Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
27 Oct 21. US 5th Fleet vessels operate USVs for the first time. The new task force that the US Navy’s 5th Fleet set up to pioneer unmanned systems demonstrated its role during an exercise that included Bahraini naval and coastguard vessels. The 5th Fleet announced on 26 October that the two-day Exercise ‘New Horizon’ involved Task Force 59 integrating unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) with manned vessels for the first time in its area of operations. The first day of the exercise involved operators controlling MANTAS T-12 USVs from USS Firebolt, while the second day involved Bahraini navy and coastguard vessels, as well as a US Coast Guard cutter, a V-BAT vertical take-off unmanned aerial vehicle, and an SH-60S Seahawk helicopter.
“This is a significant milestone for our new task force as we accelerate the integration of unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into complex, cross-domain operations at sea,” said Captain Michael Brasseur, commander of Task Force 59, which was established on 9 September.
27 Oct 21. Platform Aerospace offers VTOL-capable Vanilla Unmanned aircraft for US Army programmes. Platform Aerospace is offering a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) variant of its Vanilla Unmanned ultra-long endurance Group 3 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for US Army programmes, according to a company executive. Greg Pappianou, company chief growth officer, told Janes on 22 October that these programmes do not include the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, which had VTOL UAVs such as the L3Harris FVR-90 hybrid quadcopter participate in a capstone rodeo in early 2021. Platform Aerospace wants to deliver this VTOL capability for a Pentagon customer, which Pappianou declined to specify, and then offer the Vanilla VTOL variant as an additional product offering.
Pappianou said adding rotors would allow the Vanilla to fly 24 hours in VTOL mode with 23 kg of payload capacity. While this would reduce the aircraft’s endurance from eight days, the 24 hours of VTOL performance is several times greater than other UAVs, he said. The first flight for this unspecified Pentagon customer is scheduled for the first half of 2022, he added.
Platform Aerospace promotes the Vanilla as filling an unmet requirement for multiday surveillance and inspection operations at an attritable, or cost-effective, price point. The aircraft is capable of multimission beyond visual line-of-sight operations providing days of time-on-target or thousands of kilometres of search capacity on a single flight. (Source: Janes)
27 Oct 21. Naval Group demonstrates its drone mission management solution. The demonstrations were carried out as part of the European collaborative project COMPASS 2020. Naval Group has successfully carried out a large-scale at-sea demonstration of its drone mission management solution at the Troia naval base in Portugal. The demonstration saw the use of an uncrewed underwater vehicle (UUV) and two uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV). The solution was integrated with the combat management system (CMS). Testing was conducted in partnership with project coordinator AMN (Autoridade Maritima Nacional de Portugal), ECA Group, Edisoft, and others. Together, all the three drones were deployed from a Portuguese Navy offshore patrol vessel (OPV), known as the ‘NRP Setubal’ near the Troia coast in Portugal, and from a land base. The operational scenarios in the demonstrations included offering support to a migrant boat and preventing drug trafficking.
Naval Group project technical manager Diane Mulard said: “We are very proud to see our solution working in a real environment.
“Despite the health context, we found solutions for remote de-risking and were able to cope with the difficulties during the face-to-face trials.
“We are proud to offer a scalable solution that can be adapted to different capabilities and types of missions and provides a real operational advantage for the navies.”
Demonstrations were performed under the European collaborative project Coordination of Maritime Assets for Persistent and Systematic Surveillance (COMPASS 2020).
The project seeks to improve the EU’s maritime surveillance capabilities and external borders by enhancing situational awareness.
Naval Group Europe R&D Collaborative Development Vanessa director Cauvin said: “We hope that COMPASS2020 will pave the way for other European collaborative projects in this field with the quality partners we have collaborated with in the consortium.”
27 Oct 21. Australian Army’s drone fleet passes DASA audit. Australian Army operates more than 1,000 drones with sizes ranging from a mobile phone to a small car The Australian Government has announced that the army’s uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) recently underwent a comprehensive audit carried out by the Defence Aviation Safety Authority (DASA). According to a Department of Defence statement, the whole drone fleet passed the audit.
