Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
10 Oct 19. PQ (see below) update on Royal Navy trials and purchase of the ecosub. On 17 Dec 2018, the Royal Navy supported successful trial of new micro-robots – ecoSUB provides 100% data for MASSMO 5b.
ecoSUB, has been successfully trialled in the North Sea off Orkney during a marine robot demonstrator mission co-ordinated by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).
ecoSUB is a new type of Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) developed by Planet Ocean in partnership with the NOC. The vehicles are around 0.5 metres in length and weigh only 4 kg, and are therefore classified as ‘micro-AUVs’. Despite their small size, they are capable of diving to 500 m (2500m for ecoSUB-m25) and have sufficient battery power to stay underwater for several hours.
Two of the new ecoSUB-µ5-SVP vehicles were deployed from the Royal Navy’s HMS Enterprise during the trial and successfully collected Sound velocity profile data to depths of 100 m. These data will be compared with those collected by traditional ‘over-the-side’ instruments deployed from the ship, allowing the Royal Navy and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to assess the benefits of this new robotic technology.
Whilst the subs were deployed and recovered by the RN, initially the vehicles were piloted by our senior software engineer Jérémy Sitbon on board the Enterprise, but following his departure, further deployments were undertaken from Enterprise with piloting done remotely from NOC over the Iridium satellite.
Terry Sloane, Managing Director of Planet Ocean, said: “Micro-AUVs are low cost and highly flexible platforms with the potential to transform data collection across the maritime sector. This demonstrator mission provided a fantastic opportunity for us to deploy ecoSUBs from a Royal Navy vessel in challenging conditions, and we are delighted at the quality of data obtained and the ease with which the vehicles were released and recovered.”
The ecoSUB-µ5-SVP carries a Valeport time of flight sound velocity sensor which is ideally suited for use on the ecoSUB vehicle. A unique feature of ecoSUB-µ5 is its ability to dive almost vertically, in a spiral with a very small footprint, allowing water column profiles to be captured. Traditional AUVs and gliders have relatively shallow dive angles which means that they need to travel horizontally some distance whilst acquiring data.
Asked by Mr Kevan Jones
Asked on: 01 October 2019
Ministry of Defence
Unmanned Marine Vehicles
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether he has plans for further trials of Ecosub platforms in the next two years.
Answered by: Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Answered on: 07 October 2019
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has already conducted environmental data gathering trials using Ecosub vehicles it has purchased. Over the next two years, the Department intends to conduct further assessments on these in a wider variety of military applications.
ecoSUB Robotics Limited is a company spun out of Planet Ocean Limited, a UK based marine science technology specialist, following extensive collaboration with the Marine Autonomous Robotics Systems (MARS) group at National Oceanography Centre (NOC), UK.
ecoSUB Robotics Limited’s engineering and development team are based in the Marine Robotics Innovation Centre in the NOC, Southampton, UK, benefiting from the facilities and expertise located within hub of UK marine autonomous systems development.
The ecoSUB program began with an Innovate UK and DSTL funded project which included the development of the ecoSUBu for autonomous launch and recovery via an unmanned surface vehicle. Early stakeholder engagement indicated a strong interest in the AUV concept and a larger vehicle, ecoSUBm, was quickly conceived to meet the emerging needs of the oil & gas industry.
ecoSUB Robotics Limited will be sharing more information about the AUVs and there forthcoming commercial release.
ecoSUB AUVs serve a wide range of sectors, with the capability to deploy useful sensors like high accuracy CTD and fluorimeters.
Many more users from research, academia and teaching will be able to access marine autonomous systems (MAS) and apply the benefits of collecting wide spatial and temporal data.
The defence sector already recognises the potential for autonomous system use in their situational awareness and tactical operations, ecoSUB dramatically reduces barriers to MAS use, significantly reducing logistical challenges of launch, recovery and operations, with scope for integrated mission control and useful, focused data products to deliver key information when and where it is needed.
Commercial operators, especially in the Oil & Gas sector, see enormous potential in the affordable use of MAS for a whole range of activity, including rapid response to environmental challenges, subsea inspection and asset monitoring and support. The design of ecoSUBm was led by BP International who supported its development.
