Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
08 Jul 21. US Air Force issues airworthiness approval for Kitty Hawk’s Heaviside eVTOL aircraft. The US Air Force’s (USAF’s) Agility Prime programme has issued airworthiness approval to Kitty Hawk for its Heaviside tilt propeller electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Colonel Nathan Diller, AFWERX director, told Janes on 1 July, ahead of the announcement, that this will enable the company to perform government flight tests for revenue, which means the USAF can start paying Kitty Hawk to explore different operational concepts that the company perhaps did not initially envision engaging with the service about.
An example, Col Diller said, includes using the Heaviside for potentially performing a type of communications relay, which could take place in austere areas where the USAF needs to connect data. Kitty Hawk fits into Agility Prime area of interest (AOI) 2, which is for one to two passenger vehicles.
Kitty Hawk is the latest company to receive airworthiness approval from the USAF as Beta Technologies, Joby, and Lift Aircraft have also received airworthiness awards. Kitty Hawk’s airworthiness approval is for remote operations. The company performed a Heaviside demonstration for Agility Prime officials in May, which is considered the programme’s first operational exercise.
AFWERX is interested in Kitty Hawk’s work with autonomy in aircraft. Kitty Hawk demonstrated the ability to autonomously take off, land, and fly patterns, said Col Diller. While the Heaviside is not at a point where it can autonomously manage major uncertainties during flight, it does have basic functionality to manage and operate autonomously in a relatively known environment, he added. (Source: Jane’s)
08 Jul 21. The first ever Unmanned Marine Systems (UMS) certificate has been awarded to SEA-KIT International by Lloyd’s Register, representing an important milestone for the maritime industry.
SEA-KIT has worked closely with Lloyd’s Register since early 2020 in a concerted effort to achieve the highest standards for the Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) sector, culminating with their latest 12m X-class USV for leading geo-data specialist, Fugro, being awarded the new UMS certification on 28 June 2021. Not only is this an important achievement for SEA-KIT, but it also represents a significant recognition by Lloyd’s Register for the wider maritime community.
Paul James, Lloyd’s Register’s Naval Centre of Expertise Manager, said: “Lloyd’s Register has been working on the safety assurance of Unmanned Marine Systems since the launch of our UMS Code in 2017. Early on, we recognised the industry’s need for a cost effective and robust method to demonstrate that unmanned novel and complex systems are safe. The Lloyd’s Register naval team welcomed the opportunity to work with SEA-KIT to delve into the design, operation and construction of its latest Unmanned Surface Vessel. We are pleased to provide certification and safety assurance of SEA-KIT’s unmanned system.”
Ben Simpson, SEA-KIT CEO, said: “We thrive on challenging ourselves to continuously raise the bar and this is yet another example of hard work by the whole team paying off. Everyone here at SEA-KIT was integral to this achievement. We are absolutely delighted to be the first to receive UMS certification from Lloyd’s Register and hope that this will be the first of many as we continue to push boundaries and set the highest standards in the development of safe, multi-mission USV platforms.”
Unmanned systems technologies continue to gain a stronghold
07 Jul 21. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) announced yesterday the completion of the first MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and Ground Control Station (GCS) for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF). GA-ASI and RNLAF commemorated the occasion with a special roll-out ceremony at GA-ASI’s corporate headquarters in Poway, Calif., and the event was simulcast to the Netherlands.
The aircraft will begin its acceptance testing later this year at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, Calif., and the aircraft will be delivered to the Netherlands before the end of 2021. The total Foreign Military Sales agreement includes four MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft and four mobile Ground Control Stations, along with associated support equipment.
“We are proud to begin this new relationship with the Royal Netherlands Air Force,” said Linden Blue, GA-ASI CEO. “With millions of hours of proven performance under its wings, the MQ-9 is ideally suited to support their nation’s ISR needs. The Netherlands now joins the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Spain as NATO countries operating our advanced RPAs, with Belgium coming online in the next few years.”
With unmatched operational flexibility, MQ-9A Block 5 has endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS and can operate up to 50,000 feet. It has a 3,850 pound (1,746 kilogram) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of external stores. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with Full-Motion Video and Synthetic Aperture Radar/Moving Target Indicator/Maritime Radar. An extremely reliable aircraft, MQ-9A Block 5 is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and triple redundant avionics system architecture. It is engineered to meet and exceed manned aircraft reliability standards.
07 Jul 21. Thales completes successful first flight of new UAS with range capabilities of over 100 km.
- With a hybrid propulsion system for optimum safety, endurance and discretion, Thales’s UAS 100 long-range unmanned air system for civil, government and military users will be able to operate at ranges of more than 100km.
- UAS 100 combines world-class flight safety performance with the compact design required for unmanned air systems, and complies with future European regulations for drone flights over populated areas.
- The system will meet the requirements of a broad range of missions, including infrastructure inspection, coastal surveillance, border surveillance, event security, search-and-rescue and military operations.
Thales has successfully completed the first flight of a half-scale prototype of its UAS 100 long-range unmanned air system. Developed in partnership with Issoire Aviation and Hionos, and with the support of the French Ministry of the Armed Forces via the Defence Innovation Agency (AID), UAS100 will help meet demand for more cost-effective drone missions with a lower environmental impact.
Unmanned air systems have significant commercial potential, with hundreds of thousands of drones due to enter service over the next 10 years. As a result, airspace management and the aerospace ecosystem will become considerably more complex, creating new safety and security challenges and obliging civil aviation authorities to tighten their regulatory demands. To meet these challenges, Thales is proposing a long-range, long-endurance UAS developed with the support of the AID and capable of meeting future flight safety, security and certification requirements.
