Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
30 Oct 19. New senseFly eBee X fixed-wing UAS undergoes tests with US Army. The US Army Engineering and Support Center is testing the new senseFly eBee X fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
The newly acquired system conducted its preliminary survey flight just outside the army engineering centre in Huntsville, Alabama.
The system will be used by the service to collect mapping data and high-resolution photography to support the centre’s more than 40 programmes and several missions conducted globally.
Huntsville Center Engineering Directorate Civil Structures Division chief Wade Doss said: “Our goal is to utilise it to make us more efficient in how we collect all types of engineering data, specifically surveying data and topographic data. We’ll be able to fly simple missions and produce 3D models.”
In addition, the commercial off-the-shelf model system can be employed to gather data from areas or environments that are deemed unsafe for humans.
The UAS is designed to cover larger areas in less amount of time.
US Army Huntsville Center’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Site Development Branch research physical scientist Ryan Strange said: “If somebody wanted to detect [unexploded ordnance] or look at something when the zone was red hot, we can’t send a human in there because of safety issues.
“We can surely send a drone to look at something close up or monitor a specific project that’s going on at that time.
“We don’t have to put a human being somewhere where he or she shouldn’t be. If we wanted to access specific areas without human interaction, we can do that with the UAS.”
Furthermore, Strange noted that works are currently underway on obtaining pilot’s licence and approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration.
The UAS will be officially put into use following the receipt of approvals and finalising processes. (Source: army-technology.com)
29 Oct 19. GE Aviation, Hybrid Project team up for VTOL UAS. GE Aviation has teamed with Hybrid Project to provide a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV capability for high endurance commercial applications.
The teaming arrangement will provide comprehensive integration of ground, cloud and airborne components, including Hybrid Project’s 35lbs hybrid-powered SuperVolo VTOL UAV with a full stack airborne computing hardware platform, and flight and safety management. Integration will be carried out by GE Aviation and Auterion.
GE Aviation’s computing platform will enable flight control and airborne computing power at the edge while maintaining an independent and authoritative safety controller. Auterion’s Enterprise PX4 operating system resides on the vehicle, in the cloud and the ground station.
Flight testing of the solution will commence in quarter four of 2019 with commercial availability targeted for the first quarter of 2020.
Matt Vacanti, product leader, avionics systems for GE Aviation, said: ‘The combination of Hybrid Project’s SuperVolo airframe, GE Aviation’s computing platform, and Auterion’s software stack enables an all-in-one solution that readily scales for commercial applications. A highly integrated system is critical to achieving scalable commercial UAV operations.’ (Source: Shephard)
29 Oct 19. Northrop Grumman showcases ability of Grand Sky facility to deliver full control for future missions. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) announced today that it successfully completed a flight control test of a NASA Global Hawk from its Grand Sky facility near Grand Forks, North Dakota. Following takeoff of the NASA Global Hawk by a crew at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) in California on Oct. 10, 2019, the flight team at Grand Sky took control and executed a series of flight maneuvers to demonstrate operational performance of the Transportable Operations Center in its Grand Sky Mission Control Center. The in-flight test control operation is a first for the Grand Sky facility which was opened in April 2017.
“The ability to conduct flight operations shows the capability of the Grand Sky team to provide full command and control from our facility. In the near future, we expect to provide full flight test capability to support our government and commercial customers,” said Kristen Griffin, strategy director, autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman. “The important work performed at Grand Sky supports the evolving needs of our customers while advancing research and development of our autonomous systems capabilities for today and the future.”
The flight took off and landed at NASA’s AFRC at Edwards Air Force Base where the remainder of the flight was controlled. NASA and Northrop Grumman are partnered under an agreement which allows for use of the NASA Global Hawk system to explore new mission capabilities.
The Grand Sky facility is dedicated to fostering autonomous systems and other capabilities at the Grand Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems Business and Aviation Park. The facility serves as a nucleus for research and development, pilot, operator and maintainer training along with operations and mission analysis, and aircraft maintenance.
The company is building a hangar adjoining the facility to take advantage of Grand Sky’s access to the adjacent Grand Forks Air Force Base, home to the RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude, long endurance autonomous aircraft.