DASA Squadron Leader Malcolm Walker said: “Army has been operating small to large UAS platforms for years and has learnt significant lessons in how to safely and effectively operate them in a variety of environments.”
However, the audit also identified some areas that require improvements.
Notably, the Australian Army operates more than 1,000 UAS with sizes ranging from a mobile phone to a small car.
Walker added: “Such a large and diverse fleet presents a number of challenges, such as training, and, to use a pilot term, airmanship.
“It is very difficult to teach a soldier who flies a mobile phone-sized UAS to think like a pilot of a helicopter. Clearly, we don’t need the soldier to have all the training that the pilot has, but there are aspects of that we do want them to have.
“So the soldier’s airmanship needs to be scalable based upon the size and complexity of the UAS being operated.” (Source: army-technology.com)
22 Oct 21. Leonardo’s AWHero Achieves World’s 1st Military Certification for a Rotary UAS in its Category.
- Military certification released by Italy’s DAAA (Direzione degli Armamenti Aeronautici e per l’Aeronavigabilita) includes embarked operations
- The AWHero design leverages on Leonardo’s strength and extensive experience in rotorcraft development, system integration and embarked helicopter operations
- AWHero RUAS has been deployed as part of defence and security exercises under the EU’s OCEAN2020 maritime surveillance programme
Leonardo’s leading-edge AWHero RUAS (Rotary Uncrewed Aerial System) has received basic military certification from Italy’s DAAA (Direzione degli Armamenti Aeronautici e per l’Aeronavigabilità), the Directorate for Air Armaments and Airworthiness. This achievement marks the world’s first military certification for a RUAS in the 200kg class.
AWHero’s design, development, production and support meet military airworthiness authority requirements delivering the highest levels of mission safety, reliability and availability to Armed Forces. The military certification includes embarked operations and highlights the robustness of AWHero’s design criteria and approach, paving the way for further development, integration and validation of expanded capabilities designed and planned for the system. This military certification is also based on elements of the worldwide recognised STANAG4702 standard.
AWHero design leverages on Leonardo’s strength and extensive experience in rotorcraft development, system integration and embarked helicopter operations. Since 2019, the platform has been conducting maritime surveillance capability demonstrations on ships within the framework of the OCEAN2020 initiative, the European Defence Fund strategic research programme for naval surveillance technology and maritime safety, comprising 43 organisations across Europe and led by Leonardo.
AWHero is also being evaluated in international tenders. Northrop Grumman Australia and Leonardo Australia’s team has been shortlisted to proceed to the next phase of the SEA129 Phase 5 programme for the acquisition of a maritime uncrewed aerial system designed to deliver a deployable intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capability to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The Northrop Grumman and Leonardo proposal will enhance capability effects and tactical decision-making during RAN maritime operations.
Leonardo is the only company in Europe, which is able to provide complete solutions by designing and developing all the elements of unmanned systems: platforms, sensors, mission systems, control stations and offer customers a certified low risk, high effective, fully integrated capability.
Leonardo is a key partner and contributor to significant European drone programmes and Leonardo’s expertise and capabilities in the sector have been extensively demonstrated during international exercises. Leonardo has developed uncrewed systems and technologies, including anti-drone capabilities and unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems.
The continuous development and integration of cutting-edge solutions across all domains of remotely-piloted and autonomous/semi-autonomous systems and technologies is a key element of Leonardo’s BeTomorrow2030 Strategic Plan. (Source: ASD Network)
22 Oct 21. MCSC Begins Fielding Amphibious Robot System for Littoral Missions. In September, Marine Corps Systems Command began fielding an amphibious, unmanned robot system to support littoral operations globally. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Remotely Operated Vehicle is a next-generation, box-shaped robot that enables Marines to navigate safely and efficiently in shallow waters to identify and neutralize explosive hazards and other threats.
“This robot gives Marines eyes in the water,” said Master Sgt. Patrick Hilty, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal project officer at MCSC. “It is a capability the Marine Corps has never before had.”
The ROV employs sound navigation and ranging sensors, a high-definition video capability and cameras that provide real-time feedback for EOD divers. It includes an articulator arm that helps Marines maneuver through underwater foliage or neutralize explosive threats.
