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19 Sep 19. UK police adopt Centrik for UAS operations. The Centrik UAS operational management system has been adopted by the UK’s police unmanned systems programme, the Alliance Drone Team.
Widely used in civil aviation, Centrik is a fully ICAO-compliant operational UAS management system for the emergency services designed to provide a complete, configurable solution for managing tasks, equipment, training and logbooks. The system has allowed the team to expand and effectively manage operations covering almost 5,000 square miles, and co-ordinate activity for almost 50 police UAS pilots across South West England.
A collaboration between Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police, the Alliance Drone Team integrates UAS into the emergency services environment, supporting law enforcement for missing persons searches, major events and firearms incidents.
The system also enables the Alliance Drone Team to reduce its administrative burden while ensuring operations are compliant with the latest regulations.
David Hunkin, head of UAS at Centrik said: ‘Having already been adopted by NPAS, Centrik is uniquely well placed to help police drone units reduce administration and set a new standard in UAS operational management, which is very exciting indeed.’ (Source: Shephard)
19 Sep 19. The US Navy’s new autonomous refueling drone takes historic first flight. The U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray refueling drone, destined to be the first carrier-launched autonomous unmanned aircraft to be integrated into the service’s power strike arm, took its first test flight from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, Boeing announced Thursday. The two hour flight, remotely controlled by Boeing test pilots, tested the basic flight functions of the aircraft, a Boeing press statement said.
“The aircraft completed an autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-determined route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station,” the release said.
Boeing’s project head said it was an important step toward getting the drone on the flight deck.
“Seeing MQ-25 in the sky is a testament to our Boeing and Navy team working the technology, systems and processes that are helping get MQ-25 to the carrier,” MQ-25 Program Director Dave Bujold said in the release. “This aircraft and its flight test program ensures we’re delivering the MQ-25 to the carrier fleet with the safety, reliability and capability the U.S. Navy needs to conduct its vital mission.”
An $805m contract awarded to Boeing last August covers the design, development, fabrication, test and delivery of four Stingray aircraft, a program the service expects will cost about $13bn overall for 72 aircraft, said Navy acquisition boss James Geurts.
The award to Boeing kicks off what the Navy would is aiming to be a six-year development effort moving toward a 2024 declaration of initial operational capability. At the end, it will mark a historic integration of drones into the Navy’s carrier air wing.
The MQ-25 flown Thursday is a Boeing-owned test asset and a predecessor to the first four engineering design model aircraft provided for under last year’s contract. The model “is being used for early learning and discovery to meet the goals of the U.S. Navy’s accelerated acquisition program,” the release said.
The Stingray was a priority pushed by the Navy’s previous chief of naval operations, Adm. John Richardson, who saw it as a chance to force a program through the system and field a new capability quickly.
“The MQ-25 was really a signature program to test the limits and plow new ground in that direction,” Richardson told Defense News last April. “And so we brought industry in way earlier. I think that’s key to getting the acquisition cycle faster, even in the refinement of the requirements phase.
“And so that’s where we’ve been with MQ-25, is to bring them in, see what they’ve got and see how fast they can get a prototype together to fly. One thing we did do was we locked down on requirements. We could probably get agreement from everybody that we need something to tank. It liberates a lot of our strike fighters from doing that mission and it’s something that we can get done ― its relatively straightforward.” (Source: Defense News)
19 Sep 19. An unmanned ship that can travel 500 nautical miles without resupply ― the USMC is looking at it. The USMC potential fight across the expanse of the Pacific will require a mix of unmanned ground, aerial and ships to move supplies and create dilemmas for enemy forces.
On Sept. 11, the Corps put out a request for information from industry leaders for an unmanned vessel capable of traveling 500 nautical miles without resupply. The information request “is simply conducting market research to explore unmanned inter-theater amphibious solutions capable of supporting littoral operations in a contested environment,” Maj. Ken Kunze, a Marine spokesman told Marine Corps Times. The Corps provided no other details about its request for information related to the long range unmanned vessel. But, the Corps has been expressing a lot of interest as of late regarding unmanned surface vessels. In July the Corps tested an unmanned boat built by Textron Systems known as the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise held aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to Wayne Prender, the senior vice president for applied technology and advanced programs for Textron.
