Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
22 Aug 19. UAVOS and ISR Unmanned Technologies launch new VTOL UAV. UAVOS and ISR Unmanned Technologies have jointly developed a new unmanned helicopter for commercial and security applications. The ISR-350-5 is the result of the joint project, which will be manufactured and assembled in the UK. Based on the light, single-engine, gasoline-powered UVH-170 unmanned helicopter developed by UAVOS, the new VTOL aircraft introduces improvements to all its systems, including the mechanics, electronics and available payloads.
The UAV has a fuel consumption of 2 litres per hour, and it is expected that it will be able to remain airborne for up to 6h carrying a 5kg payload, which is intended for survey instruments and radar.
The electronics are IP67 rated, allowing the helicopter to operate in harsh environments including tropical climates, and the ISR-350-5 is powered by UAVOS’ autopilot that makes it possible to synchronise the work of a payload and of the onboard telemetry, as well as the flight task for most aerial applications.
A high level of self-diagnosis of all the vehicle’s components, meanwhile, allows it to fly safely, increasing the survivability of the UAV.
UAVOS has also worked on payload integration and offers different options covering all types of applications for multiple sectors, including inspection, agriculture and mining, offering surveillance, mapping, LIDAR and GIS.
Payloads include: gimbals with cameras with day and night vision and up to 30x optical zoom, and high resolution and infrared sensors.
‘The ISR-350-5 joins our existing family of unmanned helicopters used for commercial and security missions,’ Aliaksei Stratsilatau, UAVOS’ chairman of the board and lead developer, said.
‘The partnership with ISR Unmanned Technologies creates the opportunity for both companies to explore expanding into new markets and developing new capabilities to meet future customer needs.’ (Source: Shephard)
22 Aug 19. RAF Protector aircraft demos automatic take-off and landing capability. The British Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Protector remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) has showcased its automatic take-off, landing and taxiing capability.
The aircraft achieved the milestone for the first time at an airforce base (AFB) in the US.
Protector flew to Creech AFB and offered an opportunity for RAF Reaper Force members to see the aircraft for the first time.
RAF No 1 Group commanding air officer air vice-marshal Harv Smyth said: “When we talk about ‘next-generation airforce’, one of the capabilities that we’re delivering is most definitely Protector.
“This idea that we’ll have an RPAS that can operate anywhere at any time in controlled airspace alongside airliners is an absolutely game-changing capability.”
39 Squadron commanding officer wing commander Colin Welsh said: “Protector for most of the team here is something which exists on paper and in pictures. So by allowing individuals to see the aircraft, to see the advanced ground control system and how the mission intelligence coordinator and the crew will interact through a new system will be a fantastic motivator for the team to have a first-hand look at the next generation of this capability.
“It takes everything that’s great about Reaper and adds a whole bundle of capabilities including the ability to sense and avoid, to be certifiable in order to fly in open airspace and a sovereign weapons payload aboard the aircraft.”
The UK is planning to purchase 16 Protector RG Mk1 aircraft to replace its existing General Atomics-built MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft systems.
In July last year, RAF Waddington was named as the main operating base for the Protector aircraft, with 31 Squadron set to operate the RPAS.
General Atomics awarded contracts to UK defence suppliers for RAF Protector project in January.
BAE Systems was contracted to develop concepts of operations (CONOPS) for the project.
Raytheon will provide Paveway IV precision-guided bombs, while MBDA will integrate a high-precision strike missile into the Protector RG Mk1. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
22 Aug 19. Taiwan MND pursues multirotor UAV developments. The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense Armaments Bureau’s (MND AB’s) Materiel Production Center (MPC) has announced that it is developing a new family of indigenous surveillance and weaponised multirotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to address potential tactical requirements by the Republic of China Army (RoCA).
Three new multirotor UAV prototypes – the UAV Forward Observation System, the UAV Patrolling System, and the Multi-Purpose Drone System – under development by the MPC’s 202nd and 205th Arsenals, were exhibited at the 2019 Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE).
