Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
14 Oct 21. Aeronautics Announces Successful Demo of its Orbiter, for Finnish Border Guard. Conducted from a sea vessel, the demonstration showed unique capabilities in a marine environment, as required by the Border Guard. Aeronautics Group – a leading provider of integrated turnkey solutions based on unmanned system platforms, payloads and communications for defense and HLS applications – has concluded a successful evaluation week of the Orbiter system, operating from the Finnish Border Guard’s Turva offshore patrol vessel, demonstrating high capabilities in a marine environment.
Over the course of the week, the Orbiter system was tasked with various maritime mission scenarios, including search & rescue, identification, surveillance & reconnaissance of suspicious vessels and figures, while transmitting a real-time video stream to the vessel’s command & control center. This evaluation was carried out as part of the Border Guard’s Valvonta 2 (Surveillance 2) project, which is designed to examine future integration of UAVs on board its vessels.
“There is a growing need today for tactical drones capable of carrying out ISTAR missions in challenging marine environments,” says Matan Perry, Aeronautics’ Vice President of Marketing & Sales. “As pioneers in the field of small tactical UAS, we are proud to be able to successfully demonstrate a solution that has been adapted to meet the needs of the Finnish Border Guard.”
About Aeronautics Group
Aeronautics Group offers techno-operational superiority through its integrated turnkey solutions, which are based on unmanned solutions, payloads and communications for defense, and HLS applications.
As a leading-edge provider in the field of unmanned aerial systems, Aeronautics identifies its customers’ operational needs and responds with innovative technological solutions. The Group’s broad product portfolio offers combat-proven solutions for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, with demonstrated excellent performance and operability. Backed by continuous research and development, these systems are built on three decades of technological and operational experience.
As part of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Aeronautics utilizes the technological synergy between the two companies – Rafael’s advanced air, land and naval defense capabilities and Aeronautics’ proven ISTAR technologies – to strengthen its own status as a leading UAS solutions provider.
11 Oct 21. Teledyne FLIR Announces ION M640x Next-Gen Tactical Quadcopter. American Designed, Developed and Manufactured System Provides Unmatched Capabilities for Defense and Public Safety Customers. Teledyne FLIR, part of Teledyne Technologies Incorporated (NYSE:TDY), today announced the launch of the ION™ M640x tactical Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The American designed, developed, and manufactured UAS builds on the capabilities of the ION M440 (a Blue sUAS) and will provide military and other government customers with best-in-class capabilities for their unique missions.
“Our proven, U.S.-based engineering expertise and focus on defense and public safety markets means our customers are getting the most secure and capable UAS solutions,” said Thomas Rambo, senior director of Unmanned and Integrated Solutions at Teledyne FLIR. “The ION M640x builds on our unique position as a domestic provider of unmanned systems and sensing technology and boasts high resolution infrared imaging, smart object tracking, laser illumination, and industry-leading support and service.”
The ION M640x features a 640×512 infrared sensor providing twice the resolution of similar UAS, and a Near-Infrared (NIR) laser illuminator. The NIR illuminator enables operators to pinpoint objects of interest for increased coordination and visibility for other mission participants. ION M640x also includes all-new smart object tracking that enables operators to designate an object for the aircraft to detect and track while it moves. Other new features include an SD card to easily retrieve photos and video recorded during flight, as well as tri-band radio capabilities.
Open system architecture is another key feature of the ION M640x, and the system utilizes a high-powered discrete mission computer for advanced autonomous functions. It is also MAVLINK compliant and interoperable with Common Ground Control Stations (C-GCS), including the U.S. Army Tactical Open Ground Station Architecture (TOGA). Easily rucksack portable at about 4 pounds, the M640x is rated for operation in demanding environments, including rain and wind. The ION M640x is evolved from the ION M440, one of the original five UAS platforms approved by the U.S. Department of Defense under the Blue sUAS program, for sale to U.S. military and federal agencies. The M440 was developed by Gainesville, Florida-based Altavian Inc., which FLIR acquired in December 2020. Leveraging Teledyne FLIR’s longstanding reputation as a trusted provider of unmanned systems for military and public safety organizations, the ION M640x is backed by the company’s world class standards for service, training, and technical support. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
12 Oct 21. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) completed a series of flight demonstrations that featured a company-owned MQ-9B SeaGuardian® Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) in partnership with the Royal Air Force (RAF). The demonstration series began Aug. 25 and ended with the completion of the UK’s Exercise Joint Warrior on Sept. 30.
“The support of the RAF was key to the success of our demonstrations,” said GA-ASI Vice President of International Strategic Development Robert Schoeffling. “Our partnership allowed us to achieve a number of industry firsts as we showcased our innovative RPA to senior military officials from 16 countries.”
The flights showcased 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. During Joint Warrior, a demonstration of Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) took place using the SeaGuardian and an RAF P-8, showing SeaGuardian’s ability to compliment and support Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) tasking, which included tracking, monitoring and reporting of sonobuoys.
