Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
26 Jan 23. BFT and US AFRL complete ground test for Fury uncrewed vehicle. Fury is being developed under AFRL’s Bandit programme to support US forces’ adversary air training missions. Blue Force Technologies (BFT) has conducted a ground test for Fury uncrewed aircraft, being developed under the US Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Bandit programme.
The test, performed in collaboration with AFRL, successfully validated the performance of Fury’s novel carbon fibre composite propulsion flow-path system.
BFT president Scott Bledsoe said: “On an uncrewed fighter like Fury, proper integration of propulsion flow-path is the most significant design driver for overall vehicle.
“It was crucial to us to demonstrate, prior to building flight-test aircraft, that we could correctly predict interaction between propulsion flow-path components and Williams International engine.”
The test saw BFT and AFRL team carry out a time-accurate ‘computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis’, using comprehensive computational resources from the US Army Engineer Research and Development Centre and AFRL.
BFT said the effort aimed to validate the analysis to further strengthen the team’s confidence to use CFD tools for remaining flight envelope portions.
It also allowed AFRL and BTF to gather high-fidelity data that can be used for validating computational methods in near future.
The contract for AFRL’s Bandit programme was awarded to BFT in March last year. It aimed to mature a fifth-generation uncrewed aircraft that can support adversary air training missions of the US Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and can further be adapted for Autonomous Collaborative Platform missions.
AFRL Bandit programme manager Alyson Turri said: “After making engine selection in June 2022, the AFRL and BFT team worked to finalise test objectives and procedures concurrently with BFT’s hardware build to ensure this full-scale test came together in under six months.”
24 Jan 23. Defense Innovation Unit Updates Blue UAS 2.0 Cleared List.
The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment (OUSD(A&S)) have updated DOD’s cleared list of small unmanned aircraft systems under the second iteration of the Blue sUAS project with the addition of drones from Skydio and Flightwave, bringing the number of vendors offering compliant drones to 10.
These first companies have passed the vetting required for onboarding policy-compliant, commercial small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) into the Department of Defense (DoD).
The drones added to the DIU “Blue UAS Cleared List” as part of the Blue sUAS 2.0 project are:
- X2D (new configuration), by Skydio
- Edge 130, by Flightwave
- H6 HE, H6 Hydrone and H6, by Harris Aerial
- Osprey Hexacopter, by Easy Aerial
- IF750 and IF1200, by Inspired Flight
- Intense Eye V2, by BlueHalo
- WingtraOne, by Wingtra
- Spirit, by Ascent AeroSystems
- eBee Tac, by senseFly, an AgEagle company
- AltaX, by Freefly Systems
Systems added to this list do not require a DoD exception to policy to procure or operate as they have undergone a cyber-security evaluation, an NDAA compliance check, and were issued the necessary administrative documentation. Federal government partners can also leverage this onboarding process for their programmatic needs without duplicating efforts.
In October 2021, DIU issued 11 agreements with non-traditional vendors to participate in this pilot program to prototype a new approval process while significantly increasing the variety of capabilities available to all branches of the U.S. military. This expansion will provide additional sUAS capabilities requested by the DoD and its federal partners, including infrastructure inspection, mapping, carrying secondary payloads, and more traditional reconnaissance tasks.
“The Blue UAS Cleared List provides warfighters with a wide variety of systems that can help them better accomplish their missions. Most users in the DoD don’t have access to the resources needed to employ commercial drones, so we are proud to have prototyped a process that helps make sUAS more accessible,” said David Michelson, DIU program manager for Blue UAS. “The war in Ukraine highlights just how impactful sUAS can be, so we hope that this effort allows more and more organizations in the DoD to adopt and employ drones.”
DIU’s initial Blue sUAS project, now referred to as “1.0,” was announced in August 2020. Blue sUAS 1.0 made minor modifications to the Army’s final five Short Range Reconnaissance candidate air vehicles. The effort integrated commercially-based ground control stations to create an initial standalone commercial/enterprise configuration available to all of DoD as well as other U.S. government entities. Skydio, Flightwave, Harris Aerial, Easy Aerial, Inspired Flight, BlueHalo, WingtraOne, Ascent Aerosystems, SenseFly, Freefly Systems have joined existing Blue sUAS 1.0 cleared systems on a variety of procurement platforms.
