Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
07 Apr 22. NATO RQ-4D Phoenix Achieves Major Milestone with Full System Handover. Northrop Grumman Corporation’s (NYSE: NOC), NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) RQ-4D Phoenix Global Hawk has reached a major milestone with the NATO AGS Management Agency (NAGSMA)’s Full System Handover to the NATO AGS Force (NAGSF) at the Main Operating Base, Sigonella, Sicily. The specially-designed AGS system is uniquely suited to NATO requirements and is providing critical Joint ISR situational awareness to the 30 NATO member countries.
The NATO AGS Full System Handover is comprised of five aircraft, ground and support segments, along with advanced sensor technologies. Since the first of five aircraft arrived at the main operating base in Sigonella, Italy in 2019, operational flight hours have steadily increased, including the recent first 24-hour mission.
“This Full System Handover is an important milestone for the NATO AGS community, government and industry,” said Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, global surveillance, Northrop Grumman. “The NATO AGS system is a force multiplier supporting the Alliance mission of deterring threats and protecting security across NATO member countries.”
The RQ-4D Phoenix high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) system provides ubiquitous and unparalleled Joint ISR data to NATO. The wide area surveillance provided by Global Hawk and the fixed, mobile and transportable ground stations in the system support a range of missions, including: protection of ground troops and civilian populations; border control; crisis management; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, every day of the year.
Northrop Grumman’s family of autonomous HALE systems, including Global Hawk, is a critical component of networked, global ISR collection for allied nations. Global Hawk collects vital information to enable allied commanders to make informed and rapid decisions to preserve global security.
05 Apr 22. Release the hounds: Army event to feature drone swarms that behave like a wolf pack. The U.S. Army plans to experiment with drone swarms that behave more like a wolf pack at its second aviation-focused exercise leading up to Project Convergence later this year, the director of the service’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team told Defense News. The Edge 22 drill will take place in the spring at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, and will feed into Project Convergence, a bigger campaign of learning scheduled for the fall. Project Convergence has grown from an Army event in the Arizona desert at Yuma Proving Ground in 2020 to a joint evaluation in 2021 and then to a coalition-level exercise this year.
Edge — which stands for Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise — is considered Army aviation’s scrimmage before the big game. At Edge 21, the Army achieved 56 “firsts,” including a soldier at an unprecedented speed learning how to control both an unmanned aircraft system and its sensors from a tablet. It took the solider less than an hour to do so before executing the mission.
Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen, who leads the Army’s future vertical lift modernization efforts, told Defense News in an interview last month ahead of the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual conference that he is “fading away” from thinking about drone swarms that exhibit the behaviors of insects. Instead, he’s looking at something more attune to how wolves run in packs.
“There’s behaviors in the wolf pack,” he said. It hunts, he explained during a media roundtable at AAAA, “and there’s an alpha that kind of runs the show and then each wolf has a duty, but then those duties are hierarchical. And if one wolf gets knocked out by the antlers, a second one’s going [to fill the gap].”
The swarm is “the largest interactive swarm/pack that I’m aware of that’s ever occurred,” Rugen told Defense News.
The Army has been partnering with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on the effort. The swarm will demonstrate some unclassified behaviors, including the ability to detect, identify, locate and report; geolocation; electronic warfare; collaborative operations and cooperative search using algorithms and patterns; and navigating in a GPS-denied environment. The Army will also have lethal effects in the swarm so a drone can neutralize a target.
The rest of the behaviors are classified, Rugen noted.
If drones drop out of the swarm, he explained, the Army will seek to understand “how we need to fill in the gaps.”
“Behaviors are important because they’re going to be software that we then update as we go forward to be far more effective” in operations such as penetrating enemy defenses, he added.
Also at Edge 22, the service is joined by international participants, including seven NATO countries: Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, the U.K., Canada, France and Australia.
“We’ll do a combined air assault with our partners, and I’m very excited about some of the technologies they are bringing to get those cross-domain solutions,” Rugen said.
The goal is to ensure the Army understands where it is interoperable with its partners and allies.
The Army is also “significantly ramping up” its electronic warfare capability. As electronic warfare systems come in smaller packages, the service will experiment with a small air-launched effects capability, Rugen said. An air-launched effect is a drone that will be deployed from a larger aircraft equipped with sensors or weapons. The vision is that it will operate in a team with the Army’s manned or optionally manned future vertical lift aircraft.