The demonstrations were initially based out of RAF Waddington before moving to RAF Lossiemouth to support Joint Warrior. While based at RAF Waddington, one flight saw SeaGuardian fly to Leeuwarden Air Base, taking the RPA into Netherlands airspace and proving a seamless transition between national air traffic regions, while testing airspace operational procedures. This multi-day demonstration, which took place Sept. 1-2, displayed SeaGuardian’s maritime surveillance capabilities in support of international allies. The Royal Netherlands Air Force has ordered four MQ-9A RPA and the first is expected to be delivered to Leeuwarden later this year. SeaGuardian returned to RAF Waddington at the conclusion of the event.
That important event was followed by the UK’s first Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)-approved point-to-point domestic flight of an unmanned aircraft using the UK’s airways structure, when SeaGuardian flew from Lincolnshire, England to Moray, Scotland on Sept. 12. The flight was controlled by NATS, the UK’s civilian Air Navigation Service Provider.
“The MQ-9B is the first RPA to be allowed to fly so extensively in UK-controlled airspace,” said Mark Watson, Head of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) Service Integration for NATS. “This moves us a long way towards same day notification for ‘file and fly’ privileges as an Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC)-capable platform.”
A large set of airworthiness artifacts have been reviewed by the UK Civil Airworthiness Authority, who have approved MQ-9B for operations in unsegregated, uncontrolled airspace for the first time based on the suite of airspace deconfliction technologies and extensive documentation provided in the Safety Case.
SeaGuardian is the maritime version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian®. As the launch customer, RAF has ordered 16 aircraft in their configuration, which they have named the Protector RG Mk1 RPA systems. The Protector is a derivative of the SkyGuardian, featuring an array of customer modifications.
“The coordination between GA-ASI and our RAF team was exciting to see,” said RAF Group Captain Shaun Gee, Director Air ISTAR Programmes (RPAS and TacISR), and SRO Shadow Programme. “It was great to see first-hand the game-changing capabilities of the RPA we’ve ordered for Protector. The ability of the aircraft to integrate into European airspace is key for the RAF as well as our international allies.”
The flights culminated with the RPA’s participation in the UK-led Joint Warrior exercise, which showcased how the MQ-9B’s maritime capabilities can be integrated with other air, maritime and land assets. An international audience observed the RPA’s maritime capability which includes a multi-mode surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) along with the standard High-Definition, Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. As a result of a visit from leadership from the UK Border Force during which they observed the capabilities of the system, a Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA) demonstration flight was performed over the English Channel.
In support of the European Maritime Demonstrations, GA-ASI partnered with SES, the leading provider of global satellite communications (SATCOM) services operating the world’s only multi-orbit constellation of satellites in Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), and offering a unique combination of global coverage and high performance. For the demos, GA-ASI leveraged SES’s GEO connectivity in Ku-band as well as X-band reachback provided via the GovSat-1 satellite. GovSat-1, which is exclusively dedicated for government use and offers secure multi-mission capabilities, is operated as a public-private joint venture between the Government of Luxembourg and SES. The SATCOM service enabled the MQ-9 to operate securely with a high-capacity datalink, allowing real-time transmission of sensor data from the aircraft and operations center using a SATCOM link, including with data rates up to 70 Mbps in secure reachback.
“With our global satellite connectivity services, SES has been supporting the critical needs of GA-ASI and their government customers for almost two decades, and we’re delighted to take part in this demonstration effort as part of our long-standing relationship with General Atomics,” said Will Tong, Vice President of Strategic Government Initiatives and Head of the Aero ISR market at SES Networks. “As our customer needs evolve and require increasingly secure, flexible and high-performance services for real-time data exchange and reachback, we are happy to leverage our existing capabilities and to further innovate with the next-generation high-throughput systems like O3b mPOWER, enabling network sovereignty and cloud-scale applications that governments are looking for.”
11 Oct 21. Airbus Zephyr Solar High Altitude Platform System (HAPS) reaches new heights in its successful 2021 summer test flights.
- Achieved 36 days of stratospheric flight, across two 2021 flights, proving Zephyr’s status as the only HAPS able to perform at length in the stratosphere
- Set a new world record for absolute altitude for this class of UAS at 76,100ft.
- Secured and exercised FAA flight approvals operating inside the US National Airspace System (NAS)
- Demonstrated successful flight with multiple payload integrations and tested new OPAZ payload, streaming Earth observation data
- Proved Zephyr can operationalize the stratosphere, achieving some 2,435 total flight hours and demonstrating precise stratospheric manoeuvrability and station-keeping over points on the ground.
The Airbus Zephyr S completes a successful 2021 test flight campaign in the United States. The final Airbus solar-powered High Altitude Platform System (HAPS) flight touched down on 13th September in Arizona, USA, ending the most ambitious and successful Zephyr flight campaign to date.
