Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
14 Apr 22. Aerosonde Takes 1st Flight From US Navy Destroyer. Textron Systems Corporation has announced the successful first flight and maritime integration of the Aerosonde Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) on a U.S. Navy Guided Missile Destroyer (DDG).
The integration follows a September 2021 award by the U.S. Navy of a multi-year Aerosonde task order for maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) services aboard two DDGs. The success of this first flight emphasizes the system’s ability to offer a mature, reliable aircraft to support the types of ship-based missions being performed now, all within a small aviation footprint in a higher sea state environment.
Built with maritime missions in mind, the Aerosonde platform offers multi-mission capability and, with over 550,000 flight hours, proven reliability and performance. Integrated into the ship’s combat systems, the Aerosonde is equipped to deliver day/night full-motion video, wide area surveillance, communications relay, signals intelligence and more. The expeditionary platform is powered by a heavy fuel engine and is capable of point takeoff and landing, minimizing impact to the ship’s operations.
“This flight for Aerosonde represents the expansion of the platform’s real-world maritime mission. Already operating on the expeditionary sea base ship USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB-4), we are excited to see Unmanned Systems contribute to the Navy’s critical missions across the globe,” says Wayne Prender, Senior Vice President of Air Systems. “The system’s long endurance capabilities make it an ideal platform for maritime ISR operations; search and rescue; and many other missions providing the U.S. Navy with enhanced real-time situational awareness at any time, anywhere.” (Source: UAS VISION)
14 Apr 22. Finnish Defence Forces to Spend $15m on Surveillance Drones. The Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) announced on Monday it is seeking suitable suppliers of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), also referred to as drones, to be used for intelligence gathering purposes. The FDF said plans to acquire 1,000 to 2,000 UAS, in a two-year acquisition at a cost of around 14m euros.
“We are looking for a system that operates in all weather conditions in different seasons in varying environments. Also, the system needs to be easy to train for all our persons liable for military service,” Lieutenant Colonel Riku Rantakari from the Army Command said in a statement.
The devices will be used on “intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition missions of different services’ units and service branches from the southern coast up to northernmost Lapland,” the FDF statement read.
Last week, the government announced plans to substantially increase the country’s defence budget. The FDF said it had already issued an announcement about the procurement effort in order to identify potential suppliers, and that it is accepting such applications until 9 May. The system and its supplier will be selected by the summer of 2023, while system training is expected to have started during the second half of that year, the FDF said. (Source: UAS VISION/yle news)
13 Apr 22. Nigeria to Manufacture Surveillance Drones. Nigerian armored vehicle manufacturer Proforce has signed an agreement with French firm AERACCESS to manufacture surveillance drones in the African nation.
The partnership seeks to bolster the air defense capabilities of the Nigerian military and address its internal defense challenges.
The “immediate” production of drones in Nigeria could also strengthen the connection and military ties between Abuja and France.
Proforce did not provide specific details regarding the drones that will be produced, but its partner AERACCESS is known for producing quadcopter-based classes such as the NanoHawk, HawkEye, and the SparrowHawk.
“Our solutions give law enforcement personnel a situational awareness on the battlefield through real-time, airborne reconnaissance, surveillance, and communication,” the French company said.
In addition to producing surveillance drones, Nigeria is also looking for twin-engine attack helicopters to help in the country’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency campaigns.
According to a report by Financial Express, the aircraft will be used to fire at ground and air targets such as armored vehicles and small drones.
The country has reportedly identified Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Airbus, and Turkish Aerospace Industries as potential suppliers.
(Source: News Now/
13 Apr 22. Slovakia considers Bayraktar buy from Turkey. Slovakia is discussing with Turkey a potential procurement of the Baykar Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), it was disclosed on 13 April. The Minister of Defence of the Slovak Republic, Jaro Nad, made the announcement on his official Twitter account, saying that talks with the manufacturer Baykar, which he euphemistically referred to as ‘Mr Bayraktar’, were progressing as part of a wider plan to acquire international unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) for the Slovaki Armed Forces.
“Works on acquiring drones for the Slovak military [are] moving forward,” he said. “Good talk today with Mr Bayraktar from Turkey, and discussions with other drone producers [are] ongoing.” The tweet was illustrated with a model of the Bayraktar UCAV in Slovakian markings.
Slovakia does not field an unmanned aircraft capability, though this was a gap was identified by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in its 2016 White Paper for Defence. Priorities laid out in this plan included new command-and-control systems for such air vehicles. (Source: Janes)
12 Apr 22. The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has taken delivery of three MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and two Mobile Ground Control Stations from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI). The RNLAF will begin operating the MQ-9s later this month out of Curacao to provide long-range, persistent surveillance to support missions protecting the Netherland’s national interests.
