Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
29 Aug 19. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, electro-optic and related mission systems, announced today that four more Belgium-based businesses have been selected to join five previously identified companies to support the development of MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPA for Belgium. AeroSimulators Group (ASG), AIRobot, ALX Systems and Hexagon will join Team SkyGuardian, which already includes the following five Belgium companies: SABCA, Thales Belgium, Esterline, Newtec and DronePort.
“The addition of these four companies to Team SkyGuardian will further enhance the capabilities of SkyGuardian and build on our already strong business partnerships in Belgium,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “GA-ASI looks forward to working with our Belgian teammates to make the MQ-9B procurement a success.”
In order to identify small to medium-sized Belgian companies that could support SkyGuardian development, GA-ASI held an outreach event called Blue Magic Belgium (BMB) on May 15th and 16th. This search for cutting-edge capabilities from local companies followed the Government of Belgium’s approval for Belgian Defense to negotiate acquisition of GA-ASI’s SkyGuardian to meet the nation’s RPA requirements. As a result of the BMB event, GA-ASI has requested proposals from BMB winners AIRobot, ALX Systems and Hexagon. A fourth company, ASG, was also identified during the course of the BMB event. Based in Belsele, Belgium, ASG specializes in the delivery of ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) training. The company is active in the air, land and maritime domains and provides training and simulators for a wide range of sensors. AIRobot – a company based at DronePort in Sint Truiden, Belgium – focuses on developing drone performance equipment for easy, precise and safe professional operations. AIRobot will develop automated materials detection using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Hyper-Spectral Imagery (HSI). ALX Systems is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) solution provider based in Liège, Belgium specializing in autonomous UAV systems. They will work with GA-ASI to increase performance of object detection using AI and synthetic Full Motion Video (FMV). Hexagon’s Geospatial division, with an office in Leuven, Belgium, specializes in software solutions and geospatial tools for visualizing location information, such as auto-routing UAS and creating a smart digital reality.
28 Aug 19. Iran unveils Mobin ‘cruise UAV.’ The Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO) unveiled a scale model of a previously unseen unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the 2019 MAKS air show being held near Moscow from 27 August to 1 September. The information sheet described the Mobin (conqueror) as a cruise missile, but an IAIO representative told Jane’s that this was an error in the marketing material and that it is actually a multipurpose ground-launched UAV that can be recovered using a parachute. He said it entered Iranian service in the previous year and had been cleared for export.
He stated that the rest of the information on the product sheet was accurate. This said the Mobin has a 3 m wingspan and a ‘stealthy’ radar cross section of less than 0.1m 2. It weighs 670 kg and can carry a variety of payloads weighing up to 120kg in its nose compartment. It can operate at altitudes from 30 to 45,000ft, has an endurance of 45 minutes at an altitude of 10m, and a maximum speed of 900km/h. It was also stated that the Mobin uses terrain contour matching (TERCOM) and/or digital scene matching area correlation (DSMAC) guidance. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
29 Aug 19. Turkish UAV seen in Libya. The presence of Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Libya has seemingly been confirmed by footage showing what appeared to be a Bayraktar TB2 at an airport that could be identified as Mitiga in Tripoli. The short video clip was released by the Libyan Address Journal new website on 28 August and showed a UAV with the same twin-boom inverted-V tail of the TB2 moving along Mitiga’s runway. Footage has previously been released purportedly showing a TB2 flying over Tripoli, but the location could not been confirmed.
Capable of carrying guided bombs and missiles, the Bayraktar is in service with Turkey and Qatar, both supporters of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which is trying to prevent the Libyan National Army (LNA) faction from capturing the capital. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Aug 19. India-US ‘Tailoring’ Predator UAV For Multi-Service Buy. The Predator B’s weapons, avionics and comms suites will all need to be specially configured to meet the needs of India’s military. The Pentagon and India’s Ministry of Defense are working together to “tailor” a standardized version of the Predator B Reaper attack drone for use by all three Indian armed services, with officials actively discussing how to finalize the long-planned sale.
Key to revising, and finalizing, export of the armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is the ongoing effort by the Indian Army and Air Force to define their requirements, and the parallel work by India’s MoD to ensure that the sophisticated drone systems can work with current service platforms and systems, says Ben Schwartz of the Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-India Business Council.