The flight campaign had a clear customer focus – to demonstrate how Zephyr could be used for future operations, flying outside of restricted airspace and over airspace shared with commercial air traffic. Carrying an Optical Advanced Earth Observation system for Zephyr (OPAZ) payload, Zephyr proved its operational value to provide instant, persistent, and improved situational awareness.
“Working with Airbus and the Zephyr team during the 2021 flight campaign, significant progress has been made towards demonstrating HAPS as a capability. This summer’s activities represent an important step towards operationalising the stratosphere” said James Gavin, Future Capability Group Head at Defence Equipment & Support, the procurement arm of the UK Ministry of Defence.
“Defence investment in cutting edge technology is key to the development of world-leading military capabilities. Zephyr is an important programme within UK Strategic Command and the recent successful flight has required many innovative technical solutions. This represents a significant milestone for Zephyr which is informing the development of new concepts and ways of enabling military operations, particularly in the context of Multi-Domain Integration.” Said Major General Rob Anderton-Brown, Director Capability and MDI Change Programme at Strategic Command.
The campaign consisted of six flights in total, four low level test flights and two stratospheric flights. The stratospheric flights flew for around 18 days each, totaling more than 36 days of stratospheric flight in the campaign. This adds a further 887 flight hours to the 2,435 stratospheric flight hours for Zephyr to date, marks significant progress for fixed wing HAPS and is a step towards making the stratosphere an operational reality for its customers.
“Credible and proven ultra-persistence, stratospheric agility, and payload interoperability underscore why Zephyr is the leader in its sector. It is a sustainable, solar powered, ISR and network extending solution that can provide vital future connectivity and earth observation to where it is needed.” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus.
Such an innovative and potentially game-changing capability is part of Airbus ambition to rapidly move towards operationalizing the stratosphere. “Carbon Neutral”, Zephyr uses sunlight to fly and recharge its batteries, using no fuel and producing no carbon emissions.
With its ability to remain in the stratosphere for months at a time, Zephyr will bring new see, sense and connect capabilities to both commercial and military customers. Zephyr will provide the potential to revolutionise disaster management, including monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills. It provides persistent surveillance, tracing the world’s changing environmental landscape and will be able to provide communications to the most unconnected parts of the world.
08 Oct 21. Greece’s first VTOL UAV shown at ‘Parmenion-21′ exercise. The prototype of Greece’s first vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)/fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), called the Archytas, was presented to the nation’s deputy minister of national defence, Nikolaos Chardalias, during the final phase of the ‘Parmenion-21′ joint military exercise, held on the island of Chios between 24 September and 1 October.
A photograph published by the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence (MND) on 30 September showed Chardalias inspecting the UAV, which is the product of co-operation between Greek companies EFA Group and Ucandrone PC with the research teams of the Hellenic Navy, Hellenic Aviation Industry, and the Universities of Thessaloniki, Thessaly, and Thrace.
Named after the ancient Greek philosopher, politician, and engineer Archytas Tarantinos, the UAV uses one engine driving a pusher propeller for horizontal flight. The VTOL capability is provided by four electrically powered propellers located on the longitudinal beams connecting the wings with the negative-V tail. The Archytas features landing gear in the form of four struts designed to maximise flight endurance by producing minimal drag. (Source: Jane’s)
08 Oct 21. Martin UAV’s V-BAT UAS flies on 11th MEU missions on board USS Portland. V-BAT crew showcased the aircraft’s AIS capability as part of these missions. Shield AI company Martin UAV’s V-BAT uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) has successfully conducted flight missions on board the US Navy’s San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Portland (LPD 27). The V-BAT flew missions with the US Marine Corps’ (USMC’s) 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The missions included a flight where V-BAT personnel showcased the aircraft’s automatic identification system (AIS) capability. This capability was proved by using the AIS system to successfully connect sensor to target in less than 180 seconds from the receipt of the task.
Shield AI cofounder and former Navy SEAL Brandon Tseng said: “V-BAT enhances operations in both maritime and land-based environments while providing tactical flexibility with substantially decreased logistical requirements. We are excited to continue to partner and explore all the ways we can deploy this game-changing product in the future.”
The V-BAT UAS features a critical reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) capability and is designed for the US Navy and USMC.
Aboard USS Portland, the uncrewed aircraft proved its durability in high winds and harsh environments.
An 11th MEU spokesperson said: “Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, in particular, are capabilities that allow us to compete strategically against near-peer competitors by supporting efforts in early detection, over-the-horizon operations, and sea denial.
“There are a variety of ISR platforms we currently employ, but, as a service, we are continually advancing our techniques, tactics, and procedures.”
In April this year, Martin UAV’s V-BAT system was chosen by the US Navy for a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS prototyping and development effort. (Source: naval-technology.com)
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