Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
28 Apr 21. Northrop Grumman UK wins contract on phase two of Project MOSQUITO. Northrop Grumman UK has received a contract on phase two of the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Project MOSQUITO. The contract will see the company serve as a systems engineering partner. Phase two focuses on the design maturing and development of a working technology demonstrator.
Intrepid Minds joins Northrop Grumman to assist the design and produce the UK’s first uncrewed fighter aircraft prototype.
Northrop Grumman UK National Security Solutions director Katharine Sealy said: “Our team is ready to help deliver the required development cost and time savings by providing our expertise in Agile development and DevSecOps to enable a model-based, digital design approach.
“By applying modern software development practices to a digital engineering environment we aim to dramatically reduce the time required to build a flying demonstrator while allowing for seamless integration of additional capabilities in future.”
Northrop Grumman UK will also provide its international Distributed Autonomy / Responsive Control technologies, advanced mesh networking capabilities and more to the aircraft prototype.
The two companies are part of Team MOSQUITO, which is led by Spirit AeroSystems Belfast.
The team will work on advancing the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept to full demonstration capability in less time and at low cost.
In January, the UK Government announced a further £30m investment into the uncrewed fighter aircraft.
The project is initially expected to support over 100 STEM jobs at Spirit Belfast’s facility.
Spirit AeroSystems Airbus Programs senior vice-president Scott McLarty said: “Spirit Belfast is delighted to lead the delivery of a national programme enabling the development of cutting-edge technologies while maintaining critical skills in the UK.
“Supporting the MOD’s strategic objectives on pace, affordability and operational capacity, Team MOSQUITO will help drive collaborative innovation and competitive advantage. We are excited to develop this relationship with a view to contributing to a more sustainable industrial base for UK defence.”
In July 2019, the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) said it is developing LANCA under the name ‘Project Mosquito’ to deploy with advanced fighter jets such as the Lockheed Martin F-35, Eurofighter Typhoon and the future Tempest air system. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
28 Apr 21. Martin UAV Selected to Prototype Navy UAS. The Navy selected Martin UAV‘s V-BAT for a VTOL UAS prototyping and development effort in order to fulfill new technological requirements driven by the changing nature of threats in austere operating environments.
Martin UAV was one of thirteen respondents to the Navy’s Mi2 Challenge and was later down selected with L3Harris Technologies to compete in a technology demonstration at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona.
The merit-based competition that included technology questionnaires, performance summaries, and in-depth supporting artifacts in accordance with established criteria, sought maximum portability, self-sufficiency and modularity in UAS hardware and payload capabilities without the need for ancillary support equipment.
The V-BAT was selected to meet these requirements as a result of its minimal logistic support requirements and maximum versatility. The system offers vertical takeoff with a single-engine ducted fan, automatic transition to straight and level flight, easily commanded hovers and stares, interchangeable payloads, and an open architecture.
Since its founding in 2015, Martin UAV has always maintained a focus on the true needs of the warfighter and worked to develop the V-BAT to meet those exact needs. Now, as a result of winning the Mi2 Challenge, Martin UAV has a clear path to continuing those development efforts and deliver a leading edge ISR technology with operator input included.
“Martin UAV’s V-BAT was designed to address the needs of the warfighter in an ever-changing landscape and is now an integral part of reshaping mission requirements and capability offerings to better equip the Navy in future operations,” said Heath Niemi, Martin UAV’s Chief Development Officer and retired U.S. Army colonel.
“Without Martin UAV CEO Ruben Martin’s commitment to innovation, the team’s relentless dedication to superior product development, and the support and expertise of our partner Broadhead Consulting throughout the entire process; offering this unique UAS solution would not have been possible,” Niemi added.
“The awarding of this opportunity does not just benefit Martin and its partners, it truly benefits the warfighter and everyone involved in support of defense mission sets, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the opportunity,” said Niemi. (Source: UAS VISION)
28 Apr 21. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) participated in U.S. Pacific Fleet’s (PACFLT) Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem ‘21 (UxS IBP 21), April 21-26, 2021. The UxS IBP 21 integrated manned and unmanned capabilities into the most challenging operational scenarios to generate war fighting advantages. The exercise aimed to directly inform warfighters, warfare centers, and developers to further incorporate unmanned capabilities in day-to-day Fleet operations and battle plans.