09 Oct 19. Israel’s Elbit sells over 1,000 mini-drones to Southeast Asian country. Systems is providing more than 1,000 of its THOR drones and other UAVs to a Southeast Asian country under a $153m deal, the Israeli company announced Oct. 6. This is the latest UAV-related deal for an Israeli firm after Cyprus announced it will buy $13m in drones from Aeronautics Limited on Oct. 3. The THOR is a multi-rotor vertical-takeoff-and-landing mini-drone. Elbit will supply a variety of drones over the next two years — including the THOR, Skylark LEX, Skylark 3 and Hermes 450 tactical UAS — as well as ground control stations.
“This contract award underlines our competitive edge as armies increasingly view multi-layered UAS solutions as key to providing superior intelligence and maintaining a high level of operational flexibility,” said the president of Elbit, Bezhalel Machil.
The Israel Defense Forces uses an array of UAVs, including very small ones, as it faces threats on its northern border with Lebanon and clashes with adversaries along the Gaza border.
While 1,000-plus drones may seem like a lot, the U.S., Australian and Israeli militaries have each used large numbers of similar DJI Mavic-style drones for years.
The THOR offers a real-time data link and a 360-degree view in all weather and terrain conditions, according to Elbit.
“THOR is suitable for operation in urban areas with non-line of sight communications, as well as in marine zones,” the company said.
It can fly up to 2,000 feet and has a range of 10 kilometers. It can carry a payload of 3 kilograms for about an hour and 15 minutes. The drone was designed for surveillance and reconnaissance missions, specifically for monitoring houses, roads or other areas where lightweight versatility would be beneficial. Along with the Skylark and Hermes product line, Elbit has been highlighting it at DSEI and Milipol Paris as an effective low acoustic signature solution. Israel is a pioneer in UAV production, once exporting about $500m worth of drones a year, but it is facing competition, particularly from Chinese exports, that reduced that figure to $100-200m, depending on the year.
But Asian markets are proving fruitful for Israeli companies, particularly India. The Philippines was reportedly nearing a $180m deal with Elbit this summer that included Skylark and Hermes 450 drones. The country had acquired 13 Hermes UAVs in 2018. The government there has been trying to upgrade its UAVs for years, increasingly so following its fight against the Islamic State group in Marawi, which illustrated the need for small tactical VTOL drones, such as the THOR. Media reports said that under the 2018 deal, some of the UAVs might be produced at the joint venture Adani Elbit UAV complex in Hyderbad, India. Elbit would not reveal the country involved in the latest THOR sale, and a query to the Philippines Embassy in Tel Aviv went unanswered. (Source: Defense News)
09 Oct 19. Russia to Spend $15.5m on Eleron-3 UAS. The Russian defense ministry is going to spend 1bn roubles ($15.5m) on procuring the Eleron-3 lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in 2019-2021, according to an announcement on the ministry’s website earlier this month. The announcement follows a number of news and video releases in August-September that depicted experimental examples of the Altius-U and Forpost-R long-endurance reconnaissance UAVs undergoing flight trials. Also, the MoD released a video of the S-70 Okhotnik UCAV in formation flight with a Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation fighter.
These releases reveal the considerable progress that Moscow has achieved in unmanned aerial technologies. Today, the Russian army possesses around 4,000 units, placing it among the world’s three largest UAV operators; together with the U.S. armed forces and China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Since the Russian expeditionary force landed in Syria, its drones have performed over 23,000 flights lasting 140,000 hours. Operational since 2012, the 4-kg (9-lb) Eleron-3 has made a considerable contribution to these figures, and a number have been lost to technical failures and rebel fire. Despite downed Eleron-3s falling into hostile hands, the MoD has made the decision to place a large order for an improved variant that features longer endurance, improved software, and additional optical sensors. The battery-powered Eleron-3 enables ground operators to carry out visual searches for targets of opportunity in daylight and to determine their location using GLONASS satellite-aided navigation.
The largest drone that Russia flies in numbers over Syria has been the Forpost, a licensed copy of the IAI Searcher II, of which about 100 have been built since 2012. It provided a platform for development of the Forpost-R, which is set to enter service next year. The “R” version is completely “Russianized,” with imported engines having been replaced by the indigenous 83-hp APD-85. This allows for an increase in gross weight from 436 kg (962 lb) to 500 kg (1,102 lb), and endurance rises to 18 hours. According to an MoD statement,
“the system has acquired new capabilities thanks to state-of-the-art technologies of local origin, including those concerned with round-the-clock surveillance using not only optical equipment, but also that of radar and electronic warfare means.”
