Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
07 Nov 19. HAPSMobile Successfully Completes Second HAWK30 Solar HAPS Test Flight. HAPSMobile Inc. (“HAPSMobile”), a subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO:9434) and minority-owned by AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), today announced the second successful test flight of the HAWK30 solar-powered high-altitude platform system (HAPS) that took place on October 23, 2019 (PT) at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.
The test flight reached altitudes higher than those of the previous flight, and was conducted continuously for approximately one hour and 30 minutes. The HAWK30 successfully achieved more than two dozen test points, including 180-degree turns and further validation of avionics, power and propulsion performance. The team also simulated precise landing control on the runway, similar to its commercial operation concept. After operations at AFRC, HAPSMobile plans to transport HAWK30 to the Hawaiian island of Lanai and is accelerating preparations to perform stratospheric test flights at Lanai within the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.
“We’re extremely pleased that the second test flight was a success. Seeing the HAWK30 fly gracefully, even under greater turbulence at higher altitudes, has given us confidence for future flights,” said Junichi Miyakawa, Representative Director & CTO of SoftBank Corp., and also President & CEO of HAPSMobile. “We’ll carefully verify the data from this test and move forward with preparations to conduct stratospheric flight tests. We’ll continue to work toward our ultimate goal of bridging the world’s digital divide and revolutionizing mobile connectivity by leveraging the HAPS platform.”
“Our team is delivering outstanding results to achieve our joint goal of addressing a very large market opportunity and connecting people around the globe,” said Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment Chief Executive Officer and a Director of HAPSMobile. “This was our second consecutive successful test flight in which we achieved important program objectives and demonstrated AeroVironment’s unique solar HAPS capabilities and experience. We thank our flight test partner, NASA, for its ongoing support with their facilities and flight test range as we validate this innovative unmanned aircraft system.”
- SoftBank, the SoftBank name and logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of SoftBank Group Corp. in Japan and other countries.
- Other company, product and service names in this press release are registered trademarks or trademarks of the respective companies.
HAPSMobile Inc. is a subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. that plans and operates a High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) business with the aim of bridging the world’s digital divide. HAPSMobile is primarily engaged in network equipment research and development for the HAPS business, construction of core networks, new business planning and activities for spectrum usage. AeroVironment, Inc. is HAPSMobile’s minority owner and aircraft development partner for “HAWK30,” a solar-powered unmanned aircraft designed for stratospheric telecommunications platform systems that flies approximately 20kms above ground in the stratosphere. HAPSMobile has a strategic relationship with Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. For more information, please visit https://www.hapsmobile.com.
07 Nov 19. Airbus Reveals Classified LOUT Stealth Testbed. During the 2019 edition of its Trade Media Briefing on November 5, 2019, Airbus Defense and Space unveiled the existence of its “Low Observable UAV Testbed”, or LOUT. According to Airbus, the program took a “holistic approach” of stealth, simultaneously focusing on three aspects: reducing radar, IR, visual and acoustic signature, controlling electromagnetic emission of sensors and using electronic countermeasures for jamming and deception.
Showing its LO UAV testbed – or LOUT – platform at Manching on 4 November, Airbus future combat air system (FCAS) programme manager Mario Hertzog said the company began initial concept work in 2007. This led to a contract award in 2010 to refine configuration and material choices, and the production of a diamond planform demonstrator was completed in 2014.
Pointing to the company’s long involvement with LO research, Hertzog says:
“Bringing all our experience into one programme was a logical conclusion.”
The chosen configuration used for aerodynamic and anechoic chamber testing since 2014 has a roughly 12m (39.3ft) wingspan and similar length, and is described as a 4t-class vehicle. The subsonic design would use a conventional engine concealed behind a diverterless inlet, and has twin intakes blended into its upper fuselage. A cockpit transparency and sensor apertures also formed part of the testing.
The aircraft’s exhaust nozzle also is shielded from beneath, with Hertzog noting that such a vehicle would be optimised for use against ground-based air-defence systems. This mission requirement also led the company to hone LO techniques for the vehicle’s landing gear doors and centerline internal weapons bay, Hertzog notes.
Focus areas have included testing LO materials, including a radar absorbent structure for engine intake ducts, and on assessing radar frequency and infrared signature performance. Modelling work has also been conducted to analyse the likely acoustic characteristics of such a design.
Airbus confirms that it has completed contracted work on LOUT, but says additional activities could be conducted. However, Hertzog declines to say whether Berlin could seek a flight-test campaign with such a system.
Lessons learned from the LOUT programme will be available for potential adaptation during a long-term evolution activity on the Eurofighter Typhoon, and on a proposed French-German-Spanish FCAS development, Hertzog says.
