Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
29 Jan 20. RAN trials USV, AUV capabilities. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group have carried out a trial of autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) capabilities at HMAS Creswell, Jervis Bay. The Summerfest event gave the RAN an opportunity to meet with stakeholders to share knowledge and solutions to common challenges in the growing AUV environment, and mark the progress made in AUV applied research and operations throughout 2019. A number of demonstrations were carried out, including the trial of a USV acting as a communications gateway for multiple AUVs. The USV was provided by Ocius Technologies under contract to DST Group, which also supported the activity during the trial.
Lt James Keane, Capability Realisation Engineer, RAN Mine Warfare Clearance Diving Force Element Group, said: ‘Summerfest was very much focussed on users and developers of AUV behaviours, and the group was motivated to apply research and advance capability.
‘Our aim was to see what progress had been made in our use of AUVs in the mine warfare and hydrographic communities, so that we have a benchmark for our work in 2020.’
In 2020 the RAN plans to continue proving the capability of a surface vehicle to monitor AUVs and to increase the interoperability between the USV and multiple AUVs. (Source: Shephard)
30 Jan 20. US Navy’s First MQ-4C Tritons Deploy To Guam. About a year later than initially expected, the first two MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft arrived in Guam over the weekend, marking a significant step toward increasing the Navy’s Western Pacific reconnaissance and surveillance capability, the service announced this weekend.
The two Tritons are part of an early operational capability being run by Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, which is flying and maintaining the aircraft from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. VUP 19 is developing the concept for incorporating the high-altitude, long-endurance system into the maritime domain and augmenting the Navy’s current reconnaissance and surveillance operations with manned aircraft.
“The inaugural deployment of Triton UAS brings enhanced capabilities and a broad increase in maritime domain awareness to our forward fleet commanders,” Rear Adm. Peter Garvin, the commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, said in a Navy statement.“VUP-19, the Navy’s first dedicated UAS squadron supported by an outstanding NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command) and industry team, is superbly trained and ready to provide the persistent ISR coverage the Navy needs.”
The Navy expects initial operational capability (IOC) for the program in 2021. In December, the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $251.6m contract modification to build three more low-rate initial production MQ-4 Tritons.
The Tritons are designed to combine a series of electro-optical sensors and radar to track maritime targets from as high as 60,000 feet over the ocean and compare tracks to automated identification systems (AIS) on ships, according to the Navy. The plan is for a Triton to relay the information back to a main operating base in the U.S. or to nearby P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare manned aircraft.
The Tritons in Guam are operating under the under Commander of Task Force (CTF) 72, the lead for patrol, reconnaissance and surveillance forces in U.S. 7th Fleet.
“The introduction of MQ-4C Triton to the 7th Fleet area of operations expands the reach of the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance force in the Western Pacific,” Capt. Matt Rutherford, the commander of CTF-72, said in the statement.
“Coupling the capabilities of the MQ-4C with the proven performance of P-8, P-3 and EP-3 will enable improved maritime domain awareness in support of regional and national security objectives.”
The Navy had planned to deploy two Tritons to Guam by the end of 2018, Naval Air Systems Command announced in April 2018 at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2018 exposition.
However, in September 2018 a 131-foot wingspan Triton crashed in California while conducting operational testing out of Naval Base Ventura County. The Navy halted Triton operations while it investigated the crash.
The investigation found that the Triton had an issue during flight operations and was told by operators to come back to the base. While heading in for a landing, though, the engine was shut down but the landing gear did not extend, resulting in a belly landing. There were no injuries or collateral damage reported, but the damage to the Triton was estimated at more than $2m, the threshold for a Class A flight mishap, according to the Navy.
The Navy and the aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman spent years testing and evaluating the Tritons before flying them to Guam.
“This significant milestone marks the culmination of years of hard work by the joint team to prepare Triton for overseas operations,” Capt. Dan Mackin, the manager of NAVAIR’s Persistent Maritime UAS program office, said in a statement. “The fielding of the Navy’s premier unmanned aircraft system and its additive, persistent, multi-sensor data collection and real-time dissemination capability will revolutionize the way maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is performed.” (Source: UAS VISION/USNI)
28 Jan 20. US Defense Department launches Gremlins drone from a mothership for the first time. The U.S. Defense Department is one step closer to having swarming drones that it can launch from military planes and recover in midair, having successfully conducted the first flight of the Gremlins aircraft in November. The test, which occurred at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, proved that a C-130A could successfully launch an X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle, said Tim Keeter, who manages the program for Dynetics. The company won the Gremlins contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 2018.
