Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
03 Oct 19. US Navy Plans Cargo UAV Fly-Off in January 2020. The US Navy (USN) plans to host a fly-off competition in Yuma, Arizona in January 2020 to find a tactical cargo resupply unmanned air vehicle (UAV) for the US Marine Corps (USMC). The competition is called the small Unmanned Logistics Support – Air (ULS-A) effort, says the USN in a media release on 30 September. The service wants to see UAV prototypes demonstrated that can carry at least 27.2kg (60lb) of cargo in various configurations commonly found in USMC company, platoon or squad resupply operations. That typically means 5-gallon Jerry Cans to carry water or fuel, ammo cases, and Meals, Ready-to-Eat cases.
The USN wants the prototypes to be able to fly 5.4nm (10km), drop off cargo and return empty to the launch site via an automated launch, waypoint navigation and landing flight control system.
The competition is run by Naval Air Systems Command’s Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (STUAS) Program office.
“Our goal is to provide an autonomous aerial delivery capability to the Marine Corps for field user evaluation,” says Colonel John Neville, programme manager STUAS. “The use of the prize challenge will aid us in getting this capability to the Marines faster and hopefully set another course for the way we do rapid acquisition in the tactical arena.”
The USN plans to invite a limited number of applicants to participate in the fly-off competition in Yuma, Arizona. After the fly-off event in January, competitors will be scored and evaluated by a panel of judges. The service plans to hand out $100,000 for first place; $75,000 for second place; and $50,000 for third place.
Winning the competition is no guarantee of a future contract production award from the USN. However, the service says that “successful participation in this prize challenge may result in the award of another transaction agreement or award of a procurement contract for experimental purposes or a combination of these.”
The USN wants fairly mature aircraft prototypes to be submitted and competed.
“We’re looking for companies that already have a robust prototype that can meet the challenge requirements and are excited to see what innovative technologies are demonstrated,” says Christina Petrow, team lead of the ULS-A effort.
ULS-A is part of a larger joint service push to develop cargo UAVs to resupply troops. The US Department of Defense envisions a range of small, medium, and large cargo UAVs for different missions.
As part of that joint-service push, the US Army and USMC have said they are working together on a Joint Tactical Autonomous Aerial Resupply System (JTAARS) concept. JTAARS calls for a lightweight UAV of less than 599kg (1,320lb), which can be easily carried on a small-sized vehicle, with minimal support equipment and maintenance required. The services want the UAV to be able to carry 136kg to 636kg of cargo. The aircraft is supposed to have at least a single flight leg minimum range of 43nm (80km) and vertical take-off and landing capabilities. (Source: UAS VISION/FlightGlobal)
03 Oct 19. US Navy starts second phase of Ghost Fleet Overlord programme. The US Navy Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) has started the second phase of the Ghost Fleet Overlord programme.
The programme will form the basis of the navy’s new classes of unmanned surface vessels (USVs). Under the second phase, the navy has awarded contract modifications to the two industry teams involved in the first phase of the Overlord programme. The first phase ended last month and involved converting two existing commercial fast supply vessels into USVs. Other focus areas of Phase I included autonomy system integration; hull, mechanical and electrical system reliability upgrades; and navigational autonomy.
The navy said in a statement: “Phase I concluded in September with a successful capstone demonstration of both Overlord vessels executing interactions compliant with the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).
“Along with the reliability of systems tests, more than 600 hours of autonomy testing was successfully completed during Phase I, including several long-range autonomous transits in a complex navigational environment.”
The second phase will use the same ships involved in Phase I. The industry teams will work on the integration of command and control systems and payloads.
The service added that the new phase will involve more complex naval experimentation.
Following the completion of Phase II in 2021, the navy will conduct further experimentation on the Overlord vessels.
The navy will use experience from the Ghost Fleet Overlord programme to inform and accelerate its large and medium USV projects.