The UAV Forward Observation System is being trialled by the Taipei-based 202nd Arsenal as an organic airborne surveillance and targeting capability for the next-generation 8×8 Cloud Leopard II M2 Mortar Carrier being evaluated for the RoCA. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
22 Aug 19. Portuguese Army Requires Small UAS. The Portuguese Army is looking to acquire additional NATO Class 1 (under 150 kg) hand-launched unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to enhance tactical situational awareness of its troops. The Force Planning Division at the Army High-Staff has initiated a study with the aim to acquire mini fixed-wing UAS weighing less than 15 kg, up to 5,000 ft operating altitude above ground level (AGL), and maximum 50 km line-of-sight (LOS) range, as well as rotary-wing micro-UAS systems with less than 66 joules energy state, up to 200 ft operating altitude AGL, and a maximum 5 km LOS range. The study is scheduled to be finalised in 2020, the Force Planning Division told Jane’s. (Source: UAS VISION/Jane’s 360)
21 Aug 19. USMC to Expand Unmanned Systems Arsenal. As the US Marine Corps looks to purchase new unmanned systems, it is putting a premium on capacity, said the head of the service’s Combat Development Command Aug. 20.
“We’re interested in all platforms — surface, subsurface and aviation,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Smith. “[We want] unmanned systems that are truly numerous because there is a quality in quantity in this particular regard. We’re looking for things that can do reconnaissance, that can do a radio relay, we’re looking for some lethal payloads. But we’re looking for numerous” quantities of robotic capabilities.
Following the publication of new Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s Planning Guidance document — which was released last month — the service is now focusing on increasing the number of systems in its inventory, Smith said.
“If you read that guidance — and that’s the guidance that I’m following as the force developer — it is about how do we produce enough bulk, enough number, … enough capacity that I can actually inflict a dilemma on the enemy” by forcing adversaries to contend with a large number of unmanned Marine Corps platforms, he said during remarks at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Defense-Protection-Security Conference in Washington, D.C.
The service needs smaller, more affordable systems that can be operated by the youngest Marines, he noted.
“The commandant has asked us to look at numerous and inexpensive programs instead of the exquisite,” Smith noted.
However, not all platforms in the inventory are expected to be small. Berger’s planning guidance said the Marine Corps needs a family of systems, including Group 5 drones which are characterized by their large size and long endurance. The service has been working on its own version known as the Marine Air-Ground Task Force unmanned aircraft system expeditionary, or MUX, program. An industry day for the program was held in July, Smith noted.
The Marine Corps has also been pursuing unmanned surface vessels in partnership with MITRE Corp., Smith said.
“We’re testing 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats,” he said. “The technology is actually fairly simple. You can put it on really any platform. But what we’re looking for is a long-range vessel that has the ability to do resupply, move personnel or … move cargo.” Such a system would need to be able to travel long distances across the Pacific Ocean — where the U.S. military is competing with China — and in harsh sea conditions, he added.
Berger’s guidance called for the Marine Corps to ramp up its development of unmanned platforms in the coming years.
“We will … work rapidly, starting with [the fiscal year 2022 Program Objective Memorandum], to develop a much broader family of unmanned systems suitable for reconnaissance, surveillance and the delivery of lethal and non-lethal effects in the air, on land, and on and under the sea,” Berger said. (Source: glstrade.com/National Defense)
21 Aug 19. AirMap Demonstrates Dynamic Flight Plan Modification Capabilities During European U-space Trials. On August 13, 2019, AirMap and SESAR JU GOF USPACE partners completed a successful demonstration of the ability to dynamically modify a drone flight plan in-flight within a UTM system during an exercise simulating a marine search and rescue operation.
The search and rescue demonstration was the third trial conducted this summer for GOF USPACE, a series of drone trials organized by Estonia and Finland within the European Network of U-space Demonstrator Projects led by EUROCONTROL, the European Commission, and SESAR JU. These demonstrator projects were set up to help European regulators safely scale commercial drone operations through the development of standards, regulations, and best practices for unmanned air traffic management, also known as U-space. AirMap is a participant in four of these projects, along with numerous other UTM trials currently underway across the world.
The GOF USPACE demonstrations have focused on complex drone operations involving multi-country coordination and beyond visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights. Organized by the Estonian air navigation service provider EANS, the Estonian Police and Border Guard, and other partners, the August 13 trial showcased how drones can provide assistance to search-and-rescue operations far from land as an enhancement to traditional manned aircraft and rescue vessels. To increase the real-world applicability of the flights, the trial was conducted as part of an actual joint maritime exercise organized by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centres of Estonia, Finland, and Sweden, which provided manned helicopters and rescue sea vessels for the trial.
