Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
04 Mar 21. Chinese Black Hornet Knock-off Unveiled at Abu Dhabi. A Chinese company has unveiled a copy of the Black Hornet Nano. The tiny surveillance drone – named Fengniao, or Hummingbird – is just 17cm long and weighs 35 grams. Its developer, privately owned Huaqing Innovation based in Shenzhen, said it could transmit high-definition images or real-time footage over a distance of more than 2km. The unmanned aerial vehicle was on show at the Abu Dhabi International Defence Exhibition and Conference last week.
The Fengniao is heftier than the 10cm-long, 18-gram Black Hornet Nano – made by Norway’s Prox Dynamics and used by the US military since 2012 – and can transmit images 400 metres further, though the drones have a similar operation time of about 25 minutes. But the Fengniao’s battery can be replaced after a flight, unlike the Black Hornet which has to be recharged.
They also have similar camera combinations that allow for panoramic images to be taken at a relatively high altitude, and a thermal camera for night vision can be attached to both the Fengniao and the latest Black Hornet.
Other features of the Fengniao include laser sensors on four sides to help it detect and avoid obstacles. It also supports networking data links, meaning it can be used as part of a swarm of up to 16 drones on a mission. Those data links also mean the latest tactical command systems can be used to control the drone from the ground via a smartphone app – and that could give it an edge over the Black Hornet, which has been in service for nearly a decade. The developer said the micro drone could be used in areas such as public security surveillance and patrols, and for inspecting dangerous places such as chemical warehouses and pipelines. (Source: UAS VISION/South China Post)
04 Mar 21. Kelley Aerospace Reveals Supersonic UCAV Concept. Singapore-based aerospace company Kelley Aerospace has officially launched its supersonic unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) concept, and has reportedly secured over 100 orders from undisclosed customers.
The arrow is said to be the “world’s first supersonic UAV that pushes the boundary with state-of-the-art swarm and autonomous aerial flight logic — making it a formidable UAV. The Arrow is designed to complement manned aircraft and be a force multiplier in the aerial battlefield”
The aircraft features a monocoque (literally single-shell) built from carbon fiber. This makes it lightweight enough to fly more than 2,600 Nm (4,800 km) with a maximum weight of 37,038 lbs (16,800 kg). It won’t cost more than $16m, but the base version can eventually drop to $9m.
“It is designed for a reduced radar cross-section and infra-red signature. The carbon fiber and monocoque design endows the Arrow with outstanding strength and stiffness,” said the company in a statement.
Indeed, the Arrow has been specifically developed to fit various scenarios and be ready for multiple types of operations. For example, it can either be controlled by someone from the ground or just take off autonomously. Furthermore, it can be part of a fleet of aircraft controlled by one manned airplane or just fly solo to conduct an operation from one end to another.
Back in December, Kelley said it was looking to create no less than 250 new jobs specifically for the production of this new aircraft, explaining that its five-year goal is to get some 500 pilots ready to control its combat drones as part of a general aviation pilot academy.
No specifics have been provided on the customers who pre-ordered the supersonic drones. According to the cited source, the company is already testing two more prototypes in the United States and Sweden. (Source: UAS VISION/Auto Evolution; Website)
03 Mar 21. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, today announced that its company-owned Avenger ER achieved a company milestone as it received an FAA-issued Experimental Certificate (EC) enabling the “Extended Range” Avenger to perform expanded operations in the U.S. National Airspace System.
“Since 2005, GA-ASI has worked closely with the FAA to affirm the special airworthiness certification of RPAs, promoting their integration into the National Airspace System,” said GA-ASI Senior Director of Quick Action Programs, Pete Latta. “This EC will also help GA-ASI employ the latest configuration of the Avenger ER for customer payload testing and company investments in advanced UAS control technologies.”
This is the second Avenger ER to receive a FAA EC. The first Avenger GA-ASI produced, which is owned and operated by the company, received an EC in 2016.
With avionics based upon the battle-proven Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper®, the jet-powered Avenger is designed to perform high-speed, long-endurance missions over land or sea. The aircraft has a 44-foot long fuselage, a 76-foot wingspan, a payload load of more than 4,000 pounds, is capable of flying at over 400 KTAS, and has an endurance of more than 20 hours. Avenger ER can support a wide array of sensors and weapons loads and has been designed to carry an all-weather GA-ASI Lynx® Multi-mode Radar, an Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensor, Infrared Search and Track System (IRST) and a 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), delivering an optimal balance of long loiter intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and precision strike capability.
GA-ASI plans to begin flight testing with the Avenger ER for multiple contracted and Internal Research & Development (IRAD) projects. The increased wingspan of 76 feet extends Avenger ER’s already impressive endurance to over 20 hours.
In related news, GA-ASI also announced that its fleet of Avenger aircraft, which are engaged in a number of advanced test or research projects, surpassed the 30,000 flight hour milestone in February 2021. One project in which the Avengers are engaged is supporting the U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg Vanguard Program, which is pushing the boundaries in teaming autonomous systems with human-crewed platforms.