Last month, the US Navy issued a request for proposals for the development of the large USV (LUSV). The conceptual design contracts for the LUSV are expected in 2020. (Source: naval-technology.com)
01 Oct 19. Drones Made in Greece. Greece has entered a new era in the production of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – the so-called drones. The MPU RX-4, the fruit of a Greek project to develop and manufacture an innovative robotic UAS, was presented at the Thessaloniki International Fair, taking place 7-15 September 2019.
Also, on 3 September 2019, the first Airworthiness Certification was completed for OURANOS, an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) manufactured in Greece; the connecting link between the two stories is the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and its Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics & Turbomachinery.
The Multirole Portable UAS (MPU) is a three year project to develop and manufacture an innovative robotic Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) for multiple purposes; it consists of a multi-purpose hybrid fixed-wing Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) and a portable ground station (PGS), with a Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) configuration. VTOL technology gives aircrafts an important advantage compared to other fixed-wing UAVs which, unlike the most widely used polycopter “drones”, require a runway or launcher for takeoff and landing.
The project is run by the Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics & Turbomachinery (LFMT), part of the Energy Department of the School of Mechanical Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), in collaboration with the “UAV-iRC – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Research Center”, which is part of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Innovation (CIRI – KEDEK) of AUTH. Other collaborating parties are the Laboratory of Robotics and Automation at the Department of Production and Management Engineering, Democritus University of Thrace (DUTH) and with the Greek companies MLS Innovation Inc. and Geosense. The project is co‐financed by EU and Greek national funds through the Operational Programme Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
The Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics & Turbomachinery (LFMT) had presented the first large-scale Hellenic Civil UAV for surveillance missions -practically, the first Greek drone- at the 2016 Thessaloniki International Fair. It was the HCUAV RX-1, a fixed-wing UAV developed as part of the HCUAV collaborative research project, under coordinator Kyros Yakinthos, Professor at the Energy Department of the School of Mechanical Engineering, AUTH, who is also the project coordinator for MPU. At the 2018 Thessaloniki International Fair, the LFMT presented the DELAER RX-3, a large-scale, autonomous, fixed-wing blended-wing-body UAV, with a portable ground control station, aimed for rescue missions, based on the expertise acquired through the creation of HCUAV RX-1 prototype.
The MPU RX-4, currently presented at the Aristotle University stands (Pavillion 14-Akademia) at the 84th Thessaloniki International Fair, is the latest development in this series. Designed and developed by the LFMT, it is a fixed-wing blended-wing-body UAV with VTOL configuration, achieved through the use of an electric fan located in the centreof the aircraft fuselage and two motors with propellers located on the two front arms of the aircraft which can rotate 90 degrees. MPU RX-4 has a wingspan of 1.8 meters, a 2-hour of standby time, a maximum take-off weight of 4 kg and it can reach a 125 km/h velocity. It can provide its services in missions of mapping, photogrammetry, search and rescue, surveillance, guarding and patrolling, and agriculture. There is also potential of deployment for emergency missions.
An Airworthiness Certification for a UAS was issued for the first time for a Greek company on 3 September 2019; OURANOS UAS, a “drone” manufactured by ALTUS LSA, a company based in Chania, Crete, completed the process successfully and in accordance to the standards and directives of the Flight Standards Directorate of the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA). The certification process was conducted by HCAA, in collaboration with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH).
The detailed and time demanding process required to achieve the airworthiness certificate is based on the UAV standards issued by the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority, STANAG and includes static and dynamic tests, safety redundancy tests, stress tests, NDT tests, conformity tests, etc. The certification process was concluded with successful flight tests conducted on 1 and 2 August 2019 at the Maleme Airport in the presence of representatives of the HCAA and AUTH.
HCAA Commander Konstantinos Lintzerakos presented the certificate to Zacharias Sarris, CEO of ALTUS LSA. Addressing the ceremony, Lintzerakos pointed out the significance of certificating a Greek-made UAS for the first time, and the meaning of this development for the future of UAS technology in Greece. In his statement, Zacharias Sarris thanked the HCAA and Aristotle University, especially Pr. Kyros Yakinthos and the Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics & Turbomachinery, for their collaboration that confirms the benefits of cooperation between the private and public sector and educational institutions.