During UxS IBP 21, a GA-ASI MQ-9A Block 5 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) acted as a surrogate for the MQ-9B SeaGuardian and was able to demonstrate for the first time: successful Link connectivity with U.S. Navy surface ships and aircraft; cooperative anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations, to include the first successful high-altitude sonobuoy drop from a UAS; Automatic Identification System (AIS) correlation with a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon and MH-60R Seahawk; exchange of Link 16 data over Global Command and Control System – Maritime (GCCS-M) from a UAS; and long-range over-the-horizon targeting from a UAS to a U.S. Navy Destroyer.
“Our partnership and collaboration with the U.S. Navy during this exercise has been extremely beneficial and helped set the stage for a revolutionary change in how the U.S. Navy and our foreign partners address the increasing challenges and complexities for accomplishing distributed maritime operations,” said J.R. Reid, GA-ASI Vice President for DoD Strategic Development. “We successfully demonstrated several groundbreaking capabilities for the first time, and we look forward to leveraging this momentum to continue to develop and test more advanced capabilities that provide immense value to the warfighter, both domestically and abroad.”
GA-ASI has expanded the traditional role of the MQ-9 for its U.S. government and foreign customers to support maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, including ASW, with the development of the expeditionary MQ-9B SeaGuardian that can safely operate in adverse weather and non-segregated airspace.
28 Apr 21. InstantEye Robotics demonstrates Gen 5 Echo palm-sized UAV at US Army AEWE. InstantEye Robotics demonstrated its Mk-3 Gen5-D1/D2 (E) Echo palm-sized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the recent US Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE).
Mike Mackiewicz, the director of operations at InstantEye Robotics, told Janes on 26 April that the Echo is an enhanced version of the company’s Generation 5 aircraft and has the Gluon 640×512 long-wave infrared (LWIR) imaging camera, which is a military-only sensor in development. The Echo weighs 193 g and has an endurance exceeding 20 minutes with an operational range exceeding 4.5 km.
The US Army used the Echo in both urban and rural settings at the 2021 AEWE, which took place from 5 February to 5 March at Fort Benning in Georgia. Bill Arganda, InstantEye Robotics project engineer, told Janes on 14 April that US Army soldiers used the Echo in both attack and defence scenarios. They launched the aircraft in the defence situation and used its infrared (IR) camera to see attacking positions.
Arganda said the US Army also used the Echo as part of an attack on buildings. Soldiers used the aircraft to see adversaries in windows and on rooftops, and smoke grenades on the ground. Mackiewicz told Janes on 14 April that this was part of infantry element situational training exercises.
Arganda said the US Army soldiers provided feedback that they appreciated improvements in digital stabilisation with the Echo. Soldiers also appreciated using the aircraft to identify targets and hazards, he added.
22 Apr 21. UAV Sea Guardian Operates with Naval Assets. The U.S. Navy demonstrated the successful integration of an unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft system with manned capabilities during the Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21 (UxS IBP 21) off the coast of San Diego, April 21.
The unmanned MQ-9B Sea Guardian operated in conjunction with a guided-missile cruiser, executing long-range, over-the-horizon targeting. Using sonobuoys and other assets, the Sea Guardian identified contacts and reported locations remotely to the commander on board the cruiser.
“The integration between unmanned and manned capabilities shown today provides an operations approach to strengthening our manned-unmanned teaming,” said Rear Adm. James A. Aiken, UxS IBP 21 tactical commander. “Putting our newest technology into our Sailors’
Operational synchronization between unmanned capabilities and traditional manned naval assets ensures the Navy maintains its technological and warfighting advantage. Sea Guardian enhances the Navy’s anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities, among many others.
UxS IBP 21 is a U.S. Pacific Fleet exercise, executed by U.S. 3rd Fleet, designed to integrate manned and unmanned capabilities into operational scenarios to generate warfighting advantages. The week-long event involves surface, subsurface, and aerial unmanned assets, operating with littoral combat ships, guided-missile destroyers, guided-missile cruisers, submarines and helicopter squadrons. From Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet Public Affairs. (Source: ASD Network/USN)
27 Apr 21. Spirit AeroSystems Belfast Advances Ground-breaking Project for UK Ministry of Defence. An exciting collaboration with Northrop Grumman Corporation and Intrepid Minds will rapidly develop and deliver an uncrewed operational demonstrator. Spirit AeroSystems (NYSE: SPR) Belfast announced today it will lead Team MOSQUITO, comprising Spirit Belfast, Northrop Grumman and Intrepid Minds, on further development of the Royal Air Force’s (“RAF”) Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept to full demonstration capability. Initially supporting more than 100 STEM jobs at Spirit Belfast’s facility, the project has the potential to sustain further expertise in the wider UK supply chain.
