Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
30 Jun 21. USAF’s Skyborg ACS flies onboard MQ-20 Avenger tactical UAV. The test flight comes just two months after the ACS was first demonstrated onboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical UAV. A General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger unmanned vehicle returns to El Mirage Airfield. Credit: General Atomics.
The US Air Force (USAF) has carried out the flight test of a Skyborg autonomy core system (ACS) on board a General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Skyborg is focused on showcasing an open, modular ACS that can autonomously aviate, navigate, and communicate, and thereby, integrate other advanced capabilities.
The two-hour thirty-minute flight test was conducted during the Orange Flag 21-2 Large Force Test Event at Edwards airforce base (AFB) in California. It was part of the Autonomous Attritable Aircraft Experimentation (AAAx) campaign line that aims to test and inform ACS development a sit furthers.
The test flight comes just two months after the ACS was first demonstrated onboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical UAV at Tyndall AFB in April.
By integrating the ACS on the MQ-20 Avenger UAV within two months after completing tests on the UTAP-22, the Skyborg team proved the modularity, portability, and scalability of the ACS on a completely different aircraft using the same software.
Skyborg Fighters and Advanced Aircraft programme executive officer brigadier general Dale White said: “This type of operational experimentation enables the airforce to raise the bar on new capabilities, made possible by emerging technologies and this flight is a key milestone in achieving that goal.”
After the MQ-20 safety pilot had achieved steady, the operator handed over control to the ACS to prove its ability in executing ‘basic flight autonomy behaviours’.
During the flight test, the ACS achieved basic aviation behaviours and responded to navigational commands.
Edwards AFB 412th Test Wing commander brigadier general Matthew Higher said: “The execution of this flight test is a great milestone for our closely integrated development and acquisition team.
“Safely executing this test in conjunction with Orange Flag both expands the envelope for autonomous vehicle flight testing and improves warfighter confidence working with autonomous wingmen.”
Orange Flag is the large force test event carried out three times a year by Air Force Test Center’s 412th Test Wing. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
30 Jun 21. ECA GROUP upgrades its drone IT180 for Special Forces applications. ECA GROUP provides special forces with Over-the-Hill reconnaissance capabilities, day and night, by integrating the Controp EO/IR camera on its IT180 UAV. The IT180 UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) as part of ECA GROUP’s unmanned systems range, is a long-endurance Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aerial drone. The IT180 is renowned for its discretion, robustness and long endurance. Coupled with the exceptional optical performance of the new generation hi-performance Controp camera, this combined solution is ideally suited to the challenging demands of special forces for long range identification, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition & Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions, enabling Over-the-Hill reconnaissance both in daytime and at night. Its effectiveness is battle proven. The Controp camera also offers real-time Situation Awareness and Tactical Response.
ECA GROUP and Controp teams have worked together to integrate the video suite (camera and data transmission) and combine the high performance of the image solution with the reliability of the IT180 UAV.
IT180 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – Versatile, Robust, Proven
ECA GROUP’s IT180 has been designed to carry a variety of payloads including various cameras and data transmission technology to meet the multiple needs of special forces, armies and Homeland Security forces on all types of missions involving long range identification, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition & Reconnaissance (ISTAR), drifting mine detection, communication and permanent surveillance.
The IT180 UAV is a resilient, long-endurance high performance UAV proven in battle; the French army has been using the IT180 in reconnaissance missions since 2016 and is particularly satisfied with its performance and robustness in harsh conditions.
This state-of-the-art UAV has a low acoustic signature, a communication range of up to 30 km and withstands rugged environments and conditions (up to 60 km/h winds, dust, snow, sea and moderate rain), day and night.
Controp camera for target visualization > 10 km
The Controp camera is unique in the quality and resolution of its images, usually only found on larger UAV payloads. Its very high-range spectral bands enable it to visualize targets at long distances (> 10 kms) with high contrasts dynamics, even in high humidity conditions including coastal fog. It can perform with low acoustic signature, on ISTAR missions in low light / night conditions.
The combination of ECA GROUP’s IT180 UAV and the Controp camera perfectly meets information control and data confidentiality requirements, inherent in special forces operations.
ECA GROUP is unveiling its IT180 UAV and Controp EO/IR Camera integrated solution at the SOFINS special forces event, from 29 June to 1 July, Souge en Gironde, France.
25 Jun 21. Northrop Grumman conducts maiden flight of Japan’s second Global Hawk. The RQ-4B is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV designed to provide high-resolution imagery of large geographic areas. Northrop Grumman has completed the first flight of Japan’s second RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle (UAV). The latest milestone follows the completion of the maiden flight of Japan’s first RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV in April from Palmdale, California, US.
Japan is procuring three RQ-4 Block 30 (I) via the US foreign military sales (FMS) programme.
Following its deployment with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), these UAVs will be combined with other Japanese intelligence platforms, as well as the ground-based command and control units.
The UAV is said to improve Japan’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and monitor and deter regional threats.
Northrop claims that the RQ-4B is the only high-altitude, long-endurance UAV to deliver near-real-time on-demand data.
With a larger wingspan and longer fuselage, and new generator, the RQ-4 has a range of more than 12,300nm, can fly up to 60,000ft and remain airborne for over 32 hours.
Northrop’s autonomous high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) systems family, including Global Hawk, are a key component of global ISR data collection for allied nations and mutual defence organisations worldwide.
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