Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
02 Apr 21. Malta Drone Centre Launches with £500k Investment. With the launch of the Malta Drone Centre and an Innovation Ecosystem, Malta is primed as a hub for the international drone industry. Hawk Aerospace COO Roger Xuereb Archer and Vantage UAV founder Richard Scriven, co-founders of Malta Drone Centre Ltd, have joined forces, taking the next step to propel drones into the future of the corporate world.
“We are proud to have set up Malta Drone Centre Ltd (MDC Ltd), the first professional drone academy of its kind,” said Scriven. “It has taken a lot of hard work and effort, made easier by working with such open and like-minded people at Malta Enterprise, who have been just as dedicated to making this happen. This milestone is just the end of the beginning, and we are excited for what the future holds for the drone industry both in Malta and internationally.”
Recognising a possible economic niche in the growing interest in drone technology, Malta Enterprise and Transport Malta have collaborated to help the drone industry take flight locally. Transport Malta acts as regulator, introducing EU directives relevant to the sector and launching new regulations that require drones of a certain size to be licenced and insured. Meanwhile, Malta Enterprise has supported the launch of a new Malta Drone Innovation Ecosystem in February 2021, clearing the way for the Malta Drone Centre to be opened shortly after.
MDC Ltd’s €500,000 investment is intended as an opportunity for foreign and local companies to carry out tests on drones in Malta, as well as professionally train drone pilots ready for a variety of industries.
“The current demand for drone services is huge, and the trajectory for growth is substantial,” added Scriven, who departed the financial services and property sectors in 2016 to found Vantage UAV Ltd, a UK- and New York-based global UAV/ Drone inspection services company.
“Last year, the industry’s global revenue was £6.5 billion, and this is expected to hit £35 billion by 2025. Currently, drones are still considered a novelty, with a ‘wow’ factor, but it is our aim to make them more mainstream and for individuals and businesses to appreciate what drones can do for them. This is only the beginning.”
Xuereb Archer, himself a stalwart of the aviation world and with 10 years’ experience in the drone industry, agrees that while the time is ripe for drones to take the spotlight, an educational phase to shift the public psyche is first necessary.
“The traditional processes in any industry may well be less cost-effective and more time-consuming than using drones, but these processes are sometimes embedded into the organisation and so are difficult to change. Through MDC Ltd, we are bridging that knowledge gap, training drone pilots specifically to operate within – and improve – their respective industries.”
And while the Drone Ecosystem will attract companies that test, manufacture and assemble drones to Malta, testing prototypes requires pilots with specific skills. Apart from having drone flying expertise, these pilots must also test drones that carry payloads such as optical or infrared cameras, or packages such as medical or food supplies using the targeted training received via MDC Ltd.
“The functionality of drones is almost endless – and therefore, so are the career opportunities as a drone pilot, especially as anyone from any industry can be trained from scratch through the Centre,” continued Scriven.
“Drones can be used in logistics to deliver goods, in surveillance and security to check if a perimeter fence or skyscraper is safe and secure. They can cut costs, time and risk in the inspection of assets such as properties or wind turbines, they can be used in surveying, transport, mapping, and there are certain drones that can even fly underground as they have no need of contact with satellites.”
And the world’s drone journey is only just taking off, concluded Xuereb Archer.
“There are so many diverse use cases that the trajectory of the drone industry can only keep rising. We predict that take on will become ever more rapid into areas we can’t even dream of today.” (Source: UAS VISION/Times of Malta)
31 Mar 21. Orbital UAV Signs New Contract with Textron/Lycoming. Orbital Corporation Ltd announced that it has signed a new engine development and supply agreement with Textron subsidiary, Lycoming Engines. The new agreement includes a 12-month engine development program, which will enable the integration of an Orbital UAV-designed core engine, including proprietary fuel and engine control systems, into Textron Systems’ Aerosonde program.
Upon satisfactory completion of the engine development program, the Agreement transitions to an engine supply contract. The supply agreement includes the provision of engines, spare parts and support services and will run for a minimum of five years. Lycoming then has the discretion to call for five additional one- year extensions to complete the full 10-year term.
