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19 Mar 20. Thales demonstrates maritime security capabilities of USVs. Thales, in partnership with L3Harris, has successfully demonstrated the growing capability of unmanned surface vehicles (USV) to support maritime security operations with the Royal Navy and French Navy.

Inexpensive and easy to deploy, mines – which can be improvised by hostile forces – are a growing menace. Until now, clearing them has been a personnel intensive and slow and dangerous process, even with four ships on permanent deployment.

But Thales is working with L3Harris under the terms of a recently signed memorandum of understanding to create unmanned surface vehicles (USV) to counter the threat safely and quickly.

Thales and L3Harris (formerly known as ASV) have a long-standing partnership that began in 2012 with the design, build and commissioning of the Halcyon USV. The versatile 11-metre USV served as a platform to test and develop new concepts of autonomous operation.

L3Harris is a good fit for Thales because of its record in building a variety of USV systems for military, security and offshore energy applications.

The history of the partnership and this new agreement give a great foundation for developing future market-leading capabilities while supporting Thales’ model of forming close partnerships across industry, SMEs and academia.

Together, Thales and L3Harris have developed a new class of USV. The first of their kind, Artemis and Apollo represent an important step towards the next generation of MCM technology.

These first two of these USVs will enter service with the Royal Navy and France’s Marine Nationale in 2020. The culmination of 4,000 hours of trials over a period of four years, the boats are equipped with a powerful autonomy engine and our Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar, which work in unison to detect, classify and locate mines.

Live data and images are streamed to a control centre, which can be many kilometres distant, either on a ship or quayside. When a mine is located, the USV can be equipped to deploy a remotely operated vehicle, which is used to neutralise the threat through assured and accredited communications channels.

These particular boats, which are being built to our custom design, are the heart for a system of systems that provides a world-leading unmanned MCM capability at a distance and without the risk of sending divers down into harm’s way.

With the ability to build, equip and control USVs has been fully tested over thousands of hours, we expect it to migrate to other fields such as unmanned anti-submarine warfare, fisheries protection, coastal surveillance and anti-smuggling operations, to name a few.

The Thales media release stated, “Some of these may require a different platform or configuration, of course, but the capability has been proven. There is no reason why the technology can’t migrate into new markets and we’re open to approaches from interested parties.”

Both Australia and the UK share similar maritime operating environments, with as much as 95 per cent of UK trade, including about half of all our food and fuel, reaches us through the sea. Put another way, that’s goods to the value of well over £500bn ($1trn) every year.

“Keeping maritime trade safe, when the majority of it passes through just a handful of chokepoints, is a constant task for the British Royal Navy and her allies,” the Thales release said. (Source: Defence Connect)

17 Mar 20. DARPA Selects four Companies for Manta Ray Program. U.S. DARPA has selected four companies for a program seeking to demonstrate critical technologies for a new class of unmanned underwater vehicles. The Manta Ray Program aims to demonstrate critical technologies for a new class of long duration, long range, payload-capable unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). DARPA has commisioned the teams of Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation and Navatek, LLC to focus on development of an integrated solution for Manta Ray technology and operational areas. The fourth company, Metron, Inc., will work toward critical technology and solutions specific to the field of undersea energy harvesting techniques at depths necessary for successful operations.

“The Manta Ray program aims to increase at-sea operational capacity and capabilities for the combatant commander while minimizing disruptions to current operations by remaining independent of crewed vessels and ports once deployed,” said CDR Kyle Woerner, Manta Ray program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “If successful, this new class of UUVs would allow operational flexibility and relief of workload for both traditional host ships and servicing ports.”

The Manta Ray program has the objective to advance key technologies that will benefit future UUV designs to new energy management and energy harvesting techniques at operationally relevant depths; low-power, high-efficiency propulsion; and new approaches to mitigate biofouling, corrosion, and other material degradation for long duration missions.

The program aims to achieve process improvements, including mission management approaches for extended durations while accounting for dynamic maritime environments; unique methods for leveraging existing maritime datasets and new maritime parameters for high-efficiency navigation; and new low-power means of underwater detection and classification of hazards. (Source: ESD Spotlight)

16 Mar 20. Ukraine Tests Turkish Bayraktar Combat Drones. The first flight test of Bayraktar tactical unmanned aerial vehicles took place in Ukraine. This was reported by the press service of the Ministry of Defense.

“The first flight test of the Bayraktar UAV which has recently been in service with the Ukrainian army, took place,” the report said.

It is noted that three months passed from the moment the Bayraktar unmanned systems were put into service until the first flight in the Ukrainian sky.

“The flights at the airfield were preceded by a long simulator training, each pilot had to get a certain flight on the simulator. In addition, this unmanned complex requires serious organization of flights, which is similar to manned aircraft. We quickly lifted Bayraktar TB2 into the sky and started combat training”, the message says.

In Ukraine, tactical unmanned aerial vehicles Bayraktar TB2 of Turkish manufacture have successfully passed acceptance tests. (Source: UAS VISION/112)

16 Mar 20. NASA Langley Opens Registration for SAND Challenge. Applications are now being accepted for NASA Langley’s Safeguard with Autonomous Navigation Demonstration (SAND) Challenge. The SAND Challenge will be an opportunity for small businesses to compete in an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle competition for a grand prize of $20,000 under the America Competes Act.

The challenge will address some of the safety critical risks associated with flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the national airspace system such as flight outside of approved airspace, unsafe proximity to people or property, and critical system failure.

NASA Langley’s patented Safeguard technology will be used to help small business competitors mitigate such risks while they complete a set of complex mission profiles. Safeguard is a verified and validated independent system originally designed to monitor off-the-shelf UAV systems and if/when necessary physically prevent the vehicles from entering no-fly zones or leaving approved airspace.

For this competition, it will be configured to warn competitors (and auto-pilots) of impending excursions (or violations) while also objectively measuring performance with respect to the rules of the competition. For example, how well they comply with regulatory property protection and other operational requirements during flights.

The challenge will follow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 Regulation Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations.

The SAND Challenge will be held in August of 2020 in Hampton, Virginia.

To apply for the SAND challenge and to view more information including drone eligibility, participant eligibility, operational requirements and more please visit: http://sand2020.nianet.org (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.



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