Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
13 Sep 19. General Dynamics launches new Bluefin-12 UUV. General Dynamics Mission Systems displayed its Bluefin-12 lightweight medium-class unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) for the first time at the 2019 Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London.
Bluefin-12 forms part of a product refresh of the Bluefin family of UUVs, which is currently under way and follows on from the launch of the Bluefin-9 in 2018, Erik Schmidt, mechanical engineer II for Bluefin Robotics, a General Dynamics subsidiary, told Jane’s at the DSEI.
“General Dynamics [GD] took over Bluefin Robotics three years ago, and at Bluefin we had a lot of legacy and obsolete components that we’d been dealing with for a long time,” he explained. “So, GD gave us the opportunity to really redesign these vehicles from the ground up and improve all the lessons learned over the years and really try to get it right.”
According to the company, the system has been built with robust core capabilities and features increased modularity, embedded intelligence, data processing, and an extended operational range. The Bluefin-12 is 4.83m long and 32 cm in diameter, with a dry weight of 250kg.
Both the Bluefin-9 and Bluefin-12 share the same sensor and survey packages, including a Sonardyne Solstice 3000 multi-aperture sidescan sonar, a turbidity and fluorometer sensor, and a sound velocity sensor for temperature and pressure. The depth rating of both UUVs is also the same at 200 m. “The reason for that is that we try to keep as much in common between the two vehicles as we can, so that if you do own a system of vehicles you can interchange the batteries and so on,” Schmidt said. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
13 Sep 19. Royal Navy conduct trials with PAC24 autonomous boat. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Royal Navy, along with industry partners, have conducted a series of trials involving an autonomous boat and Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll. The trials tested the capability of BAE Systems’ Pacific 24 (PAC24) rigid inflatable boat (RIB) to integrate with a vessel. During demonstrations at London’s Docklands, PAC24 transmitted imagery to the ship for the first time. The boat is partly funded by the Royal Navy’s Autonomous Hardware Accelerator NavyX.
The navy stated that the successful integration of the RIB with an active vessel indicates its ability for future missions. The trials showed that the boat can be used to support anti-piracy operations, border control and force protection. The PAC24 RIBs are the standard boats for the Royal Navy for use with aircraft carriers and offshore patrol vessels.
Participants in the trials included experts from BAE Systems, L3Harris, the Royal Navy, and the MoD’s Defence and Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
The series of trials also showcased the ability of the autonomous version of a PAC24 boat to drive sustainability and effectiveness.
NavyX programme director commander Sean Trevethan said: “This is much more than an autonomous surface vessel demonstration for the Royal Navy. What we are doing is the first step of 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 the development of new tactics, techniques and procedures.”
The navy is keen about the prospect of deploying the PAC24 as an unmanned system, Trevethan added.
The boat used in the trials at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2019 event is a modified version designed for optional unmanned operations.
The 7.8m-long RIB can be operated in an autonomous mode or controlled remotely. Earlier this week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace unveiled the MAST-13 unmanned system for the protection of the navy’s future ships. (Source: naval-technology.com)
12 Sep 19. Over the last year, the U.S. Marine Corps’ (USMC) Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) blazed a trail of firsts and was awarded the 2018 Marine Corps Aviation Association Unmanned Aircraft Squadron of the Year. A major component of the squadron’s accomplishments included use of the MQ-9A Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), which to date has flown over 4,800 flight hours of direct support reconnaissance over a 12 month period. The multi-sensor reconnaissance equipped MQ-9A UAS produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has provided crucial support to USMC’s forward operations on the battlefield, as well as serving as a proof of concept for the Deputy Commandant’s Marine Aviation Plan. Building the Marine Corps’ Group 5 UAS community, this initiative will help inform the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) UAS Expeditionary (MUX) program while also meeting the 38th Commandant’s Planning Guidance to expand unmanned capabilities.
VMU-1 has been utilizing leased MQ-9A Reaper aircraft to fulfill an urgent needs request for persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) in the Afghanistan theater since September 2018.
