Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
11 Sep 19. At a time of increased threat to international shipping, BAE Systems will this week demonstrate for the first time how Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) can be fully integrated with operational Royal Navy warships to extend their reach beyond the horizon and reduce sailors’ exposure to danger. An unmanned Pacific 24 Rigid Inflatable Boat (P24 RIB) will be integrated with the combat system of HMS Argyll, a Type 23 frigate, in a series of waterborne demonstrations in London’s Docklands at DSEI 2019, the international defence and security event.
At 7.8 metres long, the P24 RIB has a speed of 38 knots and can operate for up to 45 hours at patrol speed or 100 nautical miles in pursuit mode, while being controlled remotely or operating autonomously. Its integration with an active warship has potential applications across a range of missions, including anti-piracy operations, border control, intelligence gathering, maritime security and force protection.
At the show, technologists from BAE Systems, in collaboration with the Royal Navy, Dstl and autonomous systems supplier L3Harris, will demonstrate the potential to make naval missions faster, easier and safer by carrying out high-speed exercises that mimic real world scenarios that include force protection, threat intercept and chase missions.
The P24 RIB, designed and built by BAE Systems, is the standard sea boat for the Royal Navy and is used widely across its surface fleet. It is also used extensively by the Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Ministry of Defence Police and by allied navies and by overseas security forces. The new autonomous capability has the potential to be retrofitted to existing P24 RIBs. A key part of proving the technology for future operational use has been to ensure a secure connection between the combat management and sensor system on board the warship and the off-board systems on the RIB. Early trials of the technology have been conducted in collaboration with the Royal Navy’s new autonomy and lethality accelerator programme, Navy X.
Cdr Sean Trevethan, Royal Navy Fleet Robotics Officer, said: “This is much more than an Unmanned Surface Vessel demonstration for the Royal Navy. What we are doing is the first step in exploiting system architecture in a complex warship to integrate an unmanned system into the ship. This ensures the system and its payload fully contribute to the warfighting capability of the ship. Ultimately this will change the way we fight – through integrated command and control – and lead to development of new tactics, techniques and procedures. The P24 RIB is well known to the Royal Navy and has a lot of potential in terms of its payload and deployment as an unmanned system. The Royal Navy is excited at the prospect of developing this capability.”
Mike Woods, Chief Technologist for BAE Systems’ Maritime Services business, said: “This technology represents a huge step forward in the interaction between human and machine, combining sophisticated autonomous technology with human capabilities to overcome many of the challenges faced in difficult conditions at sea.”
The version of the autonomous P24 RIB on show at DSEI has been modified for optional unmanned operation and fitted with additional sensors and effectors including a high-resolution optical and thermal camera and Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) system, capable of emitting warning messages at distance. It is also equipped with automated navigational decision-making technologies, freeing up operators to focus on mission critical information from afar.
The P24 has pre-programmed intelligent behaviours to position itself appropriately in relation to a potential threat. However, its planned weapons system, developed by MSI Systems with BAE Systems, remains firmly under a human operator’s control, ensuring that while the vessel can operate and navigate autonomously, there will always be a highly-trained operator, making the final decision on engagement and targeting.
The demonstrations highlight the collaborative effort of industry working alongside Dstl partners in supporting the future of the Royal Navy, and the advancement of technology in providing non-lethal and lethal advantage to our military forces.
First introduced on an experimental basis in 2015 and trialled as part of the Royal Navy’s Unmanned Warrior exercise in 2016, BAE Systems is working with the Ministry of Defence to continue a series of capability demonstrations, including NATO trials, designed to further test the integration of the technology with existing warship combat management systems trials and its planned weapons systems.
Woods added: “For the past four years we have been working in collaboration to develop this ‘first of its kind’ technology. We are proud to have matured autonomous maritime technology significantly, positioning the UK as a forward thinker in this unique space and providing a crucial advantage where it counts.”
11 Sep 19. British MoD unveils MAST-13 unmanned system to protect vessels. MAST-13 was unveiled at DSEI.
The MoD unveiled a next-generation unmanned system, known as MAST-13, for the protection of the Royal Navy’s future ships from potential threats.
MAST-13 is a 13m-long unmanned system that operates as a water-borne drone to identify mines and other threats.
The platform can be controlled remotely from a rig and has the ability to operate alongside a naval task force and collect intelligence related to enemy vessels.
MAST-13 was unveiled at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) conference in London as part of the Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed (MAST) 13.
It demonstrated the capability to safeguard the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll in a harbour force protection.
As part of the demonstration, which was performed in the presence of UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, MAST-13 searched for potential threats and sent the information to the frigate.
The system was attached to the navy’s BAE Systems-built Pacific 24 (PAC24) rigid inflatable boat.
Wallace said: “MAST-13 is pioneering the future of unmanned surface vehicles for our world-leading navy. The development of unmanned technology is vital for success in modern warfare, going beyond the capability of traditional ships to attack and defend in uncertain environments.