02 Mar 21. KAI aims to provide Light Armed Helicopter with MUM-T capability. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is aiming to provide its Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) with a manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capability, according to officials from South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). DAPA has revealed that KAI is aiming to provide the LAH, which is being developed for the RoKA, with a MUM-T capability. (KAI)
The MUM-T system would link the LAH, development of which is due to be completed by late 2022, with a host of indigenously designed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), reported the Yonhap News Agency on 1 March, adding that the LAH already has the capability to receive data from a UAV via a ground control station.
DAPA official Lee Bo-hyung was quoted by Yonhap as saying on 24 February that KAI plans to start conducting MUM-T tests with the LAH within the next two years as part of a first stage of trials. Under a second stage, which would possibly be completed within five years, KAI would equip the helicopter with a canister-launched UAV.
No details were provided about the development budget or the exact type of UAVs set to be teamed with the helicopter.
The LAH, which is being developed for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) to replace the service’s AH-1F and 500MD/Tow Defender helicopters, was provisionally declared “fit for combat” by DAPA in December 2020.
KAI announced at the time that DAPA’s assessment, which came five years and six months after the launch of the LAH project, “laid the foundation” for series production of the helicopter, three prototypes of which have been built. The LAH, was first rolled out in December 2018 and made its first flight in July of the following year at KAI’s facility in Sacheon.
02 Mar 21. Textron Aerosonde at FTUAS Rodeo. Textron Systems is preparing to show off its vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aerial system in an Army drone rodeo at Fort Benning, Georgia, for companies competing to replace the service’s RQ-7B Shadow.
The Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems, or FTUAS, Rodeo will run through the first week of March and feature troops demonstrating drone prototypes from four defense firms that have been under soldier evaluation for the past year.
After a fly-off event in 2019 involving 11 drone vendors, the Army selected four finalists — the Textron Aerosonde Hybrid Quad, Arcturus Jump 20, L3 Harris Unmanned Systems FVR-90 and Martin UAV V-Bat — to participate in a capability assessment involving brigade combat teams, or BCTs, from the across the service.
The replacement for the Shadow will have to be quiet, easily transportable and able to take off and land without runway requirements.
“We are absolutely excited about where the Army is taking this more expeditionary system for the BCTs,”
Wayne Prender, Textron Systems’ senior vice president for air systems, told defense reporters Thursday.
The Aerosonde Hybrid Quad features a vertical takeoff and landing system kit that has been installed onto Textron’s baseline Aerosonde 4.7 fixed-wing drone. Prender described it as the “workhorse of our fleet with over 500,000 hours of flight operations … almost all of which are done in conflict.”
Currently, the Aerosonde 4.7 drone is operating around the world in support of U.S. and allied forces through contracts with the U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Naval Air Systems Command and the U.S. Air Force, Prender said.
The new Aerosonde Hybrid Quad features “additional advantages that the Army is specifically looking for in its future tactical system — paramount to that is the expeditionary footprint,” Prender said.
A package of three Aerosonde Hybrid Quads with fuel and spare parts, weighing less than 3,000 pounds, can be loaded onto a standard U.S. military air cargo pallet, Prender said.
“That allows us to be internally transported in a [CH-47 Chinook] and then off-loaded and up and operational in less than 20 minutes,” he said. “That is extremely critical for the Army as they look at how they are going to employ and manoeuvre this system.”
Textron’s entry into the drone rodeo at Benning will be the same system it delivered to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, but will feature an upgrade it provided to the unit allowing soldiers to control the drone while moving in a tactical vehicle, Prender said.
“We were successful in providing new capabilities midstream during the FTUAS evaluation,” Prender said. “Whether it is a Humvee or a [Joint Light Tactical Vehicle] or any other vehicle in the Army inventory, that allows them to extend the reach; it allows them to avoid any specific [radio frequency] signature [that can be detected by the enemy].”
The drone rodeo will feature soldiers demonstrating the systems from the four vendors, but the event will not result in a winner. The yearlong soldier evaluations of the four prototypes and the feedback gathered from the rodeo will be used to refine Army requirements for the Shadow replacement. (Source: UAS VISION/Military.com)
02 Mar 21. UAE Army to Buy Chinese Golden Eagle CR500 VTOL UAVs. Back in November 2020, China North Industries Group Corporation Limited (NORINCO) announced that its Golden Eagle CR500 vertical take-off and landing UAV had completed final inspections and been cleared for delivery to an undisclosed costumer.
An anonymous source at IDEX revealed that the UAE army plans to buy a bunch of new Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles.
‘The deals could include 10 to 15 Golden Eagle CR500 helo drones fitted with Red Arrow 12 missiles, and 20 MR40 unmanned aircraft fitted with BBE-2 bombs,’ the official said, adding that both deals will approximately cost US$9m and US$7m respectively.
