Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
24 Oct 19. Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis, Global Counter UAS Market, Forecast to 2024, reveals that heightened demand for commercial unmanned aerial systems (C-UAS) by the military for expensive, technologically advanced, multiple-sensor systems is driving innovative C-UAS market growth opportunities. Furthermore, commercial and civil end users are seeking robust, low-cost C-UAS that can locate drone operators and operate on open architecture software that allows for integration into existing security systems. Based on these trends, Frost & Sullivan expects C-UAS market revenues to exceed $2bn by 2024.
“The rapid proliferation of small drones and their expanding threat is driving significant investment and innovation in C-UAS. However, adoption of these technologies is limited by individual country rules against wiretapping, jamming, and computer hacking—all methods employed by various C-UAS,” said Michael Blades, Vice President, Aerospace, Defense, and Security, Frost & Sullivan. “To gain a competitive advantage in an evolving ecosystem, players should look toward developing robust analytics and enabling/optimizing passive detection sensors, which can accurately capture and record data during all phases of the kill chain.”
Further disruptive transformations in this market include artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that automate the detection, identification, locating, and tracking of drones with minimal false detections, and directed energy weapons that can mitigate multiple drones quickly and/or simultaneously.
“OEMs that show their systems can be effective against the majority of current threats and can be adapted to future threats will realize the most market advancement,” observed Blades.
For further information on this analysis, please contact Jacqui Holmes on
From a regional perspective, North America, led by the US Department of Defense (DoD), will spend substantially more than any other region on C-UAS. Europe has additional ability to use systems at airports due to private ownership and better funding, and the Middle East shows a lot of interest in C-UAS but is hesitant to make purchases, mainly due to uncertainty about the technologies.
To capitalize on future possibilities, vendors should focus on:
- Developing as-a-service revenue streams with effective systems that are easily transportable.
- Building C-UAS that can detect, locate, and track drones no matter what their configuration or mission.
- Integrating advanced artificial intelligence into C-UAS to automate as much of the process as possible.
“Although there are many prospects in this market, a number of global regulatory agencies, especially in the West, are having trouble developing rules of engagement that will allow law enforcement to mitigate small drone threats,” said Blades. “Furthermore, being relatively nascent, the industry is still in the process of initiating meaningful tests that can accurately assess C-UAS capabilities.”
Frost & Sullivan’s research, Global Counter UAS Market, Forecast to 2024, provides a macro view of estimated historical, current, and expected spending in the C-UAS market while taking into account various issues driving and restraining demand. The research also contains an evaluation of market expansion possibilities based on trends and supported by a collection of insights from industry insiders. Finally, three far-reaching predictions are provided concerning how the market might change or be disrupted.
Global Counter UAS Market, Forecast to 2024 is part of Frost & Sullivan’s global Unmanned Systems research and analysis available through the Growth Partnership Service program.
24 Oct 19. USAF Unit Moves Reveal Clues To RQ-180 Ops Debut. Almost six years after Aviation Week first disclosed the existence of a large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman, there is a growing body of evidence that the stealthy vehicle is now fully operational with the U.S. Air Force in a penetrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role.
Thought to be dubbed the RQ-180, the advanced design is believed to have been flying since 2010 and under operational test and evaluation since late 2014. According to new information provided to Aviation Week, the aircraft became operational with the recently reformed 427th Reconnaissance Sqdn. at Beale AFB, California, this year. The Air Force declined to comment on the status of the program. RQ-180 First flight believed to have occurred in 2010. At least seven vehicles have been developed and are in operation. The first RQ-180 unit may now be operational at Beale nine years after achieving first flight and five years after entering operational test at Edwards, Although images of the aircraft remain elusive, an assessment of new evidence enables a clearer picture to be drawn of the secret aircraft’s progress through early flight testing, development and initial deployment. New information from open sources backs up the first reports of its existence published in 2013 and fills in gaps in the program’s earlier history as well as subsequent test and operational evaluation at sites mostly in and around California and Nevada. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Aviation Week & Space Technology)
23 Oct 19. Australian and US forces trial UAV-dropped medical supply service. Australian and US armed forces have evaluated an autonomous airborne delivery system capable of distributing medical supplies to forward-deployed units.
The US Marine Corps (USMC) and Australian Defence Force (ADF) relied upon Zipline’s Drone Delivery Service during a series of four exercises in Australia conducted between 30 July and 5 September.