Textron’s unmanned vessel has a range of 10 nautical miles to 20 nautical miles and a 24-hour endurance depending on the payload, Prender told Marine Corps Times at the 2019 Modern Day Marine expo in Quantico, Virginia. Prender believes Textron’s unmanned ship is “well suited” for the Corps’ long-range unmanned surface vessel program.
During the experimental exercise at Camp Lejeune, Prender said that the Textron vessel conducted a high value vessel protection.
The ship’s mission, Prender said, “was to keep itself between a high valued asset and potential enemy or threat.”
The system’s sensors were able to identify threats and position the ship between itself and the asset and protect it, Prender explained.
The unmanned boat is also an open system, Prender said. That means you can put whatever weapon systems “you can dream on it.” (Source: Marine Times)
19 Sep 19. Successful Test Flight for Tellumat ASTUS. South African provider of defence and security technology provider Tellumat successfully completed flight trials with its ASTUS unmanned aerial system (UAS).
Willie Malan, support and services manager for Tellumat Defence and Security, reported the ASTUS unmanned aerial system flight team is back home after a number of successful test flights in the Overberg region of South Africa under SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) regulations.
“Flying under SACAA’s RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) regulations for the first time, all flight operations were done with assistance from and under cover of UAV Industries’ RPAS Operators Certificate,” Malan said.
Poor weather conditions saw any number of test flights done in strong winds, freezing temperatures and various layers of cloud cover. This did not deter the flight team and the UAS coped – admirably – with all conditions, he added. Among flight milestones achieved were successful climbs to 1 000 feet above sea level and maintaining cruise speeds varying from 50 up to 90 knots. At all times, two live video channels transmitted feeds to the ground station. The Tellumat XTP30 optical training payload provides one video channel.
Malan said take-off performance was excellent, using less than 150 metres of runway and the efficient braking system allowed landings in the same distance.
“The flight test campaign to date proves the ASTUS UAS to be a stable platform for sensor deployment.”
Unveiled at Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) Exhibition at AFB Waterkloof last September, ASTUS is Tellumat’s first foray into full-scale UAS systems provision.
“Before that, Tellumat developed, manufactured and supported market-leading UAS sub-systems for more than 30 years,” Shirley McLean, managing executive, Tellumat Defence and Security, said.
“With UAS demand taking off worldwide, ASTUS has allowed Tellumat to step up with high-end UAS performance in a medium sized, cost-effective package.”
ASTUS is a medium-sized, medium-range tactical surveillance UAS system. It is suitable for lengthy missions requiring real-time surveillance data collection and delivery for a variety of missions. These include border and coastal security, environmental protection and peacekeeping. The ASTUS can also be used to train UAS pilots for beyond line of sight operations of larger UASs.
The system integrates an aircraft, ground control system and camera payload capability in a robust, durable, easily transported, quick to deploy and easy to operate high-performance surveillance package.
“The significance of our first full SACAA-vetted flight cannot be overstated,” Tellumat Group chief executive, Andrew Connold, said.
“Design, development, completion and now proven success of the ASTUS UAS has taken more than four years, after many more building up technical expertise and market credentials.”
“We are delighted and believe it will help further entrench South Africa and Tellumat’s position in the global UAS/UAV industry.” (Source: UAS VISION/Defence Web)
19 Sep 19. Aussie and US university collaboration to work on next-gen autonomous systems. Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has announced a $3m collaboration agreement between Australian and US universities to develop the next generation of autonomous vehicles. The University of Melbourne, Macquarie University, the University of New South Wales and Queensland University of Technology will join forces with Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The universities will explore whether the way in which living creatures receive, process and react to environmental and contextual information can be applied to robots to improve their perception, navigation and spatial awareness.
Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said autonomous capability was a key priority for Defence because of its important safety and efficiency benefits: “Autonomous vehicles help keep troops a safe distance from harm and present solutions to a range of problems faced by our military personnel in the field.”
“This project is aimed at developing a truly autonomous vehicle capable of learning, adapting to unexpected situations and pursuing complex goals in dynamic and challenging environments. It is a tremendous opportunity for our scientists to collaborate with their counterparts in the United States on research that is vital for the future defence and security of Australia,” Minister Price added.
The funding was awarded under the AUSMURI program, a sister program to the US multidisciplinary university research initiative (MURI). AUSMURI supports Australian universities, which are part of successful bids in the US MURI process.