“Stealth is and will remain an enabler for survivability,” he notes.
(Source: UAS VISION/FlightGlobal)
05 Nov 19. UAVOS flight tests 14m wingspan ApusDuo HAPS aircraft. UAVOS in October flight tested in Belarus a modified version of its ApusDuo high-altitude platform system (HAPS) aircraft that features a 14m wingspan. UAVOS spokesperson Taisia Vasiukovich said on 5 November that the goal of the flight test was to verify the aircraft’s power consumption, control algorithms, and aerodynamic characteristics. This modified ApusDuo has a wingspan 1.5x longer than its predecessor, improved control algorithms to reduce power consumption in horizontal flight, and new highly efficient maximum power point tracking (MPPT) energy conversion controllers. These MPPT controllers have less weight and allow UAVOS to split the ApusDuo’s solar panels into small groups for more efficient use of solar energy in low and uneven lighting conditions. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
05 Nov 19. Flock 93 is Russia’s dream of a 100-strong drone swarm for war. At a security exposition in Moscow in late October, researchers from Russia’s oldest Air Force academy presented a vision of the future of war: a swarm of drones, more than 100 strong, each carrying a small explosive payload, designed to destroy convoys of vehicles. The display is a called shot. While a far cry from reality today, the technology stands as a significant statement of intent. Projections of future capability matter because they shape the development of weapons and tools in the present. That Russia sees armed drones swarms as a future part of its battle plans could shape how nations develop counter drone tools, even if the plans never materialize.
Dubbed Flock-93, the swarm concept on display at Moscow’s Interpolitex-2019 security exhibition, is being developed by the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy, along with Autonomous Aerospace Systems – GeoService, based in Krasnoyarsk, and Group Kronstadt, based in St. Petersburg. Kronstadt has worked on Russia’s Orion medium altitude long endurance military drone. The Zhukovsky academy built, and then iterated upon, the internet-famous owl-shaped drone.
“These are specialists that are no stranger to experimentation and are taking a long-term outlook on how UAVs should serve the Russian military,” said Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses.
As outlined, the drones of Flock-93 will be flying wings and have vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability, promising both flexibility and target range of around 95 miles. While many fixed-wing drones have mounted quadcopter-style rotors on top for vertical lift, embedding those in a flying wing body, especially one cheap enough to use for vast swarms, seems a daunting hurdle. That said, flying wing drones with rotors inside the wing have already been designed, and vectored thrust gave a flapless flying wedge a lower radar profile than it would have had with flaps.
Making the swarm drones VTOL means the drones could operate from anywhere people on foot can get and set the drones up. We think of flying machines as largely an aviation or even air force function, but much of the future likely involves drones adding airstrikes as an infantry ability.
“Russians think that this swarm will be an effective weapon in the fight against terrorists and high-tech adversaries,” said Bendett, a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council. “Based on what the Russians have seen and learned in Syria — which is the single most important Russian military experience today — a serious damaging effect can be achieved by a UAV swarm attack.”
The planned payload for each of the Flock-93 drones is 5.5 pounds of explosive, to be targeted by a “monocular vision system” with a promised accuracy of measured in inches, not feet. The targets for such a swarm are trucks and lightly armored vehicles, big enough where it makes sense to use an explosive from the air but small and unprotected enough that the explosives will be effective.
While drone swarms are a good answer to single-shot counter-drone systems, a variety of tolls from jammers to fast-burning lasers firing in sequence to high-powered microwave weapons can all be effective against multiple targets in the sky. That counter measures exist has to be weighed against the desired utility of the system designed, but it’s hardly the biggest obstacle facing Flock-93.
“Russia has not demonstrated a UAV swarm in action yet,” said Bendett. “So the statement that Flock-93 will have dozens of UAVs is an interesting one – we have not seen Russia working with such a large number of unmanned aerial systems, at least not publicly.”
Some smaller experiments, with drones numbering in the handful, instead of the dozen, have been attempted by organizations like the Advanced Research Foundation, Russia’s DARPA analog, and the ERA Technopolis.
The Zhukovsky Academy elaborated on the role of the Flock-93 swarming, saying “if the lead drone is destroyed by enemy fire or lost for one reason or another, then its functions are transferred to another UAV that was previously led by the leader. Thus, reconfiguration takes place — and so on until the loss of the last two devices.”
This emphasis on military robots being able to follow even after the loss of a nominal leader is something we’ve seen before, in the design of a Russian cave-exploring snake robot.
As for the autonomy of the system, the goal seems to be more autonomy in execution than in direction. While the swarm will be built to navigate pre-plotted coordinates, the swarm is designed to be directed from human-crewed aircraft or ground control stations.
