Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
11 Dec 20. Easy Aerial Launches Albatross Multi Payload Autonomous Tethered Drone Surveillance System. Easy Aerial, a provider of autonomous drone-based monitoring solutions for commercial, government, and military applications, has announced the launch of the Albatross drone. The newest addition to the company’s rapidly expanding portfolio of tethered Smart Aerial Monitoring Systems (SAMS-T), the Albatross offers users a robust and highly flexible autonomous drone solution with unlimited flight time and an unbreachable data connection.
A reliable eye in the sky, the Albatross hexacopter is the most versatile and secure system in its class. Boasting a large 8.5lb payload capacity, the Albatross is ideal for extremely long overwatch or surveillance flights carrying multiple payloads in harsh weather conditions.
The Albatross is uniquely designed with three hard-points. Each side hard-point has a carrying capacity of up to 4lb, with the bottom hard-point able to carry payloads of up to 8lb. Side payload stations feature standard mounting as well as Picatinny rails (also known as MIL-STD-1913 rails and NATO STANAG 4694 military standard rail interface system) that support a wide range of payloads such as floodlights, communications relays, loudspeakers, and a range of cyber-related and other commercial and military electronic systems. The bottom hard-point is designed for gimballed cameras or large ISR payloads such as radars and communication jammers. Adding to its versatility, the Albatross offers over 20 EO/IR cameras, including the WIRIS Security and FLIR Duo Pro R cameras.
“Like all of Easy Aerial’s autonomous, cost-effective Smart Aerial Monitoring Systems, the Albatross combines drone-in-a-box simplicity with military-grade durability,” said Ido Gur, Co-Founder and CEO of Easy Aerial. “As the system can take off and land from a portable, rechargeable enclosure without the need for an on-site operator, it can be remotely deployed and operated from anywhere in the world, including GPS-denied environments.”
The drone also features multiple redundancies. For example, thanks to its numerous backup systems, the Albatross can continue to fly even in the event that one motor fails.
Furthermore, the system’s data over power tether system enables unlimited flight time while also transmitting HD video and telemetry through the connected power line (data-over-power technology). This avoids the need for radio transmission and allows for cyber-secure data transmissions.
As with all Easy Aerial systems, the Albatross is deployed from an Easy Guard tethered (EG-T) ground-station. EG-T is a military-grade enclosure with a small footprint designed for rapid transport and set up by a two-person team. EG-T’s relatively small size and weight allow it to be rapidly mobilized and deployed from stationary and mobile launch sites such as a standard pickup truck or other vehicle configuration, traveling up to 25 miles per hour. For customers needing an ultra-portable solution, Albatross is also compatible with the SAMS-T-Mini EG-T designed for mission-critical, on-the-move operations.
“The synergy between 3D printing and composite materials has set the tone for our latest drone design. The intricate shapes of the printed parts are the ultimate solution to the geometric challenges while the composite materials secure a light and strong structure,” said Omri Dayan, Easy Aerial Chief Drone Designer. “The flat bottom plate and Picatinny rails were designed to allow the simplest integration of any payload with the user experience as the top priority.”
Easy Aerial solutions are rugged, durable, all-weather capable, and designed to operate in the most inhospitable environments with little to no infrastructure support. The company’s systems include free-flight (SAMS) and tethered (SAMS-T) autonomous systems that accommodate a variety of sensor payloads. With the ability to deploy anywhere, the systems take off and land from a portable, rechargeable enclosure without the need for on-site human intervention. (Source: UAS VISION)
11 Dec 20. Grippers Enable Micro Aerial Vehicles to ‘Perch.’ A team of engineers at Colorado State University have designed a ‘gripper’ mechanism that allows MAVs to ‘perch’, rather than hover, in order to economise battery power.
Micro aerial vehicles (MAV) with multiple rotors, or multicopters, have many promising applications ranging from environmental monitoring, agricultural inspection, to package delivery. These applications, however, usually face a critical problem: the flight time of MAVs is limited due to the low aerodynamic efficiency and high energy consumption.
One promising solution is to make them rest on desired objects using perching, an important capability in biological flyers (e.g., birds). To enable robust perching, traditional methods generally rely on computational intelligence (i.e., precise motion control) so that a flying robot can gradually decrease its speed to perch onto an object. Recent studies reveal that robust perching for biological flyers uses not only computational intelligence but also mechanical intelligence: their feet can passively damp out landing impact even if their motion is not precisely controlled.
