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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

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09 Aug 19. NASA Launches National UAV Safety Competition. The Safeguard with Autonomous Navigation Demonstration (SAND) is an opportunity for small businesses to compete in an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) competition to help NASA address safety-critical risks associated with flying UAVs in the national airspace such as: flight outside of approved airspace, unsafe proximity to people or property, and critical system failure.

NASA is working to deliver technologies designed to enable a safe and efficient national airspace that is convenient, affordable, and accessible for both existing and emerging operations. Leveraging a consortium of partners across industry, government, and academia, NASA is introducing the Safeguard with Autonomous Navigation Demonstration (SAND) Challenge to demonstrate a next step toward the future. The SAND challenge will give small businesses the opportunity to compete in an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle competition designed to push the boundaries of traditional operations. The competition will demonstrate NASA technologies designed to assure safe operations of autonomous vehicles, promote public confidence in increasingly autonomous commercial operating capabilities, create opportunities for collaboration and facilitate community wide learning while capturing public imagination.NASA Langley’s patented Safeguard technology will fly onboard the competitor’s vehicle while navigating the competition course. Safeguard is NASA’s patented aviation quality geo-fencing technology that independently monitors vehicle position and speed. Safeguard is designed to supersede or override non-standardized manufacturer UAV geo-fencing technology to ensure the UAV operates only within approved airspace, assuring safety of UAS flight operations to meet regulatory and safety requirements.The SAND challenge will demonstrate the autonomous surveillance of a post-natural disaster scenario amidst critical infrastructure while also demonstrating the utility of Safeguard to provide the safety assurance necessary to allow these autonomous operations to take place. (Source: UAS VISION)

09 Aug 19. Only One Iraqi CH-4 UAV Fully Operable. Iraq is struggling to maintain its airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability, especially its Chinese-made CH-4 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), according to a US inspector general report released on 6 August to review Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR). The report cited CJTF-OIR as saying that Iraq had acquired more than 10 CH-4s, but only one was fully mission capable because of maintenance problems. The Iraqi Ministry of Defence unveiled armed CH-4B variants in October 2015 but did not state how many it had acquired. Jordan also acquired CH-4s but put them up for sale earlier this year for unspecified reasons. The CH-4 is not the only problematic UAV type in Iraq’s inventory. The inspector general report cited CJTF-OIR as saying the fleet of more than 10 US-made Insitu ScanEagle UAVs flew only two sorties between 1 March and 30 June because of a “combination of Iraqi training in the United States, a lapse in maintenance contracts, and problems with signal interference”. (Source: UAS VISION/ Jane’s 360)

08 Aug 19. APAC to drive global military UAV market to US$14.8bn in 2029, says GlobalData. Driven by increasing demand from the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, the global military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.14% from US$10.9bn in 2019 US$14.8bn in 2029, according Global Data, a leading data and analytics company. Global Data’s latest report, ‘The Global Military UAV Market 2019-2029’ reveals that the cumulative spending in the military UAV sector is estimated to be US$136.9bn over the forecast period.  In terms of segments, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) are expected to account for the largest share of expenditure globally, with a market share of 41.3, driven by Chinese proliferation and lowered limits on sales.  The Chinese presence on the market has also prompted US legislative relaxation of exports bans, with other NATO countries being cleared for US UCAVS (the UK, France, Belgium, Italy, etc.) beyond the previous buddy-lasing compromise option of UAV sales, whereby buddy-lasing platforms were offered rather than direct UCAVs. Anthony Endresen, Defense Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The demand for UAVs is expected to be driven by territorial disputes, internal and external security threats, regional arms race in the Middle East and APAC, increasing counterterrorism operations and military modernization initiatives undertaken by the armed forces across the world.”

08 Aug 19. Indian Defence Ministry Invites Private Sector to Set Up Testing Facility for Drones. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme (DTIS) under which testing infrastructure for the private sector will be set up to promote private sector involvement in the establishment and operations of testing facilities for military equipment. In a notice issued on July 31, the Ministry announced that its new scheme aims to support start-ups and MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises), which the Ministry said will “bridge gaps in defence testing infrastructure in the country”.

The Department of Defence Production (DDP) hopes to use the scheme to set up six to eight “Greenfield” defence testing sites as “a common facility under private sector” with up to 75 per cent government funding covering the project costs on Public Private Partnership model through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). The remaining 25 per cent of the cost will be borne by the industry. In terms of actual amounts, the government will invest up to Rs 400 crore in the form of “grant-in-aid” for the scheme, although it will not bear the cost of the land upon which the sites are to be formed.

