Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
20 Feb 20. HII readies for ship deliveries as it plans for unmanned platforms. As Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) prepares to deliver several different traditional US naval ships in the coming months, the company is also looking to invest heavily into unmanned vessel development for the US Navy (USN), HII CEO Michael Petters noted on 13 February during a quarterly earnings call with financial analysts.
“The navy is trying to match up the requirements that they see out in the world that they feel like they need with the ability of the industry to support it,” Petters said. “Our view of that is that we need to be on the front edge of that and trying to help them evolve that.”
Part of that effort, he explained, includes forming a partnership with Boeing for the production of the extra-large unmanned undersea vehicle and the acquisition of Hydroid, which HII expects to close by the end of the first quarter with a total anticipated purchase price of USD350 million.
“We are well-positioned to compete for future unmanned undersea and surface vehicles,” Petters said. “We identified the navy’s potential to move towards more unmanned systems several years ago.”
At the time HII was focused on engineering more manpower out of the Ford-class carrier design. But, he said, the shipbuilder recognised the USN had other priorities.
“That was not where the navy was talking about. They were talking about unmanned vehicles in particular, and we didn’t really have a footprint there. We invested in a small company in Panama City that had a platform called Proteus, which was a two man or unmanned, or it was both, either or could be operated with two people or be unmanned platform that was actually in the water and being tested and being used by many customers, not just the navy.” (Source: Jane’s)
19 Feb 20. On January 30th, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) showcased an impressive suite of long range sensors on its Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) during flight operations at Yuma Proving Grounds. The second in a series of demonstrations, GA-ASI partnered with industry to integrate best-of-breed long-range ISR payloads and Air Launch Effects (ALEs) on the GE-ER. The aircraft showed a persistent stand-off capability with up to 40 hours of endurance that Commanders can leverage to orchestrate forces in the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) environment.
During the flight, the GE-ER identified emitters with Communications Intelligence (COMINT) payload while operating at 25,000 feet, cross-cueing the onboard Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to produce precision coordinates sufficient for targeting within minutes. L3Harris’ Rio Nino lightweight COMINT system, capable of detecting emitters out to 250 km, was combined with GA-ASI’s Lynx® SAR to perform the task. The flight activities were all controlled from a GA-ASI laptop-based Scalable Command and Control (SC2) system. Additionally, the aircraft carried two Area-I Altius-600 ALEs. The ALEs will be launched and controlled through the GE-ER for the next flight demonstration this summer.
“We are excited to team with industry partners to demonstrate these capabilities on the Gray Eagle ER,” said David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “The long-range radar, COMINT and ELINT packages, as well as launch and control of ALEs and the GBU-69B Small Glide Munition are all capabilities that are available today on the Gray Eagle ER.”
GE-ER is a long-range variant of the U.S. Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS. It provides the U.S. Army with increased endurance, more payload capacity to support future mission tasking, and considerable improvements in system reliability and maintainability. The third in the series of MDO demos using GE-ER is set for this summer.
17 Feb 20. BAE Systems flies PHASA-35 solar-powered HALE UAV. BAE Systems has flown the PHASA-35 solar-powered high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can remain aloft for up to a year, the company announced on 17 February.
The company said that the successful flight trials took place at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Woomera Test Range in South Australia, although it did not note the duration of this milestone.
The achievement came about 20 months after BAE Systems revealed the Persistent High-Altitude Solar Aircraft (PHASA) concept it was developing in partnership with UK company, Prismatic, which it later acquired. As well as the PHASA-35, Prismatic has also been involved in the development of the Airbus Zephyr HALE UAV. (Source: Jane’s)
17 Feb 20. DARPA seeks ‘infrastructure-less’ UAS launch and recovery under ANCILLIARY. The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking innovative launch and recovery concepts for small tactical unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) under the banner of AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY (ANCILLARY).
