scout UAS will “employ teaming and swarming effects to detect, decoy, jam RADAR and communications, conduct cyber-attack, spoof and jam GPS, and kinetic engagement,” according to the Army. (Source: Defense Daily)
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