The Army will also use its High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System surrogate, a fixed-wing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform that the Army is considering as a future fixed-wing ISR capability.
With that, the Army will work on strategic-level intelligence collection and how to get that strategic information “down to the tactical edge in a very low, latent manner,” Rugen said.
The Army will also be doubling its airborne network distances, he noted.
Additionally, the service will integrate an aircraft’s onboard sensors with a ground vehicle in order to conduct the first live fire from an unmanned ground vehicle using the Aided Threat Recognition from Mobile Cooperative and Autonomous Sensors — an artificial intelligence-enabled system that uses sensors and edge computing in the air and on the ground to provide target data.
“That integration, air to ground, is critical to us,” Rugen said. “We will see some big technical objectives in that” which will demonstrate a tighter joint kill chain. (Source: Defense News)
01 Apr 22. Meet MAPLE, the brain that will run the UK’s autonomous naval fleet. Now in its fifth iteration, the MAPLE 5 architecture has moved away from the individual command and control of single platforms towards operating multiple platforms and the development of operational concepts at force level. Enamored with a vision of a future fleet of autonomous air, ground, surface and underwater vehicles, Britain’s Royal Navy is investing in the creation of a Naval Strike Network, designed to provide the command-and-control backbone for its unmanned systems. For that to work, it needs a brain: a program known as the Maritime Autonomous Platform Exploitation, or MAPLE, with which the baseline information architecture that the UK needs for any of its ambitious plans for unmanned platforms come to reality. The program, run through the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Lab (DSTL), started in 2016 and has been used in exercises such as Unmanned Warrior in 2016, Autonomous Warrior in 2018, Autonomous Advanced Force in 2019, and most recently Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping in 2021 (REP 2021) as well as its own smaller events where experiments were conducted to prove how the system can become the baseline architecture for unmanned systems. Now in its fifth iteration, the MAPLE 5 architecture has moved away from the individual command and control of single platforms towards operating multiple platforms and the development of operational concepts at force level. The intention is to evolve the architecture to be able to implement a broader suite of unmanned systems and make sure it is robust enough to meet the rigors of naval operations.
James McIntyre, principal scientist at DSTL, told Breaking Defense that “Within an operations room [MAPLE] provides the command and control of multiple unmanned systems breaking down those stove-pipes. We have demonstrated that from a single C2 node we can control multiple uncrewed vessels.”
At a theoretical level, an information architecture focuses on organizing, structuring, and labelling content in an effective and sustainable way, with the goal of helping users access relevant data and complete tasks. In the context of unmanned vehicles, MAPLE serves as a structure for taking in information, deciding the best way to apply that information to its tasks, and then sending those orders out to the vehicles — something essential to the idea of managing large numbers of unmanned systems in the future.
This means that any hardware and software employed in the Naval Strike Network needs MAPLE to manage the flow of information so that operators can control unmanned systems from a warship’s combat management system or other workstations used in different ships or shore installations — with control transferable between them.
Until now the introduction of uncrewed systems into the fleet has been through the purchase of individual platforms with their own C2 consoles, information architecture, communications links and data management systems, which are not integrated into wider naval networks or the combat management systems of warships. MAPLE will serve to integrate these systems fully.
By using open standards, DSTL has developed the structure and set principles for the way in which they want to integrate maritime unmanned systems. This documentation and guidance will, at some point, inform what systems can and cannot be purchased by the MoD — if not compliant with MAPLE, they won’t fit Britain’s needs.
But developing MAPLE from a S&T effort into a fully capable baseline for the Naval Strike Network is where the next real challenge lies. One particular hurdle: making the system “interoperable by design” with non-UK forces.
Ships operate in task groups and as part of coalitions, so the aim of MAPLE 5 is understanding how to control maritime autonomous systems from a wider force rather than an individual ship. Because it is assumed the UK will not fight on its own, coalition operations are the starting premise of the governance model being introduced for autonomous operations.
To make that happen, different information architectures have to work with each other. For example there would have be an alignment of MAPLE with the US Navy’s Common Control System (CCS). Work on this has progressed and at the REP 2021 Augmented by Maritime Unmanned Systems exercise, a US CCS station was integrated and could task unmanned systems that were under the control of a UK MAPLE C2 node.