Given the potential of 550 pounds of flying explosive, distributed among 100 semi-autonomous aerial robots, building human control seems essential, even if it, too, will be a difficult proposition. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
06 Nov 19. Partners close to defining price and cost of European MALE RPAS. Airbus and its partners aim to finalise the scope and price of the European Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) in the coming weeks, ahead of a planned first prototype flight in early 2023. Speaking in Manching on 6 November, Jana Rosenmann, head of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) said that Airbus is now heavily engaged with its partners Dassault and Leonardo, as well as with the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), in closing out these two critical aspects of the European MALE RPAS being developed by Germany, France, Italy, and Spain to form part of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
“We are now in a very intense convergence phase of the programme, with the four nations and OCCAR. We hope to conclude later this year in determining the scope and price of the system, which is the culmination of two-decades of collaboration,” Rosenmann said.
Rosenmann’s comments came nearly 12 months after the partners completed the design definition phase of the European MALE RPAS (also known as either EuroDrone or EuroMALE), with the announcement on 13 December 2018 of the successful conclusion of the preliminary design review (PDR). The PDR, which was passed on 22 November 2018, ended the definition study contract signed on 26 August 2016 and cleared the way for the launch of the development phase in early 2019.
A full-sized mock-up revealed at the ILA Berlin Airshow earlier this year showed the unmanned aircraft to be slightly larger in size than the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper, with a twin pusher-propeller configuration. The model on display was shown with a single electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor. Although intended primarily as a intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) vehicle, there will be an option for it to be armed. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
05 Nov 19. UAV Turbines developing microturbine engine for UAVs. UAV Turbines is developing a microturbine engine specifically for Group 3 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and the company believes the engines will be more reliable than the reciprocating engines commonly used in this class of aircraft.
UAV Turbines believes its Monarch 5 class of engines could improve US Army UAV propulsion in the smaller Group 3 and Group 4 range. The company has three different Monarch 5 models: turboshaft, turbogenerator, and turboprop. UAV Turbines also has a small Monarch 1 turbogenerator.
The Monarch 5 engines include a through-the-shaft, full authority digital engine control (FADEC), hydraulically-actuated variable pitch mechanism. UAV Turbines introduced a lightweight recuperator for the first time in a flight weight micro turboprop, providing better fuel efficiency.
Fred Frigerio, company senior vice-president and programme manager, told Jane’s on 18 October that the Monarch 5 engines are specifically designed for UAV use in the smaller Group 3 and Group 4 range, in which companies run into trouble. He said, in this range electric motors do not provide enough power and companies often try to repurpose motorcycle engines or rotary engines designed for other purposes, with poor results.
Kirk Warshaw, UAV Turbines president and CEO, told Jane’s that it has been tough in the past to develop a small turbine engine because the turbine technology does not scale down well. UAV Turbines, he said, recruited engine designers from industry leaders such as Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce and has designed a microturbine engine that can spin at 160,000 rpm, which he said is faster than any UAV propeller engine can spin.
Frigerio said UAV Turbines’ Monarch 5 engines can go 2,000 hours between maintenance and have a goal of 3,000-4,000 hours between work. In contrast, Warshaw said these repurposed engines often require overhauls every 200-300 hours. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
05 Nov 19. U.S. Interior Department Downs Line of 800 Drones by DJI. The U.S. Division of Interior declared Wednesday that it would ground its line of DJI drones. The U.S. Division of Interior declared Wednesday that it would ground its line of DJI drones. The decision, which is the result of congressional strain, is the latest transfer in the argument over banning government use of technology-based solely upon “nation of origin”: a direct blow to Chinese companies.
The proposed ban on China-manufactured drones arises from legislation presently under dialogue in Congress. As the U.S. trade conflict with China intensifies, legislation has appeared suggesting that no drones manufactured in nations deemed “non-cooperative” may be purchased by the U.S. government, citing information security concerns. The two pieces of laws proposed are the American Drone Security Act in the Senate and the Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act in the House. The Senate version would restrict all government agencies from buying Chinese drones, the House version refers only to the Division of Homeland Security.
China-based DJI, the largest international drone manufacturer, denies vigorously that data collected by DJI drones is at risk: and has struggled to respond to security issues that don’t refer to any technical requirements or specific technology gaps. The laws represent a move by the U.S. authorities that the U.S. press largely refers to as “getting the Huawei treatment,” a reference to the blacklisted Chinese telecom firm: recent months have seen legislators proposing closer inspection or bans on Chinese video app TikTok and others.
