Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
09 Feb 23. Small drones launched from ‘wherever’ excel in US Army experiment. The U.S. Army simultaneously tested drones that are catapulted in midair or flung from the ground during its most recent Project Convergence networking experiment, blurring the line between what have been distinct domains.
At Project Convergence 22, spanning October and November, small uncrewed systems were “launched from wherever we wanted,” Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, the director of the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, said at a Feb. 8 event hosted by MITRE, which manages federally funded research and development centers.
“And if it was ground- or air-launched, hooah,” Rugen said. “They became a launched effect.”
So-called ALEs hurtle outward from larger aircraft, either crewed or uncrewed. They are meant to detect, disrupt, deceive or destroy and are considered a critical piece of the Army’s overhaul of its helicopter fleet. GLEs, simply put, are their ground-based counterpart, relying on vehicles or soldiers on foot.
Both efforts are still in their infancy. The key to success, though, Rugen told C4ISRNET, has been the right launcher technology, which he acknowledged “doesn’t sound very exciting.” But having “a modular effects launcher, we call it a MEL, that is very transportable across different combat vehicles, with a government-defined interface and standard that you build to, that has really been the secret sauce.”
The Army is pursuing options for both large and small launched-effects to support a variety of battlefield tasks, such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting. In 2020, the service awarded 10 small contracts worth a total of $29.75 m to mature technologies in the ALE realm, Defense News reported.
The systems are relatively cheap — by military standards — and can be floated into places too costly or dangerous to otherwise explore.
“It does what Army aviation’s always wanted to do. It does it from a position of standoff,” Rugen said. “We always want an unfair fight.”
After spending decades in the Middle East in an attempt to excise extremism and conduct counterinsurgency campaigns, the U.S. is now focusing on potential large-scale conflicts with China and Russia. The two world powers have established anti-access and area-denial infrastructure in an attempt to counter U.S. tactics and keep at bay weapons or forces that could overwhelm.
Rugen likened launched effects and their prospective advantages — distance and safety of operation, the potential to penetrate defenses — to the Hellfire missile, often associated with Apache attack helicopter or the remotely piloted Predator drone.
“When we had the Hellfire missile, that 8 kilometers was important to us; what was hunting us was at about 5.75 kilometers. We had a missile that would go 8, we were winning,” Rugen said. “Now what we’re seeing from the threat systems is we need to be much farther off.”
Rugen told C4ISRNET he was happy with the trials at Project Convergence 22, the Army’s contribution to the Pentagon’s connect-everything campaign, or Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
Launched assets were previously tinkered with during Project Convergence 21 and at the Edge 21 exercise, where sensors were used to collect and distribute real-time information.
“It’s too bad that we coined the air-launched effect, ALE kind of branding, early on, because really, it becomes a launched effect. And that launch can happen from a ground vehicle or an air vehicle,” Rugen said. “Both ground and air are working in concert. And I’ve been very, very pleased with the collaboration and the tech development from our scientists and engineers.”
In January, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced its Eaglet ALE flew for the first time, dropping off an Army-owned Gray Eagle Extended Range Unmanned Aircraft System at a demonstration in Utah. The president of the General Atomics division, David Alexander, in a statement at the time described Eaglet getting its wings as an “important milestone” for both the company and the Army.
“Eaglet is intended to be a low-cost, survivable UAS with the versatility to be launched from a Gray Eagle, rotary-wing aircraft, or ground vehicles,” Alexander said. “It enables extended reach of sensors and increased lethality while providing survivability for manned aircraft.”
The next iteration of Project Convergence, led by Army Futures Command, is expected in spring 2024. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
10 Feb 23. Royal Navy to get new ‘eye in the sky’ to find and track threats at sea. The Royal Navy will have all new ‘eye in the sky’ uncrewed aerial technology to find and track threats as part of a c£20m contract.
Powerful surveillance sensors from Thales will be fitted to an S-100 uncrewed air system provided by Schiebel and feed real-time images and radar data back to Royal Navy warships on the front line from 2024.
This new flexible and tactical uncrewed air system will be known as ‘Peregrine’ – a name with strong historic links to the Fleet Air Arm.
Alongside the Navy’s Wildcat patrol helicopters, Peregrine will enable round-the-clock surveillance of targets over Gulf waters, and will be available for a spectrum of operational tasks to support allies and partners in the region – including during missions countering pirates, terrorists and smugglers.
Peregrine can be launched in challenging conditions, day and night, and will be deployed to protect warships, greatly extending detection range and fidelity, for enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance gathering.