“We congratulate the Officers and Marines of VMU-1 for their superb performance this year, winning the John I. Hudson Award as the Marine Unmanned Aircraft Squadron of the Year,” said David R Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “GA-ASI looks forward to working with VMU-1 as the USMC transitions its Company Owned/Company Operated (COCO) MQ-9A contract to a Government Owned/Government Operated (GOGO) contract in the coming year.”
The GOGO capability fulfills the Commandant’s directive for USMC Group 5 persistent ISR capability with strike and will achieve IOC in 2020. VMU-1 will be the test bed and incubator to provide crucial information, lessons learned, requirements, and tactics, techniques, and procedures that will aid in the USMC efforts for a successful acquisition and fielding of MUX.
11 Sep 19. Polish Dragonfly UAV Able to Destroy Armoured Targets. Polish Company WZL 2 presents its Dragonfly UAVS (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System) at MSPO 2019, the International Defense Industry Exhibition in Poland. The Dragonfly is a quadcopter designed for combat operations in urban areas and can carry a warhead to conduct precision strikes against targets up to lightly armored threats.
Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze Nr 2 S.A. (Military Aviation Works No. 2) is one of the largest aviation plants in Poland and belongs to an elite group of companies of strategic importance for Poland’s economy and defense. It is a dynamically developing company with more than 70 years of experience in repairing, modernizing and servicing complex fighter-bomber and fighter aircraft. WZL 2 also design and produces a full range of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Systems).
The DRAGONFLY quadcopter opens a new line of UAVS for military purposes, which is increasingly being used by the armies of different countries on contemporary battlefields. The heart of the system is warheads carrier of vertical take-off and landing in the quadcopter arrangement.
The Dragonfly quadcopter was designed for combat operations, both on an open and urbanized area. Depending on the type of a used warhead, it can be used for a precise strike of lightly-armored targets or concentration of firing stands within max. 10 km.
The operator is provided with fragmentation, cumulative, thermobaric, or training warheads which can be equipped with daytime or infrared camera, enabling carrying out actions at night. For safety purposes, DRAGONFLY is equipped with a three-stage system for remote arming and disarming of the warhead. After tracking a target and activating the video-tracking mode, the suicide mission can be continued even if the communication is lost.
The Dragonfly has a maximum take-off weight of 5 kg. It has a maximum flight time of 25 min at speeds up to 80 km/h, operating at a ceiling of 1,600 ft, with a line-of-sight control limit of 10 km (Source: UAS VISION/Army Recognition)
10 Sep 19. US Navy makes a major breakthrough in autonomous weaponry. The U.S. Navy has achieved a major milestone in its efforts to autonomously combat one of the most persistent threats it faces, the service’s deputy head of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations’ mine warfare office said Monday.
The Navy successfully demonstrated what’s known as single-sortie mine hunting, which sends out an autonomous boat to sweep for mines with a sonar system, detect a mine-like object, classify it and then deploy another system that destroys the mine, according to Stephen Olson.
It’s a significant achievement in the yearslong effort to “get the man out of the minefield” by deploying robots to perform a job traditionally performed by manned minesweepers and highly trained divers. Beyond the safety benefits, it also quickens the process. The successful test opens up the possibility of having a small cadre of human operators who can oversee whole packs of robots as they sweep minefields on their own.
“That single-sortied, detect-to-engage was a great example of something that would represent supervisory [control of unmanned systems],” Olson said. “It was a small group [of people] who oversaw the entire effort: Multiple systems were in operation together, working together and cueing each other.”
When reached for comment on the successful test, the Navy would not divulge further details.
“Currently the Navy cannot disclose any further details of the test beyond what Mr. Olson described,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Brittany Stephens said.
The systems under development in the pursuit of single-sortie mine hunting are Textron’s Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or CUSV, about the size of a bass boat, which deploys Raytheon’s AQS-20 sonar system to detect the mines. After an operator authorizes an engagement, the Barracuda Expendable Mine Neutralizer is deployed to autonomously reacquire and destroy the mine.
“If you are familiar with mine warfare, it’s painfully slow,” Olson said to an audience at the DSEI conference in London. “When leadership says, ‘We need to clear a minefield,’ and you say, ‘How long do I have?,’ they look at their watch when they should pull out a calendar. I’m going to tell them it is going to take weeks, and they’re going to say: ‘I need it done now.’ ”
In May, a Raytheon executive told Defense News that the company was closing in on demonstrating the capability.