In a Request for Information (RFI) released on 12 February, DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office said it was seeking to “revolutionize the design of the next generation UAS and dramatically improve performance through the development and maturation of aircraft configurations and propulsion that allow for ‘infrastructureless’ launch and recovery without compromise to long endurance flight and payload fraction”. (Source: Jane’s)
17 Feb 20. Aeroydne Announces Key Strategic Partnerships. Malaysia-headquartered drone-based enterprise solutions provider Aerodyne Group announced that it has raised an additional undisclosed amount in its Series B funding round backed by North Summit Capital, Arc Ventures, and Leave a Nest, powering its entry into China, India and Japan.
This move is in line with Aerodyne’s aggressive global expansion strategy of investing heavily in data technology advancement, to propel the company’s vision to become the world’s leading drone-powered asset management solutions provider.
In China, Aerodyne has cemented a partnership with North Summit Capital to penetrate the market and extend Aerodyne’s technological edge. North Summit Capital is founded by Dr. Wanli Min, previously the Vice President and Chief Machine Intelligence Scientist of Alibaba Cloud and who also has had stints at IBM and Google.
North Summit Capital’s technology insights and capabilities will contribute towards the deepening of Aerodyne’s AI-enabled automation and machine learning capabilities into current solutions and offerings, cloud computing ecosystem, DT^2, as well as expedite research and development iterations and resolve service efficiency bottleneck, a key prerequisite for Aerodyne’s ambitious global market expansion plan.
In India, Aerodyne is partnering with Arc Ventures, which is co-founded by Arjun Aggarwal and Cibi K Chandran. Arc Ventures has a pan-India footprint and an extensive workforce. This is a welcome asset to Aerodyne’s growing requirements. India is a hugely diverse country and requires deep domain knowledge that Arc Ventures offers for optimum market penetration.
Aerodyne which already expanded to Japan and South Korea through its previous investors, is also strengthening their position in Japan through partnership with Leave a Nest, an entity that connects start-ups, research institutes and companies to create new businesses or explore new frontiers.
Aerodyne’s Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Kamarul A Muhamad elaborated,
“We welcome our new investors, North Summit Capital, Arc Ventures and Leave A Nest to the Aerodyne family. We firmly believe that together, we will be able to make the next technological leap, and be well positioned to capitalise on the growth of China, India and Japan, whose combined 2030 GDP forecast stands at USD117.7trn.”
Dr. Wanli Min commented, “North Summit Capital is excited to co-lead Aerodyne’s Series B second round investment alongside other value-oriented strategic investors. We see great potential in Aerodyne’s large-scale data capture and analytics solutions to global critical infrastructure and related sectors. Hence, to supercharge its growth, we will help Aerodyne beef up its service efficiency by injecting DT (Data Technology) into product development.”
Arjun Aggarwal stated, “Arc Ventures recognizes the impressive journey Aerodyne has witnessed since its conception. We welcome the common goal to establish the world’s leading drone solutions provider. India is set to be the second largest world economy. It is our endeavor to capitalize on both the tremendous domestic market and the many critical cost advantages that India offers.”
Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)’s CEO, Surina Shukri commended Aerodyne, a member of MDEC’s GAIN Programme, for being an exemplary homegrown tech firm that is capable of deploying state-of-the-art drone-based solutions across vast industrial sectors all over the world.
“This latest expansion into China and India is a momentous achievement for not only the organisation but the nation as a whole,” lauded Surina.”
Today, the Malaysian-headquartered, five-year-old Aerodyne is ranked third globally by Drone Industry Insights in its 2019 Drone Service Provider Ranking. Aerodyne currently has a presence in 25 countries and delivers AI-driven, drone-based enterprise-integrated managed solutions to the Oil & Gas, Power, Telecoms, Renewables, Construction, Agriculture and Infrastructure industries.
Besides global expansion via strategic key partnerships, select M&As and data technology advancement, proceeds from the said Series B investment round will also be used to hire talent globally and continue to expand into Aerodyne’s key global markets such as Japan, US, Latin America, Europe and Middle East. (Source: UAS VISION)
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.
Automation and robotisation are beginning to drive significant productivity improvements in the global economy heralding a new industrial revolution. The fund allows investors to benefit from this exciting opportunity, whilst also delivering the extremely attractive tax reliefs offered by the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). For many private investors, the amount of specialist knowledge required to assess investments in robotics is not practical and hence investing through a fund structure makes good sense.
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.