According to a Chinese spokesperson, the CR500 has an endurance of up to five hours and can fly up to 3,000 meters, while the MH40 can fly for about 30 minutes over a 5-km range while it performs reconnaissance and research missions, Breaking Defense reported.
NORINCO has said the CR500 Golden Eagle is a coaxial rotor helicopter drone designed for multiple missions including battlefield reconnaissance, target positioning and illuminating, communication relay and battle damage assessment.
‘The drone can carry a large payload, has a long endurance even when fully loaded, and a compact structure that can be easily stored and transported. It can also resist strong winds, carry different types of electro-optical pods and payloads, and act as a logistics support craft and deliver materials with pinpoint accuracy,’ the company says.
The MR40-series is equipped with four rotors and could be fitted with search and targeting radars and reconnaissance subsystems and armed with an array of weapons, including guided missiles and fragmentation bombs.
(Source: UAS VISION/MENAFM)
01 Mar 21. Singapore’s navy tests a new layer of surveillance: unmanned vessels. Singapore is testing unmanned surface vessels with a locally developed, AI-driven navigation algorithm that could be used for maritime security operations in the congested but strategically important waters around the southeast Asian island nation.
Upon completion, the Republic of Singapore Navy is expected to then field four USVs in the role. The country’s defense ministry said this will add another layer of surveillance and operational response for its maritime borders.
The ministry added that the vessels will be able to conduct round-the-clock patrols, providing persistence at sea. This means the navy’s larger, manned warships can be freed up and deployed more strategically for other missions.
The ministry said that the USVs are fitted with an indigenously developed collision detection and avoidance system that enables it to navigate through the busy waters around Singapore, integrating the USV’s sensors and collision detection equipment used for manned maritime navigation – such as navigation charts and Maritime Automatic Identification System – with an algorithm designed specifically for the RSN’s operations.
The system automates the collision avoidance decision-making process while ensuring that the vessels will navigate in a manner complies with the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, according to a news release from the ministry.
The algorithm was developed after analyzing maritime traffic patterns in the Singapore Straits and then tested in a lab environment for nine months before installation on a USV for sea trials.
Singapore has not provided details about the origin of the USV platform itself, but Janes has previously reported that the 16.9-meter-long vessel was developed by Taiwan’s Lung Teh Shipbuilding. According to specifications provided by Singapore defense ministry, the USV displaces 30 tons, has a top speed in excess of 25 knots and an endurance of 36 hours. The USV is equipped with a 12.7mm (50-caliber) machine gun and laser dazzler, long-range acoustic device, as strobe and search lights. Navigation is aided by an on-board radar and GPS.
Singapore also announced in early February it had successfully deployed a K-STER lightweight expendable mine disposal system or EMDS off a USV and neutralized a simulated undersea mine, marking what it says was the first time this has been done in the world.
The trial carried out in late January saw the Venus 16 USV remotely navigated to the target location off Singapore’s southern islands, where it deployed the K-STER which then located the simulated mine using its on-board sensors and detonated it using a small explosive charge.
The Venus 16 is a 16-meter vessel also developed by Lung Teh with system integration carried out by Singapore’s ST Engineering.
According to the defense ministry, Singapore has been testing the use of USVs in the mine countermeasures role since 2017. The K-STER is made by France’s ECA Group, and Singapore has only previously utilised the EMDS from on board its manned mine countermeasures vessels.
Singapore, whose busy port and oil refineries form an integral part of its economy, sits at the southern end of the Straits of Malacca where it meets the South China Sea via the Singapore Strait, where hundreds of commercial ships carrying the bulk of the world’s maritime trade passes through daily.
This includes 80 percent of the oil headed for northeast Asia and a region where security challenges such as piracy are an ongoing problem.
The waters are also used by U.S. navy ships transiting between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean or Arabian Sea, with a carrier strike group centred on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz using the Straits to return to the United States in early February. (Source: Defense News)
02 Mar 21. Boeing’s Loyal Wingman has undertaken its first test flight, Boeing has confirmed. Boeing’s Loyal Wingman – the Airpower Teaming System – has undertaken its maiden flight, marking the success of Australia’s first locally constructed defence aircraft in over 50 years. The successful flight comes following $115m in development funding from the RAAF, and will bring together some 35 Australian industry partners. The Loyal Wingman is expected to provide support to critical defence air assets, following clearance from the testing phase.
The Loyal Wingman executed the flight on 27 February, with support from a pilot at Woomera.
“The Loyal Wingman’s first flight is a major step in this long-term, significant project for the Air Force and Boeing Australia, and we’re thrilled to be a part of the successful test,” said Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, Head of Air Force Capability for the RAAF.
Leanne Caret, president of Boeing Defense, Space & Security and CEO, noted, “Boeing and Australia are pioneering fully integrated combat operations by crewed and uncrewed aircraft.
“We’re honoured to be opening this part of aviation’s future with the Royal Australian Air Force, and we look forward to showing others how they also could benefit from our loyal wingman capabilities.” (Source: Defence Connect)
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