“It is a system that saves Marine divers from having to swim hundreds of meters, an activity that can tire them out,” said Hilty.
Marines can use the robot for various amphibious missions. For example, they can leverage the ROV to search harbors before docking a Marine Expeditionary Unit ship. Operators can use it for activities in very shallow waters, conducting littoral lost object searches, damage assessments and mine countermeasure missions.
Hilty applauded the ROV’s tether feature, which keeps EOD technicians at a safe distance from explosive hazards. Before the capability, Marine divers could only disrupt or dispose underwater explosive threats by swimming in close proximity, exposing them to hostile elements.
“The ROV gives us a remote means to search underwater while also helping us stay at our best when having to prosecute explosive devices,” said Hilty.
Master Sgt. Matthew Jackson, a staff non-commissioned officer in charge of 1st EOD Company’s Littoral Explosive Ordnance Neutralization section, said the ROV is highly stable in an underwater environment. He noted how the machine requires minimal equipment and reduces the Marine Corps’ overall footprint during operations.
“This intuitive system has the ability to complete critical underwater tasks much deeper than manned missions can,” said Jackson. “The ROV will serve as an important capability to support our tasks.”
Jackson also praised the system for its ease of use. He said it requires minimal training when compared with other unmanned underwater systems. This ultimately saves the Marine Corps time and money required for training.
“Instead of sending a Marine to a course for seven or eight weeks, it takes about four days to learn basic operations for successful employment,” said Jackson.
The ROV also supports naval integration. In 2019, the Navy acquired this commercial off-the-shelf capability. The service conducted a series of tests to determine its viability for EOD missions. These tests included reliability and maintenance evaluations to test its effectiveness and ease of employment during simulated activities.
“Testing conducted by the Navy allowed us to field this capability to Marines more quickly,” said Hilty. “Additionally, the Marine Corps and Navy both having this system increases interoperability among the services.”
The robot is the first increment in the Littoral Explosive Ordnance Neutralization Family of Systems. This series of robotic capabilities will allow Marines to search a wider area in the littorals, including the very shallow water, surf and beach zones.
LEON systems, to be fielded gradually by MCSC over the next several years, will also help the Marine Corps complement Navy EOD teams in joint operations as it strives to evolve naval force integration in the future.
“Having this capability aids in naval force integration by giving us the same equipment that the Navy is using,” said Staff Sgt. Seth Barnes, EOD Technician with 1st EOD Company. “It allows us to bolt on with Navy EOD as we move forward.”
Achieving Force Design 2030 remains an ongoing, concerted effort for the Marine Corps, as repeatedly stated by Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger. This goal requires the acquisition of next-generation, unmanned systems, like the ROV, to support Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.
“We’re bringing the EABO concept to the modern day,” said Ronald Diefenbach, a program analyst on the Explosive Hazard Team at MCSC.
“Adhering to this concept, we can use the ROV to support Marines when operating from the littorals and while conducting island-hopping tasks.”
Hilty said the Marine Corps has never before leveraged waters for missions. In the past, Marines would begin operations from land, typically a beach. This new concept requires a shift in the paradigm in how the Marine Corps operates.
Fielding capabilities that conform to the vision to support an evolving naval fight will ultimately support the present and future Marine.
