Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
10 Feb 22. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has selected two Belgian companies, ALX Systems and Coexpair, to support the development of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and other advanced RPA-related projects.
The companies were selected from a field of 18 companies that presented their ideas and capabilities to a panel of GA-ASI technical experts during Blue Magic Belgium 2021. BMB21, held Sept. 15-16, 2021 at the headquarters of GA-ASI’s Belgian partner DronePort in Sint-Truiden, provided an opportunity for Belgium-based businesses to present their capabilities and products to GA-ASI with the goal of expanding GA-ASI’s business-to-business cooperation with Belgian industry. The Belgian Ministry of Defense announced in 2020 that it will acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian with first delivery expected next year.
“We were impressed by the many talented companies that participated in Blue Magic Belgium,” said GA-ASI Vice President of Engineering Dee Wilson, who led the GA-ASI panel. “We look forward to working with ALX Systems and Coexpair. Both companies bring unique products and capabilities that are important to our ongoing and future RPA development activities.”
ALX Systems develops unmanned aircraft solutions, including a cloud-enabled operating system that enables UAS to fly autonomously.
“ALX is happy to be selected again and looks forward to working with GA-ASI to develop a mission manager software application that will generate mission plans for autonomous operations,” said ALX Systems’ Founder & CEO Geoffrey Mormal.
Coexpair specializes in out-of-autoclave Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) processing of composite parts. They offer material selection and prototyping services to develop this process for customer-specific needs. Coexpair will work with GA-ASI to develop an innovative RTM process for core stiffened composite sandwich structures.
“Our project with GA-ASI will tackle the challenge of resin intrusion into sandwich core during RTM processing,” said André Bertin, CEO of Coexpair
ALX Systems and Coexpair are part of a growing list of Belgium-based businesses working with GA-ASI. Other companies include AeroSimulators Group, AIRobot, Hexagon’s Geospatial division and ScioTeq, SABCA, Thales Belgium, ST Engineering and DronePort.
08 Feb 22. For the first time, Black Hawk helicopter flies without anyone aboard. A UH-60 Alpha-model Black Hawk helicopter flew for the first time entirely unmanned as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, Sikorsky announced Feb. 8. Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky and DARPA have been working on ALIAS for roughly six years, but have always had a pilot in the aircraft just in case, even if the helicopter performed the flight entirely on its own. There’s a switch in the helicopter called the “210 switch,” Igor Cherepinsky, director of Sikorsky Innovation, told reporters during a Feb. 8 virtual press briefing. The switch indicates how many pilots are present in the aircraft; for the first time before the flight, it was turned to zero. For 30 minutes, the ALIAS Black Hawk flew without anyone inside over Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on Feb. 5 and then again on a shorter flight on Feb. 7. The aircraft performed pre-flight checks, took off and ran through a simulated Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) system depicting the congested and complex New York City skyline. The 14,000-lb aircraft responded autonomously to the simulated skyscrapers, weaving through Manhattan, according to Cherepinsky. Then the aircraft landed by itself.
The Black Hawk uses the Sikorsky MATRIX autonomy system designed to help pilots and aircrew when flying in degraded environments, including ones with limited visibility or lacking reliable communications.
Sikorsky developed the MATRIX technology through its Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA). U.S. Army pilots took it for a spin in 2018 for the first time as the service continues to work toward the option to make both the current fleet and future fleet under development optionally manned.
ALIAS integrates a high level of automation into manned aircraft and has the capability to take on additional autonomy capabilities.
“ALIAS aims to support execution of an entire mission from takeoff to landing, including autonomously handling contingency events such as aircraft system failures. Easy-to-use interfaces facilitate supervisor-ALIAS interaction,” the company statement said.
“With reduced workloads pilots can focus on mission management instead of the mechanics,” Stuart Young, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said. “This unique combination of autonomy software and hardware will make flying both smarter and safer.”
DARPA and Sikorsky have together invested roughly $160m in the ALIAS program. The plan is to wrap up the program by the end of the year, Young said. The split between the two, Young said, was relatively even.
