Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
29 Apr 20. Qinetiq Leads Next Phase of Unmanned Systems Exploitation. As an important part of our ongoing work into unmanned vehicle command and control (C2) for defence applications, we have recently been awarded a significant new contract to lead phase five of the Maritime Autonomous Platform Exploitation (MAPLE) project for the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
The MAPLE project is the overarching programme that seeks to demonstrate and de-risk the integration of multiple unmanned systems into the combat system of a British Royal Navy warship. The MAPLE approach gives the Royal Navy freedom to chose a mix of vehicles and payloads from the market, match them to the mission and rapidly integrate them into a UK or multi-national force, deploying with confidence, knowing that the result will increase situation awareness and effectiveness whilst reducing the load on already stretched command teams. The open architecture employed will enable the Royal Navy to rapidly change vehicles and payloads as the market and threat evolves whilst minimising cost and the impact across defence lines of development (notably integration and training).
Spearheaded by QinetiQ’s Maritime and Land business in partnership with BAE Systems, SeeByte, BMT, L3 Harris, DIEM analytics and Thales, the focus of MAPLE phase five is to specify a core MAPLE system that will enable the UK Ministry of Defence to procure a Maritime Autonomous Systems Command and Control (C2) system by generating and validating a robust set of User and System Requirements and a validated and developed architecture. The latter will include a set of procurable modules for the C2 aspects of unmanned systems, specifying their functionality and performance characteristics and the services they will provide and consume using open interfaces.
MAPLE 5 delivery will also see the development of concepts for: operation; use; and employment for the exploitation of unmanned systems. All of these will be in the conduct of specific military tasks and the refinement of agreed standards to enable reliable and efficient integration of a diverse range of unmanned systems. Recognising the pivotal role of human factors in securing the control of multiple systems from a single operations room, MAPLE 5 will likely feature further work of this nature, including the outputs that support the mandated MOD human factors document set.
Other new developments include further research to enable the use of multiple MAPLE systems in a force, as well as the integrated command and control of effector systems deployed from maritime autonomous systems. In earlier phases, QinetiQ led the development and build of the Autonomous Control Exploitation Realisation (ACER) deployable prototype, which enables the output of MAPLE work to be effectively demonstrated in a variety of situations. MAPLE 5 will continue to evolve this design and will validate the architecture and extend it to where required. Advances in capability will be demonstrated through a series of synthetic experiments at QinetiQ’s Portsdown Technology Park and, where the opportunity arises, through live demonstrations.
Stuart Hider, QinetiQ’s Director Maritime Programmes, said: “I am delighted that through effective collaboration we are building on MAPLE’s resounding success at a number of ground-breaking events and getting this technology into the hands of the warfighters. MAPLE is a key project in helping to unlock the potential that unmanned vehicles and autonomous systems can offer.”
The project will build on the success of MAPLE 4, which saw the successful integration of data from a variety of systems and both national and international deployments in support of NavyX and Future Commando Force projects. (Source: ASD Network)
27 Apr 20. Iran to Deploy Fortros Drone. In an interview with Tasnim, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Ground Force’s Drone Division Colonel Akbar Karimloo said that his forces will be receiving the Fotros drone from the Defense Ministry ‘in the near future’.
Following extensive meetings with the Defense Ministry and evaluation of features of the homegrown drone, the IRGC Ground Force’s Drone Division has decided to utilize Fotros in operational zones, he added.
The Fotros is a large multipurpose drone capable of engaging in reconnaissance and combat operations, with an operational range of up to 2,000km and an endurance time of up to 30 hours.
The drone is said to have a 7,600 meter flight ceiling, and the ability to be armed with precision-guided air-to-surface missiles or anti-tank missiles.
The commander also noted that employment of Mohajer-6, another advanced drone manufactured by the Defense Ministry, has greatly enhanced the IRGC Ground Force’s capabilities in patrol missions and combat operations along northwestern and southeastern borders. Fotros” (Petros or Peter) is the biggest strategic drone built in Iran. The Defense Ministry unveiled the high-tech UAV in November 2013. (Source: UAS VISION/Tasnim News Agency)
23 Apr 20. Pacific 24 USV to support NavyX programme. BAE Systems has been contracted to deliver an autonomous version of its Pacific 24 sea boat to support the UK Royal Navy’s (RN’s) NavyX autonomy and lethality accelerator. The 12-month, GBP3.2m (USD3.94m) contract covers the provision of a Pacific 24 fleet conversion unmanned surface vehicle (USV), integration into the combat management system of a Type 23 frigate, and the execution of a Fleet Minor Trial.
The manned version of the 7.8m Pacific 24 Mk 4 rigid inflatable boat (RIB) is already deployed fleetwide with the RN as a standard sea boat. BAE Systems’ Portsmouth-based Maritime Services business has since 2017 invested in a programme of development and demonstration using an existing 9.5 m P950 RIB as a testbed to prove technologies and techniques applicable to an autonomous Pacific 24. Trials undertaken to date have demonstrated the ability of the unmanned P950 to undertake complex, multiphase missions and support advanced dynamic tasking. The research and development (R&D) effort has been undertaken in conjunction with L3Harris subsidiary ASV (providing COLREGS-compliant autonomous navigation software) and MSI-Defence Systems (providing its Seahawk MWS remote weapon station configured with a M2HB 0.50cal heavy machine gun). The Pacific 24 USV conversion, which was debuted in the waterborne demonstration at the DSEI 2019 exhibition in London last September, uses the same core command and control suite to enable autonomous operation. (Source: Jane’s)
23 Apr 20. Swift UAS Teams Break New Ground in Japan. High Value Targets Found in Minutes Versus Days During Wake-Cho Feasibility Study. Teams from Swift Tactical Systems, in partnership with its Japanese counterpart, Swift-Xi, both subsidiaries of Swift Engineering, completed personnel search and rescue and animal identification missions as part of a contract with Okayama Prefecture in Japan. The proof of concept program validates Swift’s unmanned aerial systems and capabilities under unique scenarios. First, the team’s ability to perform advanced search and rescue missions in dense forests, and second, the system’s ability to quickly detect, identify, and track the nighttime movements of animals that are destructive to the region.
The joint Swift teams flew integrated unmanned vehicle systems including, Swift air vehicles with mounted NightHawk2 cameras streaming live video to ground control. The operations teams demonstrated superior workflow capabilities during the day and nighttime missions. They exceeded performance expectations by identifying half a dozen animals during one-night flight and finding three separated, lost hikers in a heavily wooded area during another mission.
“Our teams proved that our combined military expertise and advanced UAS technology with real-time intelligence and data gathering capabilities are a powerful force in the industry. We were able to cover a 550-acre area and find all of our targets in less than 35 minutes,” says Alex Echeverria, Vice President of Swift Tactical Systems.
While this is the first time Wake-Cho is testing unmanned systems and technologies to perform tasks commonly addressed by humans on foot, it is not the first time Swift teams have provided real-time intelligence to government officials in Japan. Swift Tactical Systems and Swift-Xi recently completed multiple contracts for Kobe City. Government officials there are using Swift’s unmanned aerial systems and teams to track environmental changes such as landslide monitoring, seawall shifts, algae blooms, and invasive species, all of which pose risks to its aging population.
“As Japan’s population rate steadily declines and its aging workforce continues to rise, government officials and the private sector are looking for ways to manage critical tasks that are traditionally performed by people on the ground. We are proud to support government officials and private sector visionaries who are looking ahead to ensure the safety of Japan’s population and its future,” says Rick Heise, President and CEO of Swift Engineering. (Source: PR Newswire)
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.