28 Oct 19. 4 questions with NATO on its unmanned tech test. As militaries around the world invest in advanced technology, the need to test the capabilities of new systems for military operations is critical — both to ensure the training of personnel as well as the effective integration with existing platforms. Dozens of unmanned underwater, surface and air vehicles from NATO countries gathered in Portugal in September for Exercise REP (MUS) 19 to do just that: test technological advances in unmanned maritime systems networks. Defense News recently received details about the exercise from a NATO official.
In a nutshell, what is Exercise REP (MUS) 19?
REP (MUS) 19 was built on the 10th annual Portuguese underwater exercise Recognised Environmental Picture (REP), with support from NATO’s Maritime Unmanned Systems (MUS) initiative, the NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation, and the University of Porto’s Laboratory for Underwater Systems and Technology.
The NATO Maritime Unmanned Systems Initiative (MUSI) was launched in October 2018 to promote capability development and interoperability in the field of maritime unmanned systems.
What did NATO hope to learn from this exercise?
The focus of REP (MUS) 19 was on technological and procedural interoperability. Participating nations tested the integration and coordination of activities between multiple unmanned systems from allied nations in the three domains — above the water, on the water and underwater.
This was the first time that so many NATO nations had the opportunity to test together the effectiveness of systems, concepts, techniques and procedures related to maritime unmanned systems, ensuring they can work seamlessly together, bringing together dozens of unmanned underwater, surface and air vehicles for maritime operations.
The systems were from the Portuguese Navy, as well as from the NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation, from Belgium, Italy, Poland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. During REP (MUS) 19, participants from naval forces, from industry and from academia jointly contributed assets to the operational demonstrations and worked together to test new technological advances and procedures for maritime unmanned systems in real-life operational scenarios.
What is the potential for unmanned systems among allies?
New maritime unmanned systems technologies can be a game-changer in countering multiple threats in the maritime domain. Using maritime unmanned vehicles can help effectively counter new submarines armed with more powerful weapons. They can also prevent military personnel from moving into risky situations in countering threats like sea mines. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
27 Sep 19. EDA expands work on autonomous underwater vehicles. EDA’s Steering Board has just approved the launch of a 4-year CAT B project aimed at developing a swarm of biomimetic underwater vehicles for underwater intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (SABUVIS II). It builds upon previous collaboration carried out under the SABUVIS I project which was completed in 2019. So far, two Member States (Poland, Germany) are contributing to this new project for which a project arrangement is expected to be signed later next year.
The new project is important for defence as Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) are being increasingly utilised for a variety of differing tasks in the maritime environment. They represent a viable alternative to the operation of manned platforms and are particularly well suited to the rigours of an inhospitable domain that places a premium on technical advancements.
Taking the natural world as its template, this collaborative project seeks to replicate some of the key features of marine life, principally those of propulsion and behaviour, so as to ensure the successful completion of underwater operations. A key feature of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions (ISR) for example, is the necessity to undertake these missions covertly, and those systems that are difficult to detect, both visually and audibly, provide the optimum solution.
Building on the findings of SABUVIS I
This project is a continuation of the successful collaboration enjoyed between Poland, Germany and Portugal in the first SABUVIS project. In this first iteration, three different Biomimetic Underwater Vehicles (BUVs) were constructed with the resulting conclusion that BUVs can be designed with varying degrees of similarity with living organisms. Some of the identified benefits are that undulating propulsion consumes less electrical energy than conventional propulsion systems utilising screw based propellers, and different hydroacoustic signatures are produced with a corresponding lower noise level.
This second phase will now expand upon, and investigate further, the swarm aspects with more tightly cooperating vehicles, moving in formations and consisting of vehicles having specific functions or tasks to perform. The project in particular will focus on the lead vehicles, who are responsible for the navigation function.
The expected advantages of utilising vehicles in a swarm are reliability and efficiency. Firstly, the swarm system can incorporate redundant elements, essentially extra vehicles, which increases reliability in performing a task – the loss of one element does not result in the mission being abandoned. Secondly, the distribution of sensors and devices necessary to perform the mission across a number of vehicles makes it possible to reduce the size and complexity of vehicles and thus ensures simpler construction. Technological areas that the project will also focus on are in the area of navigation and principally in GPS denied areas, optical surface coastal navigation systems and new biomimetic drives.