This was achieved using an “interchangeability to interoperability” message standard that was conceived through the MAPLE studies and made functional under the Naval Strike Network program. This approach is being proposed as a new NATO standard for maritime autonomous system interoperability within a coalition force.
McIntyre said that in 2022 DSTL plans for synthetic experimentation to build on initial force concepts, and to conduct studies on how lethal and non-lethal effects will impact MAPLE’s control of unmanned systems. DSTL will also build and develop candidate applications and technologies for testing in the new environment.
However, it is not a simple plug-and-play issue just yet. McIntyre said that because many combat management systems are classified but most unmanned systems are unclassified, tying the latter into the former is a challenge. The current plan, he said, involves an effective use of data guards to ensure that only the right data can flow back into the ship while still allowing human operators to command the unmanned fleet.
He added there is also a “cultural challenge” to overcome, as many of unmanned systems manufacturers provide their own C2 systems. “We have been keen to demonstrate that we are not trying to do away with the good work and innovation of industry but to show that [NSN] would be a more effective route for them to exploit their systems.”
There is also a lot of human factors work being undertaken by DSTL at its Command Lab in Portsdown West. Alasdair Gilchrist, above water systems program manager at DSTL, told Breaking Defense that they want to minimize the effort of controlling multiple unmanned systems and avoid overburdening the operators.
“We are bringing in real operators to look at the challenges. We don’t want data overload, if you put a lot of sensors on these un-crewed vessels — which we have been doing — like full motion video, communications, you can quickly become overloaded in the operations room,” he said.
Data can be passed from an unmanned system to a ship and it will be collated in the operations room. This can then be used to give the command courses of action to the operator so they can make the right tactical decisions to meet their objectives.
“The Naval Strike Network is not just an engineering information architecture on its own, it is looking at all these things around it regarding multi-level security, data volumes, data guards, human factors, restrictions on sharing from international partners, across the air, surface and underwater (mine countermeasures) domains,” Gilchrist added.
DSTL is part way through developing MAPLE 5 and is holding a further series of workshops with its military advisers and stakeholders in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines to refine concepts of use, user requirements and systems requirements to make sure it meets their needs. DSTL is also working with a team of industry partners.
QinetiQ won the DSTL contract to help lead the development of MAPLE 5 following its lead during the preceding MAPLE 4 iteration. BAE Systems had secured the earlier MAPLE 2 contract and is still part of the team along with SeeByte and Thales, which all lead on different sub-elements of the MAPLE 5.
McIntyre said MAPLE 5 is a departure compared to earlier programs due to the broader engagement of other large firms, including DIEM Analytics, BMT, and L3 Harris ASV.
Partly in parallel with and beyond MAPLE 5 it is the ambition of the Royal Navy to transition the MAPLE 5 architecture into the Naval Strike Network. Whilst MAPLE is already a robust architecture the “5” program has been agnostic looking at broader use cases for the architecture outside of C2. So according to McIntyre, the next steps will be to go back to specific use cases such testing maritime autonomous systems and refining the architecture. He said this could include assessing it in a defensive surface warfare or anti-ship missile defense context and from that then building apps and vehicles to test those concepts using MAPLE. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
05 Apr 22. Turkey’s Supersonic UCAV Mock Up Gets Wings. The assembly of the wings of the KIZILELMA Combat Unmanned Aircraft System (MIUS), developed by Baykar Defense, has been completed. KIZILELMA’s production activities continue. Baykar Defense continues the production activities of KIZILELMA, which was developed within the scope of the Combat Unmanned Aircraft System (MIUS) Project. The final assembly of the wings of KIZILELMA’s Mock-Up has been completed. Turkey’s largest unmanned aerial vehicle is planned to make its first flight next year.
In the statement made by Baykar Technical Leader Selçuk Bayraktar on the subject,” When we put on the KIZILELMA wing and joined us, we decided to take a picture immediately.” statements were included.
In parallel with the rapid development of technology, it is predicted that the future air battles will be carried out with unmanned combat jets, in the defense doctrines that are changing more rapidly with each passing day. In this context, the combat unmanned aircraft system BAYRAKTAR KIZILELMA (MIUS), which continues to be developed nationally and specifically by Baykar , will guide the combat concept of the future.