Exercises ‘Bundey I’, ‘Bundey II’, ‘Crocodile Response’, and ‘Koolendong’ 2019 used rail-launched, fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to deliver medical supplies to forward-deployed units, including fresh whole blood (FWB) and water.
According to a spokesperson for Zipline, the exercise’s goal was to illustrate how a “logistics network of autonomous delivery drones could help transform emergency medicine and critical care in conflict, as well as in humanitarian and disaster relief scenarios”.
Zipline’s Drone Delivery Service was developed in collaboration with the US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and Naval Medical Research Center’s Naval Advanced Medical Development (NMRC-NAMD). The company said it demonstrated the capability to complete a 127 km round-trip delivery at speeds of up to 100km/h.
Throughout the four exercises, “The company made over 400 deliveries, which included mock blood resupplies to forward-deployed Shock Trauma Platoons; responding to simulated mass casualty events; simultaneously responding to emergency delivery requests from three different locations; and delivering 68 kg of cargo in under three hours,” an after-action review by the company disclosed on 22 October.
“The [US] DoD wanted to know if we could rapidly forward deploy, integrate with ground forces, deconflict with military aircraft and our own in real time, operate in a range of conditions, and demonstrate the capacity to swarm aid in mass casualty events,” a company spokesperson told Jane’s. “Over the course of our work together, we rapidly deployed; integrated with forces; navigated the airspace; flew in wind, rain, darkness, and zero visibility; and swarmed aid to simulated mass casualty sites in multiple occasions. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
23 Oct 19. Hanwha Systems displays model of UUV for ASW operations. South Korean company Hanwha Systems has unveiled a model of a large-displacement unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) dedicated to anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. The UUV, which was displayed at the 22-25 October International Maritime Defense Industry Exhibition 2019 (MADEX 2019) in Busan, will operate as part of a larger surveillance network of sensors deployed from harbour facilities, unmanned buoys, surface vessels (manned and unmanned), and UUVs. Called the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (ASWUUV), the platform, which is still under development, will be powered by fuel-cell system and fitted with two GPS antennas and several sonar systems, including a forward-looking and two flank-array sonars, according to Hanwha Systems. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
22 Oct 19. C-Astral Aerospace unveils ATLAS C4EYE micro UAS. Slovenia’s C-Astral Aerospace, an Ajodovščina-based integrator of small unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) and member of the Terra Drone group, has completed development of the new Advanced Technology Light Acquisition System (ATLAS) C4EYE mini-UAS following a series of trials with manned, unmanned, and NATO Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) assets.
Developed by C-Astral’s X-Works division after a decade of field experience in small UAS exploitation, the ATLAS C4EYE is a bungee assisted hand-launched, water-resistant blended-wing-body UAS platform with a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 2.4 kg.
The air vehicle can carry the lightweight gyro-stabilised Eye-X HD1 or Eye-X HD2 multi-sensor electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) gimbals and is designed to observe targets discreetly at altitudes as low as 260ft (80m) for up to 90 minutes. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
22 Oct 19. LIG Nex1 unveils Sea Sword II USV. South Korea’s LIG Nex1 is exhibiting a full-scale prototype of its Hae Gum II (Sea Sword II) unmanned surface vessel (USV) for the first time at the International Maritime Defense Industry Exhibition (MADEX 2019) in Busan from 22-25 October.
Development of the internally funded Sea Sword programme commenced in December 2015, with LIG Nex1 appointed as prime contractor and systems integrator under a civil-military technology research programme supported by the Defense Acquisition Procurement Agency (DAPA) and Civil Military Technology Co-operation Center. Leveraging on the development of Sea Sword, LIG NeX1 has incorporated additional capabilities, features, and firepower in the Sea Sword II design. Sea Sword II features several improvements over the original USV in terms of size and capabilities. The 11-tonne USV has an overall length of 12 m (compared to 8m of the baseline version), a 3.5m beam, and is based on a low RCS monohull made of fibre-reinforced plastic. The USV is powered by two diesel engines driving two Kamewa waterjets to a speed of more than 35kt, or a maximum range of 180n miles at a cruising speed of 20kt. The platform can mount reconfigurable mission modules enabling it to conduct a range of mission types, including surveillance and reconnaissance missions in littoral areas and to check radar blind zones, such as coves or fjords.