From infrastructure inspection, coastal surveillance, border surveillance and event security to search-and-rescue and military operations, UAS100 will meet mission requirements while operating in full compliance with general aviation regulations. Its flight avionics combine the certified levels of flight safety and security of Thales’s solutions for the aerospace sector with the low weight and compact design needed for integration on board a light UAV.
The UAS 100 system will offer range capabilities in excess of 100 km and its jam-resistant navigation system will ensure safe operation even in dense or cluttered electromagnetic environments. It is powered by two electric motors as well as an internal combustion engine, guaranteeing the discretion needed to accomplish its missions and operate over populated areas, while ensuring the necessary endurance and resilience to failure.
With a level of system redundancy and security unmatched on the light UAS market today, the Thales solution will natively meet the requirements of the new European SC-LUAS (Special Condition – Light Unmanned Aircraft Systems) regulations. The system will reduce operating costs and improve the environmental footprint of drones, opening up new opportunities for inspection and surveillance operations and expanding the capabilities of government services and the armed forces.
The innovation has been developed in record time thanks to a close partnership between Thales, Issoire Aviation and Hionos. Issoire Aviation, pioneer of the all-carbon aircraft, has provided unique know-how in aerostructure design and manufacturing, while Hionos has made an important contribution to the project with its autopilot software solutions for drones.
“With this new long-range UAS, Thales is providing the trusted solution needed for civil, government and military inspection and security applications. As well as meeting today’s operational requirements, the new system paves the way for the air mobility solutions of tomorrow.” Yannick Assouad, Executive Vice-President, Avionics, Thales
07 Jul 21. Schiebel Camcopter S-100 Enhances Maritime Surveillance in Spain with EMSA. The Spanish maritime safety and rescue body SASEMAR is operating the CAMCOPTER S-100 for maritime surveillance over the coming months. The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) service is delivered by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). Stationed in Finisterre in the northwest of Spain, the CAMCOPTER S-100 supports the Spanish authorities in carrying out different operational tasks, including maritime traffic control, pollution prevention and fisheries control. While the flights provide additional, complementary means to SASEMAR in performing its roles of preventing and curbing pollution, and controlling maritime traffic, they also serve the national fisheries authorities (Spanish Secretary-General for Fisheries) working to protect sea- fisheries resources and to ensure their sustainable development.
The S-100 executes these various tasks equipped with an Electro-Optical / Infra-Red (EO/IR) camera gimbal, a Becker Avionics BD406 Emergency Beacon Locator and a Shine Micro Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver.
In the execution of Schiebel’s contract with EMSA, the CAMCOPTER S-100 provides simultaneous maritime surveillance services to several EU Member States. Most recently, the S-100 was operational in Romania, Estonia and Finland.
Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group, said:
“This is the first time that the Spanish authorities are using a UAV under the Light Unmanned Operator Certificate (LUC). We’re proud that our S-100 is the UAS of choice and are looking forward to supporting them in their vital tasks.” (Source: UAS VISION)
06 Jul 21. Albania to Purchase Drones from Turkey. An additional budget of more than 8m Euros was allocated for the priority project of the Albanian Ministry of Defense for the purchase of UAVs, “within the scope of the agreement with Turkey and measures to increase territorial control and national security”. While 82 deputies voted “yes” and 9 deputies “no” for the approval of the additional budget of more than 8m Euros, 4 deputies abstained. The Albanian government approved the budget amendment, known as the normative law, on June 22, and the decision was published in the Official Gazette. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama visited Turkey with some cabinet members at the beginning of June and noted that they talked about the control system of the country’s territory with super-intelligent drones during their meetings with Turkish companies.
Rama stated that they aim to produce real-time data on roads, coastline, farmland, forests and public order with the drones.
On the other hand, Interior Minister Bledi Çuçi visited the “Baykar Defense” company within the scope of his visit to Turkey in June and stated that they evaluated “the possibility of using these devices for civil and urban control and protection of lands in Albania”. (Source: UAS VISION/AA)
07 Jul 21. Royal Navy Tests Drones in Man Overboard Trials. Members of the NavyX team are working out how heavy-lift Minerva drones could deliver potentially life-saving equipment if someone falls overboard. Over the past few months, the team – who are the navy’s experimentation experts – tested the drone both at the Royal Navy’s Diving School at Horsea Island, Portsmouth, and more recently on a civilian boat. The work was completed with Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and companies Malloy Aeronautics and Planck Aerosystems.
First a Minerva T-150 drone was successful in locating a dummy in the water at Horsea Island, deploying a test package which could one day contain a life raft and hovering above the dummy to signpost their location.
Royal Navy crews perform extensive ‘man overboard’ drills, ensuring they can quickly and effectively rescue anyone at sea. The introduction of a drone means it could be used to fly out to where the person is and hover – making it easier for the ship and seaboat to identify the casualty’s location. With its ability to drop objects, extensively tested with Royal Marines last year in Norway and Cyprus, the drone could also deliver a life buoy and other survival equipment.
Following the success at the Diving School, sea trials started on an industry boat to test the smaller T-80 Minerva drone. The system was able to be controlled to take off the moving vessel and fly out to sea before returning.
In one step further, the drone was programmed to land itself on a mat attached to the boat’s deck – meaning once it had taken off it would use its on board systems to track where it needed to land. (Source: UAS VISION)
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.