The U.S. Division of Interior move to down its line of about 800 drones is significant. The Division of the Interior (DOI) is tasked with sustaining public lands and has adopted drone technology extensively to help monitor land and deal with firefighting works, flood management, dam reviews, and tracking of endangered species. The entirety of DOI’s fleet has China-based parts, and DJI makes at least 15%: downing the fleet means blocking crucial programs. (Source: Google/https://aerospacedefencetalks.com/)
04 Nov 19. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) today announced that its Predator®-series of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), which includes the Predator, Predator B, Gray Eagle, Avenger® and MQ-9B SkyGuardian® lines, has surpassed six million flight hours. The milestone was achieved on October 31, 2019 with GA-ASI aircraft having completed 430,495 total missions with close to 90 percent of those missions flown in combat.
“Six million flight hours is a testament to the reliability of our unmanned aircraft systems that are designed, built, and sustained by a dedicated group of skilled and innovative professionals for operations around the world,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “In our more than 25 years in business, GA-ASI has achieved a list of historic ‘firsts’ in RPA development and we have leveraged those accomplishments to better support our customer’s requirements.”
The identification of the specific aircraft and customer that achieved the milestone is unknown as every second of every day, 69 Predator-class Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) RPA are airborne throughout the world. Flight hours have continued to grow at unprecedented rates in recent years, with 500,000 flight hours achieved from 1993 to 2008, one million hours in 2010, two million hours in 2012, three million hours in 2014, four million hours in 2016 and five million in 2018.
“The demand for persistent situational awareness using our RPA is demonstrated daily through the accumulation of flight hours. The demand for our aircraft is consistently answered by our team of employees, suppliers, and partners who work hard to meet our customers’ dynamic mission requirements,” said David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “Because of the dedication of our employees, our suppliers and partners, our aircraft have the highest mission capable rate in the USAF aircraft inventory.”
GA-ASI aircraft average more than 60,000 hours per month supporting the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Italian Air Force, the Royal Air Force, the French Air Force, the UAE Armed Forces, and other customers. Missions include helping protect ground units on the battlefield; supporting U.S. Customs & Border Protection operations, and first responders in the wake of natural disasters. These aircraft systems continue to maintain the highest mission capable rates for U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army aircraft inventories.
GA-ASI has produced more than 900 aircraft and over 400 Ground Control Stations (GCS). In addition to RPA and GCS, GA-ASI also produces Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination (PED) systems as well as sensor payloads that deliver radar and video imagery, detect moving targets on the ground and over water, and provide Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) on signals of interest. GA-ASI also integrates the data products from these disparate sensors in real time via SATCOM data links to the GCS that can be correlated and displayed as actionable intelligence for use in Operations and Intelligence Centers around the world.
The Predator-series family includes Predator A and Predator XP; Predator B/MQ-9A Reaper, Predator B Extended Range (ER), Guardian, Gray Eagle/ER; Predator C Avenger/ER; MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian®.
01 Nov 19. Orbital Completes Test Flights with Insitu in Australia. Orbital Corporation Ltd has continued to demonstrate its progress and growth in the unmanned aerial vehicle market with flight testing of its world-class propulsion systems in conjunction with customer Insitu Pacific Pty Ltd, a division of Insitu Inc. and a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company.
The program, conducted at Insitu Pacific’s testing and training facility in Queensland, represents the first time Orbital UAV’s propulsion systems have been flown in Australia and complements the Company’s existing flight testing activities in the USA.
“Our flight program with Insitu Pacific expands our capability to fast track flight hour development and validation – gathering valuable data in real world conditions,” said Todd Alder, Managing Director and CEO of Orbital UAV.
“These flights test the limits of our engines and highlight opportunities where we can continuously improve our products – increasing reliability and field serviceability to ensure we are providing propulsion systems that set the benchmark for performance,” he said.
Orbital UAV’s latest generation of engines – derivatives of the Company’s revolutionary Modular Propulsion Solution (“MPS”) – are being flown on Insitu’s ScanEagle platform.
Orbital UAV’s MPS addresses a growing need within the tactical UAV market for aircraft to have the flexibility and versatility to adapt to changing end customer requirements and for the rapid deployment of those aircraft. The modular range of propulsion systems are capable of being integrated across multiple platforms with varying payloads and capability.
The initial flight program with Insitu Pacific is targeting more than 300 hours of data and highlights the growing partnership between Orbital UAV and the Boeing subsidiary.
“Insitu Pacific has been flight testing its own unique payload designs and customer deliveries for the past 10 years,” said Andrew Duggan, Managing Director of Insitu Pacific.