In the configuration displayed at MADEX 2019, Sea Sword II is equipped with a stabilised 12.7mm machine gun-armed remote weapon station (RWS) developed by Hyundai WIA and a two-axis eight-cell guided-rocket launcher for 70mm Poniard rockets. It is equipped with multiple electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensors like EO Cameras, shortwave IR sensor, and laser range detection for navigation and weapon guidance. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
22 Oct 19. Anduril says drone-killer is not first step to autonomous warfare. Controversial defence start-up says it is not developing weapons. Anduril’s drones have been sold to several customers including the US defence department, and will soon be deployed overseas. The Interceptor is a small black box with four propellers that spots drones and rams them from below, at high speed, aiming to smash them out of the sky. The “hard kill” Interceptor can be used together with a system of sensors and cameras to detect and attack drones to protect soldiers or critical installations. But its maker, the defence start-up Anduril, insists that it is not the first step to autonomous warfare, where drones and robots fight each other without explicit human consent. “I can’t imagine a scenario when humans are taken out of the loop,” said Matt Grimm, one of Anduril’s co-founders and its chief operating officer, adding that he did not “accept the premise that the natural end is all out autonomous robot conflict.”
Describing autonomous weapons as unattractive for logical, financial and ethical reasons, he said none of Anduril’s customers have asked the company to develop such tools. Nevertheless, the 18-month-old Anduril has raised eyebrows as a tech start-up that is willing to pursue the controversial government and military contracts that the rest of Silicon Valley is too squeamish to handle. The company was founded by 2017 by the then 24-year-old Palmer Luckey, who made hundreds of millions of dollars selling his virtual reality company Oculus to Facebook but then claimed he was fired for donating to a Donald Trump campaign group. “Everything we’re doing is in co-ordination with the US government,” said Brian Schimpf, co-founder and chief executive. Anduril’s work is “an extension of Department of Defense policy,” he added. “Most of the work we’ve done has been very defensive,” he added. Weapons are “not something we’re rushing into.”
Before Anduril, Mr Schimpf spent nearly a decade at secretive data analysis company Palantir, including as director of engineering. He is one of several Anduril executives to have spent time at Palantir, a company that has been similarly criticised for working with the US government on projects that some say threaten people’s privacy. Both companies are backed by Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal who was Silicon Valley’s highest profile supporter of Mr Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Only a handful of the projects that Anduril has worked on are publicly known. The company declined to disclose how many contracts it had in total, but said around half had been made public. It is best known for its Lattice surveillance system, which uses cameras and other sensors to track and interpret movement, and has been deployed by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) along the US border with Mexico.
This year, the US Marines and UK Royal Navy signed contracts for the system, and CBP signed three additional contracts for Lattice, with a fourth pending. Anduril also works with the Pentagon on Project Maven, an initiative to develop AI tools for the military. Google chose not to continue working on the controversial project last year, following an employee backlash that saw dozens of workers resign on ethical grounds. Anduril’s Interceptor drones have been sold to several customers including the US defence department, and will soon be deployed overseas. Several countries have been looking at ways to tackle drones, with the UK government saying on Monday that “the counter-drone industry that will provide this equipment is small but evolving rapidly” Traditional defence companies have yet to offer a one-stop solution, it added. “Many of the systems entering the market are prohibitively expensive, and no single system is suitable for all situations,” it said in its new counter-drone strategy. The DoD said Anduril had been picked from four potential companies to develop the Interceptor system, which is still being assessed. This year, Anduril expects to collect twice as much in revenue from the DoD as from CBP. In the “long run”, Mr Schimpf expects “95 per cent” of the company’s business to come from the DoD. He said Anduril was hiring “aggressively”, and had more than tripled its employee count to around 140 in the last year. It opened its second office, of 10, in Washington DC last week, and raised $120m in August, bringing its valuation to just under $1bn.
The company views potential non-American clients through the lens of US foreign policy: although it is free to sell to countries such as China and Russia, doing so would go against its “core ethos” of defending “Western values.” Anduril has not sold to any governments other than the US and UK, it said, nor to any private-sector customers. Rebecca Crootof, assistant professor of Law at the University of Richmond, said international lawmakers should have a “nuanced conversation” about regulating autonomous military systems — which should move beyond simply whether to ban them. Regulation should consider issues such as accountability and proliferation, and would help police the moral, strategic, and legal implications of the development of such tools, she said. The company’s executives believe it has grown so fast because it is more dynamic than traditional defence companies, who bid for tenders rather than proactively look for problems and pitch solutions. Rivals are “slow and cumbersome and bureaucratic,” said Mr Grimm, while Anduril “gets a bunch of folks together from a bunch of different backgrounds and throws ideas on a whiteboard.” The Interceptor, which went from concept to sale in only eight months, is a case in point: “I’ve never seen so much urgency around a problem as with the Interceptor system,” said Mr Schimpf. The growing threat posed by drones, which can be bought cheaply and weaponised, is “obvious”, said Mr Grimm. Technology has allowed new threats to develop fast, but “we’re able to adapt quickly,” said Mr Schimpf. “That will be fundamental to the DoD.” Anduril’s speciality is “US national security problems,” he said. The “only thing that matters is keeping that [DoD] relationship strong.” (Source: FT.com)