The scenario assumed the collision of two recreational boats off the coast of Hiiumaa, an Estonian island, leading to missing people at sea and a resulting multi-country rescue response. To support this response, the AirMap UTM Platform was integrated into a camera-equipped drone tasked with locating a lost person in the water. Additionally, the AirMap UTM Platform was integrated into a drone carrying safety equipment to the site of the victim. While the equipment-carrying mission was already underway, the Estonian Police and Border Guard sent a radio command to the drone operators with new search area coordinates based on the realtime missing person search in progress. The operators of the safety equipment drone were able to make this flight plan adjustment within the AirMap interface and carry on the mission without interruption.
The flight plan modification appeared on the AirMap UTM Administrator Dashboard viewable by the search-and-rescue authorities. Using the dashboard, the Estonian authorities could visualize the new operational flight plan and facilitate further replanning of the search areas. The successful trial provides an important demonstration of how U-space can enhance public safety operations in unpredictable emergency scenarios.
The search-and-rescue exercise was just one of several GOF USPACE trials this summer. In June 2019, AirMap participated in a GOF USPACE trial in Tallinn, the busy capital of Estonia, which demonstrated drone operations within dense, urban airspace and showed how several UTM systems supporting different drones can communicate and coordinate within the same airspace.
The GOF USPACE trials and the other European U-space Demonstrator Projects will continue through the rest of the summer. We look forward to sharing further results and lessons learned from these trials as they continue, with the long-term goal of improving unmanned air traffic management in Europe and providing wider learnings applicable to other countries around the world seeking to safely integrate drones into their national airspaces. (Source: UAS VISION)
20 Aug 19. Ukrainian state-run company Ukrspetsexport and Turkish firm Baykar Defence are developing their first joint project, a next generation drone called Akinci, Ukrainian defense company Ukroboronprom said on Tuesday. Ukrainian state-run company Ukrspetsexport and Turkish firm Baykar Defence are developing their first joint project, a next generation drone called Akinci, Ukrainian defense company Ukroboronprom said on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Ukrspetsexport, which is part of Ukroboronprom, and Baykar Defence created a joint venture to develop high-precision weapons and aerospace technologies.
“The new generation Akinci combat drone is being developed to satisfy the needs of armed conflicts of the 21st century and primarily designed for both Turkish and Ukrainian armed forces. One of its main advantages is the capability of carrying out high-precision strikes with the same weapons used by jets, meaning heavy bombs with a weight of hundreds of kilograms,” Ukroboronprom Director General Pavlo Bukin said, as quoted by the company’s press service.
The new heavy-class drone will be equipped with two Ukrainian-made engines, which will allow the aircraft to fly at a height of more than 12 kilometers (over 7 miles). The drone will be able to carry more a payload weihging more than a tonne. The drone will be armed with guided missiles as well as various bombs, including high-precision ones.
The unmanned aerial vehicle is named after akinci, the light cavalry of the early Ottoman army that attacked its enemies with arrows to avoid melee combat. (Source: Google/https://www.urdupoint.com)
15 Aug 19. Kansas Gets First BVLOS Waiver. The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) received permission to conduct the first ever Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operation in the nation leveraging only onboard detect-and-avoid systems. This is the first-ever FAA authorized operation to fly without a requirement for visual observers or ground-based radar and is the result of the 31-member Kansas Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) team efforts to advance drone technologies.
In a collaborative effort between Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus (K-State Polytechnic), Westar Energy, Iris Automation and KDOT, the Kansas IPP team will fly a nine-mile track to evaluate technologies to inspect power lines in rural Kansas. This approval is the first of its kind for long line linear infrastructure and is the first step to enable routine commercial infrastructure inspection across the state.
“The UAS industry has worked over 10 years to demonstrate the most significant commercial benefit of drone operations within the United States,” said Bob Brock, KDOT Director of Aviation. “We are proud of the joint state, university and industry team effort that made this landmark decision possible.”
“The ability to fly BVLOS missions without ground-based radar or visual observers is a significant advancement, and Westar Energy views this as an opportunity to play a key role in shaping the future of UAS operations within the utility industry,” said Mike Kelly, Westar Energy Senior UAS Coordinator. “Being able to operate under this waiver allows the Kansas IPP team the ability to research and develop truly scalable BVLOS UAS operations for the automated inspection of linear infrastructure.”
The Applied Aviation Research Center on the K-State Polytechnic Campus will be responsible for the training and flight operations with a cross-functional team from the KDOT IPP. Flights will take place over the next few months, providing the FAA with much-needed data on true BVLOS activity.