“The weapons systems, the avionics suite, the communications suite — they all need to be tailored to India’s needs, so it works with their other equipment,” he told me on Wednesday. “Then there is the issue of integration with their other platforms.”
Ellen Lord, head of Pentagon acquisition, confirmed to reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that the negotiations with India are ongoing. “We continue to work with India on that,” she said, adding that “Ajay Kumar was just over here about a month ago, and we continue to work through that.” Kumar at the time was the MoD’s secretary of Defence Production; he was promoted Aug. 21 to the post of Defence Secretary.
The Indian Embassy did not respond to a phone request. A spokesman for prime contractor General Atomics was unable to obtain an approved statement by publication time.
Lord oversees the activities of the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), a specialized organization formed back in 2012 to manage often complicated US defense exports to India.
The sale to India of the armed Predators was controversial when it was first mooted — with India asking for 22 Sea Guardian maritime variants for its Navy — way back in 2016. UAVs that can carry missiles fall under the Missile Technology Control Regime’s (MTCR) Category 1 classification, for which there is a presumption of denial of exports.
The 1987 MTCR is an agreement among 35 countries seeking to limit the spread of missiles and related technologies, especially those that can carry nuclear weapons. Specifically, MTCR Category 1 includes “complete rocket and unmanned aerial vehicle systems (including ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles, sounding rockets, cruise missiles, target drones, and reconnaissance drones), capable of delivering a payload of at least 500 kg to a range of at least 300 km, their major complete subsystems (such as rocket stages, engines, guidance sets, and re-entry vehicles), and related software and technology, as well as specially designed production facilities for these items.”
The MTCR guidelines state that exports of these items are “subject to an unconditional strong presumption of denial regardless of the purpose of the export and are licensed for export only on rare occasions.” Additionally, there is a ban on exporting production capabilities for all Category 1 items.
In order to facilitate the export (as well as other sales of sensitive US defense equipment), the Obama Administration designated India as a ‘Major Defense Partner’ — a totally new category for US-foreign relationships specific to India. The goal was to create a tighter defense partnership between India and the US to counter Chinese ambitions and to undercut Russia’s long hold on arms sales to Delhi.
India’s original plan to buy the Sea Guardian variant was part of a planned multi-year initiative to build up an arsenal of 5,000 UAVs between 2016 and 2026. India’s military already operates a number of Israeli drones, including the Harop attack drone and the Heron surveillance drone. The purchase of Predators would be its first of a US UAV system, experts said.
The Indian press, including reputable publications such as the Times of India, has widely reported that Delhi now hopes to buy a total of 30 Predator Bs,10 for each service, at a price tag of some $6bn.
It remains unclear when the deal will be finalized, Schwartz said, noting wryly: “It’s India.”
Indian projects are notoriously slow and complicated, often accompanied by internal shenanigans within the Indian government over budgets, requirements, and timelines. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
28 Aug 19. Export Version of Korsar Unveiled at MAKS 2019. After the debut of the export versions of Su-57 and Il-112 aircraft at the MAKS 2019 airshow, the export version of Korsar reconnaissance drone has been unveiled at the event. The Korsar high altitude reconnaissance drone system, capable of flying at high altitudes, in excess of 5000 meters, was demonstrated for the first time at the Army 2019 forum in June. The export version of the Korsar system developed by Lutch Design Bureau (part of Ruselectronics) has a flight range of at least 100 km, flight speed of 100 to 180 km/h, and a continuous flight duration of at least 7.5 hours.
The working height of the UAV flight is 100 to 4000 m. The take-off mass of the system is 200kg, it has a wingspan is 6.5 meters, and fuselage length of 4 meters. Korsar can be equipped with optical electronic systems, a radar station, a digital aerial camera, meteorological equipment, and a cargo unit.
“The main advantage of the system is its open architecture, which allows it to adapt for performing various tasks, from weather reconnaissance and aerial photography to target finding and goods transportation. Therefore, our drone featuring a full set of payloads can replace an entire UAV fleet of various specializations,” the Radioelectronic Cluster of Rostec State Corporation informed.