Delivery of production engines under the agreement will be no earlier than quarter four of Financial Year ending 30 June 2022. Consequently, Orbital UAV’s revenue guidance for the current financial year (12 months to 30 June 2021) remains unchanged at A$30m to A$40m. The potential impact of the agreement on future revenues will not be certain until the completion of the engine development program and the scheduling of any committed engine deliveries under the engine supply contract.
“We are delighted to announce this major new collaboration with Lycoming and to be working with Textron Systems on a joint development program,” said Todd Alder, CEO and Managing Director of Orbital UAV.
“This relationship further enhances our status within the global UAV defence industry and provides the opportunity to increase our market share and deliver on our strategic growth objectives” said Mr. Alder.
Wayne Prender, Senior Vice President, Air Systems at Textron Systems, said, “For more than four decades, Textron Systems has been designing, manufacturing, operating and supporting some of the world’s most reliable and trusted multi-mission unmanned aircraft, including the Aerosonde and Shadow systems.
“Orbital UAV’s heavy fuel technology and design expertise coupled with Lycoming Engines’ World Class reputation further supports Textron Systems’ industry-leading UAV mission readiness rates and reputation for reliability and durability,” said Mr. Prender. (Source: UAS VISION)
31 Mar 21. Aero Development Japan Succeeds Operation Test of Hybrid Power Unit for Long-Distance Drones.
Aero Development Japan Co., Ltd. is developing a Halbach generator and gas turbine power for heavy and long-distance drones. The company has succeeded in the operation test of the combined hybrid power unit.
At the same time, it also succeeded in the operation test of ESC, a motor for high voltage propellers of DC300V (AC200V) class for drones. Development of the hybrid power system, which combines this unit with a propeller motor and ESC, is proceeding smoothly with the goal of flying a large drone with a total weight of over 150 kg carrying 50 kg of luggage for 60 minutes.
Hybrid power system business for large drones undertaken by ADJ
ADJ is a startup founded in 2018 and is developing hybrid power systems (hybrid power units and propeller motors / ESCs) for large drones. Most drones up to now have a total weight of 25 kg or less, and their applications have been limited to aerial photography and surveying. On the other hand, there are increasing expectations for the realization of a future in which heavy drones will fly for a long time, such as transporting goods to areas where the distribution network is not well-developed and transporting emergency goods in the event of a disaster.
Possibility of hybrid power system for large drones found in a wide view of the industry
Representative Tanabe gained a career at the Bank of Japan and served as the manager of the Nagasaki branch. Among them, we focused on industrial surveys all over Japan. Japan is dotted with material technology and processing technology that boasts the world’s top class industrial product level, so we would like to bring them together to create a major industry. With such passion, we entered the large drone industry by making full use of the financial know-how cultivated over many years and the network that extends to the political and financial academia.
“While the large drone industry is still in its infancy, emerging manufacturers are rapidly emerging overseas. On the other hand, no one is still in full swing as the essential power source needed to fly heavy drones for long periods of time. We have not started. While collecting information by making full use of our wide network, we found room for entry into power systems for large drones.”
A completely different approach to hybrid power systems
The bottleneck in the social implementation of large drones was exactly the “power source” that ADJ is working on. Due to the restrictions on the weight energy density (battery capacity per unit weight) of existing lithium-ion batteries, the time that can be flown is limited even if the battery capacity is increased. In order for heavy drones to fly for a long time, a power source with a weight output density (power generation amount per unit weight) that exceeds that of lithium-ion batteries has been required.
Therefore, ADJ focused on the approach of combining a small gas turbine engine and a Halbach generator (*) to generate electricity. A gas turbine engine (90 to 100,000 rpm) that rotates at high speed can drive a small but high-performance generator with a special magnet array called the Halbach array, which can exceed a weight output density of 1 kW / kg. It has sex. The development of power sources for drones using gas turbine engines and Halbach generators will be an advanced initiative not only in Japan but also in the world.
