Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
10 May 22. To further extend the versatility of its MQ-9B line of Remotely Piloted Aircraft, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) announced today that it will begin developing a short takeoff and landing (STOL)-capable MQ-9B aircraft, which includes the SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian® models. GA-ASI is taking on this revolutionary engineering effort to meet an evolving operational environment in contested expeditionary environments.
GA-ASI began STOL development in 2017 as part of its Mojave initiative. STOL capability was initially flown on a modified Gray Eagle Extended Range platform in 2021, but now the company will begin developing STOL on the MQ-9B, a platform already selected by the Royal Air Force, the Belgium Ministry of Defence and the Japan Coast Guard. MQ-9B STOL will combine GA-ASI’s proven long-endurance, highly reliable UAS products with the versatility to execute missions in more austere locations, opening the operational envelope for commanders across all Services and geographic locations.
The MQ-9B STOL configuration will consist of an optional wing and tail kit that can be installed in less than a day. The core aircraft and its sub-systems remain the same. Operators can perform the modification in a hangar or on a flight line, delivering a capability that otherwise would require the purchase of a whole new aircraft.
“Imagine taking the hard top off your Jeep. You lift it off, stow it in your garage and now you’ve got an open vehicle. If it rains, you put the hard top back on. We’re the same. Take a standard MQ-9B, put the STOL kit on, and then go fly,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander.
MQ-9B STOL, which is part of GA-ASI’s Mojave series of unmanned aircraft, also presents an opportunity for future operations aboard an aircraft carrier or big-deck amphibious assault ship. The wings fold so that MQ-9B STOL could be parked on the deck or in the hangar bay, just like other naval aircraft. When it’s time to launch, operators will start the aircraft, unfold the wings, and take off over the bow without the need for catapults. GA-ASI believes the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps will take note of this innovation as it opens the door to persistent and long-range Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations over blue water.
10 May 22. Thales Australia and Ocius Advance Autonomous Threat Detection and Surveillance. Thales Australia and Ocius Technologies have entered a Teaming Agreement to advance the development and deployment of a scalable Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) capability equipped for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and surveillance missions – helping to protect Australia’s borders. The Australian designed and manufactured Blue Sentry autonomous system, comprising a team of Ocius Bluebottle USVs integrated with Thales Australia’s new thin line Fibre Optic Towed Array capability, are deployed from shore to autonomously patrol large areas of Australia’s coastline, performing underwater ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) missions for long periods of time at sea, and in extreme weather conditions.
Missions that would have previously required the deployment of peopled assets for many days to complete will be able to be conducted remotely using the Blue Sentry team of Autonomous Vessels at a significantly reduced cost of coverage.
Benefitting from more than 35 years of investment in sovereign towed array innovation in Australia by Thales, the Royal Australian Navy and DST Group, traditional Towed Array capability was first deployed on the Collins Class Submarine to enable advanced threat detection and classification at sea.
In both form and function, Thales’s sovereign thin line Fibre Optic Towed Array is a miniaturised version of a submarine Fibre Optic Towed Array, enabling autonomous detection, classification and localisation of craft on the surface or below the water that generate acoustic noise or produce acoustic reflections. The Blue Sentry system’s autonomous detection capabilities also enable covert communication to allies below the surface using long-range low frequency underwater communications. The newly developed thin line Towed Array is designed, developed and manufactured at Thales Australia’s Acoustics Centre of Excellence at Rydalmere in New South Wales.
Thales has been working collaboratively with Ocius since 2013 on the role of the USV in ASW – the Bluebottle is a standout USV platform for long-term maritime mission endurance.
Chris Jenkins, Chief Executive, Thales Australia and New Zealand said, “The detection and classification of modern undersea threats at tactically useful ranges requires a highly optimised balance between the sensor and the platform to ensure success in the most challenging of acoustic environments. The specialist teams within Ocius and Thales Australia have worked to bring their respective capabilities together into the Australian designed and manufactured Blue Sentry product and we look forward to taking it into the future.”
Robert Dane, Founder and Chief Executive of Ocius Technology said, “If you can imagine a map of Australia with Blue Sentry Bluebottles scattered about the Exclusive Economic Zone where illegal vessels know if they enter our waters, they will get stung. This is not only Australian Sovereign capability it is the best. This is the quietest and most capable persistent USV platform combined with the best array.”
(Source: ASD Network)
10 May 22. XTEND – a company specializing in human-guided autonomous drone operating systems for military forces and law enforcement agencies – is to supply hundreds of its advanced Wolverine drone systems to the U.S Department of Defense (DoD), developed under the joint leadership of the DoD and the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMoD), for deployment to protect U.S. military forces in the field.
The contract follows a joint research & development program led by the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) at Israel’s Ministry of Defense, together with XTEND, and the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD, previously CTTSO) of the DoD.