“We are excited to receive our aircraft and start operating with them straightaway. The MQ-9A Reaper will be very valuable for information-driven operations with the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Netherlands’ armed forces in general. We will operationally test and evaluate the system during our deployment to Curacao and expect it to be a valuable asset for the Commander of Netherlands Forces in the Caribbean,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Boudewijn Roddenhof, commander of the RNLAF’s 306 squadron, which will operate the new MQ-9A Reapers.
The delivery of the first three of four MQ-9As, their Ground Control Stations (GCS), and support equipment is part of a USAF Foreign Military Sale to the RNLAF.
“We’re thrilled to deliver the unique capabilities of our MQ-9A Block 5 RPA to the Netherlands, and we know this capability will significantly enhance their operations,” said GA-ASI Vice President of International Strategic Development Robert Schoeffling.
MQ-9A Block 5 has endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS and can operate up to 50,000 feet. It has a 3,850-pound (1,746-kilogram) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of external stores. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with Full-Motion Video and Synthetic Aperture Radar/Moving Target Indicator/Maritime Radar. An extremely reliable aircraft, MQ-9A Block 5 is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and triple redundant avionics system architecture. It is engineered to meet and exceed manned aircraft reliability standards.
11 Apr 22. Lockheed Martin Stalker VXE UAS Completes a World Record 39-Hour Flight. Lockheed Martin Skunk Works demonstrated the expanded endurance capabilities of a specially configured Lockheed Martin Stalker VXE unmanned aerial system (UAS) through a world record endurance flight on Feb. 18, 2022, at the Santa Margarita Ranch in California. The flight establishes a new record in the Group 2 (5 to <25-kilogram) category with a flight time of 39 hours, 17 minutes and 7 seconds. The flight has been submitted to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world sanctioning body for aviation records, through its U.S. affiliate, the National Aeronautic Association, for certification. A production Stalker VXE was modified for this record-setting flight with an external, wing-mounted fuel tank. The flight provided valuable insight for improvements to Stalker VXE aimed at scaling its mission capabilities for the future. Stalker VXE’s class-leading endurance, broad operating envelope, modular payload compliance, vertical take-off and landing capability, and open system architecture allow it to execute diverse and demanding missions while maintaining a small operational footprint and crew.
To achieve this world record flight time, Lockheed Martin partnered with:
- Edge Autonomy as a developer and original equipment manufacturer of high-performance unmanned systems, including the Stalker VXE aircraft.
- Adaptive Energy to develop cutting-edge fuel cell technology, investing in advanced power sources and testing innovative implementation techniques for field operations.
- Composite Technology Development Inc. to build a light-weight external wing tank.
- Precision Integrated Programs to provide flight operations support.
- Clovis Area Modelers to provide FAI official contest directors to continuously monitor and adjudicate the world record flight for ratification.
For more information on aviation records, the NAA or the FAI, visit https://naa.aero or https://www.fai.org. (Source: UAS VISION)
11 Apr 22. Elbit Systems UK demonstrates Skylark 3 Hybrid UAS. Elbit Systems UK has delivered a series of demonstrations of Skylark 3 Hybrid Uncrewed Aerial System (UAS) at RAF Upavon in Wiltshire. The demonstrations took place from 21st – 23rd March, culminating in a number of flights on 23rd March conducted in support of the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office’s (RCO) future concept development programme. The Skylark 3 Hybrid is the latest in Elbit Systems’ Skylark family and represents the company’s contribution towards helping the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) explore ways of meeting its net-zero ambitions. The Skylark 3 Hybrid is one of a long line of innovative UAS systems developed by Elbit Systems, ranging from man-portable systems to Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAS such as the Hermes™ 900. The Skylark family has delivered over 100,000 flying hours in total. The Skylark 3 Hybrid is a field-deployed tactical ISTAR UAS, optimised for either dismounted or vehicle-based operation, and combines two separate propulsion systems to deliver endurance of up to 18 hours. The Skylark 3 Hybrid uses thrust from both engines to launch and reach a certain altitude, at which only one engine is required for sustained flight. The trials were conducted in order for the RAF to assess the system’s performance in a number of criteria as part of the selection of vehicles for the next phase of its programmed activity. The trials were delivered in co-operation with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in order to obtain clearance to operate in civil airspace.
Martin Fausset, CEO of Elbit Systems UK said: “Elbit Systems UK has extensive experience in delivering best-in-class UAS solutions, and these trials highlight that pedigree. The successful demonstration of the Skylark 3 Hybrid is indicative of our drive to support the RAF in realising its ambitions for future capabilities, and to provide an environmentally responsible and energy-efficient method of maximising the Skylark’s endurance.”
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.