The OURANOS system (UAS Category C), with 24 kg maximum takeoff weight, is a reliable fixed wing RPAS with optimised up to 10hours flight endurance and a flight envelope of best in class performance. OURANOS features a highly advanced autopilot system and a standard gyro-stabilised dual EO & IR sensor configuration with geo location and geo tracking capabilities. Due to its dedicated payload bay, it can be easily configured with various payloads offering a versatile unmanned solution for a variety of missions. The regulations for UAS Airworthiness Certification had been introduced in 2016 (Official Government Gazette Β-4527/ 30.12.2016) listing all parametres regarding safety, rights and obligations, issues of privacy, data protection, civil liability etc. (Source: UAS VISION/Greek News Agenda)
01 Oct 19. FREQUENTIS and DIMETOR partner for safe Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights. BVLOS drone operations open door for more innovative applications and expansion. Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations are key for future commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) use cases, including public safety, industrial inspection and urban air mobility. Frequentis has partnered with mobile network connectivity specialist and start-up, Dimetor, to enable network connectivity for command and control (C2) and payload data links to ensure reliable and consistent data sharing.
The initial introduction of UAV’s to the airspace has been limited to visual line of sight (VLOS) operations. To extend commercial drone applications, BVLOS operations are essential for governmental entities as well as commercial deployments and many countries are now amending their drone policies to allow such flights. This requires accurate, dynamic, and reliable telecommunication data and it is important to have this information from a single source.
So far, the use of network connectivity and associated data have not been standardised for pre-flight assessment or regulated for operational use. However, recent drone trials in Finland and Estonia for the Gulf of Finland (GOF) U-space project uncovered this requirement and need for connectivity to enable consistent data sharing between the UAV and the UTM system.
The connectivity platform from Dimetor, AirborneRF™, is deployed at the operational data centers of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), processing highly confidential network data for assuring cellular connectivity for UAV operations. Flight planning tools like Frequentis’ CADAS-ATS and other U-space services can use the constraints in the pre-tactical/tactical phase of a BVLOS drone flight and either approve or reject the proposed flight plan. AirborneRF can also be used to demonstrate network capabilities to airspace regulators and UAV service providers.
The partnership between Frequentis and Dimetor then enables the MNOs to seamlessly integrate the connectivity information into the aeronautical information management database (AIMdb), and thus to become an integral part of the developing ecosystem for commercial BVLOS drone operations.
“By partnering with Dimetor, we can further explore and advance our work in the field of ATM and UTM. Through this cooperation, we will exchange our knowledge and experiences and work together to strengthen and develop the future airspace ecosystem, enabling the provision of critical data for safe.
BVLOS drone flights. This partnership is a significant step towards enabling our customers to keep pace with the additional growth by minimising operating costs.” says Hannu Juurakko, Frequentis Chairman of the ATM Executive Team.
The agreement between Frequentis and Dimetor highlights the unified commitments to providing safety-critical services ensuring highest quality and safety for BVLOS and highly automated drone operations based on connectivity information.
“At Dimetor we are delighted to be partnering with Frequentis. This will enable an integrated solution bringing together the 3D cellular connectivity information for safe BVLOS operations with Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) and UTM/ATM systems – on global scale”, says Thomas Wana, Dimetor Co-founder and CTO. Frequentis and Dimetor will enable drone powered business operations with a total addressable market value over 127bn USD forecasted by PricewaterhouseCoopers International (PwC).
30 Sep 19. New report points way to shared airspace between drones and traditional aircraft. A new report from the Connected Places Catapult (CPC) lays the groundwork for an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) to allow commercial drone usage in the UK alongside traditional manned aircraft.