The principle organisations planned to undertake this project are the Polish Naval Academy and also the Wehrtechnische Dienststelle für Schiffe und Marinewaffen der Bundeswehr, Maritime Technologie und Forschung (WTD 71) in Germany. The project is as a result of the successful cooperation in EDA’s Maritime Capability Technology Group. (Source: EDA)
28 Oct 19. Hanwha Defense showcases new UUV for ASW operations. South Korean company Hanwha Defense has unveiled a new unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that is designed specifically for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. The unmanned platform, named ASWUUV, was shown in public for the first time during MADEX 2019 exhibition held at Busan in late October. The ASWUUV has been under development by the Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND)’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) since 2017. Work is expected to be completed by 2022, with trials scheduled in 2021. Hanwha officials told Jane’s that the ASWUUV will be approximately 7m long and 1m wide and will displace 3,000kg. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Oct 19. Schiebel announced at its User Conference, which took place from 15 to 17 October in Vienna this year, a Capability Update Programme (CUP) to provide customers with a further enhanced CAMCOPTER® S-100.
Once again, Schiebel hosted users from all over the world at its User Conference in Vienna. The conference provides a platform for sharing users’ experiences and to update on new developments and innovations for the CAMCOPTER® S-100.
In the course of the three-day conference, Schiebel announced its programme of work, with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), to provide customers with a further enhanced product to meet future Civil Aviation Standards for operation in public air space. The rapidly evolving Unmanned Air System (UAS) market drove the decision to start a programme ensuring the future full certifiability of the CAMCOPTER® S-100.
“Since launch, our CAMCOPTER® S-100 has steadily and continuously evolved. As the market leader for Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) UAS we’re looking back at more than 20 years of experience and continued development. Given today’s market demands and the ever changing airworthiness requirements, it was a logical step for us to launch our CUP,” said Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group.
“The User Conference offers a unique opportunity to exchange experiences with other users and to hear about Schiebel’s plans. It goes to show that the company really listens to their customers and to the market’s needs. The workshops are an excellent platform to update our knowledge and to network with other customers. The CUP is a forward-thinking and innovative project and I am very much looking forward to the outcome,” said Alexandre Durget, Head of the French Navy UAV Unit.
28 Oct 19. UK Discloses Reaper Accidents. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has disclosed that two of its 10 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-9 Reaper medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been involved in serious accidents since the beginning of 2015, with one aircraft being decommissioned and the other being placed in long-term repair as a result. Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) made the disclosure in a freedom of information (FOI) request that was submitted by Drone Wars UK, and was supplied to Jane’s on 24 October.
According to the FOI response, Reaper ZZ201 suffered a collapse of its port main-landing gear during a landing on 17 October 2015. That aircraft was withdrawn from service as it was nearing the end of its viable flying life, DE&S said. Jane’s reported this decommissioning earlier this year following another FOI request submitted by Drone Wars UK, but the response to that request from the MoD made no mention of an accident.
Separately, on 16 August 2016, Reaper ZZ205 suffered a runway excursion. “The air vehicle is under repair at Poway [in California] and will be returned to the fleet”, DE&S said.
With nine Reapers currently in its inventory and eight in service, all the vehicles themselves are currently based in the Middle East (understood, but not confirmed, to be Kuwait) for operations over Syria.
The UK is due to replace its Reapers with up to 26 MQ-9B Protector RG1 MALE UAVs. The Protector programme is running some years behind schedule, and the original plan was that the transition would take place seamlessly with no loss of capability. The first of an initial 16 Protectors is set to enter service in the mid-2020s. (Source: UAS VISION/Jane’s 360)
28 Oct 19. Airborne Response Launches AirborneBeyond BVLOS UAS Testing Program at Latin America Locations. Airborne Response, a provider of Mission Critical Unmanned Solutions for industry and government, has unveiled its new AirborneBeyond program designed to provide UAS manufacturers and enterprise customers concierge-style, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) testing capabilities outside of the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS).
The AirborneBeyond program offers coordinated UAS fight testing at certified, proven aviation facilities in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and other select locations throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. The program was created to offer additional flight-testing options for UAS manufacturers and enterprise users with specialized requirements. Some of the characteristics of the available airspace include over 100nm distances, operating ceilings up to 30,000 ft, asphalt runways, air traffic control towers and an array of local engineering and fabricating services.
“UAS manufacturers and specialized enterprise customers will now have a fast-track option to test developmental aircraft and BVLOS operations within foreign airspace jurisdictions,” said Andy Jaques, Vice President of International Operations for Airborne Response. “AirborneBeyond provides a single-point of contact for clients who require assistance coordinating UAS testing options across a range of terrain and operating environments.”
