Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
12 Aug 21. Robosys Testing Advanced Navigation Systems On The Solent. Robosys’ latest product, Voyager 100, is aimed at commercial and workboat vessels and is currently going through a vigorous system-verification series of tests to check and verify that the system is avoiding collisions by making safe and COLREGS compliant decisions – autonomously!
For more than a decade, Robosys has been providing Advanced Navigation Systems for manned and unmanned vessels, offering a 24/7 autonomous Situation Awareness capability to keep vessels safe from collision with other vessels or objects. Although Covid-19 has impacted some procedures in the last two years, being able to operate as a manned or unmanned vessel has allowed good progress to be made this year to achieve top performance of the autonomous system.
While initial development work can be made on simulators, the ultimate test of any navigation system is on a vessel at sea. With that in mind, Robosys Automation Ltd opted for the challenging location of the Solent and surroundings as a testing area for their software. It has all the ingredients for thorough testing: busy waterway, weather, a wide variety of vessels from large container ships, through warships to rowing boats.
An important feature of collision avoidance is to make sure the avoiding action doesn’t itself cause another collision danger. There is a set of clear international rules giving guidance on this subject called Collision Regulations at sea (COLREGS) and it is important that these regulations are followed. Voyager navigational software has to follow and obey these regulations. This is just one of many trials that are putting Voyager through its paces to verify that it is compliant with COLREGS. It is interesting to note that COLREGS even prescribe action to be taken if the other vessel is ignoring the rules!
This and many other features are included in the algorithms running the Voyager software and are part of the many testing scenarios the Roborat is trialling in real life in the waters off Portsmouth and Southampton.
11 Aug 21. US Donates 5 Raven11Bs to Costa Rica. The five RAVEN RQ-11B systems — each containing three aircraft and two ground support stations — will “support citizen and border security operations,” according to a joint press release issued by the Embassy and the MSP.
“The donation of these unmanned aircraft systems isn’t just another demonstration of the excellent cooperation between our countries to improve regional security, but it is an excellent example of the capacity of Costa Rica use new tools to confront transnational crime,” said US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Gloria Berbena.
Costa Rican authorities say they have already used the RAVEN RQ-11B system “with great success” in border regions to detect clandestine runways.
The donation is valued at $520,000.
The U.S. provides Costa Rica with $40m annually to fight narco trafficking and organized crime in the region. This finances maritime and air-based programs, border security and the judicial system.
Earlier this year, the United States donated to Costa Rica new Coast Guard boats and financed new training and maintenance facilities.
The U.S. and Costa Rica regularly coordinate in joint operations to stop international crime. Central America is one of the main routes for drugs headed from South America to the United States and Europe. (Source: UAS VISION/Tico Times)
11 Aug 21. Flare Bright wins UK MOD Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) follow-up contract. Following a successful initial DASA contract to prove the concept of true autonomy in drones, Flare Bright have been awarded a larger follow-up contract to provide the same autonomy in powered drones to give increase persistence and endurance. This project will deliver a fixed wing drone that can fly without GPS or any remote-control, when other drones are unflyable due to jamming and denial.
Flare Bright’s latest £425,391 contract lasts for 13 months and recently commenced, and follows on from the completion of an initial £226,500 contract that successfully concluded in April 2021. It will be announced at DSEI, to coincide with Flare Bright being selected to showcase its success at DASA’s stand (stand H2-110) and representatives will be talking through the innovative technology that creates this GPS-free technology throughout the show.
The military is increasingly using drones. GPS will often be denied and spoofed, and electromagnetic communication used for remote control will be jammed. Drones typically have an unsophisticated approach to dealing with jamming, outages or failure. Flare Bright has developed the technology to develop a truly autonomous drone that doesn’t rely on any of these methods and uses un-jammable internal means of flight control and navigation.
Flare Bright’s existing autonomous gliding drone has proven this and has now been selected by the US Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment and has been promoted on the UK Government’s website as a Case Study.
Flare Bright aims to extend its proven autonomous flight system’s persistence to perform a mission for 5-10 minutes without GPS or any other communications in a fixed-wing powered drone.