Exploiting agile design principles, sophisticated digital applications, and advanced manufacturing skills, the team will generate knowledge and evidence for a potential follow-on project. Findings could lead to this revolutionary capability being deployed by the RAF to enhance protection, survivability and information advantage to aircrews.
Drawing on its expertise in advanced composite manufacturing solutions, Spirit Belfast will adapt its award-winning resin transfer infusion technology to produce a lightweight vehicle capable of uncrewed, high-speed flight. Benefits of using extensive composite components, compared to all-aluminium aerostructures, include both reduced maintenance and fuel consumption for aircraft operations.
“Spirit Belfast is delighted to lead the delivery of a national programme enabling the development of cutting-edge technologies while maintaining critical skills in the UK,” said Scott McLarty, Senior Vice-President of Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus Programs. “Supporting the MOD’s strategic objectives on pace, affordability and operational capacity, Team MOSQUITO will help drive collaborative innovation and competitive advantage. We are excited to develop this relationship with a view to contributing to a more sustainable industrial base for UK defence.”
In addition to the provision of systems engineering support, Northrop Grumman will supply its international DA/RC (Distributed Autonomy / Responsive Control) technologies, gateway offerings and advanced mesh networking capabilities to the aircraft. These enable seamless human-machine collaboration and cooperative mission management across distributed manned and unmanned assets.
“Our team will help deliver the required development cost and time savings by providing our expertise in Agile development and DevSecOps to enable a model-based, digital design approach,” said Katharine Sealy, Director of National Security Solutions, Northrop Grumman UK. “By applying modern software development practices to a digital engineering environment, we aim to dramatically reduce the time required to build a flying demonstrator while allowing for seamless integration of additional future capabilities.”
Intrepid Minds will cover the complete avionics system, power, lighting and integration with the ground control station. As part of this project, the company brings its own Adrestia system currently being deployed across the air, surface and subsurface domains. Having already integrated into many civil and defence systems, Intrepid Minds is using that speed of development to generate a cohesive structure across all partners and suppliers.
“As specialists in the unmanned and autonomous field, Intrepid Minds has a proven record in developing the art of the possible”, said Intrepid Minds Managing Director, Adam Smith. “Our ability to pull in the best technologies from suppliers and integrate them centrally with our Adrestia system and Spectre hardware can rapidly enhance a system of systems approach. We are delighted to be involved in developing potential UK sovereign capability in ways that could work across the services.” (Source: PR Newswire)
26 Apr 21. US Navy Tests Vanilla UAV from a Moving Truck. A Vanilla ultra endurance land-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) participated in U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21 at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu.
The VA001 Vanilla is long-endurance aircraft (MALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed and built by Vanilla Aircraft for military forces intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and aerial mesh network relay missions.
Vanilla UAS has demonstrated world-record endurance, and is capable of multi-mission beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations providing days of time-on-target or thousands of miles of search capacity on a single flight. No other system provides the endurance, payload capacity, and cost-profile of Vanilla Unmanned.
The UAS is designed to carry multi-spectral imaging sensors for aerial remote sensing missions and communications relay payload to provide reliable communication to tactical units operating in difficult terrains.
It can also be fitted with electro-optical sensors to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data.
The drone system can be launched from a special platform installed on the pick-up. (Source: UAS VISION/ DiVDS; Website
23 Apr 21. Kaman Announces 1st Flight of Unmanned K-MAX TITAN. Kaman Air Vehicles, a division of Kaman Aerospace Corporation, announced today the first flight of its new unmanned helicopter, the K-MAX TITAN™. The world’s first heavy lift unmanned helicopter for the commercial market, K-MAX TITAN™ leads the way in repetitive, heavy lift without the constraints of manned operations. With a focus on enabling safety and operational efficiency, the proprietary K-MAX TITAN™ system will redefine the helicopter external lift market by increasing future mission capabilities in any location and any type of weather.
“We are excited to reach this major milestone on K-MAX TITAN™ – watching this capability take to the skies and knowing that we are going to solve some of the toughest challenges for our commercial and military customers,” stated
Roger Wassmuth, Senior Director, Business Development, Air Vehicles Division.