A large Spanish UAS manufacturer recently completed their initial testing phase which validated the proof-of-concept for the program. Airborne Response will now expand AirborneBeyond with the assistance of local partners throughout the Western Hemisphere.
“The coordination of UAS flight-testing in foreign jurisdictions can be an extremely daunting task,” says Jaques. “AirborneBeyond is designed to eliminate the hassle and confusion, allowing clients to stay focused on their operation.” (Source: UAS VISION)
25 Oct 19. Turkey’s Baykar Delivers Second TB2 Batch to Ukraine. The Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar announced that it delivered the second batch of Bayraktar TB2 armed unmanned aerial vehicles to the Ukrainian Air Force. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence announced that it completed the acceptance tests of the drones at its Starokostiantyniv Airbase. These tests covered the drones’ combat capabilities, maximum altitude, main and emergency power systems, and other parameters.
According to Col. Taras Potyagach, the Head of the Unmanned Aviation Division of the Ukrainian Air Force, the drones will “conduct reconnaissance, provide targets to artillery units and carry out special missions with the help of high-precision weapons.”
Ukraine ordered six TB2 UAVs from Baykar, a privately-owned company, in January 2019 for $69m US. This was BAYKAR’s second TB2 order, the first being a sale of six TB2s to Qatar in March 2018.
Developed in parallel to Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) Anka medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV, the TB2 was inducted into the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in 2014. Since then, the TSK has used the TB2 as part of its counterinsurgency (COIN) operations.
According to the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB), the TB2 offers a cruising speed of 70 knots, a max altitude of 24,000 feet, 24 hours of endurance, and communication range of 150 km. It can carry up to 55 kg as payload, which can comprise of lightweight, precision-guided air-to-surface munitions.
Though a sale from Turkey to Ukraine, it would be incorrect to frame this as a one-sided transaction.
Baykar is currently developing a larger twin-engine drone, i.e., the Akinci. With a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 4.5 tons, the Akinci will have an external payload of 900 kg and internal payload of 450 kg. The Akinci is expected to have an endurance of 24 hours and flight ceiling of 40,000 feet.
The Akinci will reportedly use turboprop engines (i.e., MS-500V) supplied by Ukraine’s Motor Sich, at least for testing (before Turkey’s indigenous turboprop engines are ready). (Source: UAS VISION/Quwa)
25 Oct 19. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) demonstrated progress toward successful heterogeneous unmanned vehicle (UxV) swarming with the test of Rapid Integration Swarm Ecosystem (RISE) at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) second field experiment.
The experiment leveraged the command, control and collaboration capabilities of RISE in a mock city environment at Fort Benning, Georgia, with dozens of UxVs and human team members. The test was part of Northrop Grumman’s work as a Swarm Systems Integrator in the Agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program, which seeks to provide dismounted soldiers with upwards of 250 small UxVs.
“Swarm technologies are vital to getting expanded situational awareness in a complex environment like the one in this test,” said Vern Boyle, vice president, emerging capabilities, Northrop Grumman. “Our unique applications of autonomous robotics and human-machine teaming for swarming enhances a warfighter’s capacity and speed for information gathering and processing under a variety of conditions.”
At the most recent field experiment, Northrop Grumman demonstrated its versatility and showcased its open architecture by integrating various capabilities from associate contractors (“Swarm Sprinters”) into RISE. Northrop Grumman’s subcontractors from Intelligent Automation, Inc. and University of Central Florida brought about additional enrichments that ranged from tactical robotic capabilities to enhanced sketch-based user interfaces. Notably, RISE also demonstrated self-healing task allocation in the event of loss of communications, via capabilities provided by Heron Systems, an associate contractor. Northrop Grumman also collaborated with associate contractors Michigan Tech Research Institute, Soar Technology, Inc. and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina
RISE utilizes the Robot Operating System (ROS), an open architecture that enables the use of small, low-cost commercial off-the-shelf air and ground vehicles. These vehicles rely on the human-swarm teaming approach that enables swarm commanders to define a high level mission plan, monitor the mission, and make decisions based on that new system-sourced information. RISE also enables third party developers to easily interact with existing platforms, sensors and effectors through the use of standard ROS interactions. RISE aligns with the DARPA OFFSET vision to build and support a community of third-party Swarm Sprinters.
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