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28 May 21. Fourth German Heron for Mali, The German government has approved the deployment of another Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to the United Nations mission in Mali, which will bring the total to four.
On 5 May, the budget committee of the Bundestag released funds for an extension and expansion of the operator contract for Heron UAVs with the MINUSMA mission in Mali.
The German government said that with four Heron I aircraft instead of the previous three and three instead of two ground control stations, the German contingent will be able to use two of the unmanned reconnaissance systems simultaneously.
The fourth aircraft will provide the German contingent with a necessary reserve. In this way, planned downtimes of the Heron I can be compensated for and unplanned downtimes will not have a negative effect on the provision of UAV capabilities.
Since September 2020, the Bundeswehr has been using two Heron I aircraft at the same time in Mali.
The new operator contract with Airbus Defence & Space Airborne Solutions runs until the end of April 2024. Airbus is responsible for the provision, maintenance and repair of the Heron I and the ground control stations. The operations of the reconnaissance systems are carried out by soldiers of the Bundeswehr.
As part of MINUSMA, the Heron I has been flying from Gao in northern Mali since 2016. By July 2020 the aircraft had logged more than 11 500 flight hours in over 1 200 operational flights. (Source: UAS VISION/Defence Web)
24 May 21. General Atomics Teases New Addition to its Portfolio. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is teasing a new air-launched effect, a part of a growing portfolio of in-development drones that it plans to launch from its MQ-9A Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). The company released a digital rendering of two UAVs flying slightly behind an MQ-9 in a promotional tweet for the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference on 19 May. The small unmanned aircraft appears to be propeller-driven and have a v-tail.
General Atomics confirmed to FlightGlobal that the pictured UAVs are so-called air-launched effects, meaning a type of drone designed to launch from other aircraft or UAVs. (Source: UAS VISION/ FlightGlobal)
27 May 21. BAMS-D deployments provide time-sensitive intelligence to US combatant commanders. Northrop Grumman Corporation’s (NYSE: NOC) autonomous high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) Broad Area Maritime Surveillance-Demonstrator (BAMS-D) system surpassed 40,000 flight hours during a routine mission in the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of operations April 13.
“This milestone in the BAMS-D program demonstrates Northrop Grumman’s commitment to delivering critical capabilities to our customers that provide an advantage to U.S. and coalition partners in theatre,” said Doug Shaffer, vice president and program manager, Triton programs, Northrop Grumman. “BAMS-D providing operational support well beyond its intended demonstration period highlights the unrivaled strategic value of autonomous maritime HALE while the Navy integrates the MQ-4C Triton into its vital maritime patrol mission.”
BAMS-D entered operational service for the U.S. Navy in 2009. Originally intended to be a six-month demonstration deployment, BAMS-D has supported U.S. Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions in USCENTCOM for more than 12 years.
“BAMS-D sustainment is truly a Northrop Grumman cross-enterprise effort, and is a testament to our unwavering commitment to mission readiness,” continued Shaffer.
“This is a significant milestone for any aircraft, but especially remarkable for an originally planned 6-month demonstration system,” said Capt. James P. Johnston, Commander, Task Force 57. “The persistence and dependability of the BAMS-D system and the resilience of the personnel who operate the platform here in 5th Fleet, are essential in sustaining maritime security and freedom of navigation throughout the region.”
While BAMS-D remains in operational service, its replacement, the MQ-4C Triton, completed its first year of an early operating capability deployment in the U.S. Indo-Pacific area of responsibility. The Triton system is currently progressing toward a multi-intelligence configuration and will ultimately support five operational orbits for the Navy with 68 operational aircraft. Australia is set to receive their first Triton in 2023 as part of a cooperative development program that will enable intelligence sharing between the U.S. and Australia.
Northrop Grumman’s family of autonomous high-altitude, long-endurance systems perform critical wide-area ISR collection. Today, autonomous HALE systems operate across the globe, with 24+ hour endurance, collecting essential ISR data over land and sea to enable rapid, informed decision-making. In the future, these systems will connect the joint force, implementing advanced autonomy and AI/ML while delivering indispensable capabilities with fewer people to provide information at the speed of relevance.