The Korsar project encompassed creating innovative power generation systems, a small-sized engine starting system, and an electronic controller for the power unit of the unmanned aerial vehicle. Its advantage is the network-centric principle of information network organization, used by the developers to facilitate the connection of the UAV to the control center and other parties. The communication system implemented on the drone links to other air and ground objects to form a secure network, which transmits information to the recipient with no delay or loss. (Source: UAS VISION/Defense World.Net)
28 Aug 19. ZSQUARED Engineering develops new unmanned surface vehicle as demand for USVs grows. Looking to take advantage of the growing international naval interest in unmanned surface and underwater vehicles, ZSQUARED Engineering, based in Jackson, Michigan, is developing a prototype of NEREUSV, an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) that will measure 4.2m, have a payload of 136kg, a maximum speed of 44kt, and a maximum distance of 600n miles. NEREUSV will possess an array of sensors, including bathymetric, radio frequency (RF) signal emissions, electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors, as well vehicle state information, Stephen Ziegenfuss, president of ZSQUARED Engineering, told Jane’s.
The USV will have a simplified launch-and-recovery system and can be used for operational environment assessment, as well as harbour and structure defense. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Aug 19. First Autonomous Flight for Bell Autonomous Pod Transport. Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, has announced the successful first autonomous flight of the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) 70 at its testing site near Fort Worth. Bell plans to continue to test the vehicle under an experimental type certificate throughout the remainder of the year.
“We are excited to reach this milestone, and look forward to continuing to advance this technology for our customers,” said Scott Drennan, vice president, Innovation. “The APT is designed to be capable of various mission sets, from package delivery to critical medical transport to disaster relief. We believe this capability will change the way unmanned aerial systems are used commercially in the future.”
APT 70 is part of the eVTOL family of vehicles Bell is developing and can reach speeds of more than 100mph and has a baseline payload capability of 70 lbs. Bell’s APT systems allow for flexible mission capabilities while keeping operations simple, efficient and fast; they are capable of twice the speed and range of a conventional multirotor. The vehicle is designed for rapid deployment, quick reconfiguration, and nimble battery swap and recharge. (Source: UAS VISION)
28 Aug 19. Parrot Launches ANAFI Enterprise Loan Program. Parrot has launched an enterprise drone loan program designed to give enterprises the chance of testing its ANAFI platform in a working environment. Selected partners will receive a complete set of hardware (drone, controller, batteries) and software (piloting app, SDK documentation, third party apps and services), to discover the full capabilities of the ANAFI platform, and how it can be integrated in their business. (Source: UAS VISION)
28 Aug 19. European MALE UAV Delayed Until Late 2020s. Deliveries of a new unmanned air vehicle (UAV) being a developed by a pan-European consortium are unlikely to begin until late next decade, a procurement official indicates. The MALE RPAS – or medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted air system – will be operated by four nations and designed and built by their industrial champions. France, Italy and Germany kicked off the project in 2015 and are respectively represented by Dassault, Leonardo and prime contractor Airbus Defence & Space. Spain joined the programme in 2016. European defence procurement body OCCAR launched a definition study in August 2016 – and at that point, first delivery to launch operator Germany was envisaged for 2027, says programme manager Klaus Seitz. In late May, Airbus submitted its offer for the global contract covering the programme’s next development phase.
“We, together with nations, are still analysing the offer and working together with industry to prepare contract negotiations,” says Seitz.
“The potential contract for the further activities – that is, development, production and initial in-service support – has not yet been awarded,” he adds. “Therefore this, and other dates, might slip. The delivery plan will be part of the future contract; anyhow the first deliveries are expected for Germany.”
Seitz describes the suggested 2019 deadline for signing the contract as “challenging”, saying it will “very likely slip into 2020”.
The project has also faced recent criticism from the French Senate – which, in a report released earlier this summer, observed the “obesity” of the platform, caused by “German specifications”.
“With two motors and a weight of 10t, this drone will be too heavy, too expensive and therefore, too difficult to export,” the upper house of the French parliament says.
While Paris needs a platform that can be used for overseas operations, Germany’s requirements are focused on domestic use and the two motors are needed for redundancy, the report says.
Seitz says the configuration was agreed by the four participating nations and “reflects the common system requirements and is the entry point for a system development”.