Designed to encourage collaboration between Australian universities and their US counterparts, AUSMURI provides funding of up to $1m per year for three years, supporting research in high-priority areas for Defence.
A total of $25m from the Next Generation Technologies Fund will be invested in the AUSMURI program over the next nine years.
The Next Generation Technologies Fund, managed by DST, is a new government initiative introduced with the Defence Industry Policy Statement in 2016. Together with the Defence Innovation Hub and the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, these three policies form the integrated Defence innovation system.
With an investment of $730m over the decade to June 2026, the Next Generation Technologies Fund is a forward-looking program focusing on research and development in emerging and future technologies for the “future Defence force after next”.
The Next Generation Technologies Fund is focused on the following nine priority areas as determined by the Defence White Paper 2016:
- Integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
- Space capabilities
- Enhanced human performance
- Medical countermeasure products
- Multi-disciplinary material sciences
- Quantum technologies
- Trusted autonomous systems
- Advanced sensors, hypersonics and directed energy capabilities
“In addition to providing critical Defence capability, the AUSMURI program will help to grow local skills and expertise in key areas,” Minister Price said.
Further information regarding the Next Generation Technologies Fund is available here https://www.dst.defence.gov.au/nextgentechfund
18 Sep 19. This Osprey-Style Drone Could Help Marines Protect Navy Warships. As the sea services prepare for potential fights against other big navies, the Marine Corps is considering using a massive drone not unlike its MV-22B Osprey to protect ships.
Commandant Gen. David Berger does not want his Marines being passive passengers aboard Navy ships. That has service leaders looking for ways Marines can help defend sea vessels from the moment they embark, Col. Kurt Schiller, director of the maritime expeditionary warfare division at Combat Development Directorate, said at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo here Tuesday.
One tool under consideration is the Bell V-247 Vigilant, an autonomous tilt-rotor unmanned drone about the size of a Huey helicopter that can operate from ships and loiter in the air for about 10 hours.
A prototype of the aircraft, which looks like a smaller version of the Osprey, was on display for the second year during the expo. Jason Hurst, Bell’s V-247 Vigilant program manager, told Military.com the aircraft is well-suited to protect sailors and Marines at sea as the services prepare to operate in more contested environments.
“This has the ability to provide organic electronic warfare capabilities that aren’t on the [amphibious ships] today,” he said. “Think of jamming, decoy [unmanned aerial systems] and other air-launched effects.”
The V-247 is a contender in the Marine Corps’ MUX program, which stands for Marine Air-Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System-Expeditionary. The Marine Corps wants its large unmanned aircraft systems in the skies by 2026, and they should be able to operate alongside manned aircraft, provide air support, fly long distances and carry a full payload.
The Vigilant can do all of that, Hurst said. And since Marines are already used to operating the tilt-rotor Osprey, he added that it makes the V-247 a good fit for the service.
The Vigilant is equipped with sensors that could be used as an early warning system, which Hurst said also has the Navy eyeing the aircraft. The Navy is also interested in the drone’s ability to send targeting information back to the ship.
“A lot of their focus has been [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] with targeting so the ability to get sensors over the horizon and provide targeting information to the ship to help paint the picture,” he said.
The V-247 can carry Hellfire missiles, torpedoes, jamming pods and air-to-air missiles. While it’s still in the prototype phase, Hurst said Bell officials think they can keep the price around the Marines’ target of $25 million.
“This would be the seventh tilt-rotor we have built, so a lot of our advantage is in the know-how and the proven technology we have both from the V-22 and its almost 500,000 flight hours, as well as the V-280 that we’re using for our technology pipeline, which has amassed about 100 flight hours as a prototype for the Army Future Vertical Lift program.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/military.com)
18 Sep 19. Miniature UAS delivers tactical snapshot. UK-based FlareBright Ltd took the opportunity at the DSEI 2019 exhibition in London to showcase its SnapShot miniature battlefield aerial imagery unmanned aircraft system (UAS). FlareBright’s CEO Kelvin Hamilton told Jane’s that the instant aerial camera was originally envisaged for life-saving applications in the commercial maritime industry before the company examined potential defence uses.
“We are in the prototype stage at the moment [and have] conducted about 500 test shots with a larger variant,” Hamilton noted, adding, “Some militaries are interested in the payload aspect [of SnapShot] for battlefield targeting.”