24 May 21. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Unveils ‘Gaza’ Drone. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) introduced new drone, radar, and missile systems in a ceremony on May 21. They were unveiled in a ceremony attended by IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami and other senior commanders. They included a wide-body and heavy Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) named “Gaza” that can be employed in various combat, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It can also be used in search and rescue operations and relief efforts after natural disasters and accidents. With a flight endurance of 35 hours and operational range of 2,000 kilometers, the drone is capable of carrying 13 bombs and 500 kilograms of equipment. After joining the IRCG Aerospace Force’s drone fleet, it will improve the force’s intelligence dominance and capability to counter enemy threats. The head of the Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said the new drone was named “Gaza” in honour “of those in that land who stand today against the invasion and aggression of the Zionists of Israel”. (Source: UAS VISION/Tasnim News Agency)
24 May 21. HII debuts Proteus USV testbed. Huntington Ingalls Industries has unveiled its Proteus 2.0 unmanned surface vehicle (USV) and completed initial demonstrations of its autonomous capabilities.
Outfitted with Sea Machines Robotics’ SM300 autonomy system, the 8.2 m-long craft completed a successful demonstration on 14 May off the coast of Panama City, Florida.
For the demonstration, the Proteus USV was equipped with commercial perception sensors, including GPS, an automatic identification system, a depth transducer, a radar and a camera enabling a 360? field of view. HII deployed a separate 51 ft-long dive boat during the demonstration to illustrate SM300 system’s off-the-shelf solution including its obstacle avoidance capability and adherence to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).
Integrated with existing vessel systems and sensors to manage pre-planned and dynamically charted missions, SM300 is a vessel intelligence system providing ‘operator-in-the loop’ autonomous command and control, as well as direct remote-control operation via a wireless belt pack. The system can be outfitted to ocean capable vessels to enable scalable autonomy, from remotely controlled to fully autonomous vessel operations.
According to HII, the Proteus 2.0 sea tests saw the USV successfully execute a series of missions, which demonstrated COLREGS compliance at both high and low speeds.
The Proteus 2.0 testbed programme reflects one strand of HII’s growing portfolio of activity in the maritime autonomous systems sector. In March 2020 the company completed the purchase of autonomous underwater vehicle house Hydroid from Kongsberg, and in December 2020 acquired the autonomy business of Spatial Integrated Systems to further expand its capabilities in USV development.
Earlier this year, HII completed the first phase of its Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence with the construction of a 6,705 m2. (Source: Jane’s)
27 May 21. US Army identifies two finalists for unmanned aircraft portion of RS SKO competition. The US Army is down to two finalist platforms for the unmanned aircraft competition portion of its Render Safe Sets, Kits, and Outfits (RS SKO) programme.
The Teledyne FLIR Systems R80D SkyRaider and the InstantEye Robotics Mk-3 Gen4-HL Group 1 unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) are the finalists and the service is in source selection, an industry source told Janes on 26 May. The UAS competition is the ‘render safe’ part of RS SKO and is the only unmanned aircraft portion of the programme. Barbara Gabbard, US Army joint program executive office armaments and ammunition director G3/5/7, told Janes on 13 May that InstantEye Robotics and the FLIR SkyRaider were the only two UAS platforms submitted to the US Army that could potentially meet the RS SKO requirements. However, the service continues to conduct market research to ensure the best systems are selected to meet the RS SKO requirements, she added. The industry source said that this was the US Army’s way of saying that it was taking a wide look at the capability, and staying within Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs), even though these two UASs, at this point, were the only ones that would deliver the render-safe capability. Gabbard had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing. (Source: Jane’s)
20 May 21. Hoverfly demonstrates LiveSky 6205 Group 1 UAV at ANTX. Hoverfly recently performed maritime and land platform demonstrations of its LiveSky 6205 Group 1 tethered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at an invitation-only US Navy (USN) exercise.
Rob Topping, company CEO, told Janes on 17 May during the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) that Hoverfly demonstrated the UAV at the Naval Integration in Contested Environments (NICE) Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) 2021. This was held on 5–16 April at US Marine Corps (USMC) Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
At ANTX, Hoverfly had the LiveSky 6205 tethered to a maritime vessel and on the move at reasonable speeds. The aircraft, Topping said, was looking, hunting, and communicating in both a directional and an omnidirectional fashion.