* About the Halbach generator
In a magnet array (called a Halbach array) in which the magnetic poles are rotated at a predetermined angle and arranged in a row, the magnetic flux on the back side of the array is applied to the front side, and a smooth and strong magnetic field is generated on the front side. By combining this magnetic field with a coreless coil, the output voltage of the generator does not drop even if a large current is taken out, a generator with less vibration and noise can be realized, and a weight reduction of about 30% is realized. This technology is based on the patented invention of Professor Morishita of Kogakuin University, and the license of the Halbach generator is owned by the ADJ development partner.
Succeeded in partial load test of hybrid power unit prototype
On February 25, 2021, at a partner factory in Chikusei City, Ibaraki Prefecture, ADJ conducted a partial load operation test of the hybrid power unit under development, and extracted power from the fuel input to the small gas turbine through a generator for propellers. I succeeded in rotating the motor. On the day of the event, Mr. Izu, the founder of enRoute, Site Tech, which is working on the development of large-scale drones, JUIDA (UAS Industry Promotion Council), and other drone-related people also visited and received high praise for the results. It was.
Representative of Atrac Lab Co., Ltd., Mr. Tomoyuki Izu said, “In addition to drones, when finely controlling with a computer or AI, electrification of power is becoming indispensable, and I think that energy conversion by a small generator is very wonderful. I think that the technology that has increased the rotation speed to reduce the size of the generator and the motor technology that can make good use of the high voltage exceeding 200V with a small motor have also become a breakthrough for the electric motor.”
Mr. Kunio Saito, Representative of Sighttech Co., Ltd. Commented, “Using a 200V specification motor, ESC400V / 15A, I confirmed the thrust of 13kgf in the explanation of the thrust of one motor, 21kgf, and the output during hovering. It can be estimated that even with one motor of 13 kgf, our aircraft YOROI 12D1750F can fly for one hour with a system mass of 30 kg, fuel of 16 L, and luggage of 40 kg. By all means, I think you should test it with our aircraft.”
Mr. Yasuhiro Senda, Vice President of JUIDA remarked: “I was surprised that the sound of the engine without the silencer was quiet even after 50,000 rpm. As far as the weight output density is known, it can be touted as the world’s highest class lightweight and high output hybrid power unit. The ESC that controls the output AC200V and the power system combined with the dedicated AC motor can provide a great degree of freedom in the design and development of large drones and “flying cars”, which is extremely difficult to achieve with lithium batteries and fuel cells. I hope that this will be an innovative technology originating in Japan that is drawing attention from around the world.”
At the same time as the hybrid power unit, we also succeeded in the operation test of the motor propeller that rotates at DC300V (AC200V) class. Until now, most of the drones were for low voltage (about DC50V) (according to our research), but this product makes it possible to efficiently supply the high voltage power of the hybrid power unit to the propeller motor as it is. As a result, the current can be significantly reduced, making the wiring smaller and lighter, eliminating the need to mount a voltage converter, and mounting a larger payload. We are preparing to install it in a drone as a hybrid power system that combines a hybrid power unit with a high-voltage motor and ESC module.
Drone equipped with hybrid power system goes to test flight
As the next step toward the social implementation of the ADJ hybrid power system we are developing, we are planning a flight test of a hybrid power drone equipped with this system in April 2021.
If we can stably fly a hybrid powered drone with a total weight of over 150 kg, it will be a big step to open up new markets such as logistics and disaster response. This test flight will be an important position for the realization of such a future. (Source: UAS VISION)
30 Mar 21. Martin UAV Unveils V-BAT 128, Featuring Increased Payload, Endurance for Defense and Private-Sector Application. Martin UAV, a leading advanced aviation technology manufacturer in the United States, today announced the public release of the latest unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the V-BAT 128, for defense and commercial use, including search and rescue, firefighting, logistic resupply, and energy and oil and gas operations.
Martin UAV previously demonstrated its upgraded version of the V-BAT featuring an increase in power, payloads and endurance at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE). Over the course of several weeks, the V-BAT 128 flew numerous missions, showcasing its VTOL capabilities and the versatility of its small footprint; one of the impressive features noted from those involved in the exercise is the aircraft’s ability to transition from take-off to a vertical hover and persistent stare capability while maintaining a sensor line of sight, in spite of difficult terrain.
