Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
04 Nov 21. Loyal Wingman passes another major flight milestone. The unmanned ISR platform is one step closer to becoming Australia’s first domestically designed and built aircraft after completing a series of flight missions. Boeing’s Loyal Wingman has passed yet another milestone, with two of the Airpower Teaming Systems completing flight missions in South Australia’s Woomera Range Complex.
These latest test flights marked the first time the aircraft’s landing gear was raised and engaged.
The announcement from the Department of Defence comes following the system’s inaugural flight in February this year.
Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfield lauded the achievement– noting that it has demonstrated the benefits of collaboration between Defence and the local defence industry.
“The Loyal Wingman sets new standards for capability development and shows what collaboration between industry and Defence can achieve,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said.
“Flight testing is increasing throughout the year, and we are on the way to teaming the Loyal Wingman aircraft with existing Air Power platforms.”
Three systems from phase one of the project are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2021.
“This opens up significant capability agility for Air Force, particularly with features such as the reconfigurable nose,” Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts said.
“We’re heavily engaged in the payload development and the element of surprise that it gives us in the battlespace. You never really know what’s in the nose.”
So far, in excess of 35 local companies have worked on the program such as Whitehorse and Form 2000 – two Australian SMEs who partnered on the manufacture build-to-print components of the aircraft. Other companies include Ferra Engineering, AME Systems, Allied Data Systems and Microelectronic Technologies.
Alongside Boeing, BAE Systems Australia and RUAG Australia have also contributed to the success of the program.
According to a release from the Department of Defence, the system has a range of some 3,7000 kilometers, “helping to project airpower forward while contributing as a team with our crewed capabilities.” (Source: Defence Connect)
03 Nov 21. Sonardyne and Wavefront demonstrate obstacle avoidance capability on UK’s test XLUUV. Underwater obstacle avoidance technology from maritime defence technology companies, Sonardyne and Wavefront, has been successfully demonstrated on board an extra-large, uncrewed, underwater vehicle (XLUUV) built and operated by Plymouth-based MSubs Ltd. The demonstration of the Vigilant forward looking sonar was part of the first phase of the UK’s Defence and Security Accelerator’s (DASA) ‘Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle Testbed – Opportunity to Integrate’ competition, run jointly with the Royal Navy and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). The DASA competition is focused on testing and validating commercial-off-the-shelf technologies (COTS) sensors and payloads, like Vigilant, to help the Royal Navy understand the future roles for XLUUVS for surveillance, reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare, and deliver new capabilities to the Royal Navy years earlier than otherwise be possible.
Vigilant, developed by Wavefront and manufactured and commercialised by Sonardyne, is a navigation and obstacle avoidance sonar for ships, uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) and underwater vehicles. It provides crews with automated long-range detection of objects in the water column, showing them where it is safe to navigate and alerting them to potential underwater dangers that could result in a collision or grounding.
The system has two operating modes. In 3D mode, Vigilant produces accurate 3D bathymetry and colour-coded depth imagery out to 600 m and to depths down to 100 m. In Sonar mode, Vigilant processes the intensity of the acoustic data to extract long-range positional data out to 1.5 km and over a 120-degree field of view. The sonar returns are used to generate alerts highlighting the presence of a navigationally relevant obstacle.
For the trial, the system’s sonar projector and receiver array were mounted in the bow of the 9 m-long MSubs’ S201 XLUUV. At just 31 cm-wide and weighing only 14 kg in air, Vigilant is easy to retrofit on a wide range of platforms including ships, USVs or, as in this case, an XLUUV.
As part of the demonstration, the XLUUV was programmed to travel beyond the breakwater outside Plymouth sound. Vigilant was used to create a bathymetric map that was used by the XLUUV to navigate. The data was also overlaid over existing charts of the area, demonstrating the higher resolution provided by Vigilant.
Ioseba Tena, Head of Defence at Sonardyne, said: “We’re delighted to be playing a role in helping the Royal Navy and programme partners to test and evaluate technologies that will help the UK stay ahead of her adversaries in the underwater battlespace.
“Seaborne collision avoidance is a vital consideration for autonomous and uncrewed naval platforms. Vigilant can be integrated into these ocean robots to provide essential information to autopilots and command and control systems, to aid safe navigation and manoeuvres around hazardous obstacles.”
Bret Phaneuff, Managing Director at MSubs, said: “The data from Vigilant is truly impressive and transformative. It provides our XLUUV with instant situational awareness, which will help it avoid obstacles and, with some further integration, help optimise navigation trajectories to improve our performance and increase our endurance.”