“However, the activity with Orbital UAV is contributing important new performance and life-cycle data for the ScanEagle product line for Insitu globally and is supporting our continuous drive to innovate and define leading unmanned aircraft systems into the next decade,” he said. (Source: UAS VISION)
04 Nov 19. Schiebel wins competitive tender to supply its CAMCOPTER® S-100 System to the Royal Thai Navy (RTN). Following an extensive competitive tender process, Schiebel was awarded its first contract with the RTN, which was signed by Schiebel’s CEO Hannes Hecher and Admiral Prachachart Sirisawat, Director General Naval Acquisition Management office of the Royal Thai Navy, and authorised by Commander In Chief of Royal Thai Navy Headquarters in Bangkok.
Schiebel’s CAMCOPTER® S-100 will be deployed in 2020 to the Pakphanang District, in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat in Thailand and on the RTN frigate fleet to deliver land and sea based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations. This is the first time the RTN will be using Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) for maritime operations.
To ensure a smooth transition into service and to provide commercial offset, Schiebel has partnered with MoraThai Defence Company Limited of Bangkok.
“With the Royal Thai Navy, we have another major maritime contract to add to our growing list of customers. Our CAMCOPTER® S-100 is recognised for being a reliable and proven UAS, especially at sea, which is why we outpaced all other UAS suppliers in the competitive tender process,” said Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group.
01 Nov 19. Seaglider AUV becomes part of Hydroid. Kongsberg’s Seaglider AUV has been transferred to Hydroid, Hydroid announced on 1 November. Hydroid will integrate Seaglider into its portfolio of AUV products, which includes the Remus family of systems. Seaglider was jointly developed by the University of Washington School of Oceanography and University of Washington Applied Physics Lab starting in 1995 with funding provided by the Office of Naval Research and National Science Foundation. The technology uses changes in buoyancy to move through the water column in a saw-tooth pattern while collecting data. Duane Fotheringham, president of Hydroid, said: ‘We look forward to leveraging the strengths of these advanced technologies to enhance both product lines and offer a more diverse set of solutions to our customers.’ (Source: Shephard)
01 Nov 19. Drone Volt Partners with Robotic Skies, Metatron Unmanned Solutions. Drone Volt, an embedded artificial intelligence expert and manufacturer of professional civil drones, has announced new partnerships with U.S.-based companies Robotic Skies Inc and Metatron Unmanned Solutions to expand commercial UAS business opportunities in the U.S.
The partnerships combine Drone Volt’s professional-grade drone technology with Robotic Skies’ maintenance, manufacturing,and regulatory expertise and Metratron’s sales, training, and services capabilities to make it easier for U.S. businesses to establish and maintain a UAS program.
“At Drone Volt, we aim to provide complete solutions for customers who operate our UAS in the professional industries, including certified pilot services, pilot training, and drone repair and maintenance,” stated Olivier Gualdoni, chairman and CEO of Drone Volt. “The partnerships with Robotic Skies and with Metatron allow us to provide fully integrated support for our U.S. customers as they adopt unmanned aerial vehicle technology into their businesses.”
Metatron Unmanned Solutions will serve as Drone Volt’s U.S. distribution and training services partner. Metatron will soon take delivery of four Hercules 2 mini-drones, a platform designed and built for reconnaissance missions across a broad range of applications in the defense, construction, inspection, and security sectors. Customers who purchase the Hercules 2 will have the opportunity to enroll in “Drone Volt Flight Academy,” a two-week course that covers systems training, data collection and analysis, and more. The course helps customers quickly and safely incorporate drone technology into their operations.
“The team at Metatron is thrilled to partner with Drone Volt on creating a superior customer experience,” said Travis Snyder, Metatron’s chief pilot and certified instructor. “We believe that proper education and training on how to operate drone systems is key to the overall safety and success of the unmanned industry. This partnership allows us to deliver on our mission to help companies succeed in this growing industry, creating more jobs and more efficiency across the board.”
Robotic Skies will serve as Drone Volt’s global maintenance partner. Robotic Skies founder and CEO, Brad Hayden, stated:
“The vision of the unmanned industry we share with our partner Drone Volt is one that brings together high-performance mission capabilities and an aviation safety-culture mindset. The emerging commercial UAS fleet will need ongoing inspections, repair, and maintenance to assure reliability and safety. Our turnkey support offerings are a natural complement to keeping the Drone Volt fleet operating as safely and efficiently as possible.”
The Robotic Skies Service Center network is comprised of certified repair stations that employ the quality, standards and practices of manned aviation maintenance in the unmanned aviation market. Robotic Skies services include routine and field maintenance, inspections, parts distribution, and upgrades. (Source: UAS VISION)
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