The combat unmanned aircraft system, developed by Baykar and based on the experience of Bayraktar UAVs/SİHAs that changed the world, will serve by being equipped with the technologies of the future.
LANDING AND TAKING off SHIPS WITH SHORT RUNWAYS
Bayraktar KIZILELMA, which will have the ability to land and take off on ships with short runways, such as the TCG ANADOLU ship, which Turkey has built and is currently conducting cruise tests, will thus play an important role in overseas missions. With this ability , it will take an active role in the protection of the Blue Homeland.
LOW RADAR VISIBILITY
The feature of having a low radar cross section, which is considered as one of the most critical issues in the design processes of manned warplanes, was also taken into consideration in the design of Bayraktar KIZILELMA . Bayraktar KIZILELMA, which will successfully perform the most challenging tasks thanks to its low radar trace, is aimed to have a take-off weight of 6 tons . The aircraft, which will use all the munitions developed nationally by Turkish engineers, will be a great power multiplier with its planned 1500 kilograms useful load carrying capacity. It is aimed to stay in the air for 5 hours with a 500 nm mission radius. Bayraktar KIZILELMA will also have high situational awareness with the AESA radar to be integrated .
FIRST FLIGHT IN 2023
By developing Bayraktar AKINCI, BAYKAR succeeded in making Turkey one of the few countries capable of developing unmanned aerial vehicles in the offensive class, and aims to carry out the first flight test of Bayraktar KIZILELMA in 2023. Bayraktar AKINCI entered the integration line in TİHA in 2018 and successfully completed its first flight on 6 December 2019 a year later. AKINCI entered the inventory on 29 August 2021, approximately 1.5 years after its first flight, and started its operational duty. It is aimed to carry out a similar project process for Bayraktar KIZILELMA by the Baykar team led by Selçuk Bayraktar.
BAYRAKTAR KIZILELMA (MIUS), which can conduct air-air combat with aggressive maneuvers, will be a power multiplier for the security forces with its low radar cross section. BAYRAKTAR KIZILELMA (MIUS), which will have the ability to take off and land from ships with short runways, will be able to attack determined targets with the ammunition it will carry inside the hull.
Basic Flight Performance Criteria
- 500 Nm Duty Radius
- 35,000 Feet Operational Altitude
- 5 Hours Airtime
- 6 Tons Maximum Takeoff Weight
- 0.6 Mach Travel Speed
- 1500 Kilogram Payload Capacity
- Automatic Landing and Takeoff
- Low Visibility
- High Maneuverability
- Line of Sight and Line of Sight Communication
- Take-off and Landing Capability from Short-Runway Aircraft Carriers
- High Situational Awareness with AESA Radar (Source: UAS VISION/SavunmaSanayiST)
04 Apr 22. In February, General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) began the first installation of factory upgrades to a Gray Eagle-Extended Range (GE-ER) Unmanned Aircraft System to enhance its capabilities to support Multi-Domain Operations (MDO). The U.S. Army-funded program includes two aircraft. Flight test and qualification will start later this year.
“We’re pleased to be working with our Army customer to increase relevance and capabilities of the GE-ER platform for the MDO environment,” said Don Cattell, vice president for Army Programs. “These efforts ensure the Army’s premier UAS is better able to support advanced teaming operations with manned and other unmanned platforms, which will further its capabilities and ensure mission success. We are fully committed to our Army partners to make sure our proven GE-ER is equipped for its role as the designated platform for long-range sensors and Air Launched Effects (ALEs).”
The new GE-ER configuration combines investment from the Army and GA-ASI to create the most advanced Class IV UAS available today. GA-ASI worked with the Army to demonstrate MDO capabilities on the Gray Eagle ER at Yuma Proving Grounds, which included fully integrated, internally mounted long-range sensors, ALEs, and laptop-based and handheld control interfaces. The Modernized GE-ER incorporates open architecture aircraft and ground systems, advanced datalinks, and an upgraded propulsion system, significantly enhancing the ability to add new capabilities, provide resilience to electronic threats and expeditionary employment to austere locations.
