Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
22 Oct 20. Boeing’s Australian Unmanned Aircraft Completes First Taxi. The Boeing Loyal Wingman aircraft being developed with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) recently moved under its own power for the first time, a key milestone for the aircraft that’s expected to make its first flight this year.
“Air Force partners with industry to ensure we can find innovative solutions to meet our future priorities,” said Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability. “Boeing’s Loyal Wingman project is a perfect example of what this collaborative approach can achieve.”
“Seeing the prototype take to the runway for this low-speed taxi test is an exciting moment – another significant development milestone ahead of its first flight.”
Reaching a maximum speed of 14 knots (approximately 16 mph, or 26 kilometers per hour), on the ground, the aircraft demonstrated several activities while maneuvering and stopping on command.
“The low-speed taxi enabled us to verify the function and integration of the aircraft systems, including steering, braking and engine controls, with the aircraft in motion,” said Paul Ryder, Boeing Australia Flight Test manager.
Three Loyal Wingman prototypes will be the foundation for the Airpower Teaming System that Boeing will offer customers worldwide.
The aircraft will fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence for such teaming missions. It has advanced design and flight characteristics, including a modular nose section that’s customizable for specific needs and a conventional takeoff and landing approach suitable for many missions and runway types.
“Runway independence ensures the aircraft will be a highly flexible and adaptable system for our global customers,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director, Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “This latest test marks the first full unmanned movement of the Loyal Wingman with our Australian partners and takes us a step closer to first flight.”
20 Oct 20. Leonardo demonstrates Wildcat, UAV teaming for UK. Leonardo has demonstrated manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) between a helicopter and a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the United Kingdom. The demonstration, announced on 20 November, involved an AgustaWestland AW159 Lynx Wildcat helicopter and a Callen-Lenz semi-autonomous UAV, and was part of the wider British Army MUM-T themed Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) 19.
“In this instance, MUM-T is when a helicopter crew controls a UAV from the helicopter like it was an onboard sensor being controlled from the cockpit. By integrating control of the UAV into the Wildcat mission system, Leonardo was able to minimise the pilots’ workload allowing them to focus more on the mission whilst simultaneously controlling the UAV – this is the first time such an integrated capability has been demonstrated in the UK on a military aircraft. A ‘Gateway Processor’ supplied by Callen-Lenz Associates was used to interface with its semi-autonomous UAV,” Leonardo said.
According to Leonardo, its solution allows the Wildcat crew to control both the flight path and payload of the UAV (a capability known as Level of Interoperability [LOI] 4) using an efficient and effective task-based human-machine interface (HMI), rather than the more operator intensive approaches employed on other systems.
“These trials build on simulation-based development conducted under the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) funded Advanced Mission System Demonstrations and Experimentation to Realise Integrated System Concepts (AMS DE-RISC) programme. This successful demonstration is now expected to inform the MUM-T capability roadmap for both the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Leonardo,” the company noted. (Source: Jane’s)
20 Oct 20. Commandos send in the drones in hi-tech Cyprus workout. Royal Marines are swapping daggers for drones as they take their biggest step yet into the future.
Green berets are conducting two weeks of trials with drones of all sizes and abilities as they forge the commandos of tomorrow.
Robot systems will be used to provide commandos on the ground with ammunition, fuel, medical supplies or food and water, as well as intelligence of ‘enemy’ movements and activity.
The two-week workout in and off Cyprus – dubbed Exercise Autonomous Advance Force 3.0 – is one of the key set-piece events on this autumn’s amphibious deployment by the Royal Navy.
Lessons learned will be used both to develop the tactics and determine the equipment needed to turn the Royal Marines into the Future Commando Force.
The tip-to-toe overhaul of the Corps sees Royal Marines returning to their commando roots as small, stealthy raiding teams who strike from the sea, aided by the latest tech.
Some of the equipment and tactics were tested in Norway earlier this year. The Mediterranean allows similar experimentation – but in warmer surroundings.
“Cyprus gives us a superb opportunity to test the equipment and concepts of the UK’s Future Commando Force, whilst maintaining our excellence at the basics. We are putting this technology into the hands of Royal Marines and Sailors and integrating it both at sea and on land,” said Colonel Chris Haw, Commanding Officer of 47 Commando Raiding Group Royal Marines, leading the exercise.
Working with defence tech company QinetiQ, 47 Commando’s trials squadron will test a number of drones, including operating between Royal Navy vessels and the shore for the first time.
Also being assessed is new communications kit which should work better and more covertly when used by small teams operating behind enemy lines.
Royal Marines from 40 Commando will use a live data feed from a drone for surveillance and reconnaissance training, plus test software that will assist communications, gathering intelligence, navigating, and data sharing in challenging environments.
Perhaps most impressive is the software used to mash all the tech and data into something the team in the operations room on support ship RFA Lyme Bay can exploit.