“As a squad-level product, SnapShot is very tactical.. We’re right at the front line,” he noted. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
17 Sep 19. Can the US Army secure an American-made quadcopter? In a nondescript parking lot in Andover, Massachusetts, outside an aggressively generic office building, I am piloting an InstantEye quadcopter gently over the Merrimack River. At around 300 feet above the ground, I can no longer hear its rotors or make out its roughly basketball-sized body against the bright sky.
With a press of a button and a slight change in angle, the InstantEye MK-2 turns and moves its camera to the porch where I am standing. The shade hides us a little, but after pressing another button the infrared camera identifies several bodies. If I was not piloting the drone, I would have no idea it was out there, looking at me.
In recent years, the quadcopter has moved from a hobbyist toy that might see battlefield use to a dedicated family of drones at hobbyist, commercial and military levels. They all aim to provide roughly the same advantage: an unobtrusive eye in the sky, priced cheaply enough to replace easily if lost. That hobbyist drones have been adapted by uniformed militaries and nonstate actors into bomb-dropping threats is a natural outgrowth of technology cheap enough to make expendable.
Now the Army wants to take advantage of this paradigm shift.
“The UAS asset should be designed to be a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that is rapidly deployable in austere, harsh environments,” read an Army solicitation posted in April 2019 to the FedBizOpps website. Besides VTOL, the Army wanted a drone with a camera payload, providing electro-optical/infrared radar video on a stable gimbal.
It is the kind of capability that an officer could likely pick up for a few hundred dollars at the Pentagon City Mall.
The future of tactical war likely looks like what happened with quadcopters: commercial technology cheap and useful enough to be adapted to military ends. But the drone market is compounded by one fact: the majority of hobbyist drones and their components are built in China, and working outside that market means foregoing much of the cost savings that make quadcopters so attractive.
“We paint a large portion of the intelligence picture with minimal risk to men and equipment. What may take a scout team a day to do, may only take three hours for us,” Sgt. Christopher Curley, an Army SUAS master trainer, said in 2018. “The quadcopter is a great tool for quick recon. I relate it to fishing; you cast your reel, check that area and then move on.”
Curley’s suite of drones included the longer-range fixed-wing Ravens and Pumas, built to military specifications. Combined, the set of small drones can gather up to 60 percent of intelligence in training exercises. When it came to the quadcopters, Curley’s unit relied on off-the-shelf drones. The Army is already training for a future where military quadcopters are ubiquitous. But to get there, it’s had to rely heavily on commercial products. (Source: Defense News)
17 Sep 19. Global Hawks to Take On Hypersonic Testing. The US Air Force is buying three RQ-4 Global Hawks to aid in long-range hypersonic missile testing, according to the head of the Air Force Test Center.
The move, which is already in progress, is one aspect of the service’s attempt to beef up its hypersonic test infrastructure as it pushes toward having operational flying prototypes within the next few years.
“It’s one thing to go out over the water and to shoot a new air-to-air missile tens of miles downrange, but hypersonic weapons will be flying hundreds of miles downrange,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Azzano told Air Force Magazine in a Sept. 16 interview at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. “We have to be able to, over a long distance, ensure the safety of the fly arc, to monitor the footprint, [and] ensure that we have telemetry relays all the way back to the people on the ground that are collecting the data.”
Traditionally, the military has tested some long-range assets at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands using dozens of surface vessels. But that can run up the bill, something the Air Force wants to avoid as it expects to see “a whole lot of hypersonic weapons testing,” Azzano said.
Instead, the Air Force is turning to airborne assets with systems onboard that can communicate missile data back to testers down the entire length of the range.
“We’re going to need [remotely piloted aircraft] all the way down the range to do what a whole armada of surface vessels do today,” Azzano said. “It’s going to be immensely cheaper.”
The service successfully vetted the RPA data-relay idea, but has not yet used it in a large-scale program like its hypersonics initiatives. The Air Force is pursuing two hypersonic missiles, one known as the Air-Launched Rapid-Response Weapon and another dubbed the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon. Lockheed Martin received design contracts for both.
The Air Force is similarly working on new technologies so that the antennas and transmitters on hypersonic weapons can withstand intense temperatures and pressure in flight.