The report is a result of a year-long Department for Transport sponsored project, working alongside NATS, Altitude Angel, ANRA Technologies, Cranfield University, the Satellite Applications Catapult and Thales UK. It includes the architecture for an open access UTM system and scenarios for important areas such as managing permissions to fly drones in restricted airspace and multiple drone operations in in uncontrolled airspace.
There is a huge global opportunity for countries who can successfully accommodate commercial drone operations which can fly “beyond line of sight” of the user alongside other aircraft. As drone technology develops in areas such as automation, and operators become more numerous and sophisticated, new opportunities are emerging in areas such as infrastructure inspection, drone deliveries, agriculture and even personal transport. It is thought the sector could be worth £127bn globally.
Preparation has already begun on the next phase of the project. The CPC, along with Altitude Angel ANRA Technologies, GE Aviation and AiRXOS, NATS, Snowflake Software Systems, and Thales will run a series of technical workshops in order to mature the development of the Open-Access UTM framework to enable demonstrations of the future operational use of UTM. The CPC has called for industry-wide collaboration to pull the necessary elements together to enable drones to operate commercially in the UK alongside all other aircraft – especially given Europe and the US have already made progress in this area. Mark Westwood, Chief Technology Officer, Connected Places Catapult explained:
“As the technology matures, twin pressures of increasingly widespread drone usage independent of a nationally agreed framework, and a strong desire within the industry to investigate the art of the possible, are driving an urgent need for a coordinated approach across stakeholders in government, businesses and regulators.
We need to make sure the UK is ready to accommodate this quickly emerging industry and UTM is recognised as a vital component to facilitate the safe and efficient integration of unmanned vehicles into the airspace. We’re hoping actors from across multiple sectors will engage with our research and future aspects of the project to get the job done so the UK drone industry can flourish.”
You can download the full report here. If you would like to take part in the UTM project workshops or find out more about the project please contact email@example.com.
26 Sep 19. Portuguese Navy reveals existence of ‘tech guerrilla’ unit. The Portuguese Navy revealed the existence of the Unmanned Vehicle Experimentation Cell (Célula Experimentação Operacional de Veículos Não Tripulados: CEOV), dubbed Q-branch, during the ‘Recognised Environmental Picture Maritime Unmanned Systems’ (‘REPMUS’) exercise being held on Portugal’s Troia Peninsula on 11-27 September.
The team was set up in 2017 and while not secret had not been advertised prior to ‘REPMUS’. It numbers less than a dozen technically minded naval personnel of all ranks and varied experience under the command of Lieutenant Tiago Mendes. All personnel have an enthusiasm for engineering and technology. The unit reports directly to Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Gouveia e Melo and is tasked exclusively by him.
Vice Adm Melo said the main motivation for the team is “to fight asymmetric threats with asymmetric thinking”. Citing Martec’s law that technology changes exponentially while organisations transform logarithmically, Lt Mendes explained that procurement of new and emerging technologies was routinely too slow to procure cutting edge kit or exploit new uses of existing technology. This left navies in the position of every sailor having a phone in his or her pocket with more processing power than the ship on which he or she was embarked. Smaller, more agile teams unburdened by organisational inertia (for example terrorists) could exploit advances in technology faster and in less stereotyped ways. Exploring the asymmetric potential of technology enables the unit to predict what an irregular adversary could do and thus pre-emptively develop countermeasures. Lt Mendes said, “We’re like the flu vaccine; we don’t do the change, we start the process.” (Source: IHS Jane’s)
26 Sep 19. Blue Bear’s Blackstart drone completes first ADS-B equipped flights in the National BVLOS Experimental Corridor (NBEC). The Blackstart drone took off from Blue Bear’s flight test facility and successfully covered a 6km (EVLOS) round trip flight along the NBEC whilst broadcasting its position over ADS-B.
The signal from the small, lightweight ADS-B transponder was picked up by a number of third party ADS-B receivers as part of the test metrics, ensuring that the technology was working efficiently and that conspicuity could be maintained at the low operating altitude.