“It gives us a lot of confidence going forward that this vehicle can fly where it’s supposed to fly, how it’s supposed to fly,” Keeter said during a Jan. 21 phone call with reporters. “Now the team can be principally focused on the other portion of our program plan … which is to successfully rendezvous with a C-130, dock with our docking system … and safely recover the vehicle.”
During the test, which lasted 1 hour and 41 minutes, the X-61A flew with no anomalies and the DARPA-Dynetics team completed all test objectives, including transitioning the X-61A from a cold-engine start to stable flight; validating the Gremlins’ data links and handing off control of the drone between air and ground control stations; deploying the docking arm; and collecting data on the air vehicle.
However, during the recovery process, the drone crashed to the ground and was destroyed. The drogue parachute, which deployed first to slow the air vehicle, functioned as planned, Keeter explained. However, the larger main parachute — which would soften the landing of the air vehicle so that the drone could be reused — did not correctly deploy due to a mechanical issue.
Dynetics has built four other Gremlins vehicles, leaving enough drones to accomplish the program’s primary requirement to fly and recover four Gremlins in 30 minutes, said Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA’s Gremlins program manager.
The next demonstration, set for sometime this spring, will verify whether the Gremlins can be successfully recovered by the C-130 while in flight. Wierzbanowski characterized this test as critical for proving that the Gremlins can be reused over multiple missions — a key point for bearing out the cost-effectiveness of the concept.
“If I have an expendable vehicle, at some point I’m not going to want to be able to use those things because they’re just too expensive,” he said. “But if I can recover them and then amortize the cost of that vehicle over 10 or 20 or 30 sorties, maybe there’s a bend in the curve somewhere that really will allow us to benefit from these smaller, more affordable, attritable systems.”
During the recovery process, the C-130 will lower a towed capture device that will mate with the Gremlins drone, thus avoiding the turbulence generated by the wake of the larger aircraft, Keeter said. Once the drone is stabilized by the capture device, an engagement arm deploys, docking with the X-61A and bringing it inside the C-130 cargo bay to be stowed. (Source: Defense News)
29 Jan 20. Kaman K-MAX Advances Civil and Military Autonomous Flight Programs. Kaman Air Vehicles, a division of Kaman Corporation, has announced the advancement of its military and commercial K-MAX Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) programs. Kaman continues the development of the next generation of K-MAX UAS to support US Marine Corps future operating concepts. These logistics systems add flexibility and speed of distribution to all sizes of ground formations, while reducing the risk to our service men and women.
“We have a combat proven system that sustained over 95% readiness while in the field. Looking ahead the next generation aircraft will leverage advancements in unmanned technologies and will add new autonomy capabilities,” said Romin Dasmalchi, Senior Director Business Development of the Kaman Air Vehicles division.
The first unmanned K-MAX served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom from 2011 to 2013. The 33-month experiment saved numerous lives and proved the concept and value of unmanned aerial logistics. The two USMC K-MAX air vehicles are being upgraded through a contract with the US Navy and will include enhanced autonomous capabilities including a new unmanned system, ground control station, and sensor-based autonomy.
“We are extremely proud that we can provide new, life-saving systems that will directly support our deployed warfighters and give them a distinct advantage,” said Darlene Smith, Vice President and General Manager of the Kaman Air Vehicles division.
In parallel with the military K-MAX project, Kaman is developing a new K-MAX UAS kit for commercial applications with first flight scheduled in Q3 2020. Helicopter Express Inc. of Chamblee, GA and Swanson Group Aviation of Glendale, Oregon are the launch customers and have placed orders for unmanned system kits for delivery in 2021. We have also seen interest from other K-MAX operators, such as ROTAK of Anchorage, AK who has identified a need for autonomous helicopter operations in the remote regions of Alaska.
The new unmanned kit will be installed on existing aircraft as well as on new production K-MAX helicopters.