In a bid to launch the scheme the DDP has invited Expression of Interests (EOIs) from private agencies for setting up Testing Facilities for Drones under the new scheme. A workshop to be chaired by the Secretary of Defence Production is also scheduled to be held with drone manufacturers in DRDO Bhavan, New Delhi on August 21. The workshop will focus on issues like what technology will be required at the range, how will issues related to land acquisition be worked out and how the funding mechanism will be undertaken. The Notification and Guidelines for the Scheme have been published and are available on the websites “https://ddpmod.gov.in and “dgqadefence.gov.in”.

“One of the first projects that we are proposing to set up under this scheme is to test drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in a test field area. We are in the process of finalising the specifications. While UAVs imported by Defence forces can be tested in their own air fields, the UAVs developed by the industry struggle to find a suitable place for testing,” said Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Department of Defence Production.

The proposed test facilities planned at different locations include ranges for unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare, software testing, blast testing facilities, specialized driving tracks and ship motion testing. These new facilities will be in addition to test labs that have been set up across the country by public sector units and military units.

The government banks on these new facilities to resolve a critical bottleneck in armament development, which the Ministry of Defence claimed is being caused by a “lack of easily accessible state-of-the-art testing” infrastructure.

“Defence Testing Infrastructure is often capital intensive requiring continuous up-gradation. It’s not economically viable for individual defence industrial units to set up in-house testing facilities,” its note on the scheme reads.

The Implementation Agency shall be responsible for setting up of DTI under the Scheme. The Implementation Agency shall be also responsible for the operation and maintenance of assets created under the Scheme, in a self-sustainable manner, by way of collecting user charges.

The test facilities are expected to come up at the two defence corridors announced by the government in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. “These corridors have been selected as they are expected to support a large number of industries involved in defence and aerospace manufacturing in the near future,” the Defence Ministry note says. However, the Scheme is not limited to setting up DTIs in the DICs only. Similar facilities are likely to be created in multiple locations in consultation with the defence industry. (Source: Google/https://bharatshakti.in)

08 Aug 19. QinetiQ Supports NextGen Search and Rescue Missions. QinetiQ collaborates with the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to investigate how drone technology can strengthen their Search and Rescue missions. Small unmanned air systems are delivering disruptive change across the industry. Ten years ago what was predominantly a niche hobby, or military technology, has now found wide commercial success. Anyone can easily have an eye in the sky and recent publicity is changing the way organisations view their problems.

The Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) oversees search and rescue operations in the UK. Their volunteer Coastguard Rescue Teams respond to time-critical calls and work tirelessly to save lives. Funded by QinetiQ’s Internal Research and Development, our search and rescue development programme is exploring how small unmanned air systems, with enhanced information sharing capability can help these rescue teams be more effective and save more lives.

During recent demonstrations, QinetiQ’s Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) solution allowed MCA control room staff in the National Maritime Operations Centre, Fareham, to safely and securely control the sensor of an unmanned system in flight at Llanbedr airfield in North West Wales – over 200 miles away. The live situational awareness feed, which included marked up imagery, search status and reference points, was simultaneously distributed to multiple teams at the search site in Llanbedr, and to remote sites in Fareham, London and Southampton.

Search teams on the ground were equipped with rugged tablets with moving maps, sensor feeds from the air systems, and search progress information; all enabled by a mesh network that robustly shared voice and data amongst all participants.

The lessons learned from this activity have generated insight into how to effectively deploy small unmanned air systems in future search and rescue missions.

Phil Hanson from the MCA said: “The MCA is always looking to understand how new technologies and ways of working can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the services we deliver whilst reducing risk to our personnel. This joint activity enabled us to gain a much deeper understanding of how information collected by unmanned systems can be shared effectively throughout our organisation and beyond.”

Phil Briggs UAS Technical Lead for QinetiQ said: “Projects like this demonstrate how search and rescue can be transformed for future operations. The successful joint demonstration highlighted the increased capability that can be harnessed within critical missions and amplify the efforts of those who are dedicated to helping others. It is extremely rewarding to co-develop solutions with our customers, particularly where the impact can be immeasurable when helping to save lives.”

QinetiQ’s unmanned air system capabilities include the operational deployment of systems under civil or military regulations, systems integration, service management and technology exploitation, such as autonomy, and Mannered-Unmanned Teaming.