Inspired by recent biological investigations, the researchers developed a novel perching gripper exhibiting mechanical intelligence that allows passively perching without accurate control of the contact speed, thereby reducing the requirement for computational intelligence. The gripper has two unique characteristics. First, it has two stable states (open and close) and can passively switch from open to closed state using the impact between the gripper and the perching object. Second, the gripper has two perching methods for different objects. For objects with a small height, it can form a closed diamond shape to encircle the objects (encircling method).
For objects with a large height, the gripper’s two fingers can clip on each side of the objects to utilize the friction forces for perching (clipping method). The gripper is integrated onto a palm-size quadcopter to enable a mechatronic system for perching, and demonstrate successful perching with both clipping and encircling methods as well as aerial grasping.
Although the bistable gripper is used with a palm-size quadcopter, the design strategy can also be applied to large-size MAVs for both energy efficient perching and aerial grasping.
Details for the research can be found in a recent publication in IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics. (Source: UAS VISION)
10 Dec 20. Northrop Grumman hails NATO AGS firsts, as IOC nears. Northrop Grumman has hailed a series of world firsts for its RQ-4D Phoenix-based Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system, ahead of NATO’s declaration of initial operating capability (IOC), which is expected imminently.
Speaking to Janes, the company’s vice-president for NATO and Global Hawk, Leslie Smith, said that standing up the AGS system had seen Northrop Grumman overcome a series challenges for the safe and successful employment of a large unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that had not previously been faced by either industry or an end-user.
“Northrop Grumman has achieved several international firsts in the industry with the NATO AGS programme,” Smith said on 9 December. “Most of the steps we took to deliver the RQ-4D Phoenix to the NATO customer had not been done before.”
Based on five RQ-4 Global Hawk-derived Phoenix high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAVs and ground-based elements, the NATO AGS system is designed to provide member nations with a persistent and near-realtime, all-weather, wide-area terrestrial, and maritime surveillance system in support of a range of missions, such as the protection of ground troops and civilian populations, border control, maritime safety, and humanitarian assistance. With all five UAVs recently delivered into Main Operating Base (MOB) Sigonella in Sicily, NATO is expected to declare IOC imminently.
As noted by Smith, “the NATO AGS system is an advanced programme with cutting-edge air and ground technologies and includes the integration of defence systems from numerous countries. Bringing this system to reality required remarkable innovation, performance, and resilience from all involved.” (Source: Jane’s)
07 Dec 20. Skyborg Prototype Demos Set For July 2021. Boeing, General Atomics, and Kratos the winners for first Skyborg prototypes. The winners in the hard-fought Skyborg contest to develop an autonomous drone to fly in tandem with piloted aircraft in highly contested airspace are Boeing, Kratos and General Atomics.
Deliveries are due no later than May, so that a series of flight experiments can be launched in August, according to this evening’s announcement by Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLMC). The 24-month contracts were as follows: The Boeing Co., for $25.7m; General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., for $14.3m; and Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc., for $37.8m.
“The aim of the Skyborg Vanguard program is to integrate autonomous attritable unmanned air vehicle (UAV) technology with open missions systems to enable manned-unmanned teaming,” the AFRL release explains. The prototype drones will need to be able to integrate with the “Skyborg Autonomous Core System” — i.e. the software ‘brains’ for the drone as well as demonsrating the ability to team with piloted aircraft. The core system was designed by System Design Agent Leidos.
“This award is a major step forward for our game-changing Skyborg capability—this award supporting our operational experimentation is truly where concepts become realities. We will experiment to prove out this technology and to do that we will aggressively test and fly to get this capability into the hands of our warfighters,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, AFLMC program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft. He co-leads the Skyborg program along with Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, AFRL commander.
According to the AFLMC release, “there will be competition throughout the entire period of performance of these awards. The effort will consist of multiple phases, meant to continue evaluation of the performance of the vendors.”