Ongoing updates to the Blue UAS website will provide additional updates on policy, approvals and frequently asked questions for vendors and government use of sUAS.
This marks the closeout of Blue UAS 2.0. Additions to this list may be added in the future. Blue UAS 3.0 is in development and details will be released in the coming months. (Source: UAS VISION/The Defense Innovation Unit)
24 Jan 23. Hermeus Selects Pratt & Whitney F100 Engine for Hypersonic UAS. Hermeus has selected the Pratt & Whitney F100 turbofan to integrate into its larger hypersonic engine. Securing an off-the-shelf turbine engine will save Hermeus bns of dollars in research and development costs and years of schedule.
Pratt & Whitney’s F100 turbofan, which is used in the F-15 and F-16 aircraft, will act as the turbine portion of Hermeus’ turbine-based combined cycle engine named Chimera II.
“The F100 is a legendary turbine engine that will fit within our larger engine architecture extremely well,” said Hermeus CTO Glenn Case. “We chose it for its reliability, performance, and because it’s currently in production. We’re thrilled to have Pratt & Whitney as a partner on our journey to making hypersonic flight a reality.”
Chimera II will power Hermeus’ aircraft, Darkhorse, a hypersonic uncrewed aerial system designed for defense and intelligence customers. The aircraft has multi-mission flexibility and is fully reusable.
This engine contract keeps the Darkhorse program on track for engine testing in 2024.
“The F100 engine recently celebrated 50 years of service and 30 m flight hours, demonstrating its dependability and capabilities,” said Chris Johnson, VP of Fighter and Mobility Programs at Pratt & Whitney. “Pratt & Whitney’s participation with Hermeus’ Darkhorse program is a great example of creating innovative partnerships in aviation and will play a crucial role in addressing our national security challenges.”
ABOUT CHIMERA II
Chimera II is a hypersonic turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) engine. Put simply, a TBCC is a hybrid between a turbine engine and a ramjet. This allows for both low-speed and high-speed operation.
The benefit of this engine architecture is the ability for aircraft to takeoff from traditional airports using existing infrastructure – something that rocket-based hypersonic vehicles can’t do.
Chimera II is a more powerful version of Chimera, which is designed for use in Hermeus’ smaller aircraft, Quarterhorse.
Darkhorse is a hypersonic UAS (uncrewed aerial system) designed for defense and intelligence customers. The aircraft has multi-mission flexibility and is fully reusable.
Darkhorse is the second vehicle in the company’s roadmap to commercial hypersonic flight. With lessons learned from flying its first aircraft, Quarterhorse, and subsequently Darkhorse, Hermeus will build Halcyon – a 20 passenger hypersonic aircraft.
Hermeus is a startup developing hypersonic aircraft to radically accelerate air travel. At Mach 5, more than twice the speed of the supersonic Concorde, passengers will be able to cross the Atlantic in 90 minutes. On the path to hypersonic passenger aircraft, Hermeus is partnering with government agencies including the US Air Force and NASA to develop a series of autonomous aircraft that derisk the technology and solve urgent national security challenges. These products provide the data and confidence necessary to certify, produce, operate, and maintain safe and comfortable commercial aircraft. Hypersonic aircraft have the potential to create trillions of dollars of new global economic growth per year, unlocking significant resources that can be utilized to solve the world’s greatest problems. (Source: UAS VISION)
26 Jan 23. Dstl and DASA research underpins Royal Navy maritime autonomy.
Defence research organisations have played a key role in the funding and technical partnering of maritime autonomous systems (MAS). The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) provides Ministry of Defence (MOD) with science and technology advice for current and future capabilities including generation after next research. Maritime autonomous systems (MAS) are likely to be a major component of the future fleet, operating in 3 domains at the front line and through to logistics and support. The research done now, and the investment into UK industry, will help prepare the Royal Navy and bring in more MAS capability.