Concurrent with commercial development, Kaman is working with the U.S. Marine Corps on upgrading the autonomous capabilities of their two USMC K-MAX® air vehicles through a funded government contract. Flight-testing is expected to start in May 2021. The USMC experiment includes Kaman’s K-MAX TITAN™ unmanned system and Near Earth Autonomy’s sensor-based autonomy suite.
“Kaman leads the way with innovative solutions for our customers that are reliable, affordable and sustainable. K-MAX TITAN™ is no exception, whether the mission calls for firefighting, humanitarian assistance, or distributed logistics,” stated
Darlene Smith, President, Air Vehicles and Precision Products Divisions.
The new K-MAX TITAN™ system will be available for existing K-MAX® aircrafts as well as on new production K-MAX® helicopters. The K-MAX® is a rugged, low-maintenance aircraft that features a counter-rotating rotor system and is optimized for repetitive external load operations. The aircraft can lift up to 6,000 pounds (2,722 kg) with unmatched performance in hot and high conditions. (Source: ASD Network)
23 Apr 21. ZALA Aero unveils hybrid engine UAV and GPS-independent UAS navigation system. The Kalashnikov Group’s ZALA Aero unveiled the ZALA 421-16E5G unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a hybrid powerplant and a navigation system for unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) that does not depend on GLONASS/GPS satellite navigation at a press event in Moscow on 14 April. Designed for reconnaissance and surveillance missions, the hybrid engined UAV has a swept wing with a 4.64 m wingspan. The hybrid powerplant is located in the UAV’s tail section and its internal combustion engine rotates the electric generator, powering the electric motor while also charging the battery. The UAV has a range of 100 km and endurance of over 12 hours.
The payload carried in the UAV’s nose includes a high-definition (HD) thermal imager and a full HD video camera with a 60× zoom. The onboard computer with artificial intelligence-based software provides object recognition.
ZALA Aero said serial production of the ZALA 421-16E5G UAV has already begun but refused to name the customer.
The company’s GPS-independent UAS navigation system has been tested on the new ZALA 421-24 multirotor UAV. We set a point on an electronic map and flew the multicopter to the specified co-ordinates,” said Nikita Khamitov, ZALA Aero’s head of special projects. “The UAV can return at any time during the flight if it loses the communication link or GPS signal.
The UAV’s onboard computer processes data received from the electro-optical surveillance system and creates a cloud of points on the ground that can be used to return to its launch point. (Source: Jane’s)
22 Apr 21. US Air Force upgrading Reapers for near-peer threat. The US Air Force (USAF) is upgrading its Reaper uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) to make them better prepared to face near-peer threats rather than their traditional counter-terrorism mission.
MQ-9 Reaper at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. Image: US Air Force.
The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) said in a press release: “The MQ-9 is an unmanned aircraft with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike capability, traditionally used for Counter-Violent Extremist Organisation (C-VEO) combat operations. That mission is now shifting.”
The modifications will keep the aircraft relevant throughout its service life until 2035 and will see the Reaper fitted with new jam mitigation capabilities as well as additional ‘closely-held’ capabilities designed to enable ‘command and control mission assurance and resiliency while the aircraft is airborne.’
The USAF is set to award a contract for the delivery of MQ-9 Multi-Domain Operation (M2DO) variants and is retrofitting upgrades to the existing MQ-9 fleet to bring them up to the M2DO standard.
MQ-9 Production and Retrofit materiel leader Lieutenant Colonel Nick Jordan said: “Working with Air Combat Command and other stakeholders, the MQ-9 enterprise will add new capabilities to the platform to help ensure the MQ-9 is able to support these missions in the threat environment we envision.
“The user has directed us to add technology into the platform which signals that the MQ-9 can offer more capability than just C-VEO operations over the next ten to fifteen years. It can remain relevant with these added and upgraded technologies.”
The aircraft is also set to have its electronic power capacity increased. Additional enhancements include an expansion of the weapons systems the Reaper can carry as well as upgrades to its electro-optical/infra-red sensor suite.
The AFLCMC added: “The Air Force projects that with these smart investments the MQ-9 will remain operationally viable for worldwide operations through the end of the platforms projected service life of 2035.
“In conjunction, the Air Force will continue to evaluate options to find a more viable solution in the future.”
The USAF recently began flying MQ-9 Reaper operational sorties from Romania as part of a shift in the aircraft’s mission. The AFLCMC said the upgrades would allow the Reaper to ‘offer a host of new capabilities’ to ‘Combatant Commanders and warfighters around the world.’ (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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.