“As more advanced technology and new threats continue to evolve, collaborative technology development ensures we are constantly pushing the boundaries to give our armed forces the best capabilities possible.”
The MAST-13 programme is developed under a partnership between the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and technology firm L3Harris.
The programme is intended to increase understanding of the use of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) in defence applications. The USVs could operate beyond the visual line of sight to support naval operations. (Source: naval-technology.com)
11 Sep 19. Thales unveils autonomous vessel concept for naval operations. Thales and its partner Steller Systems have unveiled a new concept to support the transition of navies to fully autonomous operations.
The Transition Ship (TX Ship) concept was introduced at the ongoing DSEI 2019 defence and security exhibition in London.
The TX Ship can be operated as an unmanned platform or as a lean-manned vessel and can accommodate a crew of 15.
As per the preliminary design details outlined by Thales, the concept vessel would be available in autonomous or remotely controlled modes.
The platform is a 70m trimaran with an expected range of up to 6,000 miles. The vessel will also feature a heavy-lift flight deck and payload mission bay.
The trimaran hull is intended to allow the flight deck to accommodate heavy lift helicopters, such as the British Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 airborne anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter.
Thales developed the TX Ship under a collaborative effort with Naval Architects Stellar Systems. Through the platform, the company aims to provide a cost-effective solution for naval forces.
The TX Ship’s mission bay could carry specialist equipment to support a range of missions, including mine countermeasures operations, ASW and patrol, and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations.
Steller and Thales are looking to exploit the market for unmanned surface vessels to provide mass and lethality for navies.
Thales UK Mine Warfare Product Line Manager and maritime autonomy lead Matt Hunt said: “This is a thought leadership concept design for navies to talk about and understand.
“There’s a requirement from countries for a Large Unmanned Surface Vessel to give navies both mass and lethality that larger, more expensive but isolated platforms can’t give you.
“However, it’s not just a pretty-looking boat. It’s got credible engineering and rigour behind it from our partners Stellar Systems who have a reputation as disruptive thought leaders.”
TX Ship is designed to provide close support and can operate independently, as well as part of a task group.
With a displacement of 600t, the TX Ship can achieve a maximum speed of 30k. The unmanned variant can operate continuously for 40 days.
The immediate focus of the partners is to launch a prototype into the water. (Source: naval-technology.com)
10 Sep 19. AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems for both defense and commercial applications, today announced the availability of its VAPOR all-electric Helicopter UAS at Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI), the world’s largest land, sea and air defense and security exhibition. Developed at AeroVironment Innovation Center-Midwest, VAPOR incorporates more than a decade of aerospace engineering, technical research and development to bring to market high-performance helicopter UAS at attractive price points for defense, commercial and industrial customers.
“The addition of VAPOR to our family of small unmanned aircraft systems demonstrates our commitment to providing customers with the most comprehensive capabilities to help them proceed with certainty in an ever changing operating environment,” said Rick Pedigo, vice president, sales and business development for AeroVironment. “VAPOR fully complements AeroVironment’s family of fixed-wing UAS with VTOL and flexible payload capabilities that can satisfy new customer missions across multiple domains.”
VAPOR – Intelligently Designed To Perform
Combining military-grade components, advanced flight control, and broad payload flexibility, VAPOR is purpose-built for mission critical performance. Fully automatic flight operation allows VAPOR to complete missions without operator intervention, with dynamic re-tasking to ensure safety, reliability and adaptable mission execution. With an expansive modular payload bay, and up to 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) of usable payload capacity, VAPOR is multi-mission capable with access to a variety of integrated sensors and third-party payloads including gimbaled EO/IR, survey grade PPK mapping, LiDAR and hyperspectral sensors, and an available Drop/Delivery Mechanism. Every VAPOR is powered by proprietary HeliSynth™ technology for system level optimization including advanced autopilot, payload command and control, and endurance.
Multiple VAPOR all-electric Helicopter UAS options are now available, enabling customers to choose the right configuration based on mission requirements, with the flexibility to create custom configurations that incorporate end-user provided equipment.
VAPOR 35 (GTOW 32 lbs., 14.5 kg) – With an advanced autopilot and a variety of available sensors, VAPOR 35 provides the flexibility to meet the most demanding missions. Aerodynamic 3-blade rotor design and high energy lithium-polymer batteries deliver up to one hour of flight time, all in a single case mission configuration with economical one-man lift packout.
VAPOR 55 (GTOW 55 lbs., 24.9 kg) – The versatile, powerful and easily configurable VAPOR 55 is designed to satisfy complex operational requirements. Heavy lift capable with up to 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) of usable payload weight (belly, side or slung), VAPOR 55 is single or multiple payload capable with access to a variety of integrated sensors, Drop/Delivery mechanism and third-party payload options.
VAPOR systems are now available for ordering. Learn more at www.avinc.com/vapor
Visit AeroVironment at DSEI 2019, STAND N5-202, Sept. 10-13, 2019 to learn more about VAPOR Helicopter UAS. https://www.dsei.co.uk/
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.