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09 Apr 20. On January 8th General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) for the first time flew a new MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) to a customer location at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Typically a new MQ-9 is packed and shipped by GA-ASI for reassembly after delivery. Ferrying the MQ-9 to Holloman saves costs and time in shipping, reducing time for airmen to reassemble the aircraft, making it available for training immediately upon arrival.
A key aspect of delivery was flying the RPA through the National Airspace System (NAS) after originating from GA-ASI’s Flight Operations Center in Palmdale, Calif. GA-ASI and Holloman air crews worked together to ensure the successful ferry of the aircraft.
“GA-ASI continues to lead the charge towards enabling large unmanned aircraft to fly in the NAS,” said David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “Our efforts, along with other partners, are gaining momentum and successfully flying the MQ-9 to our U.S. Air Force customer further demonstrates the safety and efficiency of RPA flight in the broader airspace.”
The USAF estimates that ferrying the MQ-9 saved 142 man hours.
“This is the first time that team Holloman has taken delivery of a new MQ-9 by ferry flight,” said Col. Casey Tidgewell, 49th Operations Group commander. “It’s critically important because flying outside of our training area helps normalize RPA flight inside the NAS and provides broader aviation experience for our instructors. I could not be more proud of our operations and maintenance professionals that made this happen.”
GA-ASI has flown several RPA flights in the NAS while working with the FAA and other authorities to secure proper approvals. The company continues to work towards a future where its RPA can simply “file and fly” in the NAS just like commercial flights.
09 Apr 20. COVID-19: Masked Army Soldiers Test New Drones. Troops in improvised face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 have begun field testing one candidate for the Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (FTUAS).
First Infantry Division soldiers at Fort Riley, Kansas launched their first Arcturus JUMP 20 recon drone on Tuesday, one of four UAVs the service is evaluating to replace the aging RQ-7 Shadow. While some high-profile weapons testing has been delayed or disrupted by the COVID-19 coronavirus, from the F-35 fighter to the IBCS missile defense network, the 1st ID’s commander, Maj. Gen. John Kolasheski, okayed the Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (FTUAS) test — with some precautions.
“1st Infantry Division Soldiers are encouraged to wear cloth face coverings in public settings or in situations such as the FTUAS assessment, where social distancing is difficult,” said Maj. John Allen. “Our actions to protect the force and prevent the spread of COVID-19 are continually assessed and revised as necessary and in accordance with Army policy.”.
Allen is public affairs officer for the division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. The unit, one of the oldest in the Army with a history going back to World War I, is now the first of five combat brigades that will be field-testing the four FTUAS contenders. The Martin V-Bat, Textron Aerosonde HQ, and L3Harris FVR-90 will each be tested by a different brigade, while two units (including the 1st ABCT) will try out the largest of the drones, Arcturus UAV’s 210-pound JUMP 20. The exact start dates are now uncertain as each unit and contractor must take precautions against the pandemic.
This multi-month, multi-brigade effort is part of Army Futures Command’s emphasis on getting feedback from real soldiers early in acquisition programs, rather than trying to perfect new technology in isolation from the people who’ll actually have to use it.
So far, so good, according to soldiers quoted in today’s Army announcement. The current Shadow drone is so loud that “we’re used to screaming at each other and having to use radios in order to communicate,” said Spc. Christopher McCoy. With the JUMP 20, he said, “you can stand right next to this aircraft and not even raise your voice.”
Getting a quieter scout drone is a top priority for the FTUAS program – not to save soldiers’ hearing, although that’s a positive side effect — but to make it harder for enemies to detect.
Drones An “Immediate Threat” – DoD Plans Rapid Acquisition of Counter-UAS Systems
Another priority is scrapping the cumbersome infrastructure required for the Shadow, which needs a pneumatic catapult to launch it and a runway to land on. “With the VTOL [Vertical Take Off & Landing] system on the JUMP 20, we don’t need any of that,” said Spc. Nicholas Miller (pictured above in his cloth mask). “We’re working with half the equipment.”
The 1st Brigade will try out the JUMP 20 for five months, building up from this week’s familiarization drills to full-scale brigade wargames at the National Training Center – assuming, that is, that those exercises aren’t canceled by the pandemic like so many others. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
08 Apr 20. Boeing Australia’s Loyal Wingman achieves two development milestones. Boeing Australia has achieved two more development milestones with the first prototype of Loyal Wingman, an unmanned aircraft being developed for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
The drone turned on its aircraft power and stood on its wheels for the first time, further advancing the development programme.
Boeing Airpower Teaming System programme director Dr Shane Arnott said: “We’re continuing at pace toward our goal of flying later this year, so that we can show our customer and the world what unmanned capability like this can do.
“The strong contributions from our industry team are powering our progress.”
The company achieved the two new milestones nearly two months after structural assembly of the fuselage was completed.
Currently, Boeing is developing three prototypes as a part of the Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program in partnership with the RAAF.