Azzano also pointed to the hypersonic test program as one example of how the Air Force’s test enterprise is stretched thin between needing to sustain aging airframes, provide assets for combat, and use them for evaluation. The Air Force’s long list of test programs is “creating an even greater challenge for us these days,” Azzano said of aircraft availability.
For example, the B-52 enterprise must balance a slew of upgrade initiatives with overseas missions and hypersonics testing, he said. The Air Force Test Center is working with Air Force Global Strike Command and its commander, Gen. Timothy Ray, to split up the B-52 fleet for various uses.
“We have a few B-52s and he’s got the bulk of them,” Azzano said. “We’ve already got great synergy between the Global Strike operational test community and the [Air Force Materiel Command] developmental test communities.” (Source: UAS VISION/Air Force Magazine)
17 Sep 19. New deal moves Britain’s Protector drone closer to civilian airspace approval. General Atomics has nabbed a $125m contract from the United Kingdom to make that country’s Protector military strike drone certifiable to fly alongside civilian traffic, pushing the company’s agenda to be first in Europe with such a system.
The money will help “complete” test and evaluation activities needed to demonstrate all safety features leading up to an eventual certification of the aircraft by British authorities, the company said in a statement.
Pairing drones with civil aviation in the same, unrestricted airspace involves a complex field of still-evolving regulations. In short, unmanned planes must be equipped with sensors and controls — collectively known under the name “detect-and-avoid” — to be able to avert midair collisions just a like a human pilot would.
“This completes another important milestone as we work towards the delivery of Protector to the Royal Air Force (RAF),” General Atomics CEO Linden Blue is quoted as saying in a company statement. “We have completed more than 100 qualification test flights using our two company-owned SkyGuardian.”
The British Royal Air Force is slated to receive the first Protector drones in 2024, according to a service statement released during the DSEI defense exhibit in London last week. Installing a detect-and-avoid package on the aircraft became an explicit objective of the program early this year. General Atomics officials said they are working toward a so-called military-type certification by the British authorities in the summer of 2023.
According to General Atomics, the company’s detect-and-avoid system consists of a “due-regard” air-to-air radar and processor, which is integrated with a “Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II),” and an “Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).” The Protector also will feature all-weather performance with lightning protection, damage tolerance and a de-icing system, the statement reads.
The company hopes the sale of certification-ready drones to the U.K., plus a similar deal with Belgium, will jump-start sales on the continent just as unmanned aviation reaches further into military and everyday life.
While General Atomics believes its previous work with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will translate into a tangible advantage, European manufacturers are busy readying their own drones for the challenge.
One industry insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there is a trans-Atlantic rift emerging when it comes to the regulatory framework for integrating large military drones into routine air traffic. On one side, companies like General Atomics are pushing toward a unified approach on both sides of the Atlantic, while manufacturers in Europe are circling the wagons to push a uniquely European path that could make it difficult for the Americans to gain a foothold.
17 Sep 19. Trinity F90+ New UAV by Quantum-Systems. German-based Quantum-Systems GmbH released the enhanced version of the Trinity F9, the Trinity F90+ at the Intergeo on September 16th. With a flight time of 90+ minutes combined with long range telemetry solution of up to 7.5 km and PPK capabilities for more accuracy. Comprehensive and state-of-the-art features are available on both sides, hardware and software.
Increased flight time up to 90 minutes with dual payload configuration
Featuring new motors and increased battery capacity, the Trinity F90+ can now stay in the air for 90+ minutes. In addition, there are sufficient reserves to accommodate payloads of up to 700g. It is now possible to equip a dual payload configuration of Sony UMC-R10C and MicaSense RedEdge-MX to make use of RGB & multispectral sensors in one flight. Simply perform more demanding missions in less time! (E.g. Map up to 700 ha @1.26 inch/px GSD (3.2 cm/px) at 120 m AGL).
Long range 2.4GHz telemetry
In addition to the dual variant, single payloads with Sony RX1R II, Sony UMC-R10C, MicaSense RedEdge-MX and Altum are also available. All combined with a high range telemetry solution covering up to 7.5 km.
Live air traffic in QBase3D for advanced operational awareness (ADS-B in & out)
The flight safety is further increased by the automatic integration of the live air traffic info into QBase3D, the included software for mission planning, monitoring and post-processing. With the help of the pingUSB from uAvionix, the UAV pilot now receives high-quality tracking data from other aircraft around him to increase its operational awareness significantly. An optional ADS-B-out upgrade is also available in order to meet the highest regulatory requirements.