“We look forward to leveraging this waiver to integrate UAS technology into the transmission line inspection process,” said Kurt Carraway, UAS Executive Director of the K-State Polytechnic Applied Aviation Research Center. “We are certain that utilities will be able to quickly realize a return on investment while mitigating safety to their maintenance personnel and increasing the reliability of their infrastructure to the general public.”
This is the first UAV flight in history to leverage onboard sense-and-avoid systems alone for collision avoidance. It also marks the first required automated avoidance action. Historically, all FAA-issued Part 107 BVLOS waivers have required visual observers or ground-based radar. These mitigations limit the possibility of true BVLOS flights, as they are typically prohibitively expensive and limit operations to pre-defined corridor areas with radar coverage.
This important milestone is facilitated by Kansas UAS IPP partner Iris Automation’s Casia onboard collision avoidance system.
“Flying rural missions like these without a human pilot onboard or costly radar on the ground is exponentially safer and more cost effective,” said Iris Automation CEO and Co-Founder Alexander Harmsen. “The FAA is trusting us to pave the way for a safer, scalable future together with this precedent-setting second approval of our system.” (Source: UAS VISION/13WIBW)
15 Aug 19. AFRL’s Robotic Pilot Flies Cessna for 2 Hours. The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and DZYNE Technologies Incorporated successfully completed a two-hour initial flight of a revolutionary Robotic Pilot Unmanned Conversion Program called ROBOpilot Aug. 9 at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.
“This flight test is a testament to AFRL’s ability to rapidly innovate technology from concept to application in a safe build up approach while still maintaining low cost and short timelines,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL Commander.
“Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration,” said Dr. Alok Das, Senior Scientist with AFRL’s Center for Rapid Innovation. “All of this is achieved without making permanent modifications to the aircraft.”
As the vision for AFRL’s CRI Small Business Innovative Research project with DZYNE Technologies of Irvine, California, ROBOpilot interacts with an aircraft the same way as a human pilot would.
For example, the system “grabs” the yoke, pushes on the rudders and brakes, controls the throttle, flips the appropriate switches and reads the dashboard gauges the same way a pilot does. At the same time, the system uses sensors, like GPS and an Inertial Measurement Unit, for situational awareness and information gathering. A computer analyzes these details to make decisions on how to best control the flight.
ROBOpilot also boasts a simple installation process. Users remove the pilot’s seat and install a frame in its place, which contains all the equipment necessary to control the aircraft including actuators, electronics, cameras, power systems and a robotic arm.
Das explains that this non-invasive approach to robotically piloted aircraft leverages existing commercial technology and components. ROBOpilot incorporates many subsystems and lessons learned from previous AFRL and DZYNE Technology aircraft conversion programs.
“ROBOpilot offers the benefits of unmanned operations without the complexity and upfront cost associated with the development of new unmanned vehicles,” Das said.
AFRL developed the system using a Direct to Phase II SBIR contract. During the past year, AFRL and DZYNE designed, built and tested ROBOpilot. Engineers demonstrated the initial concept in a RedBird FMX simulator, a full motion, feature-rich advanced aviation training device. ROBOpilot successfully completed simulated autonomous takeoffs, mission navigation and landings in both nominal and off-nominal conditions in this Federal Aviation Administration-certified trainer.
As an early adopter of creating disruptive innovation through paradigm shifts, AFRL established the Center for Rapid Innovation in 2006 to streamline AFRL’s application of new and existing technologies to address dynamic changes in air, space, ground, and cyber battlespaces and solve evolving and urgent operational challenges. The execution of this unique process uses diverse subject matter expertise and a collaborative government-industry technical and management capability to rapidly develop, test and deploy innovative prototype solutions for dynamic operational environments.
CRI routinely uses the SBIR program to identify both disruptive technology and innovative engineering talent for its projects. Working with teams of innovative small businesses, CRI has demonstrated numerous operational successes such as back-packable, precision strike platforms for high-value fleeting targets; counter-improvised explosive device (IED); counter drone capabilities; and secure on-the-move communications. Several efforts have even transitioned to Air Force Programs of Record. (Source: UAS VISION)
19 Aug 19. Boeing accelerates unmanned flight tests ahead of Loyal Wingman flight. Boeing Australia is rapidly evolving its autonomous systems technology capabilities in the lab and in the field as it prepares for the first flight of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Loyal Wingman prototype in 2020. The Boeing team is using its world-class Systems Analysis Laboratory based in Brisbane, Australia, to simulate and model critical mission capabilities and the aircraft product life cycle.