ANTX events are hosted by Naval Warfare Centers to demonstrate emerging technologies and innovations that address USN and USMC mission priorities and gaps. They provide an environment for operators to assess the operational utility of technological innovations.
Hoverfly is promoting the LiveSky 6205 for use by US special operations forces (SOFs). Topping said the aircraft can perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) overwatch and long-range communications-relay missions.
Hoverfly has also developed the LiveSky 6205-HL, a new high-lift model that can carry a laser designator. Topping said the 6205-HL can carry more payload weight than the LiveSky 6205, enabling it to carry a laser designator.
The LiveSky 6205 is available to potential Pentagon customers through the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)-Tailored Logistics Support Program (TLSP). It will soon be available through the General Services Administration (GSA). (Source: Jane’s)
22 May 21. Innovaero sets sights on $1.6bn drone project. You don’t need a huge workforce to create desirable, hi-tech products. Kardinya, WA-based aerospace engineering company Innovaero, established in 2011, employs less than 40 people. But half of these are professional design, propulsion and airworthiness certification engineers who designed and built the award-winning BigEye aerial camera system for ASX-listed Spookfish that generated $30m in direct payments and royalties in just two years.
The company is eyeing a new opportunity and has invested more than $5m in self-funded R&D over three years developing the Fox Maritime Unmanned Air System (MUAS) for the navy’s forthcoming $1.6bn drone project, SEA 129 Phase 5, says chief executive Simon Grosser.
The navy is looking for an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) drone for its frigates and patrol boats that combines the versatility and payload capability of a helicopter with the range, speed and economy of a fixed-wing aircraft. Defence short-listed in March five prime contractors who will deliver the MUAS and sustain it through five-yearly refreshes of the fast-moving MUAS technology.
Last month a 40 per cent scale model of the Fox MUAS successfully completed its latest round of test flights paving the way for the maiden flight of the full-scale, 8m-wingspan MUAS design by the end of this year.
Among a field of contenders from proven UAS manufacturers, the Fox has been designed specifically to meet the navy’s requirements, Grosser told The Australian. It is also one of the few designed and built in Australia and so represents a sovereign capability.
The Fox features swept, high-aspect ratio wings for speed and economy, a blended wing-body similar to future airliner designs tested recently by Airbus and Boeing, and four retractable, battery-powered lift fans to provide vertical lift. The fans retract into the fuselage for aerodynamic efficiency while the Fox’s twin rotary heavy fuel engines provide a cruising speed of around 70kT with redundancy for long overwater flights.
Depending on the mission profile, Grosser says, it has an endurance of 11 hours, a maximum weight of 180kg and a versatile payload bay to carry up to 40kg of communications equipment and sensors. Importantly, it generates 6kW of electrical power, more than its rivals, meaning it can power future sensor and communications payloads and also recharge its takeoff and landing batteries in-flight.
Despite not having a firm partner when Defence announced its shortlist for the forthcoming tender process, Fox remains of great interest to both the navy and the short-listed contenders, Grosser told The Australian, but declined to discuss potential future partnering arrangements.
Because Fox is the first new UAV of its type designed entirely in Australia, the civil aerospace regulator, CASA, is having to develop its own processes for certifying its safety.
The company has a team of airworthiness engineers working with CASA to get this right, Grosser says. Innovaero will launch the Fox formally in both conventional and vertical takeoff and landing (CTOL and VTOL) versions at this year’s Avalon Air Show in November/December. (Source: Google/https://www.theaustralian.com.au/s)
24 May 21. A Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) MQ-8C Fire Scout, the U.S. Navy’s only ship-based autonomous helicopter program, passes the initial fit check aboard the USS Anchorage (LPD-23) at Naval Base San Diego demonstrating the aircrafts’ suitability for the U.S. Marine Corps’ amphibious warfare mission. MQ-8C Fire Scout, which has integrated the AN/ZPY-8 radar, is expected to reach Initial Operating Capability in this new configuration this summer and begin replacing MQ-8B aircraft on upcoming deployments.
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