OCCAR lists the twin-turboprop-powered UAV as being an 11t-class platform with a 2,300kg (5,070lb) payload and a top speed of 270kt (500km/h).
The initial mock-up of the MALE RPAS was unveiled at the ILA Berlin air show in 2018; first flight is scheduled for 2024. (Source: UAS VISION/FlightGlobal)
26 Aug 19. Airbus Aerial granted FAA waiver to fly BVLOS missions without a visual observer. Airbus Aerial has been granted a waiver by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) operations in Grand Forks, ND without the need for a visual observer.
According to Airbus Aerial the waiver allows the company to conduct such operations as part of North Dakota Department of Transportation’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) – a public–private partnership sponsored by the FAA to help define the regulatory framework for drone operations and their integration into the national airspace system.
In 2018, the US Department of Transportation selected NDDOT as one of 10 state, local or tribal entities to participate in the FAA’s UAS IPP. The North Dakota team is working to safely incorporate UAS technology in three core challenge areas: conducting flights over people, night operations and BVLOS operations without the need for visual observers (VO’s).
The Airbus Aerial work will focus on working with Xcel Energy to deploy a SenseFly eBee Plus fixed-wing UAS to fly BVLOS over the right-of-ways of Xcel Energy’s distribution networks in residential neighbourhoods. This work is critical in equipping the utility industry to appropriately assess and utilize UAS and enjoy the benefits of a cost effective and scalable program across their entire network. BVLOS/OOP (Operation over People) operations are the only way to appreciate a significant increase in ROI with UAS technology and as the scale grows, the lessons learned and benefits will expand into new markets.
A novel methodology was used in the application for waivers from the FAA through the work by North Dakota’s IPP team (NDDOT, Northern Plains UAS Test Site and its partners), according to a company press report. The approach is multi-pronged in that it advances operations through risk mitigations and reliability metrics with known platforms like senseFly’s eBee Plus by greatly expanding on previously approved waivers and expanding operational envelopes. Underlying this approach is a reusable and adaptable framework to accelerate aircraft/operation waiver approvals utilizing a quantifiable risk-based methodology.
For more information
https://airbusaerial.com/airbus-aerial-receives-waiver-for-urban-bvlos-uas-flight-operations-over-populated-areas-in-north-dakota/ (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
27 Aug 19. China’s CSIC expands unmanned surface warfare portfolio with JARI USV. The state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) revealed in a 21 August announcement on its official WeChat social media account that its 716 Research Institute – also known as the Jiangsu Automation Research Institute (JARI) – has launched a new catamaran-hulled multirole unmanned surface vessel (USV).
A full-scale, production-ready example of the USV was recently shown docked at an undisclosed facility. Developed by JARI and CSIC’s 702 Research Institute – China Ship Scientific Research Centre (CSRRC) – the platform has been marketed as the JARI Multipurpose Unmanned Combat Boat at domestic and international defence exhibitions for several years.
Both research institutes are based in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu with JARI located in the north-eastern Lianyugang city, while CSSRC is positioned in the southern city of Wuxi. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
26 Aug 19. Hybrid Heliplane V.2 Offers 60 Minutes Flight Time. Drone Volt, a French embedded artificial intelligence expert and manufacturer of professional civil drones, has announced the release of its latest drone hybrid VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) vehicle named Heliplane v.2 drone. The new version offers long flight endurance times, 1.6-kg (3.5-lb) payload capacity, and VTOL/hover capabilities. The Heliplane v.2 combines the advantages of a multirotor UAV with a fixed drone. It allows take off and land safely be in limited spaces.
The Heliplane can fly up to 10 km for 60 minutes in airplane mode. The transition between the two flight modes is fully automatic. It comes in two sizes: Large (wingspan: 230cm) et Extra-Large (wingspan: 270cm).
The carbon fiber and Kevlar frame makes the Heliplane extremely resistant to a variety of flying conditions. It withstands winds up to 50 km/h and can carry up to 1.6 kg payload.
The disassembly of the wing and empennage turns it into a multi-rotor, which gives it a great modularity. Heliplane can be used in VTOL or multi-rotor mode.