QinetiQ continues to explore applications for its world class UAS capabilities and sees search and rescue operations a key area of future exploitation. (Source: UAS VISION)

08 Aug 19. DLA Conducts Drone Research Test Flights in Cape May. An unmanned aircraft system delivers a case of First Strike Rations and a case of bottle water from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal to the USCGC Lawrence Lawson off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey to evaluate its land-to-sea-to-land capabilities, July 25, 2019

A Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence team, in partnership with the New Jersey Institute of Technology, New Jersey Innovation Institutes Unmanned Aviation Systems Test Site and a contracted vendor, successfully conducted two unmanned aircraft systems research flights, July 24-25 at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal in Cape May, New Jersey.

Finding innovative supply chain solutions for warfighters supporting natural disasters, serving in austere environments or aboard ships is one of DLA Troop Support’s enduring goals. Subsistence’s successful tests not only meets that mark, but may lead to future solutions. Additionally, these flights have generated extremely large data sets that will facilitate in-depth analysis of the flight characteristics of the utilized UAS while operating at minimum and maximum loads.

The team’s goal was to test the capability of the UAS to carry a 50-pound payload and generate data.

“On day one, the UAS initially transported a case of First Strike Rations and a case of bottled water from the terminal to a delivery point at the New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center,” said Shannon Collins, a contract specialist in Subsistence. “The next day, [the UAS] transported the same load from the terminal to the fast-response cutter USCGC Lawrence Lawson off the coast of Cape May.”

After two days of test flights, Nick McGinty, Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence’s industrial base planning chief, declared the team’s mission complete.

“I was absolutely ecstatic when the team’s efforts and hard work were validated,” McGinty said. “I was amazed to see that the payload was delivered intact and ready for its intended use and the UAS returned to the launch site safely.”

According to Nicholas Faillace, the contracting officer for the project, Subsistence is involved in reoccurring natural disaster relief efforts and contingency operations. The drone research test flight served as the first step in the agencies efforts to test new capabilities.

“This drone delivery proof of concept will pave the way for a future approach to deliver Subsistence items to areas that would be obstructed due to some natural disaster,” Faillace added. (Source: UAS VISION)

08 Aug 19. Atlas Multi-Drone System Secured Copa America Soccer Tournament. Atlas, an aerospace company specializing in the design and manufacture of autonomous Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for security organizations and first responders, partnered with the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro State (PMERJ) to leverage the company’s flagship autonomous UAS product, the AtlasPRO, as part of the PMERJ’s overall security efforts for the Copa America soccer tournament.

Marking the first instance in which MESH multi-drone UAS technology has been approved for usage to secure a major sporting event, the AtlasPRO was flown along the perimeter of the Maracanã Stadium, one of the largest stadiums in South America, during the tournament’s final series. The AtlasPRO system was used in both single and multi-UAS missions to gather data on public safety hazards and facilitate emergency response.

The AtlasPRO, an advanced small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS), enables fully and semi-autonomous missions with a high endurance of 50 minutes of flight time and a range of 10 km. Among the AtlasPRO’s core advantages is its MESH multi-node communication capability, which allows a single operator to command and control a drone network from a unified ground control system (GCS). This unique technology allows the operator to divide missions among several UAS and maintain constant “eyes in the sky” using autonomous hot-swap capabilities; i.e., once a first drone runs out of battery, a second AtlasPRO takes off to replace it above a point of interest.

First responders around the world are increasingly adopting UAS technology to enhance their emergency response capabilities. Atlas partners with police and military forces, fire departments, and other first responder organizations to deliver high-end, cost-effective, and autonomous UAS. In one of the first documented use cases of Autonomous UAS in a search-and-rescue mission, AtlasPRO facilitated the European search-and-rescue forces in locating a missing person.

“Advanced first responders like the PMERJ are increasingly embracing smart technologies such as autonomous UAS to significantly bolster their security capabilities,” said Ivan Tolchinsky, Founder and CEO of Atlas. “As the leading provider of tactical and autonomous UAS, we power first responders around the world with high-caliber, cost-effective, end-to-end UAS solutions that provide timely, accurate data and help save both lives and money.”

