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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund

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13 Feb 20. Singapore Airshow 2020: IAI takes aim at Singapore’s next-gen UAV requirement with Heron MKII. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has taken the opportunity at Singapore Airshow 2020 to showcase its Heron MKII medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) to the public for the first time, and has declared its intention to pitch the new air vehicle at a Singaporean requirement for next-generation UAVs.

Moshe Levy, IAI’s executive vice president and general manager of its Military Aircraft Group, told Jane’s that the Heron MKII builds on the experience gained from developing the incumbent Heron 1 UAV and will offer improved performance via several airframe design and propulsion updates, although its general physical characteristics remain unchanged with an overall length and wingspan of 8.5 m and 16.6 m, respectively.

Newly incorporated enhancements include a widened fuselage pod designed to accommodate a greater number of sensors and/or more powerful mission systems as well as a new propulsion configuration comprising the fully certified Rotax 915 iS 1,352 cc turbocharged four-stroke engine, which has a time before overhaul (TBO) rating of 1,200 hours. It also produces up to 135 hp at maximum continuous power and is coupled to a three-bladed variable-pitch pusher propeller.

IAI claims that the new engine will provide the Heron MKII with a 50% improvement on the rate of climb over that of the Heron 1, as well as a 16.6% boost over the current maximum speed of 120 kt to 140 kt, although it retains a comparable loiter speed profile of between 60 and 80 kt.

The new air vehicle’s maximum take-off weight (MTOW) has also increased to 1,350 kg with a corresponding uptick in payload capacity to 470 kg. In contrast, the Heron 1 has a MTOW of about 1,200 kg and is powered by a 1,211 cc four-stroke Rotax 914 F engine that can develop up to 100 hp at maximum continuous power, which in turn drives a two-bladed pusher propeller. (Source: Jane’s)

11 Feb 20. Singapore Airshow 2020: ST Engineering lifts lid on VTOL UAVs. Singapore-based ST Engineering displayed two new hybrid UAV platforms at Singapore Airshow 2020. The Veloce 15 and Veloce 60 respectively cover MTOWs from 15-16kg to 50-70kg and are in their ‘final stages of [concurrent] development’, according to the company. They are ST Engineering’s first fixed-wing UAVs with a VTOL capability. Each hybrid UAV features four rotors for vertical lift and a tail-mounted propeller for horizontal propulsion.

The platforms are being delivered in conjunction with Singapore’s DSO National Laboratories, as a clear indication that these UAVs will have a military application. However, an ST Engineering spokesperson said that homeland security and commercial missions (such as agriculture) are also being targeted.

The Veloce VTOL UAVs are ideal for operations from locations where space is constrained, but the company representative noted to Shephard that they are not being developed for naval shipborne use. Their VTOL configuration means the airframe and sensors experience less stress than a catapult launch.

The Veloce 15, which has a 3.7m wingspan and endurance of 3-4h, is controlled by a handheld tablet. ST Engineering lists its airspeed and data link range as 30-40kt and up to 15km respectively.

The larger Veloce 60 measures 5m from wingtip to wingtip. It can fly at speeds of up to 70km/h for 12-14h. Its data link range is 70km, and it is controlled via a laptop/console or from a containerised ground control station.

As well as the EO/IR sensors found on both UAV types, the Veloce 60 adds a laser rangefinder. ST Engineering emphasised these platforms’ modularity and short set-up times (less than 10min and 30min respectively for the Veloce 15 and Veloce 60). A series of tests have been performed, and both types are now being put through their final paces. Development should be completed by the end of 2020, according to ST Engineering. (Source: Shephard)

11 Feb 20. US Navy Completes Tactical Resupply UAS Challenge. The Dept of the US Navy successfully completed a tactical resupply unmanned aircraft system (UAS) fly-off competition Jan. 27-31 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, to evaluate existing small UAS and their autonomous aerial delivery capability for the Marine Corps.

Six vendors competed for first, second and third place based on a series of criteria and operational flights. SURVICE Engineering will receive $100,000 for first place; Chartis Federal will receive $75,000 for second; and Autonodyne will take home $50,000. Other participants included AirBuoyant, Bell Textron and Pacific Aerospace Consulting.