In the meantime, the Russian expeditionary force faces an ever-growing threat from Syrian rebel drones. According to the MoD, during the last 24 months, the air defense systems of the Khmeimeem and Tartus military bases have shot down 118 hostile UAVs, including 58 since January 1, 2019. Additionally, the Pantsyr S1 and Tor-M2 short-range SAMs have fired 31 missiles to intercept 27 rockets launched at the bases from the Idlib de-escalation zone since the beginning of this year.
According to MoD spokesman General Igor Kanashenkov, “the drones assembled by the terrorists can cover up to 150 km [81 nm] and attain a maximum altitude of 4,000 meters [13,000 ft]. There is little doubt that the terrorists receive outside help to produce them. While these drones may look amateurish, they make use of very advanced technical solutions developed by skilled professionals. Their technical level has been growing.” The Russian forces recently downed a rebel-operated UCAV equipped with a navigation system with three receiving antennas, he added.
Earlier, another Russian official, deputy defense minister for military technical cooperation with foreign countries General Aleksandr Fomin, accused U.S. forces of assisting the Syrian rebels in carrying out drone attacks on the Khmeimeem airbase. Speaking at the Xiangshan security forum in Beijing last fall, he said that, “a group of 13 drones moved according to a common plan of combat deployment, under control of a single crew team. That time, a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon ASW aircraft was on an eight-hour patrol mission over the Mediterranean Sea. Upon reaching out our electronic warfare shield, the drones retreated somewhat to receive correcting instructions and began using satellite communications channels to receive outside assistance to find and explore gaps in that shield. Then the drones attempted to penetrate through, only to be destroyed.”
Apparently, Fomin was referring to January 6, when Russian forces shot down seven drones with anti-aircraft missiles and crash-landed seven by jamming the drones’ flight control systems. Moscow promises to reveal additional information on its recent anti-drone experience at the ninth Xiangshan forum to be held October 20-22. (Source: UAS VISION/AIN)
09 Oct 19. Melbourne company to develop maritime UAS. Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has announced a $3.5m contract for Melbourne-based SYPAQ Systems to develop an unmanned aerial system with potential future applications for the Royal Australian Navy.
Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price, announced the Defence Innovation Hub contract with SYPAQ Systems at PACIFIC 2019 in Sydney today.
SYPAQ will develop a small unmanned aerial system (UAS) with a hybrid power delivery system and the capacity to operate effectively in harsh environmental conditions, such as those that can be experienced at sea.
Minister Price congratulated SYPAQ on its innovative solution and said the technology would enhance situational awareness for maritime operations.
“If successful, this UAS would be capable of operating from ships at sea and performing a range of surveillance and reconnaissance operations,” Minister Price said. “SYPAQ Systems, an engineering and systems integration company, is an example of an Australian business that is exploring leading technology to help the Australian Defence Force meet its current and future challenges. Through the Defence Innovation Hub, we are investing approximately $640m in Australian industry to develop innovative technology with a Defence application.”
SYPAQ offers off-the-shelf UAV systems to the Australian market through a partnership with Arcturus UAV. Arcturus UAV systems are built tough to withstand punishing applications and demanding flight conditions.
The hollow-molded, composite airframes use fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon fibre for increased durability. A modular design means user-friendly, in-the-field serviceability for quick re-configuration or component replacement. Engine modules, wings and avionics components can be replaced in just minutes.
The off-the-shelf airframes are known for their toughness, flying efficiency and the ability to be configured for endurance of over 24 hours. The Arcturus-designed power plants are reliable, durable and fuel-efficient with a low noise signature.
SYPAQ was incorporated in Victoria in 1992, under the stewardship of current managing director George Vicino. In 2013, SYPAQ formally expanded into a new business segment to be known as SYPAQ Sensors and Surveillance. This formal expansion follows on from many years of experience working with some of the worlds best C4ISR technologies across both military and civilian domains. (Source: Defence Connect)
08 Oct 19. Australia equips hydrographic survey vessel with ScanEagle UAS.
- Australia has equipped its lead Leeuwin-class naval hydrographic ship with the ScanEagle unmanned aerial system
- The vessel will be used as a platform to establish operational parameters for unmanned systems on future vessels
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has equipped its lead Leeuwin-class hydrographic survey ship with the ScanEagle unmanned aerial system (UAS).
A launcher for the ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and its associated Skyhook retrieval system were installed on the ship’s flight deck in August, a representative from the RAN’s 822X Squadron told Jane’s at the Pacific 2019 maritime exhibition in Sydney.
