Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
28 Aug 20. Russia Copies the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie. Russia’s Kronstadt company has unveiled a concept of newest stealth unmanned aircraft during the sixth International Military and Technical Forum Army-2020 in the Patriot Park near Moscow.
The new aircraft, called the Grom (Thunder), to be a runway-independent, reusable unmanned air vehicle capable of a broad range of operational missions.
The Grom is an unmanned attack aircraft capable of performing intelligence, surveillance, and intelligence, strike, and electronic warfare missions either on its own, as a loyal wing working together with a manned aircraft, or in a networked autonomous swarm.
“The unmanned vehicle has a mass of seven tons and a payload of about 500 kilograms,” said Nikolay Dolzhenkov, general designer of the Kronstadt company. “The new drone will operate in one connection with the Su-35 and Su-57 fighters.”
Russian first home-made stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle will be a copy of a Kratos’ XQ-58A Valkyrie with some refinements, according to analysts.
The Valkyrie system, developed by Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems in partnership with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on the Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator (LCASD) Program, is a low-cost, multi-mission, runway-independent unmanned air vehicle capable of long-range flights and high-subsonic speeds intended to support a variety of defense mission applications. In addition to the Valkyrie’s extreme survivability and adaptability, as part of the Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, it is designed to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft. (Source: UAS VISION/Defence Blog)
26 Aug 20. Drone Made from Pineapple Leaves has Electrical Resistance Quality. Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) researchers have successfully invented an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or a drone made of natural fibres, pineapple leaves, that has electrical resistance.
The drone, named Putra Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or Putra UAV, is the first of such innovation to use natural fibres or biocomposites from pineapple leaves.
It can fly up to about 30 metres (100 feet) high and remain airborne for about 20 minutes.
With its special electrical resistance feature, it is capable of preventing short circuits. In addition, it is also easy to repair in the event of minor damage.
Head of the research group, Prof. Ir. Ts. Dr. Mohamed Thariq Hameed Sultan, said Putra UAV is made of several structures which include a frame made of natural fibres, a motor, blades and a rechargeable battery.
He said that at present, most drones are made of plastic, carbon and aluminum fibres that are categorised as synthetic fibres.
He said, by comparison, drones made of natural materials or biocomposites have a high strength-to-weight ratio than drones made of synthetic fibres. In addition, these drones are cheaper and lighter, use easily available natural materials, and have poor electrical conductivity.
“Therefore, biocomposites have a great potential to replace existing materials because they are lightweight and are environmentally friendly due to biodegradation factors that allow them to be easily decomposed and disposed of in the soil,” he said.
He said the idea of creating a drone from the natural fibres of pineapple leaf was conceived during a community project in Teluk Panglima Garang, Selangor in 2017 when he was approached by the village head who asked for UPM’s assistance to help dispose heaps of pineapple leaves from the village pineapple plantation.
He added that according to the village head, these unattended heaps of pineapple leaves would either become nests for poisonous animals such as snakes and lizards or be burned, which led to pollution.
Prof. Ir. Ts. Dr. Mohamed Thariq, who is also a lecturer at the Aerospace Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, UPM, said he then applied for research funds and obtained RM25,000 from UPM to develop an ecosystem by producing a machine that could convert pineapple leaves into fibres.
He said converting pineapple leaves which are non-synthetic into fibres was a new invention.
According to him, 300 gm of pineapple leaves could produce four pieces of plates in the drone making process.
“The production of Putra UAV has successfully utilised the use of pineapple leaves,” he said.
He said the drone could be used for air monitoring purposes, pesticide spraying in agricultural activities, or simply turned into a hobby. He expected the production would further elevate UPM’s status in the field of agriculture.
The drone production also involved two other researchers from Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM) and Malaysia UAV Drone Activist Society (MUDAS) and is seen as part of the National Blue Ocean Strategy.
Besides himself, Dr. Ain Umaira Md Shah, Dr. Syafiqah Nur Azrie Safri, Muhammad Imran Najeeb, Ts. Mohd Edyazuan Azni, Dr. Adi Azriff Basri, Dr. Ahmad Hamdan Ariffin, Mohd Lufti Mohd Tawil (all from UPM), Prof. Dr. Yusri Yusof (UTHM) and William Robert Alvisse (MUDAS) were also in the research team.