Rear Admiral James Parkin, the Royal Navy’s Director Develop, said: “I am delighted that we are at the stage where this excellent capability is about to be introduced into the front line.
“As a system both deployed onto, and integrated into, warships and auxiliaries operating in congested and complex areas of the world, the Peregrine aircraft offers what the Royal Navy needs in order to respond to the wide variety of threats that we are facing today.
“Today is also a key milestone in the Fleet Air Arm’s evolution to a mixed crewed and uncrewed fighting arm of the Fleet, and we are anticipating learning many lessons as such technologies continue to develop and offer new opportunities for the current and future Navy.”
Andy Start, CEO of Defence Equipment & Support who awarded the contract, said: “The DE&S RPAS team have delivered a contract which will see a rapid development and deployment of a key Remotely Piloted Air System for the Royal Navy.
“Due to the collaborative approach we have taken with industry, the Navy shall be receiving a mature air system which is able to detect threats at range, protecting British interests in the Gulf.”
The air system – which takes off from the ship’s flight deck like a helicopter would – will be the first uncrewed rotary wing aircraft to operate alongside a Wildcat helicopter, allowing for round-the-clock aerial surveillance in a timely boost to the Royal Navy’s operational capability.
The high-definition imagery and radar data from Peregrine will be fed directly into the ship’s Combat Management System, allowing the command team to have good situational awareness and make rapid operational decisions.
Peregrine will be deployed directly into an operational theatre from mid-2024, initially for two years, with the option to extend. This foundation based on operational lessons will give the Royal Navy valuable experience and understanding of the use of uncrewed systems in this role ahead of further decisions and investments through the Future Maritime Aviation Force programme.
The S-100 has rapid launch ability and superior mission endurance of several hours. It will be fitted with the Thales I-Master radar, which will find, track and identify targets using its proven and modern, technology.
The name is inspired by the former HMS Peregrine, the Royal Naval Air Station in Ford, West Sussex, that was used after the Second World War as the Fleet Air Arm’s dedicated test and development centre in the early years of carrier-borne jet aircraft. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
09 Feb 23. Emirates Defense Technology to Supply Steadicopter Rotary UAS in the UAE. Emirates Defense Technology (EDT) – a UAE-based integrator for comprehensive defense solutions, and Steadicopter – a supplier of Rotary Unmanned Aerial Systems (RUAS), are joining forces regarding the supply of Steadicopter’s advanced rotary tactical unmanned aerial systems.
The two companies will adapt Steadicopter’s RUAV products to meet the emerging requirements of various customers within the UAE and other specific market segments.
“As EDT continues to serve its customers with innovative, novel, unique, tailor-made solutions, we had scouted Steadicopter and its Eagle family – a platform of solutions which fits synergistically with other solutions manufactured in the region,”
says Mohamed Bin Jabr Al Suwaidi, Owner & CEO of EDT.
“We found that Steadicopter’s systems, which are used by various armed forces around the world and have already been operationally proven in various missions, meet the highest standards and needs of our customers. We are proud to launch them in the UAE, using both companies’ strengths and relevant accumulated experience, and anticipate that this will be a long-term cooperation that will cater to the needs of various defense and HLS organizations. We continue to prioritize investments and partnerships that meet current and future needs.”
“We thank EDT for expressing confidence in the unique and proven systems developed by Steadicopter,”
says Noam Lidor, VP Sales, Marketing & Business Development at Steadicopter.
“We believe that, together, we will be able to provide comprehensive solutions for various end users. At the upcoming IDEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi, we will for the first time present the Black Eagle 50H in its new configuration, for the benefit of intelligence missions in challenging environmental conditions, and the protection of land and sea borders.”
Steadicopter’s Eagle family provides full-featured solutions for any in-field requirement, enabling vertical take-off and landing and steady hovering, with advanced mission sensor suites for day and night operation. Weighing only ~20 kg as a platform, each model has the capacity to carry additional batteries for longer flights, heavier payloads and more.
The Black Eagle 50H is the first ever hybrid-powered unmanned helicopter. With a maximum takeoff weight of 50 kg, the system can carry multiple payloads, and is capable of up to five hours of flight time – extremely high endurance when compared to other VTOL platforms when carrying such heavy payloads.