This installation was followed by a series of deck handling and launch trials for the UAS, which have been carried out ahead of HMAS Leeuwin ’s deployment to Southeast Asia, said Lieutenant Scott Gidley, an operations officer at 822X Squadron. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
08 Oct 19. Camcopter S-100 Successful SAR Flight Trials in Norway. Schiebel successfully demonstrated the shipboard integration of its CAMCOPTER S-100 as well as its impressive search and rescue (SAR) capabilities to the Norwegian Coast Guard on board of the KV Svalbard from 16 to 27 September 2019.
The outstanding flight trials included a successful search and rescue mission, where the Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air System (UAS) CAMCOPTER S- 100 and a manned Sea King helicopter teamed up in a simulated “man over board” operation.
The “man over board” dummy was found by the CAMCOPTER S-100, which was equipped with the Overwatch Imaging PT-8 Oceanwatch wide-area maritime surveillance payload, the high-quality L3 Harris Wescam MX-10 real-time Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/IR) camera and the Schiebel-designed harpoon system, which supports takeoff and landing in conditions up to Sea State 5.
The images were transmitted in real time to the operational room on board of the KV Svalbard and a local land based control centre via its Radionor’s Maritime Broadband Radio (MBR) link where it was disseminated via the internet and broadcast to the Joint Rescue Center. Subsequently, the manned helicopter retrieved the dummy from the water to the deck of the KV Svalbard.
“This successful search and rescue trial is another great example of Schiebel continuously staying ahead of the curve. The S-100 is the only VTOL UAS outside of the United States that is routinely flying from ships and in addition it is capable to carry a multitude of payloads. Especially for maritime search and rescue missions, the capabilities of the S-100 convince customers, given its compact size and it being able to scan vast areas for small objects,” said Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group. (Source: UAS VISION)
08 Oct 19. Cyprus’ National Guard Takes Drone Deliveries. Cyprus’ National Guard is said to have received its first four unmanned drones from Israel, allowing Cypriot agencies to obtain clear views from high above over land and water. The drones, Aerostar Tactical UAS (TUAS) made in Israel, are described as accurate, programmable, and one of the most efficient and cost-effective systems of its class. The specific make has logged over 250,000 operational flight hours with missions flown worldwide.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have been delivered to Cyprus National Guard by Aeronautics, an Israeli company, extending the Cypriot range of capabilities for a number of agencies with high definition cameras that can get images from very high flying altitudes. The purchase of the four UAV’s came at a total cost of 12 million euros the report said, adding that the use of the drones would include monitoring Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Additional uses would include patrolling forest areas in the summer to detect fires as well as assisting in rescue missions within the Nicosia Flight Information Region. The order was put in December 2018 while plans to make the purchase date back at least to the early part of the decade. (Source: UAS VISION/Ekathimerini.com)
07 Oct 19. Boeing funds new UAV research lab. Boeing contributed USD2.5m to create a US university laboratory focused on research and testing of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the company said on 7 October.
The new Boeing Flight & Autonomy Laboratory, located at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, has motion-capture cameras and sensor networks, a control room, a maker area for students to work on their projects, and a public observation area. The 2,700-square-foot (250-square-meter) lab opened during the 2018–2019 academic year and was formally named on 4 October. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
07 Oct 19. France receives last NX70 micro UAVs. The Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), the French defence procurement agency, announced on its website on 30 September that it received the last of 27 NX70 micro unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems from Novadem during the summer.
The agency said over 50 systems had been delivered to French ground forces after they were evaluated by the army’s technical section. A system consists of two UAVs and a ground control station.
The DGA ordered the systems at the end of 2018 after they were requested by the French Army general staff in October under an urgent operational requirement for micro UAVs for French troops on overseas missions. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
07 Oct 19. Indonesia showcases CH-4 UAVs at military parade. The Indonesian Air Force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Udara; TNI-AU) has officially unveiled its recently acquired CH-4 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The Chinese-made systems made their public debut on 5 October at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base in East Jakarta during a parade to mark the 74th anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces. Two CH-4 UAVs bearing TNI-AU livery were shown parked at Taxiway Echo of the airbase. According to information provided by the TNI, the CH-4 variant supplied to Indonesia has an operating radius of between 1,500km and 2,000km and can be operated via satellite link. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
04 Oct 19. KAI Night Intruder 600 VT takes off. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) announced that the Night Intruder 600 VT vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicle (VTOL UAV) had successfully performed its maiden flight in South Jeolla province on 24 September.
The air vehicle is an internally funded development derived from a 600 kg-class two-seat light helicopter and is the company’s first attempt at developing a VTOL UAV.