At the time when Boeing concluded the structural assembly on the fuselage, RAAF Director-General of Air Combat Capability Air Commodore Darren Goldie said: “The partnership with Boeing is key to building our understanding of not just the operational implications for these sorts of vehicles, but also making us a smart customer as we consider options for manned-unmanned teaming in the coming decade.
“Boeing is progressing very well with its development and we look forward to seeing the final product in the coming months.”
The development of the unmanned aircraft involves 16 Australian industries, which are supporting key deliveries.
Once complete, the 11.7m drone will have a range of around 2,000nm.
It is expected to complete its first flight this year. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
07 Apr 20. Bayraktar TB2 UAVs enter service with Qatar. Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been seen in a Qatari military exercise for the first time. The Qatari Ministry of Defence released footage on 1 April showing Exercise ‘Al-Adheed 2020’ that included brief clips of a Bayraktar TB2 taxiing and taking off. The UAV was not carrying weapons, but the video implied that it carried out precision strikes during live firing at the Qurayn Abu al-Bawl training area in the south of the country.
Qatar’s order for six Bayraktar TB2s, three ground control stations, and a training simulator was announced during the DIMDEX show held in Doha in March 2018. The Bayraktar TB2 is a Turkish medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations manufactured by Turkey′s Bayraktar company primarily for the Turkish Air Force (TAF). The aircraft is monitored and controlled by an aircrew in the Ground Control Station, including weapons employment. Bayraktar means “ensign” or “standard-bearer” in Turkish. The development of the UAV has been largely credited to Selçuk Bayraktar, a former MIT PhD student, who in 2016 married Turkey′s president Erdoğan’s youngest daughter, Sümeyye.(Wikipedia) (Source: Jane’s)
06 Apr 20. Libya’s GNA says Jordan sold UAVs to its enemy. Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has said that Jordan has sold Chinese-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the Libyan National Army: a powerful faction led by former general Khalifa Haftar.
In a letter to the UN Security Council that was made public on 4 April, GNA Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Siala complained that several foreign states are supplying “all types of weapons” to the LNA in contravention of the arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council.
“One of the aircraft being used in the war against Tripoli and the cities of western Libya is the Chinese Wing Loong drone, which Haftar recently brought in from Jordan,” he wrote. “According to available information, the drones were sold to Jordan for the purpose of protecting that country’s frontier. However, having been delivered to Haftar’s forces, they are now being used outside its borders in a clear violation of Security Council resolutions.”
He added that Jordanian UAVs had been delivered to Baninah (Benina) Airport in Benghazi aboard an Il-76TD cargo aircraft that arrived from Amman at 17:10h on 28 March.
Flight tracking data shows an Il-76TD operated by Kazakhstan’s Jenis Air was flying from Amman towards Benghazi when its transponder stopped transmitting after 15:00h GMT (17:00h Libyan time). The aircraft, UP-17652, has been flying from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan to Libya in recent weeks. Jordan is not known to have Wing Loong UAVs. However, the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) acquired CH-4B UAVs in 2016 along with AR-1 laser-guided missiles and FT-9 guided bombs. These are capable of operating beyond line-of-sight as they are fitted with satellite communications equipment. The RJAF put a statement on its website in June 2019 saying it was looking to sell six CH-4B UAVs. (Source: Jane’s)
06 Apr 20. On April 3rd, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) flew its SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) in the skies above Southern California as part of a joint flight demonstration with NASA. GA-ASI was selected to participate in NASA’s Systems Integration and Operationalization (SIO) activity, which includes multiple flight demonstrations focusing on different types of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and their respective flight environments. GA-ASI and NASA have worked collaboratively since 2014 to prove the safety of flying large UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS).
GA-ASI demonstrated ways in which SkyGuardian can be used for a variety of commercial and public services applications, using its onboard sensors. Services featured in the demo included inspections of hundreds of miles of rail, power line, communication and canal infrastructure, agriculture monitoring and topological surveys, as well as wildfire and flood monitoring.
“Our work with NASA is opening the eyes of regulators to the safety and utility of unmanned aircraft systems in the performance of certain tasks for public and commercial good,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “Our aircraft have already played important roles during crisis management events such as wildfire containment. Our airborne sensors can see through thick smoke, enabling us to inform ground personnel about the locations of fire lines so they can deploy resources efficiently. The SIO demonstration highlighted how the aircraft can be used for many other civilian and commercial missions.”
After taking off from GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, Calif., SkyGuardian flew through the NAS in Southern California towards Yuma, Ariz. while being operated by a remote pilot based at Gray Butte. The pilot used the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS) to provide situational awareness of air traffic near the UAS. The DAAS includes a Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II) used in manned aircraft that fly in civil airspace. It also has an air-to-air, “Due Regard” Radar to provide detection and tracking capability of any nearby aircraft which may not have active transponders. Using the DAAS, the remote pilot was able to “see” and navigate around airborne traffic just like an airborne pilot.