“As the force responsible for assuring the security of the residents of Rio and the Copa America tournament, we were determined to use the most advanced technological capabilities available on the market to serve our mission needs,” said Colonel André Batista, Commander of the Choque Special Forces. “Deploying AtlasPRO helped us guarantee security for the Copa America tournament efficiently and cost-effectively.” (Source: UAS VISION)

03 Aug 19.  Russian Heavy Strike Drone Okhotnik Makes First Flight. Russia’s Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau, has made the first flight, the Russian Defense Ministry told reporters on Saturday.

“Under the test program, a long-duration flight time UCAV Okhotnik has performed its first flight,” says the press release circulated by the defense ministry. “The first flight took place at 12.20 Moscow time and lasted for over 20 minutes. The aerial vehicle flown by the operator made several circles around the airfield at an altitude of 600 meters and then successfully landed.”

According to the defense ministry, the drone is being tested at a military test airfield. Okhotnik has a low signature, a flying wing aerodynamic scheme, and a takeoff weight of 20 tons. It is made of composite materials and a radar-absorbing coat. The drone has the most advanced reconnaissance equipment. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/TASS)

07 Aug 19. USMC Eye Unmanned Systems To Keep F-35s Flying From Remote Bases. The US Navy and Marine Corps are trying to buy new autonomous and unmanned systems more quickly for expeditionary ops, but as one general warned, “if I can’t sustain it, I’m hosed.”

The Marines are testing unmanned platforms to quickly refuel and rearm F-35Bs it plans to operate out of remote, austere bases in the Pacific — part of an effort to be more nimble, and unpredictable, as the traditional American dominance at sea and in the air erodes.

For years, the Corps has talked about flying its F-35Bs from hastily assembled bases on small islands and remote locations to avoid sophisticated surface-to-air missiles being developed by China and Russia. The basing effort would not only keep the stealthy planes tactically unpredictable, but also untether them from big deck ships that would be prime targets for hypersonic cruise missiles and other weapons in any future fight with an advanced enemy. This was a key driver behind the Marines deep commitment to the F-35B, which can do short takeoffs and vertical landings, as well as the rare vertical takeoff from a road or other flat surface.

One of the holdups to the plan has always been how to ensure the planes could get fuel, ammunition and parts out to these locations. “If I can’t sustain it, I’m hosed,” Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, deputy commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command told a handful of reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Getting more fuel and ammo for those planes, quickly, would allow the Marines to “turn up the battlefield tempo at a much faster rate,” he said, which is critical in an area swarming with manned and unmanned platforms looking for American planes sitting on the ground for too long.

That’s where the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise, (ANTX) comes in. The July event at Camp Lejeune brought together dozens of companies and academics to show off technologies focused on autonomy, command and control, communications, and unmanned systems and logistics for the Marines and the Navy. All told, there were 53 different systems that were put into the hands of sailors and Marines to evaluate.

The ANTX, one of several planned this year, laid out several unmanned options that can be developed and pushed out to the field in a relatively short period of time, Wise said, which would “enable the movement of that very heavy gear very quickly. I don’t have to commit somebody to it.”

The ANTX efforts aren’t for technologies already in the acquisition pipeline, but focus on gear the Navy and Marine Corps want to kick around to see what might be useful in the future.

For a half century, DRS has provided military forces around the world with advanced technologies and capabilities to meet their mission needs. Here are some highlights.

“Anybody that brought equipment there got assessments from many of the folks who were there,” said James Geurts, the Navy’s research and acquisition chief. The makers can then take that feedback and circle back around to their new military contacts for another bite at the apple. But the big takeaway from the Navy and Marine Corps side was that they now have a better idea of everything they don’t know. “We got exposure to cutting-edge stuff that we may not have known we had a requirement for until we saw it,” Geurts added.

The goal, like so much else at the Pentagon these days, is speed, Geurts said he wants to make decisions on whether or not to begin developing — and buying — some of this new kit within 12 to 18 months “If there’s things that have demonstrated value in the field with some minimal amount of development that we can begin to turn those around and put contracts in place,” he said.

Geurts was excited about the new “combinations of autonomous systems” he saw at Lejeune. “What was remarkable to me was seeing autonomy in all those different operating environments starting to play together. And we can start to piece together operating concepts that may be closer to [being available to] us than we had originally conceived.”

He declined to get into specifics, but Wise said he’s interested in taking a harder look at “some of the seaborne platforms and the autonomous capability with weapon systems,” which he called “fairly impressive at what they could do.”

Much of what the officials described fits nicely within the framework outlined by new Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger in his recent Commandant’s Guidance. Berger called into question the usefulness of Marines continuing to get to the fight in large, slow and increasingly vulnerable ships operating without support from unmanned platforms that can warn them and help protect them from adversary movements.