MAS may be employed in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to better defend UK waters and Royal Navy fleets from underwater threats. Dstl and the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) have been leading technical research to enable and understand MAS contribution to the anti-submarine warfare role through investment into: uncrewed underwater vehicles, towed arrays from uncrewed systems, navigation, sensing and concepts of operation.
To further investigate the concept and feasibility of underwater MAS, Dstl and DASA worked closely with the Royal Navy and Plymouth-based MSubs on the development of the eXtra Large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (XLUUV). Initially a crewed submersible (S201), it was converted to autonomous control and set up as a testbed for technologies.
XLUUV is 9 metres long and just under 9 tonnes in weight, with a large internal space at 1 atmosphere for electronics, and freeflooding payload spaces fore and aft. It has an endurance of up to 48 hours, and top speeds of up to 12 knots. It was just over a year from crewed system to first autonomous dives, and further iteration of the control and software is ongoing.
As a testbed XLUUV has trialled Sonardyne Sonars and SprintNav, Seiche and SEA towed arrays, Vizguard optical software and Petard’s camera system. The autonomous control system was also shared with the Mayflower surface vessel, also developed by MSubs and other partners, and its ground breaking transatlantic crossing.
The Royal Navy already operates small maritime autonomous systems, so the XLUUV was the first at this size and presented its own opportunities and challenges. The XLUUV was deployed to the Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping of Maritime Unmanned System (REPMUS) 22 as the first international operation of this vehicle. The SEA Krait array was integrated and the system successfully operated as an anti-submarine warfare asset against international targets in the ocean off the coast of Portugal.
The impetus and confidence this project has given MOD has influenced such as the recently announced Project Cetus crewless submarine and furthered MOD research into maritime autonomous systems capability. Dstl will continue to work with the Royal Navy and its innovation accelerator, NavyX, to research and develop MAS technology for the future, using its expertise and maritime assets such as MAST (Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed) vessels. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
23 Jan 23. Korea Aerospace Industries and Northrop Grumman Sign MOA for VTOL UAV Technical Cooperation. Korea Aerospace Industries announced on January 19th that it had signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Northrop Grumman for technical cooperation in the business of vertical take-off and landing drones at its headquarters in Sacheon on the 18th.
The signing ceremony was attended by key officials, including KAI Ji-Hong Kim, Director of the Future Convergence Technology Institute, Richard J. Sullivan, Vice President of NG, and Ha Dong-Jin, Head of Korea Branch.
The key to this MOU is mutual cooperation for the domestic development of vertical take-off and landing UAVs that can be mounted on and operated by naval destroyers.
Vertical take-off and landing UAVs for maritime missions are expected to be used for territorial defense missions such as constant surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition in vast sea areas and operation areas by being mounted on ships such as navy destroyers and coast guard patrol ships.
KAI expects to greatly reduce development risk and required period based on NG’s proven development experience.
NG is a developer of the MQ-8 Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing UAV currently operated by the US Navy, and has vertical take-off and landing UAV development technology optimized for maritime missions.
KAI Future Convergence Technology Director Kim Ji-hong said,
“We are concentrating on developing next-generation UAV technology with the goal of leading the future unmanned era.” said.
NG Vice President Richard Sullivan said,
“Northrop Grumman has consistently led the market in the field of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles, and we expect that cooperation with KAI will dramatically improve the ROK Navy’s maritime surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.”
Meanwhile, KAI has secured various UAV technologies through its own preceding research, starting with the development of the RQ-101, a corps-level UAV successfully deployed for the first time in Korea, and is currently developing the next corps-level UAV.
Through its own prior research and government R&D, it has introduced various UAVs, such as a scaled-down unmanned fighter model, a long-endurance multipurpose UAV, and a tiltrotor-type technology demonstration machine.
Going forward, KAI plans to internalize future cutting-edge technologies such as AI and big data, and expand its scope to new businesses such as future manned and unmanned complex systems to prepare for the era of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles. (Source: UAS VISION)
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