Not to be outdone by the automated technology, 47 Commando will also be trialling novel methods of inserting small teams from ship to shore, while different elements of 42 Commando practise their specialist skills alongside Cypriot forces.
Monitoring both tech and tactics closely over the next fortnight is Natalie Anders from the MOD’s science labs DSTL.
“Autonomous Advance Force 3 brings together commando forces with autonomous technologies to deliver battle winning advantage,” she explained.
“By experimenting with both tactics and technology we can multiply the effectiveness of each Marine on the ground.” (Source: Royal Navy)
19 Oct 20. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a global leader in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), kicked off a series of validation flights on Oct. 15 for Japan Coast Guard (JCG) in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, Japan. GA-ASI is working with Asia Air Survey (AAS) in Japan to conduct the flights.
“We appreciate Asia Air Survey’s support in demonstrating how the MQ-9B SeaGuardian® RPAS can provide affordable, long-endurance airborne surveillance of Japan’s maritime domain,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “The system’s ability to correlate multiple sensor feeds and identify vessel anomalies provides effective, persistent maritime situational awareness.”
The SeaGuardian flights will validate the wide-area maritime surveillance capabilities of RPAS for carrying out JCG’s missions, from search and rescue to maritime law enforcement. These flights follow successful “legacy” MQ-9 maritime patrol demonstrations in the Korea Strait in 2018 and the Aegean Sea in 2019. The Hachinohe operation features the MQ-9B configuration, capable of all-weather operations in civil national and international airspace.
The SeaGuardian RPAS features a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, a High-Definition – Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite, augmented by automatic track correlation and anomaly-detection algorithms, enables real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles.
GA-ASI’s MQ-9B is revolutionizing the long-endurance RPAS market by providing all-weather capability and compliance with STANAG-4671 (NATO airworthiness standard for UAVs). These features, along with an operationally proven collision-avoidance radar, enables flexible operations in civil airspace.
19 Oct 20. US defence department updates pre-solicitation notice relating to ongoing counter sUAS procurement. In the latest update to the US Air Force requirement for counter small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) capabilities, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has released a digital copy of the Tech Read Library Instructions for review by potential small business offerors. The name of the document is C-sUAS Digital Tech Read Library_Instr_20201006.
This follows an update in August which highlighted small business participation; released industry day question & answer responses; and notice of suspension of the Technical Read Library Access in March.
The Air Force Research Laboratory, Information Directorate, Rome NY (AFRL/RI) has a requirement provide a focused yet flexible, rapid, agile contracting vehicle between Air Force Research Laboratory, its products centres, and the operational community to support rapid research, development, prototyping, demonstration, evaluation, and transition of Counter small Unmanned Aircraft System (C-sUAS) capabilities. These capabilities are to be used in combating Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)—and others leveraging COTS technology—presently being used by our adversaries in asymmetric warfare against U.S. military personnel and materiel. Emphasis will be placed on:
- a) development of technology capability solutions that address specific user requirements;
- b) delivery of prototype technologies for evaluation and feedback in the context of the user’s operational environment; and
- c) provision of a mechanism for user acquisition of limited product quantities required for operational introduction of technologies. Anticipated deliverables include software, hardware, technical documentation and technical reports.
For the aforementioned requirements, the Government anticipates a single award Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (ID/IQ) research and development (R&D) contract with Cost-Plus-Fixed-Fee Completion (CPFF/C) Task Orders, an ordering period of seventy-two (72) months, and a maximum ordering amount of approximately USD490,000,000.
The North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) code for this effort is 541715 with a small business size standard of 1,500 employees based on the Aircraft, Aircraft Engine, and Engine Parts exception.
At time of award, the successful Offeror must be able to provide approximately 20% of proposed personnel to be TS/SCI cleared and assigned at time of award, with graduated increases in proportion over time. During performance, the Contractor’s continued ability to meet security requirements will be evaluated. It is anticipated that Foreign Allied Participation will be excluded at the prime contractor level.
A technical library relating to the subject area of this acquisition will be made available. Potential Offerors will first need to request access through AFRL/RI personnel. Full instructions and contact information are contained within attachment 1 of this posting. For planning purposes, potential Offerors who wish to gain access to the Technical Read Library will be required to sign a “Statement of Terms for Receipt of Technical Read Library Access”, provide a copy of an approved DD Form 2345 “Militarily Critical Technical Data Agreement”, and provide a letter from the Data Custodian designated on that form authorizing access by whomever will be reviewing the library.
Evaluation of the capability packages received in response to the Request for Information (RFI-RIKD-19-01) resulted in a determination that a small business set-aside could be established.