The MDO upgrade follows a series of demonstrations that showcased GE-ER’s persistent stand-off survivability with stand-in capabilities and up to 40 hours of endurance that commanders can leverage in the MDO environment. GA-ASI partnered with industry to integrate best-of-breed long-range payloads and ALEs on the GE-ER, increasing the survivability and mission success of its manned aviation teammates.
01 Apr 22. Suter TOA288 Engine Utilized by Volansi on VOLY M20 and VOLY 50 Series Drones. Suter Industries announced that their Suter TOA288 24hp UAV engine was selected by Volansi to provide propulsion for their VOLY M20 and VOLY 50 Series Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) drones. Volansi is a supplier of aerial drone logistics services for customers in the defense, commercial, and humanitarian markets. Volansi VTOL aircraft are designed for long endurance, heavy payloads and to perform in challenging environments, providing surveillance as well as essential parts and supplies to the field. Volansi has been flying the Voly M20 and 50 Series with Suter’s TOA288 engine. Both the Voly M20 and the 50 Series utilize eight electric motors for the VTOL portion of its flight and the Suter TOA288 engine provides forward flight propulsion and power generation. The Voly M20 can carry 20 pounds of cargo and the 50 Series can carry up to 50 pounds of cargo providing a low footprint runway independent cargo delivery solution for civil and defense applications. The Suter TOA288 is a twin cylinder, horizontal opposed, air cooled, two cycle engine, with fuel saving electronic engine management system and a 1kW starter/generator. Displacement is 288cm3. Power: 17.5kW (24HP) @6500rpm. The engine was a design collaboration between CAE GmbH and Suter Industries combining CAE’s 25 years of manned & unmanned 2-stroke engine experience with Suter’s over 25 years of 2-stroke motorcycle racing design & manufacturing experience. The result is a high performance, reliable, world class UAV engine currently produced in Switzerland.
Dietrich Kehe, CEO and founder of CAE GmbH said, “We are excited to be working with Volansi to optimize our Suter TOA288 engine to meet the aircraft thrust, fuel economy, reliability and durability requirements to expand their product capabilities.” Eskil Suter, CEO of Suter Industries went on to say, “We are able to utilize our world class manufacturing & testing facility to provide development and production engines very quickly to Volansi and we look forward to supporting the production demand for this engine.” Volansi needed a reliable 24hp UAV engine to meet growing demand for our cargo delivery drones and we turned to Suter/CAE for a solution,” said Steve Morris, VP of Aircraft Engineering for Volansi. “We have been flying this new engine for over a year and are very happy with the results allowing us to meet payload, reliability and endurance requirements while also allowing opportunities for further product enhancements over time including heavy fuel capability.”
About Suter Industries:
Suter Industries’ roots go back to motorcycle racing era of the 1990s. Eskil Suter was a successful Grand Prix racing driver and founded the Suter Racing company in 1996. The company is known for their “SuterClutch” and other products for the motorcycle racing market including high-performance engines, motorcycles and various components. In 2015, Suter Racing launched a four-cylinder two-stroke racing machine with the worldwide exclusive Suter500, which was developed completely in-house. Since 2002 Suter Industries applied the expertise gained from engine development to other areas of relevance in vehicle, aviation and defense industries.
About CAE GmbH:
CAE GmbH is lead by Dietrich Kehe who is a mechanical engineer with over 24 years’ experience in manned and unmanned 2-stroke aircraft engines. He received his engineering degree with a focus on combustion engines from the University of Hochschule für Technik – Esslingen (Stuttgart, Germany area). Dietrich has developed clean sheet engine designs for advanced UAV applications utilizing advanced electronic fuel injection (including direct injection) technology. These solutions are flying on some of the world’s most advanced UAV applications. CAE GmbH has teamed with Suter to develop world class UAV engines for the global market.
Volansi is the leader in aerial drone logistics services for customers in the defense, commercial, and humanitarian markets. Volansi VTOL aircraft are designed for long endurance, heavy payloads and to perform in challenging environments, providing surveillance as well as essential parts and supplies to the field.
About UAV Propulsion Tech:
Schmidt Products, LLC (dba UAV Propulsion Tech) is a privately held US company that markets global UAV technology into the defense and commercial UAV markets, and is the US representative for Suter Industries.
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