Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
10 Mar 22. USAF begins Bandit build. The US Air Force (USAF) has begun building an unmanned ‘Aggressor’ aircraft, dubbed Bandit. The Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate (AFRLASD) announced the event on 9 March, saying it has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to Blue Force Technologies to develop the system to support adversary air (ADAIR) training missions.
“Under the Bandit programme, Blue Force Technologies, a small aerospace and defence company based in North Carolina, will mature a high-performance unmanned air vehicle design that pilots of [US] Air Force fighter aircraft can use to train against. The air vehicle is a part of a proposed autonomy-based system providing adversary air training for [US] Air Force, [US] Navy and [US] Marine Corps fighter crews at greatly reduced costs compared to current manned capabilities,” the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio said. (Source: Janes)
09 Mar 22. Chinese and Saudi firms create joint venture to make military drones in the kingdom. Saudi and Chinese industry have joined forces to design and build military drones in the kingdom. Advanced Communications and Electronics Systems Co. signed an agreement with China Electronics Technology Group Corp., with the two companies announcing their tie-up during the World Defense Show in Riyadh, which took place March 6-9. The joint venture, named Aerial Solutions, will see CETC establish a research and development center and create a team that would manufacture different types of UAV systems. These are to include communications, flight-control, camera, radar and wireless-detection systems. CETC specializes in manufacturing security electronic information systems, including electronics equipment, communication devices and software. The new venture will also focus on developing electric-powered vertical-takeoff-and-landing drones, anti-drone solutions, analytics, helicopter products and radar systems. Aerial Solutions aims to protect infrastructure and localize technological innovation through scientific research, manufacturing and training national engineers, according to a company statement.
ACES said on Twitter that the move is in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative, which aims to grow local industry. This is not the first time China and Saudi Arabia signed a contract allowing the kingdom to procure Chinese unmanned aerial systems. In 2017, Saudi Arabia ordered Chinese-made Wing Loong II drones. Chinese news agency Xinhua described the deal as the country’s largest-ever arms export. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. also previously signed a partnership with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology to build a manufacturing facility in Saudi Arabia for the CH drone class. CETC took part in the World Defense Show this year — the expo’s inaugural launch. Other Chinese companies at the show included China North Industries Group Corp. Limited (NORINCO), China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC), Star Vision, and China Aerospace Long March International Trading Co. (ALIT). (Source: Defense News)
09 Mar 22. Tomahawk Robotics Integrates AeroVironment UAS Into Kinesis Ecosystem. Tomahawk Robotics, the leading innovator of common control solutions, has integrated the AeroVironment RQ-11 Ravenã unmanned aircraft system (UAS) into the Kinesis Ecosystem with AeroVironment’s Crysalis™ on Tomahawk Robotics’ KxM edge processor. Kinesis allows operators to benefit from the unique advantages of battle-proven fixed-wing platform(s) from AeroVironment while simultaneously controlling any other robot in their arsenal – all within a single application on a single pane of glass. AeroVironment’s RQ-20 Puma is the next UAS slated for Kinesis integration via Crysalis. Kinesis users can look forward to this capability in the next Kinesis release.
Kinesis allows operators to benefit from the unique advantages of battle-proven fixed-wing platform(s) from AeroVironment while simultaneously controlling any other robot in their arsenal – all within a single application on a single pane of glass.
AeroVironment is a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems, tactical missile systems, unmanned ground vehicles and high-altitude pseudo-satellites, serving the U.S. Department of Defense and more than 50 allied nations. Crysalis, a next-generation integrated hardware and software-based ground control system that enables third-party command and control of compatible AeroVironment UAS and their payloads through Crysalis, provides additional capability to the warfighter.
The collaboration between AeroVironment and Tomahawk Robotics extends the variety of robotic platforms that Marines are able to control via the Radio Agile Integrated Device (RAID) Program. The RAID Program enables control of tactical unmanned systems fielded at the battalion and below level through a single pane of glass enabling safe, efficient and simplified unmanned systems control for the Marine in harm’s way. This work also allows the Marines to execute more sophisticated collaborative robotic operations and aligns with the Commandant’s Force Design 2030 goals.
About Tomahawk Robotics
Tomahawk Robotics is the leading innovator of common control solutions that transform how humans and unmanned systems work together to make the world more safe and secure. From the battlefield to remote industrial sites, our products and technology safeguard users working under the most extreme and stressful conditions. Designed from the ground up with the user in mind, Kinesis is the only multi-domain, cross-architecture, AI-enabled control system that unlocks intuitive interaction with remote environments from across the room or around the world. (Source: PR Newswire)
08 Mar 22. IDF details Iranian UAV incursions. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have identified two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that it intercepted a year ago as a previously unknown Iranian type called the Shahed-197. In a briefing on 7 March, senior military sources said the two UAVs approached Israeli airspace from the south and east in a previously unreported incident on 15 March 2021, without saying where they were launched from. The Israeli Air Force also released a statement saying four F-35I Adir fifth-generation fighters were scrambled (two from 116Squadron and two from 140 Squadron), with one pair crossing into a neighbouring country to identify and then shoot down the UAVs, making this the first time anF-35has shot down a hostile aircraft. (Source: Janes)
08 Mar 22. MSubs and Sonardyne to collaborate on advancing autonomous naval platform capabilities. Submersible manufacturer MSubs and marine robotics technology company Sonardyne have signed a strategic partnership to advance the capabilities of long endurance, autonomous underwater platforms for the UK defence sector. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will see the two companies working to integrate and evaluate Sonardyne’s commercial-off-the-shelf navigation, communications and imaging payloads into MSubs 9 m-long extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicle (XLUUV) to provide naval forces with enhanced situational awareness across the underwater battlespace. From Plymouth, south-west England, where both companies have research, trials and manufacturing facilities, Sonardyne will supply and support a suite of its technologies to MSubs. These will include SPRINT-Nav X, a hybrid inertial-Doppler navigation sensor that’s suitable for GNSS-denied environments; AvTrak 6, a long-range tracking, command and control instrument; and Vigilant, a forward-looking obstacle avoidance sonar (FLS) jointly developed by Sonardyne and sister company Wavefront Systems. MSubs’ XLUUV has been selected by the UK’s Royal Navy to help it understand the future roles for XLUUVs for surveillance, reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions, and deliver new capabilities to the organisation years earlier than otherwise be possible. In 2021, MSubs and Sonardyne took part in the first phase of the UK’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle Testbed – Opportunity to Integrate competition, run jointly with the Royal Navy and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). As part of the demonstration, MSubs’ XLUUV used bathymetric data gathered by its Vigilant FLS to navigate in open waters off Plymouth. Today’s announcement builds on this success, with the two companies targeting further emerging opportunities from the UK’s Ministry of Defence, such as Project CETUS. This will see the design and build of an extra-large autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which may one day work alongside the Astute-class attack submarines.