“We’ve always done this piece via the Navy,” said Hilty. “Now that the Marine Corps is doing it, we are learning valuable skillsets, becoming much better-rounded and proving to be a bigger asset to the MAGTF.” (Source: ASD Network)
19 Oct 21. South Korea plans to introduce fixed corridors for early unmanned aerial mobility operations. According to evtol news, South Korea expects to establish fixed corridors for initial urban air mobility (UAM) operations, with those gradually evolving into dynamic corridor networks as UAM aircraft and air traffic management capabilities advance. That vision is outlined in K-UAM Concept of Operations 1.0, released last month by South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT). The document serves as a starting point for discussions on how to commercialize urban air taxis in South Korea by 2025, with the goal of realizing fully autonomous UAM operations by 2035, says evtol news. The plan was created by UAM Team Korea, a public-private consultative body formed in June 2020 to develop a roadmap for adoption of UAM in Korea. The group comprises 37 stakeholder groups representing both the public and private sector and is chaired by Hwang Seong-gyu, the country’s Second Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Team Korea’s plan outlines three phases for the implementation of UAM operations: program development, with piloted aircraft (2025-2029); program growth, with remotely piloted aircraft (2030-2034); and program maturity, with fully autonomous aircraft (2035 onwards). Under the plan, commercial UAM operations in Korea will begin at altitudes between 300 and 600 meters (985 to 1,965 feet) in a limited number of defined corridors, created to separate UAM vehicles from other types of air traffic. Within a corridor, deconfliction will be coordinated by private UAM traffic management service providers, rather than traditional air traffic control. The corridors will be designed to satisfy public requirements with respect to noise and safety while striving to minimize impact to other airspace users, including smaller unmanned aircraft systems. Other users who wish to navigate or pass through a UAM corridor will be required to satisfy the corridor’s operational performance requirements. According to evtol news, the scheme is similar to the one described in the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) first UAM Concept of Operations (ConOps), released last year. However, in a recent AUVSI webinar, Steve Bradford, the FAA’s chief scientist for architecture and NextGen development, said that the agency is working on a ConOps 2.0 that will have fewer UAM corridors overall, reduced participation requirements for crossing UAM corridors, and more interaction between UAM and non-UAM aircraft outside corridors. While it is unknown whether those strategies will eventually migrate to South Korea, the K-UAM Concept of Operations 1.0 does assume that fixed corridor networks will eventually give way to “dynamic corridor networks,” defined by the optimal path for each UAM service call. This would coincide with development of advanced digital platforms for air traffic management, replacing the voice-based communication between pilots and human controllers that will be required at UAM’s outset. For more information visit: www.evtol.com (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
22 Oct 21. Korean Air signs MOU with Insitu to develop VTOL UAV. Korean Air and Boeing subsidiary Insitu have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop a new lightweight, modular, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Signed on 22 October during the 19-23 October Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition 2021 (ADEX 2021), the MOU is expected to create new synergies by combining “Korean Air’s expertise in UAV development and production with Insitu’s state-of-the-art UAV technologies, including high-performance mission equipment, system optimisation, and manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) operations”, according to a joint statement. Korean Air is known to be developing the Korean Unmanned System (KUS)-VS VTOL UAV, a model of which was on display at ADEX 2021. The tactical UAV will employ “lift & cruise” technology that combines a take-off rotor and a flight rotor to enable vertical take-off and landing and high cruise speed flight, noted the company. According to information provided at the exhibition, the company plans to offer the KUS-VS as a next-generation, division-level UAV for tactical surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, and firepower guidance to meet future requirements of the Republic of Korea Army and Marine Corps. Janes believes the recently signed MOU is also meant to support the development of the KUS-VS. (Source: Janes)
22 Oct 21. US Army’s unfunded requirement request for FTUAS would accelerate fielding. The US Army’s USD79 million unfunded requirement request for the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) in fiscal year (FY) 2022 would accelerate system fielding by two years.
US Army spokesman Jim Thomson said on 18 October that this money would field Increment 1, a capability of mature technologies, in FY 2023. The US Army requested this extra funding for Increment 1 because it is not in the service’s FY 2022 budget request. Major General Walter Rugen, director of the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, told Janes on 12 October that this USD79 million unfunded requirement request would provide FTUAS systems for eight brigades in Increment 1.
Thomson said Increment 2, previously known as the base programme, is in the US Army’s FY 2022 budget request. It would get initial fielding in FY 2025. Increment 2 would satisfy the full FTUAS requirement and replace Increment 1-fielded systems in fulfilling the brigade combat team’s requirement.
The projected award date for an Increment 1 other transaction authority award is 17 January 2022, with the first unit to be equipped in the third quarter of FY 2023. The service, for Increment 1, intends to have a follow-on production contract for a last unit to be equipped in the fourth quarter of FY 2023. An Increment 2 request for white papers was issued on 1 October by the Aviation & Missile Technology Consortium. (Source: Janes)
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