21 Oct 19. Bell plans V-280 autonomy demonstration in 2019.
- Bell is planning an autonomy demonstration with its V-280 later this year where it will perform a set of tasks with no human involved, other than a safety pilot
- The company is completing its mission capability demos
Bell is planning to perform an autonomy demonstration with its V-280 tiltrotor by the end of this year that will have the aircraft fly itself with a safety pilot on board.
Paul Wilson, V-280 chief engineer, told Jane’s on 15 October that the aircraft will perform an automated takeoff, transfer the rotors from the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) mode into forward-facing cruise mode, and fly previously programmed waypoints before returning to a destination and landing. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
21 Oct 19. AeroVironment markets Vapor electric rotary-wing UAV to US Army. Key Points:
- AeroVironment is presenting its Vapor electric rotary-wing UAV to potential US Army customers
- The company has already provided the aircraft to US Special Operations Command under a contract
AeroVironment is marketing its Vapor electric rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to potential US Army customers after it secured a contract earlier this year from US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).
AeroVironment displayed its Vapor 55 model at the 2019 Association of the United States Army (AUSA 2019) conference. Rick Pedigo, company vice-president for business development and sales, told Jane’s on 14 October at the convention that the Vapor – which comes in 35 lb (16 kg) and 55 lb models – features the Pulse Aerospace-developed HeliSynth computer software, which enables the company to optimise the aircraft’s performance. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
21 Oct 19. Iran Displays New Twin-Engine Drone. Iran displayed a new home-made double-engine drone during the recent visit by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei to the Exhibition of Knowledge-based Enterprises and Advanced Technologies. The exhibition dubbed ‘Made in Iran’ was held in the Hossainiyeh of Imam Khomeini in Tehran earlier this week. The double-engine drone made of a composite structure has been manufactured by Iran’s private sector, Tasnim news agency said in a report on Sunday. The aircraft had earlier displayed to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani late in winter and late in spring respectively. The report did not reveal any further detail about the drone, but the aircraft is the second Iran-made double-engine unmanned plane after Sarir. Ayatollah Khamenei paid a visit to the Exhibition of Knowledge-based Enterprises and Advanced Technologies, titled Made in Iran, in Tehran on Tuesday. (Source: UAS VISION/Eurasia Review)
18 Oct 19. Blue Bear Complete Second Phase of the 5GRIT project. Blue Bear have recently completed the second phase of the 18-month 5GRIT project, culminating in drone flights on an arable farm in Yorkshire and a livestock farm in Cumbria, controlled over 5G from hundreds of miles away in London and Bedford.
The UK’s 5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT), supported through The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), set out to utilise a partnership of SME and Academia from across the UK. The 5GRIT consortium set out to explore and assess the benefits that could be gained through deployment of shared spectrum radio 5G enabled capabilities within rural communities, where connectivity is typically constrained.
Under the project, a range of ‘rural focussed’ applications were assessed, this included tourism and Agriculture. Blue Bear focussed on the Agri-Tech applications, specifically the utilisation of 5G connectivity to support Drone operation in support of both ‘livestock’ and ‘arable crop monitoring’ use-cases.
Blue Bear, working in partnership with Precision Decision (Agronomy insights) and Kingston University (AI based data analytics), were able to capture RGB and Multi-Spectral imagery of a wheat crops from a UAV throughout the growth cycle, with imagery transferred directly from the field back to remote servers (at Kingston University) for analysis. Machine Learning Algorithms were used to assess and detect evidence of weed growth and crop health. The crop heath was monitored utilising multi spectral imagery and producing various derived information such as NDVI. The ability to send the data back over the 5G network to remote servers allowed the large amounts of imagery data to be rapidly processed and sent back to the operator in the field in less than 1 hour.
The second use-case focussed upon real time Drone based Livestock survey. The final phase of the project conducted extensive flight trials in Alston, Cumbria. During these trials we demonstrated the ability to survey large remote areas (across an upland farm site) and utilise Machine Learning/AI techniques to automate the process of livestock detection in support of health monitoring, counting and identification, and grazing patterns (specifically focussed upon sheep).