Dr Shane Arnott, director of Boeing’s Phantom Works International, said, “Our aircraft and mission system is well advanced in our rigorous design and test program, bolstered by Boeing’s adoption of digital engineering.”
“As a result, we have a live digital copy of the entire aircraft design that we’ve been able to ‘fly’ thousands of times under different scenarios to test aircraft performance and the mission system,” Dr Arnott added.
In fact, the Boeing team has already taken the learnings from the lab and is advancing field testing the mission system with surrogate aircraft. Boeing has fielded a team of 15 autonomous test bed aircraft to refine autonomous control algorithms, data fusion, object detection systems and collision avoidance behaviours.
The combined lab and field tests are important steps in meeting the goals of the Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program.
Announced by the Australian government in February, the program will result in a prototype aircraft that will test the potential of this disruptive new technology. It is designed to protect and extend airpower by teaming multiple unmanned platforms with manned assets to achieve a range of missions.
“We’ve flown 10 of those autonomous test beds in formation using our mission system technology. We are continuing to increase the speed and complexity of our testing, most recently with five much larger high-performance jets with the capacity to fly up to 300 kilometres per hour, ahead of the full-speed prototype flight,” Dr Arnott explained.
Digital engineering has enabled Boeing to develop, simulate and test mission system behaviours that ultimately will increase customer capabilities – such as situational awareness and ISR. The team is working closely with the RAAF to refine the manned-unmanned teaming solution to address specific operational needs, and ensure manned pilots can trust and easily understand the unmanned systems flying with them.
Dr Arnott said, “This has significantly de-risked and reduced the aircraft test program costs and improved the robustness of the mission system to support a wide range of possible threat scenarios. We’ve placed a particular focus on ensuring our underlying ‘watchdog algorithms’ provide the right level of AI and autonomy for manned-unmanned teaming operations.”
The work being done in Australia also serves as the foundation for a global unmanned smart teaming system Boeing launched at the Avalon Airshow called the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS).
Designed and developed by Boeing Australia and powered by AI, the ATS is a modular and highly customisable aircraft with fighter-like flight capabilities.
Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems, said Boeing sees the ATS working as a true force partner, where the pilot of a manned aircraft could call on the team to complement and support a specific threat-based mission.
“It’s our goal to help customers bring quantity to the fight and to integrate sovereign capability, data links, sensors and communications systems in a wider ecosystem of platforms that work together. The testing being done now is another step in getting a force multiplier to the warfighter, but with the confidence in AI they need,” Ms Robertson said. (Source: Defence Connect)
16 Aug 19. Taiwan’s NCSIST unveils new MALE-class UAV development. Taiwan’s primary defence research and development agency has unveiled a prototype of a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the 2019 Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE), which is being held from 15 to 17 August.
A full-scale mock-up of the proposed design, identified as the MALE UAS (unmanned aircraft system), is under development by the Aeronautical System Research Division (ASRD) of the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) and leverages on the experience gained from the development of the Teng Yun (Cloud Rider) MALE UAV that was first showcased at TADTE 2015.
Two Teng Yun prototypes – which have been marked MU-1611 and MU-1612 – each measuring 8 m long with a wingspan of 18 m are understood to have been built. Official specifications indicate that the air vehicles possess an operating range in excess of 1,000 km, a flight endurance of 24 hours, and ceiling of 25,000 ft (7,620 m). These vehicles have been proven capable of performing autonomous navigation as well as automatic take-off and landing during extensive flight trials since their introduction.
The new MALE UAS design adopts a physical configuration that is comparable to the Teng Yun – which also bears a striking resemblance to the US-made General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-9 Reaper strike-capable reconnaissance UAV – with its low-wing monoplane airframe with a slender fuselage, V-tail and ventral fin, and retractable tricycle undercarriage.
NCSIST has yet to disclose detailed specifications of the new MALE UAS, although an ASRD spokesperson told Jane’s on 16 August that the latest design is centred on a new turboprop engine that offers a “significantly larger” output than the Teng Yun’s piston engine, resulting in a larger airframe that will offer a greater maximum take-off weight (MTOW) and payload capacity.