Development of the K-MAX aircraft was led by Kaman founder and former CEO, aviation pioneer Charlie H. Kaman, and received Federal Aviation Administration certification in 1994. The K-MAX is a rugged low-maintenance aircraft that features a counter-rotating rotor system and is optimized for cyclical, external load operations. The aircraft can lift up to 6,000 pounds (2,722 kg). The first unmanned helicopter was flown by Kaman in 1953. (Source: UAS VISION)
27 Jan 20. China’s Tengden unveils three-engined TB001 UAV variant, highlights recent weapons integration work. China’s Sichuan Tengden Technology Company (Tengden) has completed initial testing of a three-engined variant of its medium altitude long endurance (MALE)-class TW328/TB001 ‘Twin-tailed Scorpion’ unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), culminating in what the company claims to be a successful maiden flight on 16 January. According to an industry source, the prototype air vehicle performed an automatic take-off from a civilian airport in southwestern China – understood to be Zigong Fengming General Airport in Sichuan province – at 11 am local time, flying a pre-programmed route that lasted 25 minutes before landing and taxiing autonomously to the airport apron for inspection. Local media reported that the updated TB001 features an increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 3,200kg and service ceiling of 31,167ft (9,500m), an uptick of 14.3% and 18.75% respectively over the baseline production model. (Source: Jane’s)
24 Jan 20. Harwar’s Zhanfu H16-V12 UAV possibly in service with Chinese military. Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer Harwar has released images of its Zhanfu (Tomahawk) H16-V12 multi-rotor, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) platform being used in what appear to be training exercises with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), suggesting that the UAV is either being trialled by or is already in service with the PLA. The images show the UAV, which is armed with what appear to be two automatic grenade launchers and an air-to-ground missile, hovering over a PLA Ground Force ZBD-09 self-propelled gun at an undisclosed location. According to the Shenzhen-based company, the UAV can reach a top speed of 18m/s, has an endurance of 60 minutes, a flight ceiling of 5,834m and a flight radius of 14.4km. (Source: Jane’s)
23 Jan 20. Syniverse and GE Aviation’s AiRXOS Build Communications Network to Secure Drone Flight Operations Communication and Connectivity.
Technology innovators Syniverse and AiRXOS, a wholly owned subsidiary of GE Aviation, today announced they are working together to protect the skies by providing a communications infrastructure that manages drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles operating at low altitudes. The collaboration offers network security for the drone’s Unmanned Traffic Management system so that critical data, notifications, photos and HD video are transmitted over a secure network with protection from cyberattacks. From matters of national defense video surveillance to package delivery and live event monitoring, drones have digitally transformed the way companies manage operations. Yet today, the sensitive information and message notifications they transmit are connected to the unprotected public internet, acting as an open door for intruders to intercept data.
“By utilizing our secure, private network, Syniverse Secure Global Access, we can ensure the information is only accessible to the correct parties,” said Mike O’Brien, Group Vice President, Syniverse. “The Syniverse network runs completely separate from the public internet thus making the Unmanned Traffic Management system and the information it sends invisible to hackers as the data and messages are diverted away from networks with unprotected connectivity.”
This security is coupled with Syniverse’s connectivity solution, Global IMSI. These global data SIM cards allow devices to roam seamlessly across borders and networks. Syniverse Secure Global Access provides a guarded pathway for the data generated from these SIM cards to the AiRXOS cloud applications. The combination of these two Syniverse elements, along with the Syniverse Mobile Policy Control Center, creates the global reach, policy management and secure transport that is needed to protect asset and critical information.
This private sharing of information enables new opportunities and added safety for groups such as first responders. Emergency teams can assess the situation with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles prior to putting their lives in harm’s way. For example, a drone could be sent into a burning building to report where people are trapped and alert firefighters of their locations while also alerting paramedics on how many ambulances are necessary. What’s more, this life-saving information can be conveyed to dispatchers through a secure connection.
“AiRXOS is pleased to be partnering with Syniverse toward the safe integration of unmanned in the national air space,” says Ken Stewart, CEO, AiRXOS. “Syniverse’s connectivity and engagement solution expertise combined with AiRXOS’ proven Air Mobility Platform will deliver customers a trusted, best-in-class solution that truly accelerates advanced UAS operations.”
The Syniverse and AiRXOS partnership is also part of the Syniverse Innovation Lab, a demonstration, development and testing center used to create new business models for rapid industry evolutions, including the internet of things (IoT), 5G, blockchain and artificial intelligence, located at the Syniverse global headquarters. The Syniverse Innovation Lab allows partners to learn how various technologies came together through an interactive experience.
With these Innovation Lab trials, Syniverse and AiRXOS have positioned the connectivity to work on 3G, 4G and 5G networks, once developed and deployed. The 5G capabilities further demonstrate the two companies’ dedication to driving the digital transformation. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
24 Jan 20. DJI to Launch at Least Three New Drones in 2020. It seems that DJI will at least launch three new drones this year: the DJI Matrice 300 in February, the DJI Mavic 3 around summertime, and the DJI Mavic Air 2 as soon as April. However, there are some indications that we might see a new Matrice 600, possibly a new DJI Inspire 3 at the end of the year, and a very slight chance there may be a completely new DJI drone.
The DJI Matrice 300
Last week, a number of the US-based DJI employees had traveled to China in preparation for the launch of the new DJI Matrice 300, which is scheduled to launch before the end of February. We also expect more details and specs to surface in the coming week. The current series of Matrice 200 and 210 have had their share of issues and we fully expect that to be resolved in the upcoming M300 series.