A number of UK firsts have been achieved under the 5G project, and a range of benefits to the agritech sector have been identified as a result, including:
- Blue Bear demonstrated the first long distance command and control of Drones over 5G, controlling the drones in Cumbria from over 200 miles away in Bedford and 300 miles away in London. A safety pilot in visual line of sight with the drone was always in the loop, but this paves the way for future BVLOS operations in remote areas from a centralised mission control centre.
- Transmission of large multi spectral imagery data sets, typically in the range of 10GB to 20GB were sent over 5G to Remote servers for rapid processing, proving that 5G data transfer speeds can significantly increase the amount of data that can be sent from rural areas.
- The ability to have the data rapidly processed and the derived intelligence sent back to the farm in less than one hour paves the way for real time decision making on drone acquired crop data.
- The ability to monitor livestock in remote areas of land, reducing the time farmers need to spend travelling to these remote fields to routinely check on their livestock, and the rapid detection of any problems with the livestock helps to decrease any loss of livestock through injury and ill health. Tracking patterns of behaviour for the animals, and also linking this back to the multispectral data of the grazing land allows for better assessment and potentially increasing the yield through better pasture management.
- Production of 3D terrain maps and building models of the farms, allowing assessment of structures such as stone walls, fences, woodland and other farm infrastructure.
Ian Williams-Wynn, MD of Blue Bear said “we will be utilising the lessons learnt from the 5GRIT project to inform and support future regulatory development for BVLOS flights, and how this technology can support BVLOS drone operations in unsegregated airspace in the National Beyond Visual Line of Sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC).”
The full 5GRIT consortium partners included Blue Bear, Cybermoor, Kingston University, Lancaster University, North Pennines (AONB), Precision Decisions, Quickline and WAM (World Around Me). Together we delivered an outstanding project deploying and linking 5G test beds in a range of areas of the UK including London, Bedford, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, and Cumbria. The consortium demonstrated applications that enhanced agri-tech, tourism, rural connectivity, and pushed the boundaries of data processing and rapid data dissemination of derived intelligence. These demonstrations have proved that 5G technology can provide significant benefits to rural communities.
19 Oct 19. Precision engineering gives underground quadcopters a bright edge. The open sky is a forgiving place to fly. Apart from the occasional bird or other aircraft, the obstacles are few and far between and almost always below. Flying inside buildings, or tunnels, or caves, or other confined architecture requires a somewhat different approach, even when it comes to uncrewed vehicles. A cheap drone that crashes into the walls of a cave is wasted resources. What future militaries operating underground will want is dedicated robots, built to fly in enclosed airspace.
Designed by German grone maker U-ROB, the ROBi quadcopter is a specialized machine designed to fill the small but useful niche of indoor flight.
“This includes applications such as the inspection of pipelines and combustion chambers in power plants, the inspection of chimneys and the interior of bridge structures as well as the inspection of tanks and sewage pipes,” said U-ROB founder Joseph Metz in a release.
Those spaces are undoubtedly of commercial interest. They are also spaces of increasing municipal and governmental focus and military research.
DARPA is actively managing a competition where teams design autonomous machines for indoor and underground exploration. Researchers in Russia are working on remote control snake robots with redundant processing systems to scout underground spaces.
While the ROBi drone is not yet marketed at military customers, it’s design can offer some lessons for such drones bent towards military applications. Minor features, like rotors slung under the body and light cages around their perimeter, are somewhat simple to adopt. Requiring somewhat more care is the precise hand-soldering of lights, allowing its cameras and electrical connections to function even in the bumps and bounces of underground flight.
“It was with our camera lighting system that we had to develop our own solutions. In the course of the development, these solutions were constantly adapted and optimized. This was done with our development department,” said Metz, describing how U-ROB’s process involved new LEDS soldered by hand on the printed circuit board to achieve the desired packaging density and miniaturization.
Such precision is unlikely to add much value for robots flying through the open sky. In the tight confines of indoor spaces, dense and deliberate sensor clustering might provide real utility. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
The British Robotics Seed Fund is the first SEIS-qualifying investment fund specialising in UK-based robotics businesses. The focus of the fund is to deliver superior returns to investors by making targeted investments in a mixed basket of the most innovative and disruptive businesses that are exploiting the new generation of robotics technologies in defence and other sector applications.
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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.