KAI officials earlier told Jane’s that the Night Intruder 600 VT has an overall length of 9m, width of 2m, and height of 2.5m. Although configured with a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 600kg, future development could see the air vehicle grow to over 750kg as the programme matures.
Development of the Night Intruder 600 VT began in 2017 and it was exhibited for the first time in public at the DX Korea exhibition in November 2018. KAI then acquired a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport in July and a flight permit from Busan Regional Aviation Administration in August in accordance with Aviation Safety Act to pave the way for its maiden flight. KAI is aiming to complete the first-phase development of the air vehicle by the end of the year. Further work to advance its automatic take-off and landing system is expected to begin imminently in the second developmental phase. Jane’s earlier reported that the air vehicle is typically equipped with a chin-mounted stabilised electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) turret with high-definition daylight and thermal cameras. Other mission payloads being planned include a laser rangefinder or designator, as well as a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system. The company is intending to pitch the Night Intruder 600 VT to meet a forthcoming Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) VTOL UAV requirement. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
04 Oct 19. FLIR to unveil tether kit for drones. US-based FLIR Systems has developed a tether kit that can dramatically increase the endurance of its SkyRanger R70 and R80D SkyRaider small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), according to company officials. The tether will provide continuous power to a UAV, enabling the aircraft to stay airborne for 24 hours instead of less than an hour with battery-powered free flight. By anchoring a UAV to one ground location, the tether makes it easier for operators to monitor and control the aircraft.
FLIR envisions the tether kit being used to perform a wide range of missions, including persistent surveillance. For communications relay, the company considers tethered small UAVs to be easier to field than large, sensor-equipped towers. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
07 Oct 19. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has signed a cooperative agreement with NASA to perform a demonstration flight as part of the agency’s project to integrate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS). The objective of the demonstration, scheduled for 2020, is to tackle key challenges that prevent routine commercial UAS operations in the NAS today, including development, integration, and certification of UAS and the technologies required for safe operation with other manned and unmanned aircraft traffic in the NAS. The team completed the Critical Design Review on September 18th. Key enabling technologies that will be demonstrated include Detect and Avoid (DAA) and Command and Control (C2) datalink systems, which are aligned with recently-published RTCA standards.
As part of the demonstration, GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) will exhibit its ability to provide a wide variety of commercial and public services using onboard sensors and additional ‘virtual sensors’ that it could carry in the future. Services include inspections of hundreds of miles of rail, energy pipeline, powerline and canal infrastructure, agriculture monitoring and topological surveys, as well as wildfire and flood monitoring, and maritime surveillance.
The City of San Diego is supporting GA-ASI’s and NASA’s flight objectives under the UAS Integration Pilot Programs (IPPs). The highlight of the flight will be to perform public infrastructure surveys above the city. The City’s UAS IPP team will connect GA-ASI with local customers of the survey opportunities that this portion of the demo will offer.
“NASA and GA-ASI have a shared goal of seeing UAS fly safely and unencumbered in the NAS,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “GA-ASI has worked with NASA for more than five years on this goal and we’re excited to participate in their next set of demonstrations.”
Flight tests on NASA’s Ikhana, a Predator® B/MQ-9 UAS produced by GA-ASI, served as the basis for verification and validation of the RTCA DO-365 and DO-366 technical standards for DAA, which were published by RTCA in May 2017. This has put GA-ASI on a path toward leading the industry in producing Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) UAS that are approved to fly in the NAS.
In June 2018, GA-ASI’s DAA system was the key technology that enabled NASA to fly the Ikhana for 2.5 hours through the NAS, taking off from Southern California and flying through multiple airspace classes at various altitudes and requiring communications with several air traffic control centers. The DAA system installed on Ikhana enabled the UAS to meet the intent of the FAA’s 14 CFR 91.113(b) requirement to “see and avoid” other aircraft, allowing a large UAS to fly without a chase plane for the first time in certain classes of airspace.
According to NASA, the agency initiated the Systems Integration and Operationalization (SIO) project that will result in multiple flight demonstrations focusing on different types of UAS and their flight missions. GA-ASI’s demonstrations will conduct commercial missions above 10,000 feet. NASA’s SIO includes two other partnerships demonstrating small/medium sized UAS at lower altitudes.
GA-ASI’s technology partners for the SIO demonstration include Honeywell (supplies the TCAS II for the DAA system), and Collins Aerospace for the Command and Non-Payload Communications (CNPC) datalink radios, which is part of the C2.
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