02 Nov 21. senseFly Added to Blue sUAS 2.0 List of Drone Suppliers. AgEagle Aerial Systems Inc. a provider of full-stack drone, sensor and software solutions, announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, senseFly, has been named to the Blue sUAS 2.0 list, published by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) earlier this month. The Blue sUAS 2.0 project follows the successful partnership between the U.S. Army and DIU on the Short Range Reconnaissance (SRR) program for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), which started in 2019. DIU’s Blue sUAS project, now referred to as ‘1.0,’ followed the SRR program in August 2020 and made minor modifications to five final SRR candidate air vehicles and built integrated commercially-based ground control stations to create a standalone commercial/enterprise configuration available to the Department of Defense (DoD), as well as other U.S. government entities. The 2.0 project was subsequently created to increase the diversity, capability and affordability of UAS on DIU’s “Blue UAS Cleared List,” bringing a greater variety of UAS with a wide range of modalities, capabilities and price points. A secondary part of the project involves: 1) an effort to define a common standard across the DoD for UAS vendor onboarding; 2) the means to communicate that standard; and 3) a uniform process to assist authorized vendors in the procurement process. In March 2021, DIU sought proposals from UAS vendors and in the brief period the Request for Prototype Proposals was listed on its website, www.sam.gov, DIU received more than 100 responses. From this group, senseFly, along with ten other companies, were selected to participate in the Blue sUAS 2.0 program to prototype a new approval process, significantly increasing the variety of UAS capabilities available to all branches of the U.S. military. As part of the Blue sUAS 2.0 registration and qualification process, senseFly has completed two demonstrations for U.S. government officials of its highly ruggedized eBee TAC UAV, a hand-launched fixed wing tactical mapping drone solution that enables users in disconnected environments to execute complex mapping and scouting missions safely and efficiently. Weighing only 3.5 pounds, eBee TAC features a digital camouflage skin for increased stealth and can be rapidly deployed, from assembly to hand-launch, in three minutes by a single user.
In late July 2021, an initial technical demonstration took place at Fort Hunter Liggett, the U.S. Army Reserve’s largest training installation, where senseFly’s eBee TAC underwent testing and evaluation of its system configuration, flight test profile and safety of flight procedures, coupled with the repeatability and reliability of flights and data capture. In mid-September 2021, the Company conducted a second demonstration at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado consisting of various flight demos of the eBee TAC for the purpose of testing and evaluating the system’s capabilities in adverse and high altitude environments. senseFly expects to complete the registration process prior to the end of this year.
AgEagle CEO Brandon Torres-Declet stated, “Since their creation more than 50 years ago, drones have continued to evolve, becoming one of the main tools integrated into military and defense forces throughout the world. Through senseFly’s innovative eBee TAC, AgEagle believes our Company can become an important player in the UAS domestic industrial base for the U.S. and its allies, helping to ensure delivery of secure drone mapping and scouting solutions that the DoD and other government entities will come to depend on.” (Source: UAS VISION)
01 Nov 21. New proposals put forward to strengthen drone regulation and boost UK aviation sector, Report published by the Regulatory Horizons Council sets out how the UK could support the rapid and safe commercialisation of drones. A new report published today (Monday 1 November) by the Regulatory Horizons Council has set out how the UK could support the rapid and safe commercialisation of drones as the technology develops. The Regulatory Horizons Council (RHC) is an independent expert committee which identifies the regulation needed to foster technological innovation and provides government with impartial, expert advice on the regulatory reform required to support its rapid and safe introduction. Drones have been used to deliver vital supplies throughout the pandemic and this report outlines how innovation-friendly regulation could further unlock the benefits of drones, which have the potential to enable the delivery of medical supplies, aid search and rescue services or inspect infrastructure. The report expands on the opportunities for remote parts of the UK such as the Hebrides to act as a testbed for the commercial deployment of drones. This would enable a shift away from experimentation to commercial operations, particularly for flights beyond the visual line of sight of the operator. It also highlights regulatory lessons that the UK can learn from engagement with countries including the United States, Rwanda, Singapore, and Ireland, building on existing strengths in the wider aviation sector such as the skilled workforce and technology base. Furthermore, the report outlines several other regulatory challenges and how the government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) could help to address them, ensuring that the UK’s regulatory framework continues to enable new technologies and business models to thrive.
Professor Iain Gray, Chair of the Drones Industry Action Group, said, “This is an exciting time for the UK’s drone sector, as new technologies are solving real commercial problems and helping save lives. Government is making game-changing investments through the Future Flight Challenge, but to reap the full benefits, innovators need clear, forward-thinking and responsive regulatory regimes to operate within. I would like to thank the RHC for their work producing this welcome report, and look forward to government’s response in due course.”
The Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has written to the Regulatory Horizons Council welcoming the report, and the Department for Transport will respond in detail to its recommendations after the live consultation on the future of transport regulatory review. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
29 Oct 21. UK Watchkeeper TUAV mid-life extension to come on line in 2026. The British Army aims to have the first enhancements to its Watchkeeper tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (TUAV) system ready by 2026. The project to rejuvenate the service’s sole TUAV was revealed in the March Defence Command Paper. A senior British Army source told Janes on 26 October that the Watchkeeper mid-life extension (MLE) project passed initial approvals in August. “The full business case is due to be assessed by the Army Investment Committee in early 2023,” said the source, who added that the initial operating capability was planned for 2026 and full operating capability for 2027. Although the DCP confirmed that the British Army would “retain and upgrade Watchkeeper”, it now appears that the focus of the project is replacing obsolete components rather than adding new capabilities such as new sensors or weapons. (Source: Janes)
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.