ALIAS brings operational flexibility to the Army, he said. “This includes the ability to operate aircraft at all times of the day or night, with and without pilots, and in a variety of difficult conditions, such as contested, congested, and degraded visual environments,” Young added. A leading cause of Army aviation mishaps is a combination of human error and degraded visual environments. The service continues to seek systems that will help offload the burden on the pilot in these environments. (Source: Defense News)
09 Feb 22. A Step Change in International Aviation: Israel Certifies Unmanned Aircraft System for Integration in Civilian Airspace.
Head of the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority: “This is the first time that a UAS has received a Type Certificate”
For the first time ever, the Civil Aviation Authority of the State of Israel (CAAI), that operates under the Israeli Ministry of Transport and Road Safety, has certified an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) for civil aviation, approving it to fly in civilian airspace as any other civilian airplane and not restricting its flight to unsegregated airspace.
This is an additional part of the Israeli Ministry of Transport and Road Safety’s policy to adapt land and aerial transport regulations. The Ministry adopts an innovative approach responding to the challenges presented and opportunities enabled by technological developments in Israel and around the world.
The receipt of the Type Certificate from the CAAI completes the compliance of Elbit Systems’ Hermes Starliner UAS with the NATO standardization for approving UAS for integration in civilian unsegregated airspace.
For safety reasons, international aviation regulations prohibit uncertified aircraft from flying in civilian airspace, limiting the operation of UAS’ to unsegregated airspace, until now. The certification issued by the CAAI to the Hermes Starliner UAS changes this.
CAAI has supervised the design and manufacturing of the Hermes Starliner UAS and led a rigorous six-year certification process that included extensive ground and flight tests. The tests were conducted in compliance with air navigation rules, airworthiness basis and aviation standards regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Head of the CAAI, Joel Feldschuh: “We are proud to issue the Type Certificate to the Hermes Starliner UAS, approving it to fly in civilian airspace as any other civil aircraft. As far as CAAI is aware, this is a world first”.
“CAAI is an active partner in the ICAO effort to update international regulations to accommodate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems in civil airspace, and this Type Certificate granted to the Hermes Starliner UAS aligns with this international activity. This Type Certificate is the result of a fundamental process that we led for six years that included thousands of man hours, dozens of audits, laboratory tests, ground tests, intensive flight tests and thousands of documents”, added Feldschuh.
With a wingspan of 17 meters and weighing 1.6 tons, Elbit Systems’ Hermes Starliner UAS is capable of up to 36 hours of continuous flight at an altitude of up to 25,000 ft. and can carry an additional 450 kg of electro-optical, thermal, radar and other payloads.
To date, Elbit Systems has been contracted by the Swiss Federal Department of Defence and the Canadian Ministry of Transportation to supply the Hermes Starliner UAS and by a dozen additional countries to provide other variants of the Hermes 900 UAS.
The approval granted to a UAS to fly above populated areas and in any civilian airspace enables governments as well as international and commercial organizations to incorporate large, long-endurance unmanned aircraft in missions that until now were only performed by manned aircraft. The Hermes Starliner UAS will be able to participate in border security and anti-terror operations; take part in securing mass public events; perform maritime search and rescue; perform commercial aviation and environmental inspection missions, as well as precision agriculture work.
Elbit Systems integrated advanced civil aviation technological capabilities onboard the Hermes Starliner UAS, a derivative of the technologically mature Hermes 900 UAS, to meet certification standards. These technologies include a terrain avoidance warning system; automatic take-off and landing in harsh visibility; redundant avionics, sensors and satellite data links; as well as adverse weather capabilities and direct lightning strike sustainment.
General Manager of Elbit Systems Aerospace, Yoram Shmuely: “We are very pleased to have achieved this international breakthrough, solidifying our leadership in the UAS market. The capability to integrate UAS in civilian airspace now enables governments as well as international and commercial organizations to leverage the unique capabilities of a sophisticated UAS in their pursuit of significantly improved security and environmental protection”.