This enables high performance and maximum operational flexibility for various applications, such as military, low intensity conflict, law enforcement, search & rescue, cyber security, intelligence, offshore rigs and strategic infrastructure protection, high-end maritime missions and civilian applications. (Source: UAS VISION)
07 Feb 23. US Navy Sustains 10 of 38 Operational MQ-8C Fire Scouts – Rest in Storage. The U.S. Navy is operating and sustaining 10 MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), having place the rest in storage, from which the service can easily restore them to service. The Navy also has retired its fleet of smaller MQ-8B versions of the Fire Scout.
According to information provided by the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Strike and Unmanned Aviation, the Navy will keep in service 10 MQ-8Cs in service of the 38 procured and keep the remaining MQ-8Cs in Level 2 preservation.
Last year the Navy moved to keep all MQ-8Cs on the West Coast, operated by Helicopter Sea Combat Squadrons 21 and 23. The decision is congruent with the stationing on the West Coast of the Independence-class littoral combat ships on which the Navy will deploy the Mine Countermeasures Mission Package. The MQ-8C, built by Northrop Grumman, is an integral module of that mission package.
“As Fire Scout’s mission sets continued to evolve, an MQ-8C Endurance Upgrade Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC) effort was approved in Feb 2012,” the Navy said. “The larger MQ-8C, based on the Bell 407 airframe, incorporates the same control avionics as the MQ-8B but with an increased payload capacity and increased endurance. The air vehicles share a common mission control system, which is integrated with the ship’s combat systems. Additionally, the MQ-8 can be controlled by the Mobile Mission Control Station from land-based and larger ship-based sites and has developed a “portable” MCS (MCS-P) that is host platform agnostic.
“Designed to operate from the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Suitably Equipped air-capable Ships, the MQ-8C Fire Scout system is capable of more than eight hours of operations providing coverage out to 150 nautical miles from the host ship,” the Navy said. “A baseline payload that includes electro-optical/infrared sensors and a laser designator enables Fire Scout to find, track and designate tactical targets, accurately provide targeting data to strike platforms and perform battle damage assessment. The system provides a significant improvement to organic surveillance capability.”
The Navy will add an optical mine countermeasures payload to the MQ-8C in the future.
The first deployments of the MQ-8C began in 2022 on USS Milwaukee in the 4th Fleet and USS Jackson in the 7th Fleet during 2022.
The Navy retired its fleet of MQ-8Bs by October 2022 after 13 years of operations, including operations from frigates off Libya and two years of operations inside Afghanistan. The MQ-8B deployed on board an LCS for the first time in 2014. The Navy procured a total of 30 MQ-8Bs from Northrop Grumman. (Source: UAS VISION/Seapower)
08 Feb 23. Teaming for tactical drones: Rheinmetall and AeroVironment join forces to compete for NATO special forces project
Rheinmetall and AeroVironment, an American unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) manufacturer, have teamed to take part in a NATO special forces project. Group subsidiary Rheinmetall Technical Publications GmbH and AeroVironment have applied to participate in a procurement programme for a small UAS intended for special operations and infantry applications.
The system must be capable of operating in all conditions and environments, quick to deploy, hand launchable, have a maximum weight of ten kilos, and an operating range of 30 kilometres.
Rheinmetall and AeroVironment are ideally suited for developing and putting forward a compelling solution. AeroVironment is an industry leader in the design, development and production of unmanned aircraft systems. Its PumaTM 3 AE UAS is in operation with armed forces around the world, while its modular concept offers the optimum platform for a small UAS for special forces.
A certified aviation technology company, Rheinmetall Technical Publications is a systems house for tactical drones. Benefiting from decades long experience, Rheinmetall has the necessary expertise to introduce, support, and adapt drone systems to meet customer specifications.
06 Feb 23. Airspace Link Announces New AirHub® Portal Application To Further Align and Enable Stakeholders Working to Integrate and Operate Drones. Airspace Link, Inc. is announcing the next generation of the AirHub® Platform: AirHub® Portal.
Following the introduction of their UAS Integration Framework last fall, Airspace Link has continued to innovate in their mission to help align stakeholders in advancing safe drone integration into the national airspace and communities at scale. Today’s announcement brings together Airspace Link’s AirHub technology with their UAS Integration framework approach – providing a common platform for both the UAS industry and government stakeholders through AirHub® Portal.
AirHub Portal streamlines workflows for users involved in drone integration, including national, state, and local government managers, planners, and drone operators, as well as recreational and certified pilots looking to utilize airspace for private and commercial use cases.
AirHub Portal is a progressive web application allowing users to install it directly on their desktop or mobile device or utilize a web-based experience, depending on their preference. The application enables users to prepare and plan for, manage, and execute drone operations within a unified system.