Any military would like to develop a truly autonomous drone that doesn’t rely on GPS or remote control and just uses unjammable internal means of flight control and navigation. As DASA itself states, “The UK Defence and Security sector has demanding requirements for accurate and resilient Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT). When Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are either absent, denied, degraded or unreliable, a platform’s Inertial Navigation System (INS) will drift; PNT uncertainty will grow, and mission success may be compromised. As the future operational environment becomes increasingly congested, cluttered, contested, connected and constrained, advances in current navigation technologies will be required to avoid mission failure.” This project will achieve the next level of practical development in this area.
John Binns, the recently retired Deputy Director of Strategy for the MOD Test and Evaluation team stated, “From my engagement with FlareBright, following a TechUK Defence Test and Evaluation conference, I have been increasingly impressed by their innovative methods by which they use machine learning and AI coupled with synthetic environments to rapidly test and prototype their autonomous SnapShot system validated by short duration live trial data.
I believe the innovation shown by FlareBright in their testing and prototyping has the potential to provide Defence with the ability to accelerate the development of unmanned and autonomous systems and have supported your efforts by providing opportunities to present their innovative technique to FLC’s at the Test & Evaluation Futures Programme Board.”
Former Paratrooper and Flare Bright’s Chief Commercial Officer, Chris Daniels said, “Every soldier knows that instant, tactical aerial surveillance is vital on any operation. To provide this to front line soldiers in a super lightweight form, with no training needed, and that can work in any challenging environment has to be good news for soldier survivability. We’re delighted we’re helping out.”
More info on Flare Bright
Flare Bright is a rapidly growing aerospace company pushing the boundaries of embedded AI technology to develop autonomous drones. Flare Bright specialises in its UAS product: SnapShot, designed to be the lightest and simplest way to get aerial images at the single press of a button.
Flare Bright has three core products:
- The MOD’s Defence and Security Accelerator is funding the ruggedisation of SnapShot for the defence and security market.
- SnapShot is being developed to measure winds accurately at altitudes up to 100m. This is part of a wider InnovateUK project to create live wind maps of urban, industrial and other difficult environments.
- It is developing a precision air-dropped drone for delivering small items such as medicines, vaccines or critical parts to remote places cheaply and efficiently.
Flare Bright is increasing the endurance, controllability and capability of small drones, and will be introducing thermal imagery into its range soon.
11 Aug 21. Navantia unveils Viento USV family. USV Vendaval will soon be fielded for a NATO demonstration in Portugal in September. (Navantia)
Spanish shipbuilder Navantia has entered the unmanned maritime systems market with its Viento family of modular multimission unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) with an eye on export customers.
Presented as a complete suite of systems, the Viento USV product range comprises command, control, communications, and computer (C4) system as well as platform control, navigation, and obstacle detection and collision avoidance technologies.
It can be equipped with lethal and non-lethal effectors such as a remote weapon station, water cannon, loudspeaker, as well as a range of sensors including a navigation radar, sonar, electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) system, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system, inertial navigation system (INS), and automatic identification system (AIS).
The USV can be integrated with shore- or ship-based command-and-control systems and can also serve as a mothership for other unmanned vehicles. It can be directly controlled via tele-operation, although it also offers semi-autonomous operation using preplanned or user-determined waypoints. An automatic return-to-home option is available.
The Viento is designed to perform a range of defence and security operations such as mine warfare, protection of critical coastal infrastructure, as well as surveillance and environmental control missions including support against illegal activities, counter-terrorism, and search and rescue (SAR).
Navantia officials told Janes that the company can modify any existing high-speed aluminium-hulled craft for unmanned operation.
It is working with local company SAES to integrate an underwater acoustic detection system to the USV.
