Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
12 Aug 21. Zepher Meets Milestone Targets in Development of Z1 VTOL sUAS for United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). The custom manufactured UAS prototype delivers on key expectations outlined under contract with Army Futures Command. Working under an expedited timeline to deliver a platform that would improve the endurance and acoustic signature of UAS in austere environments, Zepher’s Z1 VTOL sUAS successfully completed a hydrogen-powered flight this week.
This critical testing target for the prototype comes after successful hover tests this past spring, followed by subsequent transitions into forward flight this summer. The development and product realization plan has included advanced hardware-in-the-loop simulations, subsystem component flight testing on surrogate platforms, and iterative design/build/test cycles to ensure optimized performance and durability. The result is a reliable UAV built to military standards.
“Every facet of the Z1 product is being reimagined from the perspective of the modern service member and the military’s current technology challenges in order to achieve advancements in UAS performance and utility,” notes Adam Stolz, VP Programs. “Reaching this point in the project is a significant step in our larger pursuit of pushing the boundaries of UAS development to realize new innovations for hyper-enabled operators and peer conflicts.”
A key element of the buildout has been the incorporation of a hydrogen fuel cell powered variable pitch propeller, the first of its kind for a Group 2 UAS. This system provides advanced endurance, acoustic signature, flight control, and durability characteristics. Zepher expects to showcase the prototype for agencies including USASOC later this fall and release an initial product by early 2022. Founded in 2003, Zepher’s team has expanded from 3 to 51 full-time partners and has helped to solidify the Columbia River Gorge region at the Washington/Oregon border as an innovation hub for UAS. The Z1 program is an important step in the evolution of Zepher’s position within the industry.
01 Sep 21. Northrop Grumman and Martin UAV Conduct Successful Flight Test for Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft. Unmanned system designed to modernize US Army reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capabilities. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Martin UAV (a Shield AI company) have completed successful flight testing of a V-BAT unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with new features including GPS-denied navigation and target designation capabilities.
“The enhanced V-BAT offers a near zero footprint, flexible vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability that is based on a platform deployed operationally today, to address the U.S. Army’s Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) mission,” said Kenn Todorov, sector vice president and general manager, global sustainment and modernization, Northrop Grumman. “The team brings more than 30 years’ experience in the production, delivery and sustainment of unmanned aircraft systems to support this critical mission today and into the future.”
For FTUAS, the U.S. Army is seeking a rapidly deployable, GPS-denied navigation-capable, expeditionary VTOL system capable of persistent aerial reconnaissance for U.S. Army Brigade Combat Teams, Special Forces, and Ranger battalions.
The offering is based on the industry leading Martin UAV V-BAT UAS. It is compact, lightweight, simple to operate, and can be set up, launched and recovered by a two-soldier team in confined environments. The V-BAT also is designed with sufficient payload capacity to carry a range of interchangeable payloads, including electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR), synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and electronic warfare (EW) payloads, depending on mission-specific requirements. Additionally, Shield AI’s recent acquisition of Martin UAV will enable rapid development of GPS-denied and autonomy capabilities for V-BAT through the future porting of Shield AI’s autonomy stack, Hivemind onto V-BAT.
02 Sep 21. In cooperation with UK and Netherlands airspace authorities, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flew a company-owned, MQ-9B SeaGuardian® Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) today from RAF Waddington across the North Sea to Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands, completing a two-day series of flights between the two airspaces. This multi-day demonstration displayed SeaGuardian’s maritime surveillance capabilities in support of international allies. SeaGuardian returned to RAF Waddington at the conclusion of the event. The flight is part of a maritime demonstration series that began in August and continues through September. The goal of the flight series is to showcase the many operational capabilities of the MQ-9B, including the platform’s advanced maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Detect and Avoid System (DAAS), industry-leading endurance, and interoperability with NATO partners. The RNLAF has ordered four MQ-9A RPA and the first is expected to be delivered to Leeuwarden later this year.
“Today’s flight is a major milestone for us. It demonstrates the ability of the MQ-9 to operate in our airspace and validates the procedures for air traffic control. It also familiarizes the air traffic controllers with Remotely Piloted Aircraft, which is an opportunity we have not had before,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Boudewijn Roddenhof, commander of the RNLAF’s 306 squadron, which will operate the new MQ-9A Reapers.
“We’re thrilled to showcase the game-changing capabilities of our RPA for the Royal Netherlands Air Force,” said Robert Schoeffling, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI. “We appreciate the international cooperation we’ve received from the RAF, the RNLAF and civil aviation authorities such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority. Our MQ-9B series is built and equipped to meet certification standards that will allow it to fly in non-segregated airspace.”
The flight to Leeuwarden was conducted as Operational Air Traffic, under the control of UK military air traffic controllers at Swanwick, up to the boundary between the UK’s and the Netherlands’ controlled airspace. At the agreed crossing point, Dutch military air traffic controllers took responsibility for the flight.
Next up, SeaGuardian will participate in the UK-led Joint Warrior exercise, which will showcase how the MQ-9B’s maritime capabilities can be integrated with other air, surface and land platforms. SeaGuardian’s maritime capability includes a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, Electronic Surveillance Measures (ESM) along with the standard High-Definition, Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras.
The flights also demonstrate GA-ASI’s revolutionary Detect and Avoid System, a safety and situational awareness enhancement designed to support MQ-9B flight in non-segregated airspace worldwide. DAAS enables MQ-9B to operate among civilian aviation traffic in the national airspace, unlike any other aircraft in its class.
SeaGuardian is the maritime version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian®.
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.