“All three of these pieces are maturing right around the same time,” Randy Brandenburg, a Raytheon business development executive with its Seapower Capability Systems division, said at the time. “We’re working hard to put this together and we’ll be demonstrating some of this … this summer.”
The Navy is also moving in on the ability to deliver an effective counter-mine mission package to the littoral combat ship, albeit more than a decade late.
The mine-hunting mission package for LCS was supposed to achieve its initial operational capability declaration in 2008. But perhaps more importantly, the service may finally have an effective solution to combating a threat that has bedeviled it for years: cheap mines.
“In the past it has been mostly divers — we’d sent [explosive ordnance disposal teams] out to go neutralize mines by putting some kind of charge on it,” said Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “It’s a hugely complicated, multistage operation with a lot of people involved. So going to single-sortie mine hunting, you are really saving a lot of time, certainly by at least a third the time it takes to clear an area that has mines in it.
“You can now transition to a purely unmanned mine-clearance operation where I have a ship that has the AQS-20 getting towed behind the CUSV, searches for [a] mine and the CUSV can send out a mine-neutralization torpedo.”
The breakthrough with single-sortie will mean the Navy is only limited by how many robots it can buy to do the job.
“It’s big not just because it gets people out of the minefield but because it’s scalable now,” Clark said. “Once you take the people out the minefield, now you can search as big a minefield as I have unmanned vehicles, whereas in the past you were limited by how many minesweepers I have and how many humans I have to operate them. Scalability was constrained.”
Ultimately, getting this mission right will prove that autonomous systems can have an impact on war fighting, Clark added.
“This is the mission that the Navy absolutely had to get autonomous systems to go do,” he said. “It’s crazy to have humans go out and remove mines. It’s dangerous, it’s not scalable, it takes forever — it’s just a huge vulnerability that the Navy [has] that could be exploited by even the most primitive opponents. (Source: Defense News)
11 Sep 19. Polish Company WB Group unveils WARMATE R reconnaissance UAV. Polish Company WB Group unveils its new loitering reconnaissance UAV at MSPO 2019, defense exhibition in Poland. WARMATE Loitering Reconnaissance System is a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft, that is used for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance of the battlefield. Designed to complement the WB GROUP’s observation capabilities, WARMATE R is a cost-effective solution compatible with other WARMATE loitering munitions systems.
The reconnaissance version is based on the same fuselage and the ground segment as the WARMATE combat unmanned aerial vehicle – the observation payload and the warheads for combat missions can be used alternatively.
Visual data is provided by an observation head, mounted on the fuselage of the platform. The head integrates 3 cameras arranged to provide multiple views of the exterior of the aircraft under the control of the flight operators. One camera field of view is forward – this one is equipped with 8 mm lens. The remaining two cameras, equipped with the 8 mm and 12 mm optics, provide smooth tilting capabilities from downward position (0 deg) to side one (90 deg). WARMATE R can be equipped with the daylight or thermal cameras, as well as the laser target highlighter.
All cameras are capable of a remote PAN/TILT control. Furthermore, the system is equipped with the mechanical single axle ROLL stabilization to remove image rotation during aircraft turns. The operator can switch between the cameras with only one camera operating at the time.
The system has an in-built data analysis system enabling accurate target location and delivering its geographical coordinates to the artillery.
Warmate R incorporates a “Target Lock” function, which allows the camera to observe a target regardless of the orientation of the UAV. Target locking can be achieved based on the geographical position or visual tracking of the target. Target locking enables tracking of moving targets – individuals or vehicles.
The WARMATE R is compatible with any WARMATE designed and manufactured by WB GROUP; the platform lands automatically at any pre-determined point following the selection of the landing mode; in addition, the system allows for the manual landing, together with a parachute, preventing damage to the fuselage and the payload and allowing the UAV to land on a hard surface if required.
The WARMATE R has a flight endurance of 90min and has a maximum flying range of 15km. It has a weight of 5.2kg. (Source: UAS VISION/Army Recognition)
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.
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