Other notable enhancements seen on the mock-up include a new fixed forward-looking optics suite comprising a charge-couple device (CCD) daylight camera and an infrared (IR) imager incorporated into the vehicle’s nose section, in addition to the standard chin-mounted electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
16 Aug 19. Russian Hybrid Drone to Appear at MAKS-2019 Airshow. The new “Fixar” drone, set to be presented at Russia’s MAKS-2019 airshow in late August, is a hybrid of sorts, a quadcopter with fixed wings. With limited moving parts and a flexible design, it’s the kind of dual-use technology worth watching and, perhaps, even imitating.
“Many companies and UAV manufacturers will present their aircraft, concepts and models” at the MAKS-2019 airshow, said Samuel Bendett, an adviser at the Center for Naval Analyses. “This Fixar UAV is a ‘self-initiated’ project by the manufacturer, with the hope of getting attention from potential civilian and military customers at the air show.”
Unlike the more eponymous tilt-rotor craft, which switch distinctly from rotor-powered takeoff and landing to propeller-driven level flight, the Fixar instead has its four rotors in a permanently fixed position. The engines remain in position while the whole frame of the aircraft can lean backwards for more traditional vertical flights or stay level to operate as a fixed-wing machine.
While the Fixar’s marketing photos show it working in fields of crops, manufacturer IKS also bills it as designed specifically to operate in windy conditions and in mountains, suggesting that the whole machine might have a role in ISR and cargo transport.
“What caught my attention in particular was that the drone can operate in ‘mountainous conditions’ due to its unique design,” said Bendett. “In fact, Russian military has been practicing the operation of different UAVs at high altitudes and in high wind — so this Fixar UAV can prove useful right away.”
Like all dual-use platforms, a drone is only as useful as the payloads put on it. Cameras and supply storage are likely options, though nothing yet suggests any new demand on the airframe. An ability to fly fast and from small patches of land without a runway is valuable, but it needs to have a certain range and speed to be a better choice than the baseline low cost and simplicity of civilian quadcopters. A large internal security market might support that and could easily lead to the Fixar in police roles, as well.
“At present, there is no UAV in the Russian military that has characteristics similar to the Fixar, but given a steady rate of UAS acquisition by the MOD — at 300 UAVs per year for the next several years — it’s safe to assume that the Russian military is looking to diversify its UAV fleet beyond the workhorses like Eleton or Orlan,” said Bendett. (Source: UAS VISION/C4ISRNET)
20 Aug 19. US Navy plans corvette-sized unmanned fleet. The US Navy is planning to build a fleet of 10 corvette-sized large unmanned surface vessels (LUSV) within the next five years to assist its main manned fleet by completing ‘dull, dirty, or dangerous’ missions. The navy outlined its aims for the systems in a draft request for industry proposals, saying: “The LUSV will be a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the navy’s manned surface force.
“With a large payload capacity, the LUSV will be designed to conduct a variety of warfare operations independently or in conjunction with manned surface combatants.”
According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, the US Navy requested $372.5m for the construction of the first two LUSVs as part of its 2020 budget and a total of $2.7bn over the next five years to cover the development of the 10 LUSVs.
The draft request added: “The LUSV will be capable of semi-autonomous or fully autonomous operation, with operators in-the-loop (controlling remotely) or on-the-loop (enabled through autonomy).”
The US Navy’s aims to procure two vessels a year until 2024 through its LUSV.
The request reads: “The navy envisions the LUSVs it wants to procure in FY2020-FY2024 as being 200 feet to 300 feet in length and having a full load displacement of about 2,000 tons, which would make them the size of a corvette.”
It also details how the US Navy wants the vessels to be “low-cost, high-endurance, reconfigurable ships”. It will achieve this and the small development time frame by using commercial ship designs.
The US Navy wants the ships to carry modular payloads enabling them to take on a variety of missions. A key mission of the vessels will be ‘anti-surface warfare’ across both land and sea.
These unmanned vessels will be the largest unmanned ships in service with any navy and will be designed to accommodate a small crew allowing them to be optionally manned.
The US Navy has no corvette-class ships but ships of a similar size are in operation with the US Coastguard.
The US Navy is planning to procure a total of 201 unmanned vessels over the next five years including 135 Hydroid ML-18 Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUV), 10 small/ medium UUV, three large-diameter UUV, and nine extra-large UUV.
The US Navy is pursuing LUSV technology alongside directed-energy weapons, hypersonic and artificial intelligence as part of a push to confront emerging threats like that of China. (Source: naval-technology.com)
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