Navantia earlier developed USV Vendaval using AISTER’s RAL-900-ZSF patrol boat as its baseline platform. It was delivered to the Port Authority of Ceuta for surveillance and environmental monitoring missions. (Source: Jane’s)
11 Aug 21. Marine Advanced Robotics and Planck Aerosystems Form Strategic Alliance. Marine Advanced Robotics and Planck Aerosystems have established a strategic alliance to provide a multi-domain robotic team that includes an unmanned surface vessel (USV) equipped with a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) that operate together for advanced mission profiles. The first system of its kind, the UAS-USV combination has broad applicability in the maritime sector. Applications include offshore infrastructure inspection (such as wind turbines and oil platforms), patrols of marine protected areas and exclusive economic zones (EEZs), and defense and security use cases. The sUAS can be operated remotely as a push-button capability, which includes autonomous launch and recovery, as well as automatic securing and recharging while not in flight. The USV can travel long distances unsupported, even in high sea states, and can host additional sensors above and below the water. The combined system is currently in trials for early customers. It will be offered as an enabling capability to all customers in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“The combination of Planck’s unmanned aircraft system with Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel (WAM-V) technology will enable greater situational awareness for multiple applications,” said Mark Gundersen, CEO of Marine Advanced Robotics. “Thanks to Planck’s ACE (Autonomous Control Engine) on the UAS and the inherent stability of the WAM-V, we’re able to provide a USV/UAS solution that can operate in open ocean conditions. Together we’re providing force multiplier solutions for aerial and surface missions for our defense and commercial customers.”
“This strategic partnership builds upon our existing relationship with Marine Advanced Robotics, which has included collaborative multi-domain deployments for Navy base security applications,” said Dave Twining, COO of Planck Aerosystems. “WAM-Vs are the ideal unmanned maritime platform for operating UASs, and we’re excited to see how far we can go with the combined system.” (Source: UAS VISION)
10 Aug 21. Schiebel completes Camcopter S-100 UAS trials for US Navy’s ONR. The Camcopter S-100 UAS operates day and night and can perform in all weather conditions. Austrian company Schiebel has successfully completed flight trials of its Camcopter S-100 uncrewed air system (UAS) for the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR). In a joint demonstration sponsored by the ONR on a commercial vessel off the Florida coast, Schiebel and Areté Associates showcased the capabilities of the S-100 installed with the Areté Pushbroom Imaging Lidar for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) sensor for data-gathering missions. According to the company, PILLS allows hydrographic mapping of ocean littoral spaces with a low size, weight, and power (SWaP) sensor and has several military and commercial applications.
The SWaP sensor easily integrates into the S-100 uncrewed system.
Recently, Schiebel demonstrated the capabilities of its Camcopter S-100 UAS to the Hellenic Navy, the naval force of Greece.
Schiebel Group chairman Hans Georg Schiebel said: “We are proud that we could successfully showcase the outstanding capabilities and data-gathering features of our Camcopter S-100 to the US Navy.
“Globally, we operate extensively on land and at sea and we are confident that our unmanned solution is also the right fit for the US Navy.”
The Camcopter S-100 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS operates day and night and can perform in all weather conditions.
The uncrewed system has so far supported many naval customers and completed missions on more than 40 ships.
It can be used for a variety of operations, such as search and rescue, tactical maritime missions, and overwatch. Last month, Schiebel secured a three-year extension contract from the Royal Australian Navy for the sustainment of the Camcopter S-100 UAS. (Source: naval-technology.com)
09 Aug 21. Italy to invest USD2.1bn on Eurodrone project. Italy seeks to invest EUR1.8bn (USD2.1bn) through 2035 in the European Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), also known as Eurodrone programme, under plans disclosed in the country’s latest multiyear planning document (Documento Programmatico Pluriennale: DPP) for 2021–23. The DPP, released on 5 August, states that the Italian Ministry of Defence plans to invest EUR1.9bn foreseen over a 15-year period (including EUR30.1m residual from 2020) to fund development, acquisition, and logistics support of the new European MALE unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The new system will be a valuable addition to enhancing persistent surveillance capabilities, the DPP notes, adding that the Euro MALE RPAS will represent a leap forward compared with the existing generation of unmanned technologies. It will feature an open architecture, modularity, and be predisposed to receive iterative upgrades to adapt to the evolving mission scenarios.
The DPP mentions the Eurodrone will be primarily employed in surveillance roles and, interestingly, does not mention potential future options for an armed configuration of system.
News on Italy’s commitment to the Euro MALE RPAS programme comes after the Executive Administration (EA) Director of the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) and senior representatives from prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space from Germany and Spain signed an agreement on 15 July to allow European Defence Industrial Development Programme funding from the European Union to partially finance the project, which also includes Leonardo from Italy and Dassault from France. (Source: Jane’s)
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.