The service granted the second round of exploratory Skyborg contracts to nine vendors. Those 13 vendors were awarded indefinite delivery/Indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contracts to compete for task orders within a $400m ceiling for “technology to support a family of systems with capabilities that can range from simple algorithms to autonomous flight controls, and include functions that can accomplish defined tasks or subtasks in a mission,” an AFRL spokesperson told Breaking D at the time.
This means the losers in today’s award — which include defense behemoths Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — still have a chance down the road of playing a role in the cutting-edge program.
Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programs identified in 2019 as part of the Air Force Science and Technology (S&T) 2030 initiative. These high priority efforts, based on AFRL development and AFLMC rapid acquisition capabilities, are designed to rush game-changing tech to the field. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
09 Dec 20. Sydney-based Ron Allum Deepsea Services (RADS) has announced the successful delivery of Deep Ray, a potentially high-performance autonomous undersea glider, to Defence following a research, development and testing contract supported by the Defence Innovation Hub.
RADS, an Australian SME specialising in the design and manufacture of custom underwater vehicles, worked collaboratively with Defence Science Technology Group’s Maritime Division to develop a detailed system specification, design the optimal shape and undertake a demonstration program to verify the project’s objectives.
RADS undertook the manufacture of the vehicle incorporating their existing intellectual property in syntactic foam (structure, shape, finish), battery systems (power, endurance) and motors (propulsion) customised to suit the new innovation. Defence developed the Flight Control System to provide the vehicle’s autonomous control which was integrated into the RADS design of both software and hardware elements.
RADS was able to demonstrate Deep Ray’s potential for deep sea use through a range of agreed performance criteria including depth capability, stability, buoyancy, manoeuvrability, durability and endurance, additionally, the glider included the ability to carry a range of Defence payloads.
Ron Allum, RADS managing director, said, “Although the test and demonstration program was limited due to schedule limitations, Deep Ray has demonstrated its potential as an autonomous system with capability for depth, manoeuvrability and payload that would benefit from further testing and development.”
This Demonstration phase was ultimately to verify Deep Ray’s potential as an autonomous system for front-line remote area undersea acoustic surveillance and determine feasibility to progress to prototype development.
In addition to Deep Ray’s demonstration results, this innovation program also resulted in the registration of two patents by RADs which included the vehicle’s shape and its balanced piston pump.
“The next phase would allow deep water trials of the Deep Ray Vehicle thus verifying the vehicle’s manoeuvrability, endurance and control beyond simulation and analysis, and enable prototype design and development. This phase would complement Defence’s initial investment into the Deep Ray vehicle,” Allum added.
RADS also developed initiatives relating to Deep Ray’s vehicle control network, energy systems, variable buoyancy engine, composite and syntactic manufacturing processes and the design of key components such as the emergency ascent system, electronics pressure vessel, VBE level-meter, flow restrictor, solenoid valve and prime pump assembly.
Allum explained, “It aligns with the 2020 Defence Force Structure Plan, which prioritises investment in emerging technologies including a focus on the adoption of autonomous systems for undersea warfare.”
RADs has benefited greatly through this collaborative process with Defence and prides itself on delivering a high quality, sovereign defence innovation with potential to both grow a niche Australian skills base and deliver a cutting-edge defence capability. (Source: Defence Connect)
07 Dec 20. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) recently completed Full Scale Static (FSS) testing on the MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) wing after three months of extensive testing. MQ-9B includes SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian ® RPA produced by GA-ASI.
The testing included multiple load cases to 150 percent of expected maximum flight loads. The wing was loaded using specially designed fixtures to apply a distributed load across the wingspan – simulating gust and maneuver flight conditions – with no failures.
“Successful completion of FSS testing on the MQ-9B wing was a critical step in proving that our design meets stringent certification standards for structural strength and integrity,” said Dee Wilson, Vice President, Engineering Research Development & Design Hardware. “The wing performed as expected, matching analytical predictions closely. Our engineering design, stress and test teams are commended for an exceptional effort in meeting this critical milestone.”
This particular wing design is the culmination of a large development effort from multiple areas within GA-ASI and represents a major milestone in qualifying the MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian RPA to fly in non-segregated airspace. The wing test success also establishes the baseline wing design for the entire MQ-9B product line. This is critical as GA-ASI starts deliveries to the multiple customers pursuing the MQ-9B including the United Kingdom, Belgium and Australia.