“NASA’s goal to help accelerate routine UAS operations into the national airspace has moved one step closer with this successful flight demo,” said Mauricio Rivas, UAS integration in the NAS project manager at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. “Our efforts with General Atomics and our other SIO industry partners will help commercial UAS move closer towards certification.”
GA-ASI’s technology partners for the demonstration include Honeywell (supplied the TCAS II for the DAAS), and Collins Aerospace for the Command and Non-Payload Communications (CNPC) datalink radios, which is part of the Command and Control datalinks system.
06 Apr 20. DARPA progresses NOMARS unmanned vessel programme. The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is moving forward with its No Manning Required, Ship (NOMARS) programme with a broad agency announcement (BAA) released last week.
Under NOMARS, DARPA is seeking a vessel that could operate completely unmanned at sea for extended periods of time. DARPA said in the BAA it wants to ‘explore the NOMARS design space from Conceptual Design Review (CoDR) through Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and system definition.’
The agency is accepting proposals for a potential vessel which would challenge the ‘traditional naval architecture paradigm’ by creating a ship that eliminates all the design considerations associated with housing a crew.
DARPA has set aside $41m for the development of the programme and design of the NOMARS platform, which should be able to operate for up to a year at sea before requiring maintenance. The agency at this time does not plan to build an operational vessel, but rather an ‘X-ship’ demonstrator that can be used as a proof of concept for the NOMARS.
DARPA previously said: “NOMARS aims to challenge the traditional naval architecture model, designing a seaframe from the ground up with no provision, allowance, or expectation for humans at sea.
“By removing the human element from all ship design considerations, the program intends to demonstrate significant advantages, to include size, cost, at-sea reliability, survivability to sea-state, and survivability to adversary actions such as stealth considerations and resistance to tampering. The programme also will strive for greater hydrodynamic efficiency via hull optimisation without requirements for crew safety or comfort.”
NOMARS is focused solely on the design of a novel sea frame rather than a vessel complete with mission systems, but DARPA added the notional payload space is 23ft by 12ft by 9ft. (Source: naval-technology.com)
06 Apr 20. US develops new drone to be silent killer. The United States is developing a new generation of drones to be true silent killers by overcoming terrorists’ familiarity with the “buzz” of the present models.
Researchers and defence companies working for the spy agencies and the US air force have turned to hybrid-electric technology to cut noise levels to the minimum.
A US intelligence official told The Times that attempts were being made to develop “low-noise power generators” for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) under a programme called Great Horned Owl.
The details of the project emerged after the air force was forced to reveal the development of an ultra-quiet drone after a freedom of information request by the War Zone, a US specialist defence website.
The hybrid-electric powered XRQ-72A is a “flying wing” design, similar in shape to the new B-21 Raider bomber, which is still under development.
The XRQ-72A has a wingspan of 30ft, considerably smaller than the two types of drone that have been used by the CIA for years: the older Predator, which has a wingspan of 49ft, and the Reaper, which has a 66ft wingspan.
Kelvin Wong, Singapore-based editor of Jane’s Unmanned Systems, said that the familiar giveaway noise of older models had persuaded the CIA and the military to start looking at much quieter propulsion systems.
“For years, Pakistan and Afghanistan lived in fear of UAVs flying over. Those being targeted couldn’t see them coming at night but they could hear them,” he said. “With this hybrid electric technology it will allow UAVs to get closer to a target without warning.”
Low-noise UAVs could also fly lower, he said, helping to provide “better definition optics” and the use of face-recognition technology, to be 100 per cent certain of a particular terrorist on a target list. (Source: The Times)
02 Apr 20. Schiebel enhances S-100 UAS control with mobile antenna. Schiebel has introduced a new mobile antenna system to its Camcopter S-100 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) product range, expanding the line-of-sight (LOS) connectivity between the company’s existing antennas and the UAS, the company told Jane’s. The mobile antenna is derived from a Salzgitter Maschinenbau AG (SMAG) mast and is designed to support the company’s existing antennas, which have ranges of up to 200km, boosting its operational flexibility for users. Jane’s understands from a company spokesperson that the system is called the SMAG 25 – which denotes its ability to extend up to 25 m in height – and enables users to “establish a [LOS] even when high obstacles, like trees, are in the way”.
The SMAG 25 is mounted on a two-wheeled trailer designed for rapidly establishing a wide range of connections, the spokesperson added, noting that it is suitable for use with parabolic and other types of antenna.
Additionally, the company noted that the mobile antenna offers a high degree of mobility and can navigate through difficult terrain to support operations in austere environments.
“The sturdy structure is tried and tested and can be set up on flat surfaces or on rougher terrain,” the spokesperson said. “The system is independent of the towing vehicle, therefore freeing the vehicle up for other purposes as soon as the antenna mast trailer has been moved into position.” (Source: Jane’s)
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