PPK & iBase (PPK Base Station) for best-in-class accuracy
For all surveyors and professionals that require highly accurate data down to a few centimeters, the Trinity F90+ enables them to reduce typical GNSS geotagging errors of several meters down to 2 – 5 cm via auxiliary GNSS data collection in flight.
The PPK module comes with an additional PPK base station, called iBase, for reliable reference data in an instant. Thanks to a strong cooperation between u-blox and Quantum-Systems, massively increased data accuracy at dramatically reduced costs is now possible with the all new Trinity F90+.
The new Trinity F90+ is available now to all existing resellers, end users and potential customers through our current distribution network. The delivery happens at a first-come-first-serve basis. The Trinity F90+ comes at a retail price of 14,900 EUR (excl. VAT).
“With the launch of the Trinity in 2017, we have been able to demonstrate to our customer base that they can rely on a durable and long-lasting UAV with a modern payload concept. With its price-performance ratio and industry leading enhancements, the new Trinity F90+ definitely has what it takes to further stir up the UAV market. We have listened to our professional customers to give them the perfect tool for their work and are confident that the Trinity F90+ will meet their high expectations. We’re excited to see our users’ feedback on our new product and how we can move from there to leverage it to the next level.” Emphasizes Florian Seibel, CEO of Quantum-Systems. (Source: UAS VISION)
17 Sep 19. After chosen for one of the companies for test trials by the Border and Coast Guard Division of the Finnish Border Guard, Schiebel’s proven CAMCOPTER® S-100 Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air System (UAS) performed a five-day maritime surveillance demonstration aboard Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Turva.
The intense flight trials took place at the end of August in the Gulf of Finland. Day and night, the S-100 completed given scenarios including searching, locating and recognizing objects as well as surveillance for maximum situational awareness. In addition to top Finnish Border Guard officials, representatives of the Finnish Defence Forces, Finnish Customs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, as well as Finnish Meteorological Institute, among others, attended the event. The test was part of the ongoing Valvonta2 -project (Surveillance2) that is lead by Finnish Border Guard and funded by European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
The CAMCOPTER® S-100 was selected for the shipboard trials because of its outstanding reputation as a proven and reliable UAS for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The S-100, a compact unmanned helicopter, offers a high degree of versatility and is well known to accommodate a wide variety of innovative and market-leading payloads, tailored to meet customers’ specific requirements.
To comply with its assigned tasks, the S-100 was equipped with the state-of-the-art L3Harris Wescam MX-10 Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/IR) camera, the Overwatch Imaging PT-8 Oceanwatch wide-area maritime surveillance payload and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver.
“As we have seen during the trials, maritime ISR and search operations can derive significant benefits from the use of UAS,” said Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group. “As a robust VTOL platform, the CAMCOPTER® does not require any additional takeoff or recovery equipment, which makes it perfect for OPVs with small deck sizes. We are very pleased with the outcome of the trials and hope to be back in Finland soon.”
16 Sep 19. £100m boost for cutting-edge Protector aircraft. The Ministry of Defence has signed a contract worth approximately £100m to test the performance of the UK’s ground-breaking Protector aircraft. The world-class Protector will be the first remotely controlled aircraft capable of attacking targets anywhere in world while being operated from their home base in RAF Waddington.
This contract will see General Atomics test the aircraft to its limit and report back on its performance in advance of the aircraft’s introduction to the frontline in 2024.
Speaking at the DSEi conference today the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, said: “Protector exemplifies the benefits that military-industry partnering can bring. Through the embedding of experienced RAF operators in the programme, we are helping bring to life a world-leading capability which will provide the RAF with a remotely-piloted air system that can operate worldwide in unsegregated airspace.”
Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Our intelligence-gathering and surveillance capabilities will be critical to staying ahead of our adversaries as we enter an era dominated by grey-zone warfare. This contract represents a welcome step towards our world-beating Protector aircraft reaching the frontline, giving us the upper-hand against our adversaries.”
Replacing the Reaper aircraft, Protector will be the world’s first certified Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS), meaning it can operate in civilian airspace. This is possible due to the aircraft’s ground-breaking Detect and Avoid system which draws on enhanced sensors to avoid other aircraft.