Brett Phaneuf, Managing Director of MSubs said: “The integration of Sonardyne equipment on our extra-large AUV is a key factor for our continued success, helping us to move the state of the art forward swiftly. The operator-centric approach to engineering from Sonardyne and MSubs makes it easy to enhance our vehicle performance and reliability through applied research, bringing much needed capability to the underwater domain and greatly reduced timelines and budgets.”
Ioseba Tena, Head of Defence at Sonardyne, added: “Our two companies are at the forefront of the development of unmanned platforms and payloads that are reshaping the underwater battlespace playbook; delivering tactical edge to navies and governments facing new and increasingly capable underwater adversaries. We’re excited to be opening a new chapter of collaboration with the MSubs team, and where better for that collaboration to be centred than Plymouth, the UK’s marine autonomy city.”
04 Mar 22. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) announced its new category of future-forward unmanned aircraft systems, focused on information dominance and airspace supremacy. Leveraging three decades of experience across millions of successful combat flight hours, the new Evolution line of advanced UAS joins GA-ASI’s existing Predator-class and Mojave-class aircraft in delivering next-generation UAS that lead the pack in advanced, affordable, attritable and autonomous combat power.
The name Evolution refers to the evolutionary path GA-ASI has followed as it chartered the realm of unmanned aircraft through its rich, 30-year history of UAS innovation, designing for the future, and the force-multiplying power UAS provide modern warfighters. In the past three decades, GA-ASI has launched more than 25 UAS variants, beginning with the Gnat in 1992.
Evolution establishes a third aircraft class within GA-ASI, joining the well-known Predator® line and recently announced Mojave line of expeditionary UAS featuring short-takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. Evolution includes the development of GA-ASI’s next-generation UAS solutions designed to meet the needs of the U.S. Air Force’s vision for its future force, as well as new UAS concepts such as Defender, Sparrowhawk and the recently announced Gambit.
“We’re continuing to grow and respond to the rapidly changing world,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “As we celebrate our 30-year anniversary as a company, our new Evolution-series aircraft will merge our unique heritage of advanced and affordable UAS technologies with innovative technologies for the future. We’re looking ahead to new concepts and never-before-seen aircraft that meet the needs of our customers today and tomorrow.”
07 Mar 22. SYPAQ Submits Sovereign Solution for Land 129 Phase 4B4. SYPAQ Systems has submitted its CorvoX Unmanned Aerial System (system as a sovereign Australian solution for Land 129 Phase 4B, which will deliver a man-portable small UAS for Army. CorvoX will provide Army commanders with the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support needed to maintain ‘over the hill, down the road and around the corner’ situational awareness, says the company. CorvoX was designed, developed and demonstrated specifically to meet the unique requirements of Land 129 Phase 4B. It combines vertical take-off, hover and landing capabilities with fixed wing flight mode – all designed to reduce the physical and cognitive load on the operator.
SYPAQ CEO Amanda Holt highlighted the unique capabilities CorvoX would offer Army end-users, as well as its 90% Australian Industry Content.
“CorvoX will provide crucial operational advantages that will contribute to the enhanced safety and effectiveness of Army personnel, including rapid set-up and almost instant loitering and surveillance capability.”
SYPAQ’s General Manager Innovation and Strategic Programs, Michael Partridge, said the company’s bid was the culmination of an extensive collaborative process with local technology partners and Defence engagement to ensure CorvoX offers the best of Australian Industry Capability whilst aligning to Defence’s specific need.
“CorvoX is the result of a four-year innovation journey responding to the requirements identified by Army and the Defence Innovation Hub Special Notice,” he said. “The system is proof of the world-leading autonomous systems capabilities in Australian industry, which we have seen right across our local supply chain.”
In addition to close collaboration with Defence, SYPAQ’s bid has been strengthened by the Victorian government’s support in developing the Defence Autonomy Centre of Excellence (DACE), located next to Melbourne’s Fisherman’s Bend innovation precinct.
Ms Holt said the DACE represents a significant investment in SYPAQ’s R&D and manufacturing capabilities, allowing the company to “continue developing our innovative technologies and intellectual property related to autonomous systems, sensor systems, military systems integration, artificial intelligence and cyber security.” (Source: Rumour Control)
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.