Drones will need to be appropriately conspicuous in order to operate in future BVLOS environments and adding an ADS-B transponder is one method of achieving this electronically whilst employing a recognised worldwide standard.
It is envisioned that all drones that fly within the NBEC corridor will be equipped with ADS-B devices, as part of the multi layered technology approach employed to ensure safe separation between both cooperative and non cooperative traffic.
The goal of the NBEC is to provide a safe, managed environment for drone/unmanned aircraft experimentation which will work towards their integration into controlled and uncontrolled airspace.
The partners (Blue Bear, Cranfield, Thales and Vodafone) believe the key to future drone operations is not segregation, but unification ensuring fair and equitable use of airspace for all.
The creation of NBEC will allow new technologies to be integrated and tested together with the involvement of industry and regulatory stakeholders to provide a national capability that accelerates leading edge research. NBEC: Blue Bear, Cranfield, Thales and Vodafone
30 Sep 19. Russia’s S-70 UCAV First Flight with Su-57. Russia’s latest Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy attack drone has performed its first flight with the most advanced Su-57 fighter jet, the Defense Ministry announced on Friday.
“The Okhotnik unmanned aerial vehicle has performed its first joint flight with a fifth-generation Su-57 plane,” the ministry said.
The flight was conducted in the automated mode. “As part of the ongoing test program, the Okhotnik drone performed a flight in the automated mode in its full configuration, entering the airborne alert area,” the ministry said. During the flight, the drone and the Su-57 fighter practiced interaction “to broaden the fighter’s radar coverage and to provide target acquisition for employing air-launched weapons,” the ministry added.
The joint flight of the latest drone and the fifth-generation fighter jet lasted more than 30 minutes. The drone’s tests are being held at a testing aerodrome of the Defense Ministry, the ministry specified.
The office of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told TASS at the MAKS-2019 international aerospace show in August that the serial deliveries of the latest heavy attack drone Okhotnik to the troops would begin in 2025. The tests of the Okhotnik drone in its attack modification with various armament would be held in 2023-2024, it reported.
As the vice premier’s office pointed out, the Okhotnik will serve as a “universal baseline platform for carrying advanced air-launched weapons, onboard reconnaissance systems and other equipment, which will allow constantly expanding the drone’s functional capabilities during the serial production.”
Okhotnik heavy attack drone
The debut flight by Russia’s Okhotnik heavy attack drone developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau lasted over 20 minutes. As the Defense Ministry specified, the aircraft “performed several flyovers around the aerodrome at an altitude of about 600 m under an operator’s control and made a successful landing.” The flight took place at one of the Defense Ministry’s testing aerodromes.
The Okhotnik features stealth technology and the flying wing design (it lacks the tail) and has a take-off weight of 20 tonnes. The drone has a jet engine and is capable of developing a speed of around 1,000 km/h.
According to the data of Russia’s Defense Ministry, the drone has anti-radar coating and is outfitted with equipment for electro-optical, radar and other types of reconnaissance.
The remote-controlled Okhotnik model was unveiled at the Army-2019 international defense exhibition outside Moscow in late June.
A top down look at the S-70 model at MAKS 2019, showing a completely revised engine and exhaust configuration
A source in the domestic defense industry earlier told TASS that the heavy stealth attack drone Okhotnik would perform several more test flights this year.
“The program of the Okhotnik’s flight tests stipulates several more flights with the sequential complication of flight assignments, the source specified.
The drone will perform one of its flights in a partially autonomous mode: an operator on the ground will give only several commands, the source said.
“A possibility is also envisaged for the drone’s completely autonomous flight without the operator’s participation when it takes off, performs its program and lands only under the control of its own guidance system.”
As another source in the defense industry told TASS, before that the drone already made several take-offs, jumping several meters above the runway and landing immediately after that. The drone performed a whole series of such tests but they are not viewed as a full-fledged flight, the source said. (Source: UAS VISION/ TASS)
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.