The DJI Mavic 3
Here are our updated DJI rumors on the M3P. Initially, we were informed that DJI would be launching the DJI Mavic 3 towards the end of January, however, that no longer seems to be the case.
First of all, we would have seen invites by now for a dedicated DJI Mavic 3 launch event and we haven’t. But also Skydio has significantly raised the bar with the Skydio 2 ($999) when it comes to obstacle avoidance and word is that DJI is trying to improve theirs as well. An even bigger impact, however, has come from Autel Robotics.
From what we have heard the specs on the Autel EVO II series struck DJI’s headquarters like an earthquake. The Chinese drone maker apparently had not at all expected Autel to pull this off. In case you haven’t heard, Autel has launched the new EVO II series with specs that blow any DJI Mavic 2 drone out of the water. The launch of the EVO II has likely caused DJI to delay the launch of their DJI Mavic 3 Pro as DJI now has to improve the specs in order to compete. A little competition can indeed do wonders!
Updated DJI Rumors on the Mavic Air 2
The delayed introduction of the DJI Mavic 3 may cause the DJI Mavic Air 2 to be DJI’s first new consumer drone with ADS-B to be launched in 2020. We should have more information on the specs for the Mavic Air 2 in about a week or so but for now expect this light, small, and foldable drone to at least offer a better design, slightly longer battery life, better quality 4K video with an Ambarella processor. Furthermore, we have heard from another industry insider that we should expect new motors, ESC’s, new props that create less noise and a longer flight time, a slightly improved camera angle, and 360-degree obstacle avoidance. (Source: UAS VISION/Drone DJ)
27 Jan 20. US Navy deploys Triton UAV for first time. The US Navy (USN) has deployed its Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime System (BAMS) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time, it was announced on 26 January. The first of the service’s naval variant-RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAVs arrived at Andersen Air Force Base (AFB) on the island of Guam. The type’s maiden deployment also marked its introduction to the US Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific theatre.
Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, lead for patrol, reconnaissance and surveillance forces in the 7th Fleet, will control the two aircraft that have been deployed to Andersen AFB. “Coupling the capabilities of the MQ-4C with the proven performance of [the Boeing] P-8 [Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft (MMA)], [the Lockheed] P-3 [Orion MMA] and [the Lockheed] EP-3 [special mission aircraft] will enable improved maritime domain awareness in support of regional and national security objectives,” Captain Matt Rutherford, the commander of CTF 72, was quoted as saying.
Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP)-19 – the navy’s first unmanned patrol squadron – will operate and maintain the aircraft as part of an early operational capability (EOC) to further develop the concept of operations and fleet learning associated with operating a HALE system in the maritime domain, the navy said.
News of the inaugural deployment comes 18 months after the US Navy inducted the Triton into service in June 2018. The MQ-4C Triton has been developed from the Block 30 RQ-4N naval variant of the RQ-4 Global Hawk HALE UAV to provide the USN with a persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability in support of a full range of military operations. (Source: Jane’s)
23 Jan 20. The High Eye team is working vigorously to finalize and test all new features of the brand-new HEF 32 Airboxer. Over the last few months, many important milestones have been achieved. The newest HEF 32 Airboxer model features updates in all parts of its construction, leading to a vastly improved performance envelope and a class-leading reliability.
One of the most important goals was to achieve 1000 hours maintenance-free running on the rotor systems and both the gearboxes in a simulated testing environment – a goal which has been met and surpassed with relative ease. This paves the way for a rated airframe TBO (Time Between Overhauls) of 1000 hours, which is unprecedented in the lightweight UAV market. Both the rotor systems and the gearboxes will be based on ‘single-part’ modules. In short, this means that a customer only executes scheduled inspections externally to these assemblies, within the specified overhaul period. When reaching the overhaul lifetime on the assembly, the entire module can be swapped – or overhauled by High Eye. This creates a very lean maintenance program for customers, requiring only basic facilities and training levels.
Another major achievement is the trouble free running performance of the new HEF 32 Airboxer propulsion unit, which is centered around a two-cylinder 80 cc air-cooled engine. Using previous lessons learned, High Eye took the design of the new engine module to another level altogether. Combining in-house designed injection and cooling systems, a fully integrated custom ECU and a thorough dynometer testing program, the new engine is definitely ready for the future. The engine’s excessive power output has been flat-rated, to maximize its reliability and longevity, whilst still providing ample power to bring the HEF 32 Airboxer to its high service ceiling with adequate payload capability.
High Eye is confident that the new design is a world-beater, and that it will continue to break barriers within the coming years.
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