This drone innovation has won several gold medals. It won the gold medal at the 8th International, Invention & Design Competition (INDES 2019), the Research Innovation & Enterprise Center (2019) Innovation Technology Expo (InTEX19), the 2nd Digitalised International Invention, Innovation and Design Johor 2019 (DIID Johor 2019), and the UTeMEX2019 Innovation Carnival. It has also won a Special Award at the UTeMEX2019 Innovation Carnival and emerged as the winner of the Research and Development competition at the Selangor R&D and Innovation Expo 2019. (Source: UAS VISION)
26 Aug 20. Dynetics Flies Second X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle. Dynetics, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, successfully tested a second X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV), as well as the Gremlins airborne recovery system, last month at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The series of tests focused on risk reduction, as well as system and subsystem performance verification, in preparation for an airborne recovery test later this year. The overarching goal of the Gremlins Program, managed by DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, is to demonstrate aerial launch and recovery of multiple low-cost reusable unmanned aerial systems (UASs).
The test series involved all segments of the Gremlins Demonstration System, including GAVs, the launch and recovery system, the airborne operator control station and the Gremlins command, control and communications system. The test flight was originally scheduled for earlier this spring, but was delayed due to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.
“We have taken a major step forward towards accomplishing airborne recovery, and we are ever so close to achieving it,” said Tim Keeter, program manager for the Dynetics Gremlins team. “Our second GAV flown to date performed very well, which increases our confidence in the X-61A. And for the first time, we rendezvoused and flew in close formation with the recovery C-130 multiple times using the Gremlins Autonomous Docking System (GADS). Multiple captive tests were also conducted for the first time, with actively-controlled GAVs attached to the stabilized towed docking device. This demonstrated the ability of the recovery system to safely reel in and stow GAVs once they have docked. The data collected from these tests will provide the necessary information to perform final tuning of GADS.”
The second X-61A flew for a total flight time of 2 hours and 12 minutes. It flew in formation with the C-130 from as close as 125 feet back and 125 feet below the C-130 position. At the end of the test, the GAV was recovered on the ground using the parachute system.
“Our team was excited to fly the GAV for a second time following the delays caused by the global pandemic,” said Brandon Hiller, Dynetics X-61A chief engineer. “While we successfully tested both the GAV and recovery system, we decided during the mission to stop short of docking. We now have additional data, which will help us tune the system and further validate our models. These results are encouraging and present higher confidence to achieve airborne recovery in our next flight.”
The roll-on/roll-off recovery system (which includes the physical structure, the docking structure, the towed, attitude-controlled “Bullet” and the in-flight stowage system) performed as designed. Marvin Hill, Dynetics X-61A recovery system chief engineer stated,
“As we expected, reeling the GAV in while docked on the Bullet, and then securing it inside the C-130 cargo bay is a safe and benign activity. It’s like fishing in the sky, except the fish weighs 1,200 pounds.”
“We’re excited to continue our progress with the Gremlins program,” said Keeter. “This is what we’ve been working towards for the past four years, and we are eager to advance the Gremlins system’s capabilities for DARPA and the warfighter even further. Rapid and reliable airborne recovery is a game-changing capability for autonomous, distributed airborne operations. Our entire team brought about a disciplined test demonstration and moved the program forward. We believe Gremlins will advance operational flexibility and effectiveness in the near future.”
The Dynetics Gremlins team consists of the following companies, each representing best-in-class capabilities for their roles on the program: Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, Williams International, Applied Systems Engineering, Inc., Kutta Technologies, Inc., Moog Inc., Sierra Nevada Corporation, Systima Technologies, Inc. and Airborne Systems. Additional support for the flight test included Dugway’s Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center (RIAC), International Air Response and High-G Technologies.
The Dynetics team was one of four companies awarded a Phase 1 contract for the Gremlins program in 2016. Phase 2 was awarded in March 2017 to two of the initial four performers, and Phase 3 followed in April 2018, when Dynetics was named the top performer. The maiden flight of the X-61A occurred in November 2019, flying as predicted with no anomalies in the operational system. (Source: UAS VISION)
26 Aug 20. GA-ASI Selects 18 Businesses To Participate In Virtual Blue Magic Belgium. Annual Industry Engagement Event Gives Belgian Businesses Opportunity to Present Capabilities to Support SkyGuardian® Development.