“It would be illogical to continue to concentrate our forces on a few large ships,” he wrote. “The adversary will quickly recognize that striking while concentrated (aboard ship) is the preferred option. We need to change this calculus with a new fleet design of smaller, more lethal, and more risk-worthy platforms.”

Geurts and Wise said their exercise was in keeping with this new direction.

“What he’s doing is formalizing a lot of the things we’ve been working on,” Wise said, while laying out “how we are going to focus our efforts on where we’re going.”

Michael Stewart, the Navy’s deputy director of integrated warfare, added that the “new commandant’s guidance to me is just breathtaking in terms of how it talks about the naval — not Navy and Marine Corps — but naval forces, and the recognition that to solve the problems we’re up against, we have to be a naval force, and we have to be linked at the hip.”

The Lejune ANTX will be followed by another assessment later this month in Newport, R.I., that will bring in another batch of technology focused on undersea operations.

06 Aug 19. Kratos Places Engine Orders Ahead of First XQ-58A .Valkyrie Production Contracts. Kratos Defense and Security Solutions has begun placing engine orders in anticipation of receiving first series production contracts for its XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned combat air system (UCAS) before the end of 2019. Developed in conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) under the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator (LCASD) programme, the XQ-58A is a ‘loyal wingman’ designed to function as an armed adjunct to conventional manned fighters.

A prototype is being flight tested by the AFRL. The second of five planned demonstration flights was completed on 11 June, achieving 100% of planned test points. Kratos has built a further two Valkyrie air vehicles, which remain under its ownership.

Reporting the company’s second quarter 2019 results in a 31 July earnings call, Kratos president and CEO Eric DeMarco said that the company was confident that Valkyrie was “on track for initial production and a programme of record”.

In response, the company has begun ordering engines “for expected Valkyrie production to meet anticipated future customer delivery requirements,” DeMarco said. The XQ-58A demonstrator is powered by an off-the-shelf Williams International FJ33 twin-spool turbofan; it has not been confirmed if this engine type is being retained for follow-on production.

Kratos believes that it could receive orders for between 20 and 40 Valkyrie vehicles by the end of the year. According to DeMarco, the US Air Force (USAF) has shown interest in acquiring 20–30 air vehicles for operational experimentation, test, and integration. He also alluded to potential new customers, one of which has “recently expressed interest in acquiring up to an initial 10 Valkyries in either the fourth quarter of this year or the first half of 2020”. (Source: UAS VISION/Jane’s 360)

30 Jul 19. Thales expands collaboration with Cranfield University unmanned test site. Thales’ partnership with Cranfield University has grown to include collaboration in areas including unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and unmanned traffic management (UTM), aerial and ground autonomous systems, airspace data communications and digital aviation security. Thales became a partner in the university’s Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) and adjacent National Beyond visual line of sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC) in mid-2018, as part of a GBP67m government-sponsored development programme to ‘address the digital aviation challenge’. In this latest development, Thales will look at integration of drones into civilian airspace, secure data communication infrastructures, self-sensing and self-aware technologies. The DARTeC facility is due to open in 2020 and the NBEC aims to provide an experimentation corridor that will enable drones and unmanned aircraft to fly in the same airspace. The corridor will stretch across Bedfordshire from Blue Bear’s headquarters in Oakley to Cranfield University’s airport.

Co-investment support for DARTeC is being provided through a consortium of leading aerospace and aviation companies including Aveillant, Boxarr, the IVHM Centre, Saab and Thales; as well as Research England and Cranfield University. Since its launch the DARTeC consortium has grown to include additional organisations, namely Blue Bear Systems Research, the Connected Places Catapult, IATA and the Satellite Applications Catapult. (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)

02 Aug 19. Saab completes production version of Sea Wasp ROV. Sweden’s Saab has finalised the production version of its Sea Wasp remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Sea Wasp offers a waterborne ROV-based capability for tackling improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The vehicle has been in development since about 2014, following Saab’s receipt of a contract from the US cross-government Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO). The company is now readying its “productionised Sea Wasp Mk 1 version”, Chris Lade, Sea Wasp sales manager in Saab’s underwater systems business unit, told Jane’s. Saab plans to formally reveal the production version later in 2019. Any prospective customer proceeding with a purchase would receive this version, Lade added. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

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