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08 Jul 20. Elbit Systems and Israeli Navy trial Seagull USV with onboard mini UAV. Elbit Systems and the Israeli Navy have conducted trials using Elbit’s Skylark C mini unmanned aerial system (UAS) onboard the Seagull unmanned surface vessel (USV) to expand its intelligence-gathering capabilities. The Seagull USV is designed for use in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), mine countermeasure (MCM) surveillance, electronic warfare (EW), maritime security and hydrography. It offers a switchable payload suite that includes EW and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) payloads to enable situational awareness and intelligence gathering. Integrating it with the Skylark C UAS offers additional aerial information gathering to enhance situational awareness at sea and onshore.
The Skylark C is an autonomous ship-borne mini UAS with a takeoff weight of 15kg and capable of point water recovery. It generates a visual feed that can be captured transmitted to a land-based control and utilised by naval vessels’ combat management systems (CMS).
The Israeli Navy has deployed the Seagull USV in several recent NATO maritime exercises, including in an MCM exercise with the UK Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean helicopter and an ASW exercise that was conducted together with the Spanish Navy’s Victoria frigate and the Royal Navy’s HMS Duncan.
In the last year, Elbit Systems has further developed maritime surveillance capability by adding additional sonar systems to the Seagull USV, integrating a Helicopter Long-Range Active Sonar (HELRAS) in cooperation with the Israeli Navy and concluding a series of trials for the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar (TRAPS) USV-towed sonar. (Source: naval-technology.com)
07 Jul 20. US Army Tests French Danielson Aircraft Engine for UAS. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering – Global Capability Programs Office, Foreign Comparative Testing Program – recently partnered with the U.S. Army Futures Command to test and evaluate a foreign technology for use in UAS.
AFC’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory tested the French Danielson aircraft engine at various altitudes to verify its performance and determine if it is a viable option to replace the medium range tactical UAS engine the Army currently uses. The Army engine, which was originally developed for ground vehicles and modified to fit UAS, will be phased out of manufacturing.
“UAS need to operate at altitudes where the air is thin and temperatures are cold. The Danielson engine was tested successfully at altitudes Army UAS operate,” said Dr. Kenneth Kim, mechanical engineer at CCDC ARL.
The OUSD (R&E) FCT Program, with its unique acquisition authorities, provides DOD engineers, scientists and program managers an avenue to access mature foreign technology that may advance or compliment current modernization efforts.
The FCT program provided the funding to procure and test the Danielson engine at the CCDC ARL Vehicle Technology Directorate Small Engine Altitude Research Facility. The facility, which is located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, can simulate altitudes up to 30,000 feet and temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. The facility also has state-of-the-art data acquisition, engine control and precision measurement equipment.
“The requirements for UAS engines are very different than those for ground vehicles, so UAS engines should be designed from scratch to meet the requirements. The significant benefit for the Army with this project is we were able to verify and characterize an engine that can be used now instead of developing a new engine for UAS,” said Mike Kweon, ARL’s Versatile Tactical Power and Propulsion Essential Research program manager.
The Danielson engine, which was designed by Danielson Aircraft Systems in France, met speculations to operate with Army UAS. Two prototype engines were purchased by ARL, with funding from the FCT program. The Danielson engine has a serial two-stage turbocharger that provides increased boost pressure at altitude conditions, which enabled the engine to operate with less stress and carry a larger payload when it was tested at CCDC. The dual turbocharger also reduces the risk of bearing or turbocharger failure by operating at lower revolutions per minute – a measure of how fast a machine is operating at a given time – than its original design limit. The Danielson engine is light weight, which provides higher power density for enhanced take-off capability.
The project supports the Army’s Future Vertical Lift modernization priority, which focuses on critical technologies required for future vertical lift to retain air power in multi-domain operations. UAS will be launched from current platforms such as an Apache attack helicopter or a Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, or from platforms still in development. These platforms will contain a variety of payloads to degrade or destroy enemy UAS and provide support to troops on the ground.
Other partners in the project include: CCDC Aviation and Missile Center, which identifies airworthiness requirements to certify engines; and PEO Aviation-Program Manager UAS, which manages and operates Army UAS aircrafts. Additionally, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Center for Rapid Innovation has expressed interested in the results, which takes the effort a step further toward joint capability, an important aspect for the FCT program.