This hybrid drone is available in 3 versions and can be used for different types of missions.The Security version comes with a 20x zoom camera and a thermal sensor. Next is the Lidar version, which is ideal for high-resolution mapping and 3D modeling. And the third, Photogrammetry version, gives you an RGB camera and real-time kinematic (RTK) for precision measurements. (Source: UAS VISION)
23 Aug 19. EHang Gets World’s First UAS Safety Certificate for AAV. EHang, an autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology platform company, announced that it has become the world’s first company to achieve certificate of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) safety level II for AAVs through tests of the UAS fence. The certificate was issued by the China Academy of Civil Aviation Science and Technology (CAST) and was internationally recognized among member organizations of the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS).
The tests demonstrated that both the passenger-grade EHang 216 and the non-passenger-grade EHang Falcon can automatically and precisely sense the UAS fence by alerting and avoid it by hovering, landing off or returning before entering the restricted area. The tests also proved that the EHang AAVs could not be started within the fenced areas to ensure safety.
“Passing these tests further establishes EHang as the leader in the UAS fence technology and marks a breakthrough in urban air mobility space,” said Zhang Zhengjuan, a senior engineer at the Civil UAS Inspection Center of CAST. “Significantly, EHang’s command-and-control system is more intelligent in managing the AAVs’ flight routes, and with real-time remote communication via 4G and 5G telecom networks, their operation is simpler and safer than conventional drones manual-controlled by radio frequency within limited distances.” (Source: UAS VISION)
23 Aug 19. On August 16th, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) gave a flight demonstration to Royal Air Force (RAF) senior leadership and RAF Reaper operators, as well as guests from the U.S. Marine Corp. and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The flight showcased MQ-9B SkyGuardian – GA-ASI’s development RPA that the RAF’s new Protector RG Mk1 is based upon – and several of its revolutionary capabilities, including the new Certifiable Ground Control Station (CGCS), automatic takeoff, landing and taxi over SATCOM, Portable Pre/Post-Flight Equipment (P3E) and the Mission Intelligence Center.
“This demonstration was a complete success and has really built our anticipation and excitement about our new Protector RPA to a whole new level,” said RAF Group Captain Lyndon Jones, Protector RG Mk1 Programme Director. “We witnessed some exciting technologies as part of the demonstration and we’re looking forward to incorporating these innovations into our fleet when we begin taking delivery of Protector in the early 2020s.”
The flight originated from Yuma Army Airfield in Arizona where GA-ASI crews flew SkyGuardian to Nevada and required no forward-deployed aircrew or Ground Control Station (GCS). The flight received FAA clearance to fly without a chase plane, and landed using Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability (ATLC) via SATCOM data link. It then taxied while still under satellite control from Yuma, before being turned over to GA-ASI’s Portable Pre/Post-Flight Equipment (P3E). P3E is a laptop that allows a forward-deployed maintainer to use automated pre-flight checklists to reduce pre-flight times by up to 50 percent. This capability reduces the airlift requirements by eliminating the need for a forward-deployed GCS.
“This flight demonstrated the full global expeditionary capabilities that the Protector will have when it joins the RAF fleet,” said David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “In addition to RAF’s mission sets, the aircraft’s ability to fly seamlessly in civil airspace will allow it to support domestic emergencies such as fire, flood, and security related missions.”
GA-ASI’s Mission Intelligence Station provides a suite of intelligence products generated by the aircraft, including the System for the Tactical Archival, Retrieval and Exploitation (STARE). Network enabled, the Intel Station allows for the rapid assessment and sharing of imagery by the Intelligence specialist assigned to the mission.
The British Robotics Seed Fund is the first SEIS-qualifying investment fund specialising in UK-based robotics businesses. The focus of the fund is to deliver superior returns to investors by making targeted investments in a mixed basket of the most innovative and disruptive businesses that are exploiting the new generation of robotics technologies in defence and other sector applications.
Automation and robotisation are beginning to drive significant productivity improvements in the global economy heralding a new industrial revolution. The fund allows investors to benefit from this exciting opportunity, whilst also delivering the extremely attractive tax reliefs offered by the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). For many private investors, the amount of specialist knowledge required to assess investments in robotics is not practical and hence investing through a fund structure makes good sense.
The fund appoints expert mentors to work with each investee company to further maximise the chance of success for investors. Further details are available on request.