Made in the U.S., the small, lightweight, and rugged Wolverine is affordable, versatile, and has low power consumption. Easy to use, it enables operators – even those with no flight experience – to perform extremely precise remote tasks, maneuvers, and actions in complex environments (indoor or outdoor), with minimal training and maintenance.
Powered by XTEND’s unique human-centric machine interface technology, this revolutionary new human extension platform facilitates complete sensory awareness, using the most advanced virtual and augmented reality technologies, coupled with advanced Machine Learning flight algorithms.
Using a wearable lightweight system and a natural hand gesture-recognition controller, operators immerse themselves in the remote environment, without physical risk. Employing multi-use payloads and effectors (Modular Add-On Extensions) they may perform complex tasks in support of tactical missions, including surveying enemy territory at ground level or inside dangerous and/or hard to reach indoor environments, explosive ordinance disposal, placement of payloads at desired points of interest and more, without setting foot inside the relevant area.
Enabling combat forces to be everywhere, get real-time visuals and perform surgical precision pick-and-drop tasks, Wolverine extends their operational reach in critical situations where precision and versatility are paramount, giving them battlefield dominance in terms of both operator experience and mission planning.
“The Wolverine system was developed in direct response to the need of forces to conduct complex field and outdoor missions, while maintaining force protection, and without making contact with the enemy,” says Gadi Bar-Ner, Chief Business Officer of XTEND. “For the first time, any user can operate a drone intuitively and without any prior training, giving forces complete autonomy in the field. XTEND systems are combat-proven and used with great success by the IDF in defending borders and forces. We are proud of the close cooperation between XTEND, the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and the U.S. DoD – as part of which XTEND employs a team of U.S. veterans – and look forward to it continuing.”
10 May 22. 2Excel Aviation and Israel Aerospace Industries Demonstrated IAI’s Maritime Heron UAS to UK Government and Civil Observers.
- The Heron UAS achieved 100% of its planned scenarios, despite the challenging seasonal weather conditions
- Following the demonstration, 2Excel and IAI received positive feedback from the UK Civil Aviation Authority
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and 2Excel Aviation successfully completed a demonstration of IAI’s Maritime Heron UAS in a series of live, Beyond Visual Line of Sight maritime search and ISR scenarios. The demonstration was based out of West Wales Airport in Aberporth, Wales. Attending the demonstration were in-person and virtual observers from the UK Ministry of Defence, Government and the Civil sector. Following the demonstration, IAI and 2Excel received positive feedback from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
The Heron UAS was ready to fly within 36 hours of arriving at West Wales and maintained full serviceability throughout the period of the deployment. The Heron UAS achieved 100% of its planned scenarios, despite the challenging seasonal weather conditions. The system demonstrated that it is highly capable in missions including search and rescue, border protection, fisheries patrol, safety at sea, small boat detection and surveillance and other activities.
In-person attendees were able to make requests of the system, which were relayed live to the Ground Control Station (GCS) during the presentation. Rule-based scenarios were also demonstrated via IAI’s Starlight data exploitation tool, which received inputs from the Heron UAS’ multi-mission radar, EO/IR sensor and AIS. Points of interest were then generated using Starlight’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data processing engine to produce Actionable Intelligence, Insights and Maritime Awareness. Data gathered was simultaneously broadcast to in-person and virtual attendees using IAI’s data dissemination tool (Commander’s Remote Imagery Situation Picture – CRISP).
Moshe Levy, IAI Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Military Aircraft Group, said: “The Heron’s overwhelming success throughout the demonstration is thanks to effective and efficient cooperation with IAI’s world-class partner at 2Excel. This demonstration signifies the growing bond between IAI and the UK industry. The Heron UAS is a cutting edge, world-class system, paired with IAI’s supportive data-gathering and analysis technology, which provides the customer with tailored solutions. I am sure this demonstration will lead to future endeavors and hope to see the Heron fly again in U.K. skies soon.”
Andy Offer, Co-Founder and Director of 2Excel Aviation, said: “2Excel and IAI together demonstrated they can operate a very capable Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) platform in the UK within the constraints of the current regulatory environment. It is another shining example of us being able to do difficult things well. The feedback from the UK Civil Aviation Authority was very positive and we feel confident about the roadmap for future unmanned operations across our suite of contract air services.”
06 May 22. WB Group reveals multimission quadcopter. Polish company WB Group revealed a prototype of a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during the Polsecure trade fair in Kielce in late April.
The system, dubbed X-Frontier, is designed for both surveillance and combat missions and could be operated by troops on the field, or remotely as a part of an automated detection system.
The cylinder-shaped platform with four detachable rotors could be fitted with a modular payload including a main electro-optic/infrared camera, a warhead up to 0.4 kg, a smoke canister, or an electronic warfare suite.
”The new system could be easily plugged into a WB Group-developed larger ecosystem and operates as the part of the ‘W2MPIR’ swarm,” WB Group spokesperson Remigiusz Wilk told Janes. (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.