Notice ID: FA875020R1000
Air Force Research Laboratory
NAICS Code: 541715
Product service code: AD93 – R&D
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19 Oct 20. Aquiline Drones Signs License Deal with Drone Volt. Aquiline Drones , the Hartford-based manufacturer of unmanned aerial systems and cloud solutions provider for commercial drone operations, announced that it has signed exclusive US manufacturing and distribution licensing agreements with Drone Volt, a French aeronautic manufacturer of professional civilian drones, on-board artificial intelligence, edge computing and unmanned aerial systems production.
Under the terms of this five-year agreement, Aquiline Drones will take over the global production of two popular and proven drones from Drone Volt’s suite of products, including the Hercules 2 and the highly coveted, Altura Zenith. Aquiline Drones will also be the sole manufacturer of the Pensar smart camera, a multispectral sensor, complete with artificial intelligence and edge computing capabilities.
Further to this collaboration, Aquiline Drones will be the exclusive provider of the Hercules 2, Altura Zenith and the Pensar in the United States, thus filling a much-needed gap in American-made drone products and systems.
Aquiline Drones will be responsible for all CAPEX and OPEX investments and will also be solely responsible for the manufacturing. In return for the know-how and 5-year exclusivity in the USA, the American company will allocate 10% of its revenues from the aforementioned products with a monthly minimum of 100 000 USD, as of today. These royalties will be increased by 10% every year, until the end of 2025.
Marc Courcelle, COO of Drone Volt, declared: “Being unable to travel with our team of engineers and technicians, we have implemented an online training course for all steps of the production process, as well as the flight tests which will be operated from our Headquarters in Paris-Villepinte.”
Furthermore, the contract stipulates that Drone Volt will be allowed to use Hartford’s production facility, with a maximum of 25% of the production capacity, to meet its clients’ demands outside the USA. The goal is to obtain competitive production costs as well as products labelled ‘Made in USA’. This asset will provide an unprecedented production facility for both parties, in the USA as well as Europe, specifically following the recent ban from the Department of Justice prohibiting the use of foreign drones not entirely manufactured in the USA. This trend could be followed by other countries.
Finally, as indicated in the LOI signed in last August, the contract indicates that both parties would like to exchange 10% of their share capital at market value. This last suspensive condition will need to occur prior to the 30th of January 2021.
“We are delighted beyond measure for this aptly timed and mutually beneficial union with Drone Volt,” said Barry Alexander, CEO and founder of Aquiline Drones. “While we have been in operation for just under two years, we spent almost four years incubating this idea of making Hartford ‘Drone Central’ and the State of Connecticut the ‘Drone Capital’ of the US. Our partnership with Drone Volt has catapulted us to the front of the line with world-class design and unmatched capabilities in the commercial drone space.”
“This contract is a historic step for our group as it turns the largest market in the world into an important profit sector. Over the last months, we have created a strong relationship with the Aquiline Drones’ team, which could lead to additional contracts in the future,” said Sylvain Navarro, CFO of Drone Volt.
The new development comes on the heel of the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) announcement on October 9th, that it has officially banned the use of DOJ funds to purchase or operate any drone from ‘covered foreign’ countries. China is estimated to originate more than 70% of the global share of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) drones. This development paves the way for US-based manufacturers of drones, such as Aquiline Drones, to enter an industry growing at 13.8% annually with a potential market of $127bn.
“Being able to fill the national UAS void with competitively-priced, American-made drone products and supporting 100% US supply chain is a must – we are extremely proud of this achievement,” said Retired General Brooks Bash, Chief Strategic Advisor at Aquiline Drones. “What started as a casual conversation between our companies has quickly morphed into a close collaboration of synergies to address the needs of an extremely underserved market worldwide and, principally, in the United States.”
Aquiline Drones’ production process will manufacture 1,300 by the end of 2020 and an expected output rate of 10,000 drones per month by the end of 2021. The company will also add 55 new technical and manufacturing jobs in Hartford by year’s end, with the goal of exceeding 1,000 positions by the end of 2024.
Raza Khanji, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Aquiline Drones, will be responsible for the technology integration with Drone Volt on the combined platforms, artificial intelligence and end-to-end IoT connectivity along with implementing AD’s blockchain infrastructure. Khanji also heads AD’s Total Planetary Protection (TPP) initiative which includes AD Academy’s novel Flight to the Future (F2F) drone pilot training program, accessed via ADflight.to/future.
As part of the terms of the deal, both companies will exchange 10% of each company’s ownership with the other, an arrangement scheduled to be completed before year-end 2020.
“We believe an exchange in equity strengthens our commitment to each other to ensure we do what we can to move both brands forward optimally,” noted Alexander. “Our partnership with Drone Volt, as a publicly-traded company in Europe, will ensure robust and steady growth for its shareholders, while allowing us at Aquiline Drones access to years of cutting-edge research and development in UAS technology. This union makes both companies more potent than the sum of our parts, allowing for a US-based provider of commercial drone solutions both at home and abroad.” (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.