07 Dec 20. Russia’s Okhotnik UCAV Tests Air-To-Air Missiles. For the first time, the Russian military conducted a series of flights of a heavy attack drone “Okhotnik” in the form of a fighter-interceptor with simulated air-to-air missiles at the Ashuluk training ground, a source in the military-industrial complex told RIA Novosti.
Prior to this, the “Okhotnik” had already performed a number of flights, but in the course of them only its flight qualities and the operation of the main onboard systems were assessed.
“From the strip of the military airfield of the Center for Combat Training and Combat Use of the Russian Aerospace Forces at the Ashuluk training ground, several flights of the Hunter were performed with functional simulators of guided air-to-air missiles. Such missiles in the combat version are designed to destroy other aircraft,” the source said agencies, noting that the tests were recent.
The source explained that the flights performed “will make it possible to assess the coupling of the drone’s avionics with missile guidance systems and the lead Su-57 aircraft.”
According to the interlocutor, simulators of missiles with infrared and radar homing heads were used on the Okhotnik.
“The simulators have the body and all the electronic stuffing of the corresponding missile, but they lack the engine and warhead,” the source said.
The Okhotnik, developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau , is to become the first heavy drone with strike functions in the Russian Aerospace Forces. The device is made according to the “flying wing” scheme with the use of materials that reduce the radar signature.
According to open sources, the strike UAV has a length of 19 meters, a wingspan of 14 meters, its take-off weight is 20 tons, and its maximum speed is about 1000 kilometers per hour. The first flight of the Hunter took place on August 3 and lasted more than 20 minutes. (Source: UAS VISION/RIA Novosti)
09 Dec 20. Airbus expects Eurodrone contract early 2021. Airbus expects the four partner nations to the Eurodrone unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to award a contract for production early next year.
Speaking at a virtual running of the company’s annual Trade Media briefing (TMB) on 9 December, the company’s head of UAS development, Jana Rosenmann, said that with terms of the planned procurement recently agreed between the nations of Germany, Italy, France, and Spain, and the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), a signature is expected in the first quarter of 2021.
“Since June we have had interesting and lively discussions with OCCAR, and on the table now we have a fair and reasonable offer for both sides [of the nations and OCCAR]. On 19 November the nations approved this agreement, and now all four are now running their own procurement processes,” Rosenmann said, adding that the final signature date will be dependent on the speed of these individual processes.
As noted by Rosenmann, while Airbus, Leonardo, and Dassault will each have a hand in the development of the Eurodrone (including the manufacture of the main fuselage by Airbus Spain), final assembly will take place only at Airbus’ Manching facility in Germany. (Source: Jane’s)
02 Dec 20. NAWCAD AIRWorks selects L3Harris for UAS demonstration Phase II. The US Navy’s Naval Air Warfare Center Air Division (NAWCAD) AIRWorks has chosen L3Harris Technologies for the second phase of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) demonstration. Phase II involves identifying and assessing UASs that can be fielded in harsh environments without the need for any extra support systems.
The selection was made in partnership with IMPAX, and L3Harris is one of two teams that will take part in the demonstration in Yuma, Arizona, for three weeks.
L3Harris Precision Engagement Systems president Dave Duggan said: “L3Harris’ FVR-90 offers unique technology not offered by other unmanned aerial systems.
“This unmanned system can operate in the austere weather environments and multiple domains.
“The FVR-90 offers a vertical take-off and landing capability that we believe can give the Navy the needed control to accomplish its important missions.”
It uses the Hybrid Quadrotor technology to take off with a small crew and quickly and accurately shift between horizontal and vertical flight.
The aircraft does not need separate launcher or recovery device and provides increased capability, portability, and smaller operational footprint.
The demonstration is being carried out as part of a multi-phased selection process. It will help assess advanced technologies and advise on acquisition strategies in the future.
In addition, it will aid in meeting ‘merit-based competition requirements for potential Other Transaction (OT) awards for prototyping’.
The OTs that will be awarded can be a part of the future programme of record worth an estimated $1bn.
In July last year, the US Navy carried out a series of fleet experiments with multiple unmanned aerial and undersea systems aboard the expeditionary fast transport (EFT) vessel, USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1). (Source: naval-technology.com)
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