As part of the second annual “Blue Magic Belgium” industry engagement event hosted by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), 18 Belgium-based companies have been selected to present their ideas and cutting-edge capabilities to a panel of GA-ASI technical experts. The panel will evaluate the companies in a virtual interview setting and make decisions on which capabilities can support the development of MQ-9B SkyGuardian®, the GA-ASI Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) selected by Belgian Defense.
The presentations will be held during the week of September 21st and unlike the first Blue Magic Belgium (BMB) industry outreach event in 2019, this year’s event will be held virtually due to travel and in-person meeting restrictions stemming from the coronavirus.
“We’re very excited to host our second Blue Magic Belgium event,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “Our first BMB event was a great success as we identified four Belgian companies who are now part of our SkyGuardian development team. We look forward to the same success this year. We know that attracting new Belgian businesses means more jobs for Belgium and it helps GA-ASI produce the best RPA for Belgian Defense and all NATO countries.”
As part of last year’s event, AeroSimulators Group (ASG), AIRobot, ALX Systems and Hexagon joined Team SkyGuardian, which already included these five Belgium companies: SABCA, Thales Belgium, ScioTeq, ST Engineering and DronePort. GA-ASI is working with these companies now to generate next-generation capabilities for their RPA.
The companies participating in Blue Magic Belgium the week of September 21st will be Airobot , AKKA BENELUX, Altran Belgium, ALX Systems, Any-Shape, Cenaero, Feronyl, Hexagon Geospatial, IDRONECT, Lambda-X, ML2Grow, Moss Composites, Optrion, Oscars, ScioTeq, Siemens, VITO-Remote Sensing, and von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics.
25 Aug 20. Insitu Pacific, Nova Systems team up for Australian-led LAND 129 solution. Insitu Pacific signed a teaming agreement with Nova Systems as part of its Australian-industry-led proposal to supply tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to the Australian Army under LAND 129 Phase 3. The addition of Nova Systems to the Insitu Pacific team supports a low-risk solution and ensures a rapid, fully operational capability can be delivered to Army.
Nova Systems teams with Insitu Pacific as part of the company’s LAND 129 Phase3 Tactical UAS proposal to the Australian Army. Pictured, the Insitu Pacific Integrator UAS flying in Australia.
“Insitu Pacific’s experienced Australian team and our AS9100D certification underpin the delivery of a fully compliant and documented system,” said Andrew Duggan, Managing Director, Insitu Pacific. “Our solution is further strengthened by Nova Systems as acknowledged Australian experts in working through all the engineering and testing steps necessary to deliver complex UAS to the ADF. They will bring this extensive experience and expertise to bear as part of Insitu Pacific’s LAND 129 solution for Army,” Duggan said.
As one of the key Australian industry partners to form part of the comprehensive Insitu Pacific UAS offering to Army, Nova Systems is a sovereign partner and key contributor to the defence and security of Australia. For over 20 years, Nova Systems has been a trusted provider to the Australian Defence Force in the development and delivery of test, evaluation, certification and systems assurance, capabilities critical to Defence.
“Nova Systems brings the right mix of engineering and next-gen technical skills to the Insitu Pacific LAND 129 Team,” said Peter Tippner, General Manager Aerospace and Surveillance, Nova Systems. “Our team of expert engineers has an in-depth understanding of the customer’s requirements, based on their experience with Shadow 200, and ADF UAS capabilities since 2008. Our proven ability to integrate complex systems into the Australian Defence Force within acquisition projects such as AIR7000 Phase 1B Triton and AIR7003 Armed UAS capability, ensures that full operational capability can be achieved rapidly, with minimal risk.”
Army’s goals for capability procurement under LAND 129 include requirements to ensure that the UAS delivered are flexibly able to operate in Commercial airspace in Australia or overseas on deployment. This drives a focus on providing proven systems with extensive testing data and technical detail to enable the work necessary with Defence and Civil regulators to support these type of operations.
“The suppliers and partners we’ve assembled set the foundation for long-term Australian industry capability growth. Insitu Pacific is the local, established and low-risk Tactical UAS partner for the Commonwealth, and we’re ready to deliver, grow and sustain the next generation of Army Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems,” Duggan said.