Protector will be able to fly consistently for up to 40 hours, offering the RAF vastly improved armed Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability. The aircraft will be deployed across the full spectrum of operations, including ISTAR, search and rescue, flood prevention or disaster response missions.
Sir Simon Bollom, CEO of Defence Equipment and Support, said: “Our partnership with General Atomics is allowing us to explore cutting-edge technology to deliver capability to the RAF which is world class. These trials with Protector show that we are determined to push the boundaries and ensure that our military personnel have the capability to respond robustly to a range of constantly evolving threats on the battlefield.”
The aircraft will use enhanced data links and carry next-generation, low collateral, precision strike weapons, including the UK-made Brimstone missile (MBDA) and Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb (Raytheon UK). The aircraft’s design enables almost unlimited payload options in the future, depending on requirement.
The fleet will also have advanced anti-icing and lightning protection, providing the RAF with unprecedented flexibility to operate in adverse weather conditions.
Protector achieved a historic first last year after a demonstration aircraft flew non-stop from North Dakota to Gloucestershire in a flight that took over just over 20 hours. The first Protector aircraft will be delivered to the RAF in October 2021. The aircraft will be based at RAF Waddington, which is set to benefit from the planned investment of £93m to construct a new purpose-built hanger as well new facilities and accommodation for crews. (Source: U.K. MoD)
16 Sep 19. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to demonstrate the Air Force Research Lab’s “Agile Condor” capability using a MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) owned by GA-ASI. Agile Condor is a high-performance computing architecture that will be used to demonstrate artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.
“The ability to autonomously fuse and interpret sensor data to determine targets of interest is at the forefront of unmanned systems technology,” said David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “The Agile Condor project will further enhance RPA effectiveness by specifically allowing a MQ-9 to surveil a large area of operations, autonomously identify pre-defined targets of interest and transmit their locations.”
GA-ASI will integrate the Agile Condor capability over a 10-month period beginning this month. The flight demonstration phase will be used to experiment with the Agile Condor payload to determine the optimum artificial intelligence and machine learning methodologies to find, identify and track select targets. The Agile Condor capability also has the potential to dramatically reduce satellite bandwidth requirements as a result of its ability to automatically identify, classify, and nominate targets of interest. If operating in a fully autonomous mode, it would be possible to only engage SATCOM connectivity or other data link channels to disseminate the imagery and location of those targets. This capability will be made possible by combining best-of-breed Artificial Intelligence advances along with those developed through GA-ASI’s investment in its Automation & User Experience Group, which specializes in Automation and Artificial Intelligence for the Warfighter.
16 Sep 19. HAWK30 Takes Flight – AeroVironment Achieves Successful First Test Flight of Next Generation Solar HAPS Unmanned Aircraft System.
- Successful first test flight takes place less than two years after program start
- Test program to expand operating envelope with sequentially higher and longer flights
AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV), a global leader in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for both defense and commercial applications, announced the successful first flight of the HAWK30 solar HAPS unmanned aircraft system on September 11, 2019 at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. AeroVironment partnered with SoftBank Corp (TOKYO:9434) to create HAPSMobile Inc., the joint venture funding HAWK30 design development and demonstration.
“The first flight of HAWK30 builds on more than two decades of pioneering HAPS technology development and demonstration by the AeroVironment team, and comes only two years since SoftBank joined us in this endeavor,” said Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment president and chief executive officer. “We are the pioneer and leader in HAPS, delivering continued progress and demonstrated success. We look forward to achieving even greater success in flight testing, culminating in high-altitude, long-endurance flight demonstrations that will pave the way for the global commercialization of HAPS technology.”
“We are grateful for the expertise and support from NASA’s outstanding team at the Armstrong Flight Research Center. We are proud to add another milestone to their storied history of aviation innovation,” Nawabi added.
Developed and assembled in AeroVironment’s HAPS Innovation Center, the HAWK30 has a wingspan of approximately 260 feet and is propelled by 10 electric motors powered by solar panels covering the surface of the wing, resulting in zero emissions. Flying at an altitude of approximately 65,000 feet above sea level and above the clouds, the HAWK30 is designed for continuous, extended missions of up to months without landing.
