Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
19 Aug 22. Maiden flight of AVIC’s new HFE-powered AR-500CJ shipborne UAV. AR-500CJ UAV. The China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI) division of aerospace prime Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has completed the first flight of its new vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicle (VTOL UAV) intended for service aboard the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s surface vessels such as aircraft carriers.
AVIC stated in a 10 August announcement that the latest development milestone for its rotary-wing AR-500CJ occurred at its Poyang test facility in the south-eastern Jiangxi province on 28 July. The company won a tender in September 2016 to develop a UAV for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), although it did not disclose further details of its proposed design at the time.
The AR-500CJ is an evolution of the AR-500B lightweight shipborne UAV and AR500C high-altitude UAV developed by CHRDI. AVIC claims that the latest variant has been “comprehensively improved” over the earlier models, both of which achieved their respective maiden flights in 2020.
A key distinction of the AR-500CJ is its heavy fuel engine (HFE)-based propulsion system developed by the Wuhu-based Anhui Haery Aviation Power (Haery Power). Haery Power announced on the same day that it has supplied its 150hp-class turbocharged four-stroke Lark HFE powerplant.
According to company specifications, the Lark HFE is a liquid-cooled engine with a dry weight of 98kg and includes features such as full-authority digital electronic control (FADEC), a high-pressure common-rail (HPCR) fuel system, and a mean time before overhaul rating of 2,000 hours.
A HFE propulsion system can use kerosene-based fuels that have a higher flashpoint than regular aviation gasoline, a desirable attribute that contributes to shipboard safety by reducing the likelihood of fire.
Besides the HFE propulsion system, the AR-500CJ also sports a slightly updated airframe design with additional air intakes and a more robust tail boom. During the test flight, the prototype air vehicle was assessed on its ability to take off, hover, initiate forward flight, manoeuvre, and land. It’s ability to recover from a simulated engine failure was also evaluated.
AVIC stated that the maiden flight marked the conclusion of the design and prototyping phase of the AR-500CJ programme and formal transition into the flight-testing phase. The company added that the air vehicle will be used for further trials at various locations through 2023.
The earlier AR500C features a lightweight the carbon fibre reinforced polymer airframe, a more powerful engine, and a new three-bladed main rotor that enables it to attain a service ceiling of 6,700m when deployed from terrain at altitudes of 5,000m above sea level. AVIC also claimed that the air vehicle can operate for up to five hours and achieve a top speed of 170km/h.
In contrast the AR-500B has a maximum take-off weight of 500 kg including 70 kg of stores. Control radius and endurance were quoted as 100 km and up to four hours of operation, with the air vehicle capable of attaining stated cruise and maximum level flight speeds of 120 km/h and 140 km/h, respectively, and a service ceiling of 4,000 m.
CHRDI earlier stated that the AR-500B had been optimised to address the challenges of shipboard operations and features electronic hardening to mitigate electromagnetic interference produced by shipboard equipment, as well as extensive anti-corrosion treatment for critical components. It is also equipped with an automatic landing and take-off capability. (Source: AMR)
17 Aug 22. Korean Air to Develop Stealth UAV Squadron. Korean Air was selected on August 12 as the preferred bidder for the Korean Agency for Defense Development’s (ADD) “stealth UAV squadron development” project. Korean Air has received high scores for its technology in the first stage of the bidding process.
The stealth UAV squadron technology is being developed for the first time in Korea as a part of the ADD’s “Future Challenge Defense Technology R&D Project” to develop new weapon systems.
The ADD began developing the UAV squadron in November last year and has completed the basic design. The agency plans to work on the detailed design with Korean Air.
Korean Air will develop a manned-unmanned teaming system in which one manned aircraft and three to four stealth UAVs can carry out missions simultaneously. The squadron of UAVs will not only support and escort a manned aircraft, but will also be able to perform its own missions including surveillance, electronic interference tactics, and precise shooting.
Korean Air has continued to acquire core stealth UAV technologies by participating in projects such as the joint development of stealth UAVs with the ADD in 2010 in which it succeeded in a test flight for the first time in Korea. Korean Air also joined a project last year to research and develop technology for broadband stealth UAVs for the Korea Research Institute for Defense Technology Planning and Advancement (KRIT).
Meanwhile, Korean Air plans to utilize its capabilities gained from over 20 years in UAV development to secure next-generation core technologies for stealth UAVs such as manned-unmanned teaming, cluster control and autonomous mission execution, and become a forefront runner in the development of stealth drones in Korea
Korean Air will continue to contribute to future advanced weapon system development and the strengthening of the military’s defense capabilities by actively participating in the ADD’s multipurpose stealth UAV development project as well as a feasibility review of AI-based stealth UAV squadron operations utilizing manned-unmanned teaming system. (Source: UAS VISION)
17 Aug 22. Successful ship-to-shore transition demonstrates MQ-8C Fire Scout’s mission flexibility in an expeditionary environment and across ship classes. Northrop Grumman Corporation’s (NYSE: NOC) MQ-8C Fire Scout, the U.S. Navy’s autonomous, runway-independent helicopter system, successfully completed operations under the Expeditionary Advance Base Operations (EABO) concept, providing persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR&T) capabilities.
“Fire Scout is the Navy’s only unmanned helicopter with the ability to deploy from a ship or land with ISR&T at the extended range required for future warfighting,” said Capt. Dennis Monagle, U.S. Navy. “The system is vital in expeditionary use for situational awareness and critical decision-making.”
MQ-8C Fire Scout was launched from the Vertical Take-Off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle Maintenance Detachment at Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, California, simulating a ship-based departure. The Navy conducted a control system hand-off of the MQ-8C Fire Scout from Point Mugu to San Clemente Island, California, demonstrating the ship-to-shore transition capability of the platform in a maritime expeditionary environment.
With the Navy’s Portable Mission Control Station (MCS-P), the system was recovered and redeployed rapidly for operational flexibility. The portable MCS-P ground control station helps MQ-8C Fire Scout basing in austere locations on land, helipad operations in an advanced forward location, and logistics support from ship flight decks. With identical ship-based hardware, screen configuration and software, operations remain consistent across all ship classes.
“We are supporting MQ-8C deployments on littoral combat ships while assisting the Navy with Fire Scout mission expansion efforts to include operations from other surface ships and shore-based sites,” said Lance Eischeid, director, Fire Scout program, Northrop Grumman. “This EABO demonstration further proves the flexible utility of Fire Scout for expeditionary use from land and across multiple ship classes.”
Fire Scout continues Northrop Grumman’s 70-year heritage of designing, building, delivering and sustaining the world’s most capable unmanned aircraft system.
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.