“As the number of drone operations increases, so does the need for enhanced planning and management tools. As we work on what our customers need today and what they’ll be relying on in the future, our new Portal platform will help unify all stakeholders on one platform and empower them with the individual features they want and need.” says Daniel Bradshaw, CTO & VP of Engineering.
As the drone industry has scaled, fragmentation has increased with specific applications designed for specific use cases, often leaving users dependent on a broad range of applications to execute their needs. AirHub® Portal brings users together to enable all types of use cases and functions in the future.
“In the past, our government customers were focused on enabling and supporting operators – but now, government customers are also operators themselves, buying and operating their own drones for public safety, infrastructure inspection, surveying, and other use cases designed to make work safer and more efficient. Having tools to help them understand their airspace, communicate with pilots, and provide the functions necessary to help them operate and manage their own drone fleets has become increasingly important to them. The AirHub® Portal application will begin to serve all of those needs in one place,” says Michael Healander, President & CEO at Airspace Link.
Private drone operators are also planning for a changing set of needs as their operations scale in complexity and geography, while regulations advance in parallel. Today, operators are concerned heavily with core functions such as mission planning, fleet management, regulatory compliance, and safety. When they look to the future of what the industry will need in terms of advanced mission planning, insights, and other analysis, they’ll also need the ability to disseminate that information across fleets.
Airspace Link is announcing a multitude of new features coming into the AirHub® Portal App, including Airspace Awareness, Authoritative & Enterprise Advisories (Constraints), Mission Planning including Routing, Risk Analysis and Situational Awareness, Fleet Management Integration, UAS Traffic, and more on the horizon.
Demos and access to the AirHub® Portal application can be requested through the Airspace Link business development and technical teams which can be reached at .
About Airspace Link
Airspace Link’s vision is to create a world where the safe integration of drones fuels human progress, advancing social equity, the environment, and the economy. Founded in Detroit in 2018 by CEO Michael Healander, Airspace Link is one of the few FAA Approved UAS Service Suppliers of the Low Altitude Authorization & Notification Capability (LAANC). Airspace Link’s cloud-based platform, AirHub®, provides the digital infrastructure required to support the safe use of recreational and commercial drone use in communities at scale, supporting the growth of drone operations, drone service providers, drone manufacturers, package delivery, and air taxi deployment in the future. Learn more at www.airspacelink.com. (Source: PR Newswire)
06 Feb 23. FlightWave Edge 130 VTOL Long Range Drone Added to Blue UAS Cleared List. FlightWave Aerospace, a provider of VTOL drones, sensors and software solutions, has announced completion of the process to receive an Authority To Operate (ATO) designation under the DoD Defense Innovation Unit’s Blue sUAS 2.0 Program.
As a result, the NDAA-compliant Edge 130 Blue UAS has been approved by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) for procurement by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and has been placed on the Blue UAS Cleared List for US Federal agencies to purchase.
Following months of cyber penetration testing and supply chain analysis, The US. Air Force granted an ATO for Edge 130 Blue, Edge 130 Blue GCS and Mission Planner, and 5 FlightWave camera payloads including Overwatch Gimbal and Mapping Array. The drone system also successfully completed a series of demonstrations to provide DIU with information and verification of its mission planning and launch capabilities, range and endurance, NDAA compliance, operational safety of flight procedures, and cyber security.
Designed specifically for government and military ISR, mapping and mission planning applications, the Edge 130 Blue enables long range autonomy and captures high-accuracy aerial imagery to provide near real-time situational awareness to ground forces. Weighing only 1200g (2.65lbs) the Edge can fly over 2 hours in forward flight mode. It can be rapidly deployed by one pilot from assembly to hand-launch, in 1 minute by a single user to capture imagery to generate 3D models, terrain and thermal maps. Edge 130 Blue is currently available for purchase by U.S. government agencies and all branches of the military as a standalone solution directly from FlightWave.
Larry Berkin, Chief Commercial & Operating Officer of FlightWave, stated,
“The Edge 130 Blue has the longest flight time of any Blue UAS approved drone and is a superior, long-range, mission-critical tool for the U.S. military and civil agencies. Automated defense capabilities will play an increasingly essential role in our defense programs and are vital to the US ability to remain competitive. FlightWave is a leader in this space, developing some of the most advanced technology for drones. We are proud to be able to support DIU and the work they are doing with the Blue UAS Program.” (Source: UAS VISION)
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