“The biggest challenge on the technical side was when an engine was damaged during testing. This exposed the engine’s vulnerability, which turned out to be beneficial because it gave us the opportunity to redesign the engine for enhanced reliability. Danielson showed not only their capabilities, but also their ability to change the engine based on ARL’s recommendations. This project, which was initiated by the FCT program, will go even further as ARL collaborates with Danielson to develop component technologies that will enhance future UAS capabilities,” Kim said.
The congressionally authorized OUSD (R&E) FCT Program provides an opportunity for DOD engineers, scientists and program managers to receive funding through a competitive process, which can be used to acquire, test and evaluate mature items and technologies from the industry of allies and other friendly nations that may fill a capability gap and or satisfy an urgent need. The program, which is executed for the Army by CCDCs Global Technology Office, encourages international cooperation and helps reduce the DOD’s overall acquisition costs.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, formerly known as the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, has the mission to lead in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our Nation’s wars and come home safely. The command collaborates across the Future Force Modernization Enterprise and its own global network of domestic and international partners in academia, industry and other government agencies to accomplish this mission. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. (Source: UAS VISION)
08 Jul 20. Bluebottle USVs green-lit for autonomous operation. OCIUS’ flagship unmanned surface vehicle (USV), the Bluebottle, has been green-lit for autonomous operations within Australia’s EEZ. The news comes less than two years after the first successful sea trial of the next-gen, 18-foot model off the NSW coast.
While OCIUS has previously escorted its USVs out to 20 nautical miles offshore, the most recent sea trials have resulted in AMSA approval for autonomous operations out to the limit of 200 nautical miles – the limit of Australia’s exclusive economic zone.
This comes as a windfall for the company, which has sought in recent years to win approval from the regulator for its Bluebottle USV. The model will be licensed as a Domestic Commercial Vessels (DCV), though the company’s website assures defence customers it has direct applicability in terms of:
- Anti-submarine warfare;
- Electronic warfare;
- Communications and radar;
- Gateway communications; and
- Mine countermeasures.
The qualifying sea trial left Botany Bay Heads at 11am on 1 July, arriving at Ulladulla Heads 3pm the following day. The USV travelled a distance of 96 nautical miles, maintaining a rough average of 3.4 knots.
The Bluebottle used 360-degree cameras, radar, automatic identification systems (AIS) and collision avoidance software to autonomously navigate safely during the voyage, with engineers at OCIUS’ R&D facility at UNSW Campus Randwick and at Charles Darwin University (CDU) Darwin rotating supervisory duties.
Following this successful trial, the tested model will be sent off to Darwin to begin logistics and sea trial tests, before the arrival of the next-gen Bluebottle in September.
The company said that this will be followed by four more Bluebottles in 2021, each armed with Thales thin line sonar arrays, radar, cameras and other sensors.
OCIUS maintains a Defence Innovation Hub contract valued at $5.5m to continue the development of the Bluebottle technology. Defence said that it hopes the Bluebottle will “provide the Royal Australian Navy with a unique interoperable capability to help protect Australian maritime borders”.
Under the provisions of the contract, five Bluebottles will be deployed in an intelligent networked squad to three different areas of operations across 2021. (Source: Defence Connect)
08 Jul 20. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a global leader in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), announced today that they will partner with Asia Air Survey (AAS) to hold a series of validation flights for the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) featuring GA-ASI’s SeaGuardian® beginning in mid-September. The purpose of the flights is to validate the wide-area maritime surveillance capabilities of RPAS for carrying out JCG’s missions, including search and rescue, disaster response, and maritime law enforcement. The flights are expected to run for approximately two months and will include support from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) at its Hachinohe base in Aomori Prefecture.
According to the JCG, the flight validation will be conducted in accordance with “The Policy on Strengthening the Maritime Security Systems,” using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to perform maritime wide-area surveillance using new technology.
“We’re pleased to support the JCG’s goals of validating SeaGuardian’s maritime surveillance performance,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “We know there is a need in Japan and worldwide for affordable, long-endurance airborne surveillance in the maritime domain.”
The SeaGuardian system will feature a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, and High-Definition – Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite enables real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles.
The featured Raytheon SeaVue surface-search radar system provides automatic tracking of maritime targets and correlation of AIS transmitters with radar tracks.
SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian are revolutionizing the long-endurance RPAS market by providing true all-weather capability and is built to achieve Type Certification based on STANAG (NATO standard) airworthiness compliance. This feature, along with its operationally-proven, collision-avoidance radar, enables flexible operations in civil airspace.
07 Jul 20. Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100 to Perform Coast Guard Services in Finland. The Finnish Border Guard will operate the CAMCOPTER S-100 for maritime surveillance purposes. The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) service is offered by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and will also extend to Estonia and Sweden.
The CAMCOPTER S-100 will support the Finnish authorities in carrying out Coast Guard functions, such as search and rescue, monitoring and surveillance, ship and port security, vessel traffic, environmental protection and response, ship casualty assistance, as well as accident and disaster response. The S-100 will execute these tasks equipped with an L3 Wescam Electro-Optical / Infra-Red (EO/IR) camera gimbal, an Overwatch Imaging PT-8 Oceanwatch, a Becker Avionics BD406 Emergency Beacon Locator and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver.
EMSA awarded the multi-year maritime surveillance contract for a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) RPAS to Schiebel in November 2018. In execution of this contract, Schiebel provides simultaneous maritime surveillance services to several EU member states and EU bodies. Currently, the CAMCOPTER S-100 is also operational in the Republic of Croatia supporting the Maritime Safety Directorate of the Ministry of Sea, Transport and Infrastructure of the Republic of Croatia.
Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group, said: “The S-100 has extensive experience in the maritime domain. It is the UAS of choice when it comes to sophisticated maritime surveillance. We’re proud to be EMSA’s chosen RPAS providing vital surveillance services to its member states.” (Source: UAS VISION)
06 Jul 20. Serbia Displays Chinese Drones. Serbia has publicly displayed six new military drones purchased from China for the first time.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was on hand on July 4 at the military airport in Batajnica, near Belgrade, where military officials showcased the drones parked on the tarmac while journalists were given an opportunity to photograph the aircraft.
“They have a long range, they can shoot at targets from a distance of 9 kilometers and record the terrain, objects of interest to Serbia deep within enemy territory,” Vucic said, according to Serbian N1 television.
Vucic told reporters at a news conference that Serbia had agreed to cooperate with Chinese experts on the joint development of technology so that Serbia would be able to develop its own unmanned aircraft of a similar class.
However, Vucic declined to answer RFE/RL’s question regarding the cost of the military hardware, saying that all such procurements are secret, not only those made with China.
Along with the six CH92-A drones, Serbia bought 18 missiles for the aircraft some of which were displayed next to them at the presentation. They are to be used for training and drills.
Serbia’s arms procurements, especially ones from Russia, have raised eyebrows in both Brussels and Washington. However, the CH92-A drones are not on the sanctions list, according to Serbia. (Source: UAS VISION/Radio Free Europe; Radio Slobodna Evropa )
03 Jul 20. Australia to receive first three Triton HALE UAVs by 2025. Australia can expect delivery of its first Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in 2023, and of the second and third aircraft by early 2025, Northrop Grumman Australia Chief Executive Chris Deeble has disclosed.
Deeble told Janes on 3 July that all three platforms are part of low-rate initial production (LRIP) ‘lot five’, as detailed on 25 June by the US Navy (USN), which is the contracting party on a USD333.4m contract awarded to Northrop Grumman for the three UAVs, two main operating bases, and one forward operating base in an integrated functional capability-four (IFC-4) and multiple intelligence configuration.
IFC-4 functionality will add a signals intelligence capability to the UAV’s baseline IFC-3 configuration.
The production pause proposed in draft US budget papers for USN Triton UAVs in fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021) and FY 2022 provides Australia with an unprecedented opportunity to fill the LRIP-5 production gap with the remainder of its own Triton requirement, said Deeble.
“We continue to work with the US Navy, US Congress, the Australian government, and the Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] to identify solutions to prevent a pause in Triton production.
“While options for production and delivery are still being discussed, if Australia commits to an additional four aircraft, we anticipate delivery of the last aircraft in 2026,” he added.
Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper forecast a requirement for seven Tritons under Project Air 7000 Phase 1B to supplement the RAAF’s manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft. (Source: Jane’s)
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.
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