“Martin UAV continues to push the boundaries of what is possible for unmanned aircraft systems,” said Heath Niemi, chief development officer. “We have listened to the customer and expanded the capabilities and agility of the V-BAT 128, delivering technology that serves a wider range of mission needs. We’re proud to make the V-BAT 128 available to the broader market and to provide more power and payload that can be transported in the bed of a pick-up truck, or, inside a Black Hawk.”
As the interest and adoption of UAV/UAS increases across commercial industries, the company stated a renewed commitment to support these verticals adapting to new technologies. Most recently, the company announced the addition of industry veteran Bill Irby as the Chief Operating Officer, who previously held leadership roles with Textron, L3 Harris and Northrop Grumman. Martin UAV strives to make UAVs more accessible and easier to implement, empowering organizations to streamline operational efficiencies, security and increase the safety measures for its staff.
The V-BAT 128 is designed to make transportation and rapid tactical deployment easier for both defense and commercial applications. It can be assembled by two personnel in less than 30 minutes. The aircraft’s duct fan propulsion design provides for top operational safety by eliminating exposed rotors, which are commonly found in propeller-driven VTOLs.
V-BAT 128 is ideal for takeoff and landing on both stationary and moving platforms, in areas with a footprint of less than 12-feet by 12-feet. The upgraded V-BAT provides significantly enhanced payload capacity of 25 pound and interchangeable payloads to meet mission-specific requirements. Increased endurance of up to 11 hours, and higher thrust were made possible by leveraging a more powerful engine, the Suter TOA 288 model. With a wingspan of 9.7 feet, the V-BAT 128 can reach over 90 knots reaching altitudes of 20,000 feet.
For more information on Martin UAV, its V-BAT and use across industries, visit: martinuav.com.
About Martin UAV:
Martin UAV is a private, advanced technology company based in Plano, TX. The company specializes in building wholly-unique, unmanned aircraft systems and associated flight control software. The company’s systems are commercially developed to fill critical operational needs in tactical & confined operational environments. Its V-BAT series aircraft is the only single-engine ducted fan VTOL that has the ability to launch & recover from a hover, fly up to eleven hours in horizontal flight, and make mid-flight transitions to “hover & stare” at any time throughout a given mission set. For more information visit: martinuav.com. (Source: PR Newswire)
30 Mar 21. Nordic Unmanned Enters European Fixed Wing Drone Market with Textron. Nordic Unmanned has teamed up with Textron Systems Corporation, a Textron Inc. company, to enter the fixed wing segment of the European drone market. The first commercial opportunity for the team is already targeted, as Nordic Unmanned is competing for a contract with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) with Textron Systems as its supplier of platform and lifecycle support.
“We’re excited to be collaborating with an industry heavyweight such as Textron Systems, as we now move full speed ahead into the fixed-wing vertical of the drone industry. The fixed-wing drone market vertical is a brand-new untapped opportunity for us, and it fits perfectly into our offering as we today are only offering vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) based solutions,” said Knut Roar Wiig, CEO of Nordic Unmanned.
The EMSA tender process, which is based around the Textron Systems Aerosonde unmanned aircraft system (UAS), covers maritime surveillance and coast guard functions, including environmental surveillance, rescue work, border control and vessel surveillance. The total value of the contract is estimated at EUR 20m over 4 years from Q3 2021. The contract is expected to be awarded to the successful bidder in the second quarter 2021.
A fixed-wing drone has wings, as opposed to vertical lift rotors. Each category has advantages, dependent upon mission. A fixed-wing drone can provide advantages over rotary wing drones by providing considerably increased endurance, increased range, and acoustic advantages. A fixed-wing drone has a dramatically lower CO2 emission and environmental footprint compared to a manned fixed-wing plane conducting a similar mission.