About Insitu Pacific
Located in Brisbane, Australia Insitu Pacific was established in 2009 as a division of Insitu Inc and serves defence customers across the Asia-Pacific region and global commercial customers. We utilise expert in-house knowledge and skills to deliver end-to-end solutions for collecting, processing and managing sensor data. To date, Insitu systems have accumulated more than 1.3 million flight hours. Insitu Pacific is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company. (Source: PR Newswire)
25 Aug 20. New drone on the block: Parrot’s ANAFI USA. Designed with the US Army in mind, Parrot’s recently announced ANAFI USA combines ruggedness with cybersecurity built from the hardware level. Harry Lye spoke to the company to get the inside track on its new professional drone.
In recent years, the US Armed Forces and government have increasingly moved away from Chinese-made technology, including a ban on the use of Chinese-made drones by government departments. This presented a unique opportunity for other drone makers looking to target the US military market, one that France’s Parrot swiftly used to propose a new UAV for the US Army.
Developed from an ongoing US Army project to build drones for short-range reconnaissance (SRR), the ANAFI USA features a litany of functionality derived from the military use case. The 500g drone features 4k video, thermal imaging, a ruggedised airframe and, perhaps most importantly for the military, multiple levels of data security.
Cybersecurity from the ground up
We spoke to Parrot chief of security Victor Vuillard about the drone’s security capabilities and the levels of protection built into the system, from a software level down to the physical manufacturing.
“The first one is that we want the user to keep control of their data,” Vuillard said. “No data is sent to Parrot by default. Of course, we have options for the user to share data, for example, to ease customer support, but by default, nothing is sent and the user keeps the data on their own device.
“The second point is we want to secure all the supply chain and manufacturing. It’s been a great concern because, on other subjects, we’ve seen even hardware backdoors and high-level attacks on different kinds of projects on high-technology. T secure production, we chose to manufacture our drone in the USA.”
The drone features several levels of data protection, including encryption of the storage media protecting the data in case the drone or SD card is lost, and a secure encrypted link between controller and drone. On top of this Parrot uses signed firmware, which can signal whether any malicious modification to the system has been made.
Vuillard explained the importance of this: “When a user uses a drone, one of the main concerns is what if the drone falls, or is captured, or is lost? Defence users don’t want their data to be gathered by anybody, being an adversary party or anyone else, to read this data. So what we added on ANAFI USA is full-disk encryption of videos and photos. (Source: army-technology.com)
24 Aug 20. USAF initiative Agility Prime demonstrates eVTOL advances. The US Air Force’s (USAF) initiative Agility Prime has demonstrated the developments in the electric vertical take-off and landing flight (eVTOL). Conducted at Camp Mabry in Texas, US, the first Agility Prime ORB flight demonstration was witnessed by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Air Force chief of staff general Charles Brown Jr, and Air Force chief master sergeant JoAnne Bass. The leaders were joined by Texas National Guard hosts and AFWERX personnel. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract recipient LIFT Aircraft demonstrated the flight.
The company is one of the first small companies selected as participants for the Agility Prime ‘Air Race to Certification’. LIFT Aircraft has developed Hexa eVTOL to offer a fully autonomous people transport.
Under the Agile programme, it will refine and accelerate the progress of Hexa by expanding its flight envelope.
During the demonstration, LIFT CEO Matthew Chasen navigated Hexa over the Camp Mabry parade ground.
Agility Prime lead and AFWERX director colonel Nathan Diller said: “We now have over fifteen of the leading aircraft manufacturers in the world applying to partner with Agility Prime, with many of them already on contract.
“This flight today marks the first of many demonstrations and near-term flight tests designed to reduce the technical risk and prepare for Agility Prime fielding in 2023.”
Agility Prime is a non-traditional programme seeking to speed-up the potential commercial market for advanced air mobility vehicles.
These vehicles, or ORBs, could be used for specific operations such as medical evacuation, firefighting, civil and military disaster relief, search and rescue, and humanitarian relief.
During the launch of the programme in April, Barrett said: “Agility Prime is a programme with a vision of world impact.
“The thought of an electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle, a flying car, might seem straight out of a Hollywood movie, but by partnering today with stakeholders across industries and agencies, we can set up the US for this aerospace phenomenon.”
Last month, AFWERX innovation programme prepared to host the first virtual TeamUp event with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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