AeroVironment seeks to create value from its unique HAPS intellectual property and capabilities in multiple ways: participating in the anticipated growth of the HAPSMobile joint venture as one of its two owners; generating customer-funded research and development revenue as the exclusive developer of solar HAPS for HAPSMobile through the design, development and demonstration phases of the program; manufacturing and supplying HAPS UAS to HAPSMobile; supporting and maintaining a deployed fleet of HAPS systems; and marketing and selling HAPS UAS to non-commercial customers globally, with the exception of Japan.
AeroVironment pioneered the concept of high-altitude solar-powered UAS in the 1980s, and developed and demonstrated multiple systems for NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology, or ERAST program, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In August 2001, the AeroVironment Helios prototype reached an altitude of 96,863 feet, setting the world-record for sustained horizontal flight by a winged aircraft. In 2002, the AeroVironment Pathfinder Plus prototype performed the world’s first UAS telecommunications demonstrations at 65,000 feet by providing high-definition television (HDTV) signals, third-generation (3G) mobile voice, video and data and high-speed internet connectivity.
15 Sep 19. General Atomics demonstrates multi-mission control and Metis capabilities. Key Points:
- GA-ASI demonstrated its multi-mission control and Metis data request webpage on its MQ-9 Block 1 and Block 5 UAVs
- Multi-mission control enables a single pilot to control multiple UAVs for routine operations while Metis can provide ISR data in real time
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) demonstrated on 28 August its multi-mission control (MMC) and Metis capabilities during a live flight using company-owned MQ-9 Block 1 Reaper and MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), according to a company statement.
MMC enables a single pilot to control multiple MQ-9s for transit operations and routine intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions using a streamlined graphical user interface and lightweight hand controller. GA-ASI developed a multi-aircraft control system several years ago but it was not adopted, GA-ASI Automation and User Experience Senior Director Darren Moe told Jane’s on 11 September.
Metis integrates joint force ISR tasking requirements with the MMC to dynamically task MQ-9 assets as well as report task status and share ISR information using a social media-like interface. Moe said Metis is a web page accessed by supported units, aircrews, intel analysts, or anyone that needs to request ISR tasking from an ISR platform and wants access to the resulting data in real time.
Metis enables a supported unit to request ISR data, similar to how someone would request a car using a car sharing smartphone application, Moe said. As the ISR request is being fulfilled, everyone with access to Metis gets real-time feedback on their status. When the ISR data is collected, Moe said it is pushed to Metis users’ feeds, similar to how the Instagram and Twitter social media websites share information. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
16 Sep 19. DST scientists mark breakthrough with urban autonomous vehicle flight. DST robotics specialist Ricardo Cannizzaro has used a unique indoor flight lab to integrate and test new algorithms, hardware and sensors on small uninhabited aircraft systems (UAS) to better support military operations in contested urban environments. A robot’s ability to build a map of its surroundings and calculate its own position, known as simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM), is a common robotics problem that research groups around the world are tackling. The approach taken by this team, led by Dr Jennifer Palmer, is for the UAS to use a 2D scanning laser sensor, monitoring changes between scans as it moves to build a picture and thus a map, which it uses to ‘find’ itself in.
Cannizzaro explained, “If an experiment doesn’t go entirely to plan, the drone can land on the soft mats and is contained by the netting. Our motion capture system gives us position and orientation information of aircraft as they fly, allowing us to compare the outputs of various position estimation algorithms against ground truth.
“Because GPS signals are not available inside, we can also pipe that data in real time to the aircraft’s flight controller and tell it ‘this is where you are’ to close the loop on its positioning system,” Cannizzaro added.
For The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) Contested Urban Environment (CUE) 2018 strategic challenge in Canada last year, the team deployed a 2D SLAM algorithm, tweaking it for the specific application.
The team has constructed the quadcopter from low-cost hobbyist components in a bid to see the performance that can be achieved at this price-point. A new rapid prototyping capability is proving very useful – allowing for the custom design and build of 3D components to quickly modify the quadcopter when, for example, new sensors need to be mounted.
At the recent CUE 2019 challenge in the US, several improvements in UAS autonomy were successfully demonstrated, Cannizzaro expanded on this, explaining, “We had the incredible opportunity to demonstrate our UAS capability in three urban environments in New York City: in a subway tunnel, a high-rise building, and a downtown streetscape. We learned more about our system and recorded a lot of valuable data, which was also of great interest to the international community.”
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