“We learned a lot about where industry is in terms of design maturity and what our requirements need to be,” said Col. John Neville, Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical UAS (PMA-263) program manager, who oversees the TRUAS small Unmanned Logistics Support – Air effort. “It was great to have Marines, our acquisition leads and industry in one place to really get a sense of where we need to be and what the next step is for the TRUAS effort.”

The project is designed to seek an autonomous unmanned system that can transport at least 60 pounds of cargo in various configurations commonly found in Marine company/platoon/squad resupply operations (ex: 5-gallon water can, ammo can/case, Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) case) through a 10-kilometer radius.

The program office’s next step is to complete the analysis of the companies’ systems and potentially use an Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) to procure prototypes within fiscal year 2020, said TRUAS Team Lead Christina Petrow. OTAs are sometimes used within the DoD to carry out prototype, research and production projects.

If the TRUAS demonstration prototypes meet the fleet’s requirements, the Marine Corps could begin conducting field user evaluation on the prototypes as early as FY2021, she said.

“The fly-off prize challenge has been a great rapid acquisition effort that allowed us to evaluate the existing technologies within a short time period,” Petrow said. “We have a better sense of what is available, affordable and viable for the Marine Corps.”

Innovation and Modernization Patuxent River (IMPAX) assisted PMA-263 with the ULS-A prize challenge. IMPAX, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s partnership intermediary with Georgia Tech Research Institute, was designed to accelerate the “spin-in” of technology from industry to the warfighter. (Source: UAS VISION)

13 Feb 20. Morocco Receives 3 Harfangs from France. Morocco’s military has taken delivery of three Harfang (Heron) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), a number of years after expressing interest in acquiring them from France. According to Intelligence Online, the Moroccan military received the three Israel Aerospace Industries-built UAVs on 26 January. The aircraft will most likely monitor rebels in the Western Sahara. They were apparently ordered in 2014 under a $48m contract with France’s Dassault, which acted as the intermediary between France and Morocco. The cost per hour of flight is estimated at €12,000. The Harfangs were previously used by the French military over Afghanistan, Libya, Niger and Mali, amongst others.

According to Defenceworld, the package includes the three aircraft as well as ground stations, spares and support.

News of Moroccan interest in the Harfangs emerged in 2014 when it was reported that the Royal Moroccan Air Force was evaluating the purchase of additional Heron 1/Harfang systems via France. The Harfang was produced by Airbus Defence and Space in cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries.

The Heron-based Harfang is a combat-proven intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) system in the medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV category with an endurance of over 20 hours. It is equipped with optronic sensors and radar, which ensure that missions can be carried out around the clock in all weather conditions.

The Harfang UAS has been successfully operated since November 2008 by the French Air Force. For three years (2009-2012), the Harfang was deployed in Afghanistan to support the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops. In 2011, Harfang was also deployed at the Sigonella base in Italy as part of the Harmattan operation conducted in Libya. More recently, the Harfang UAS was used in several French operations in the Sahel region in Africa, notably since January 2013 in Operation Serval in Mali.  (Source: UAS VISION/Defence Web)

12 Feb 20. Hydroid delivers unmanned underwater vehicle prototype to US Navy. Marine robotic systems manufacturer Hydroid has delivered the first REMUS 300 unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) prototype to the US Navy.

The prototype unit was delivered to the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) through the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a United States Department of Defense (DoD) organisation. REMUS 300 is designed to provide additional modularity to enable the operator to integrate new software, as well as reconfigure payloads, sensors and energy modules.

The diameter of the REMUS 300 is 7.5in, while the depth rating has increased to 305m compared to the REMUS 100.

The two-man portable UUV also complies with the navy’s Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) and Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture (UMAA) standards.

Hydroid president Duane Fotheringham said: “The REMUS 300 is a game-changer for the small UUV class. It’s a culmination of everything we’ve learned by delivering over 400 REMUS UUVs over the past 17 years.

“The modularity and open architecture will make future developments easier than ever to integrate, ensuring REMUS will continue to be one of the most advanced UUVs on the market.” (Source: naval-technology.com)

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