“Our Aerosonde UAS is a field-proven platform with more than 500,000 flight hours, including desert heat and Arctic cold,” said Wayne Prender, Textron Systems’ Senior Vice President, Air Systems. “Pairing our mature, high-performance Aerosonde platform with Nordic Unmanned’s premier support to customers across Europe represents a superior offering for a variety of applications.”
Textron Systems’ Aerosonde UAS has demonstrated its capability in both expeditionary land- and sea-based operations, providing simultaneous day/night full-motion video, communications relay and a customer-selected payload in a single flight. The Aerosonde can also be fitted with additional sensors such as signals intelligence, mapping sensors, or synthetic aperture radar.
“Our ambition is to use the EMSA tender process as a starting point for a broader cooperation with Textron Systems, and we see great opportunities within several areas both on service delivery and system integrations delivery. For instance, the Norwegian Armed Forces have started the first phase of their procurement process for their tactical UAS for land and sea-based operations with a total budget indication of several hundred million NOK. We just answered their request for information (RFI) last week together with Textron Systems, and there are other opportunities within the European market coming up in the short term. We will definitely position ourselves for these processes and are very excited about the commercial traction we are seeing in the market,” said Mr. Wiig. (Source: UAS VISION)
30 Mar 21. The UK Government Drones Pathfinder Programme announced the addition of a new Pathfinder project led by Trax International. Airspace Integration of Drones in support of COVID response Pathfinder aims to deliver an operating environment where all airspace users are detected, and their locations presented back to other drone operators. This will enable drones to safely “detect and avoid” other drones and air users.
The project will be delivered by Trax International in partnership with UAvionix, ANRA Technologies UK and Plane Finder. Initial trials will take place at The Aviation Innovation Centre, Goodwood and will also include Skyports and Auriga Aerospace. The project is partly funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and is expected to be completed by November 2021.
Working under the Civil Aviation Authority’s regulatory requirements, the consortium aims to demonstrate safe Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flight alongside conventional air traffic in non-segregated airspace.
This will be achieved by developing a comprehensive electronic surveillance picture based on Mode-S and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) transmissions using existing internationally recognised systems, procedures and rules, and integrating it into an unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform. This information will be re-broadcast via Traffic Information Service – Broadcast (TIS-B) to enhance the situational awareness of all airspace users.
Transport Minister, Rachael Maclean said, “The UK is already a world-leader when it comes to innovation in aviation and this exciting project will take us one step further to being able to safely use drones alongside other air traffic in UK airspace. This trial is supported by our Drones Pathfinder Programme which we are pleased to be funding into 2021/22.”
29 Mar 21. Royal Navy receives Madfox autonomous vessel. The British Royal Navy’s experimentation innovator, ‘NavyX’, has received a new autonomous vessel, called ‘Maritime Demonstrator For Operational eXperimentation (Madfox)’. The British Royal Navy’s experimentation innovator, ‘NavyX’, has received a new autonomous vessel, called ‘Maritime Demonstrator For Operational eXperimentation (Madfox)’.
Madfox is named after defence technology firm L3Harris’ Mast-13 vessel.
Mast-13 vessel has been operated by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) on UK Navy trials for the last 18 months.
NavyX is the Royal Navy’s ‘Autonomy and Lethality Accelerator’ designed to rapidly test and develop new and emerging technologies.
It will carry out work on uncrewed surface vessel (USV) in the next few months. It will study how these vessels can deliver across a wide range of army operations including surveillance and force protection’.
NavyX is currently working towards getting Madfox to sea and begin the vessel’s testing.
NavyX team leader commander Antony Crabb said: “With Madfox now directly in the hands of NavyX, the team will be able to explore a multitude of issues such as safety, regulatory compliance, new missions, new payloads and the role that a USV can play in complex operations and within the future fleet.
“Later this year NavyX will also accept an autonomous Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) into the inventory. This exciting work will help inform how systems are deployed, and employed, from future vessels of the Type 26 and Type 31 classes.”
The investment in Madfox is part of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines’ commitment to expand their autonomous equipment use.
Last week, the Royal Navy’s first Merlin ‘Crowsnest’ helicopter entered service to prepare for the UK Carrier Strike Group mission. (Source: naval-technology.com)
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