08 Feb 22. Steadicopter unveils the Black Eagle 50H – the first unmanned hybrid helicopter of its kind, which enables energy efficiency through a combination of gas and electricity propulsion. The highly-reliable helicopter has capacity to carry up to 12 kg of payloads and extremely long endurance for its category.
Singapore Airshow, 15-18/2, Stand C-Q101
Steadicopter, a leader in the Rotary Unmanned Aerial Systems (RUAS) industry, has unveiled the Black Eagle 50H – the first hybrid-powered unmanned helicopter and the newest model in its RUAV family – designed for a wide range of law enforcement, maritime, civilian and covert missions.
With a maximum takeoff weight of 50 kg, the Black Eagle 50H can carry multiple large payloads or relatively smaller payloads, and is capable of up to five hours of flight time – extremely high endurance when compared to other VTOL platforms in its class. This enables high performance and maximum operational flexibility for both security forces and civilian applications, such as search & rescue, cyber, intelligence, offshore rigs, and high-end naval missions.
Featuring a hybrid engine and propulsion system, the Black Eagle 50H combines the best of the electric 50E and the gas-powered 50 variants in a platform that is extremely cost-effective, simple to operate, easy to maintain, environmentally friendly, and safe. The helicopter has all the proven capabilities of the highly energy-efficient gasoline-powered Black Eagle 50, including vertical take-off and landing, long hover durations, and leading mission sensor suites for all mission scenarios, whether day or night. In addition, like the Black Eagle 50E, it offers excellent reliability and is extremely adaptive to high-altitude flights, thanks to the electric propulsion segment which is less affected by the ambient air pressure, making it deployable in many high-altitude operational scenarios.
For enhanced mission versatility, the hybrid platform also enables operators to select power by generator while enroute, switching to the quieter direct battery power during the mission itself, enabling maximum covertness.
“The Black Eagle 50H is a true multi-domain, multi-mission and multi-sensor system, coupled with all the benefits of a covert, easy-to-maintain, highly-versatile electric-powered system,” says Noam Lidor, VP Sales, Marketing & Business Development at Steadicopter. “Its ability to carry advanced payloads and its capability for extended time in the air ensure both mission success and flexibility.”
04 Feb 22. Flare Bright at Radnor Range. Flarebright has been selected as one of 10 companies out of 150 applicants for Aerospace Xelerated’s third cohort. The programme provides access to strategists and technical experts in the aerospace industry, with opportunities to network and generate ideas for collaboration. In other news, we’re delighted to announce our involvement in an exciting contract with Radnor Range. We’ll be demonstrating our Machine Learning enhanced Digital Twin capability through flight-testing our SnapShot nano-drone. The test campaign is part of a collaborative project primed by and held at Radnor Range. The project aims to display how the UK can reduce the number of live flight tests required for drone capabilities, through combining synthetic testing approaches. This month our team surveyed the site in preparation for upcoming flight tests. Along with demonstrating our capabilities they are continuing to develop our technology through current projects, including a second DASA contract, 2 Future Flight projects, and the Radnor Range contract. Flarebright has also applied for Future Flight Phase 3 which we should hear about soon. This month the team visited Radnor Range to survey the site and begin initial plans for the demonstration of SnapShot later this year, as part of the Radnor Range contract we’ve recently signed into. The demonstration will showcase SnapShot’s ability to operate in challenging terrain and winds using our Machine Learning Digital Twin ecosystem. Radnor Range is a UK MoD accredited independent test house for test and evaluation. It’s the ideal test site for the demonstration – consisting of uneven terrain and high winds – providing the necessary conditions to test SnapShot’s capability. The demonstration is part of a collaborative project led by Radnor Range and in partnership with Tommorrow.io, Atkins, ANSYS, and Nexus Nine, who will provide wind and terrain enhancing data to further improve the accuracy of the Digital Twin ecosystem.
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.