Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
22 Feb 23. Estonia’s drone-buying spree finds local vendors eager for deals. The Estonian drone industry, which has been developing at a slow pace over the last decade, is seeing a significant push from domestic manufacturers and has unveiled its first loitering munition.
According to John Cornish, sales director at Viimsi, Estonia-based Threod Systems, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has greatly accelerated the demand for these platforms and shown how unprepared smaller countries are to face this type of conflict.
“The war has truly made us realize how weak Europe’s drone industry has been and how several countries have lagged in acquiring the right kind of systems to be in a position to effectively defend themselves,” he said at the IDEX arms fair here.
Only two weeks ago, the Estonian firm Terramil unveiled its first loitering munition, the K12, also exhibited at IDEX. The quadcopter is the first of its kind the company has produced, and it is best suited for short-range strike missions against armored targets. Weighing in at 4.4 kilograms, it can carry payloads up to 7.6 kilograms and fly for 17 minutes out to a range of 5 kilometers. In contrast to other loitering munitions, such capabilities may not be considered advanced, but the company says it is only now beginning to experiment with these technologies.
“We are currently working on a second, much larger drone that will be able to carry bigger payloads covering distances approximating 100 kilometers. We expect it will begin to undergo testing in one to two months,” a Terramil representative here said.
Earlier this month, Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur stated that the country is looking to procure an important quantity of loitering munitions to enhance its indirect fire capability, though it was unclear whether the push would involve national, European or global suppliers.
As domestic manufacturers do not really possess extensive experience in this domain and almost none have produce advanced variants, Cornish concurs that it is likely that Estonia could decide to contract with an international partner.
Israel may have a shot at securing a deal – it has in the past supplied Estonia with Elbit munitions and a coastal defense system from IAI.
Meanwile, Threod Systems has seen such a surge in the demand for its EOS vertical-takeoff-and-landing surveillance drones, that the company is opening a second production plant in Estonia.
“We are currently working at full capacity to meet 2023 orders and delivering approximately 16 systems a month,” said Cornish. Our drones currently are operating in two conflict zones with high success rates – in Ukraine and Mozambique.”
The EOS aircraft have an endurance of three hours and are in use globally with 16 countries. When asked about possible new customers, the company representative said that Pakistan and India had recently shown interest.
(Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
23 Feb 23. Schiebel develops Camcopter S-300. Schiebel Corporation has detailed the development of a larger variant of its Camcopter S-100 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at IDEX 2023, being held in Abu Dhabi from 20 to 24 February.
The Camcopter S-300, a larger variant of the S-100, is designed to meet the requirements of customers seeking extended range, higher endurance, and enhanced payload-carrying capabilities.
Schiebel’s chairman, Hans Georg Schiebel, told Janes that “Schiebel started the development of the S-300 to provide heavylift solution for land and maritime domains, perform better anti-submarine warfare operations, and have scope to integrate various types of radars”.
The new vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)-capable S-300 is intended for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations for civil, governmental, and military organisations.
The S-300 is fitted with multiple hardpoints for flexible payload installationwith a capacity of up to 250 kg, while using the same ground control station and payload fits of the S-100, Schiebel said.
23 Feb 23. Robotican’s Rooster drone demonstrates capabilities for Spanish Army. During a military exercise, the drone system conducted a scan and clear of buildings. Israel-based robotics technology systems developer Robotican has demonstrated the capabilities of its hybrid drone system for the Spanish Army.
Named Rooster, the drone is a semi-autonomous hybrid system designed to conduct uncrewed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions in communication denied environments.
Suitable for both indoor and underground missions, Rooster features a combination of ground robotics and airborne drone capabilities, and a long-range endurance.
During the Foro 2E+i – Fuerza 2035 military exercise, Robotican partnered with Spanish multinational telecommunications company Telefónica to showcase the drone’s capabilities.
The exercise was held in Toledo, Spain, and aimed to train the Spanish Armed Forces on how to perform ground drills against enemy positions in a building.
As part of the drills, the Spanish forces used the Rooster in two scenarios to carry out a scan and clear mission of a building in a simulated hostile urban environment.
Prior to deploying the system, the forces first secured the building’s ground floor while allowing the Rooster to scan the upper floors.
22 Feb 23. Collins and SRB agree to jointly develop UAS solutions in Saudi Arabia. The first flight test of jointly developed UAS is expected to take place by second quarter of the 2023. Collins Aerospace has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Saudi Arabia-based company SRB Aerial Systems for jointly developing uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) and robotics.
The two companies will work together to support the research, development and execution of various UAS and robotic technologies for Saudi Arabia’s defence forces.
Under this MoU, US-based firm Collins Aerospace will provide its existing experience in UAS manufacturing and integration to SRB Aerial Systems.
Leveraging Collins’ experience, SRB Aerial Systems will combine its mission systems hardware and software, as well as its radio communication, imaging and sensor manufacturing expertise for the final development of UAS sovereign capabilities in Saudi Arabia.
SRB Aerial Systems CEO major general (retired) Ahmed Al-Jehani said: “Together, SRB Aerial Systems and Collins Aerospace will develop the framework to support research and development of strategic UAS and robotic technologies for the Saudi forces as we ambition to grow our offering with UAS weapons and urban air mobility solutions.”
According to Collins Aerospace, the company will now work with SRB to develop a UAS platform to conduct the maiden flight test by the second quarter of the current fiscal year.
It also includes associated engineering and product integration work.
SRB Aerial Systems specialises mainly in the production of tactical UAS and loitering munitions, as well as other aerial solutions for industrial logistics and transportation. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
21 Feb 23. General Atomics, UAE advance talks over MQ-9B drones. Multi-year negotiations for the United Arab Emirates to procure MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones are in their late stages, executives from manufacturer General Atomics said in an interview at the IDEX arms fair here.
David Alexander, president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, said that the relations his company has enjoyed with the Gulf country have remained continuous. “For about ten years, we have been working closely with the Emirati Air Force, primarily through the MQ-1 program and the UAE showing interest in acquiring some of our other platforms, which has allowed us to maintain a tremendous and enduring relationship with them,” he said.
However, for capabilities such as the MQ-1 or MQ-9B to receive export approval and clearance can be a lengthy process. Alexander added: “The Emiratis couldn’t wait forever for U.S. export policy decisions to be made – so in the meantime they did purchase stuff from the Chinese, from Turkey and other partners. … It has been this way all along. Does it bother us? I mean, it’s competition, but we are in no way afraid of competition.”
Two years ago, the UAE withdrew its letter of offer acceptance after the Biden administration stalled an agreement, previously cleared by the Trump government concerning the sale of precision strike weapons, F-35s and MQ-9B drones.
Regarding where the talks for the drones stand today, the company is clear that they never stopped in the first place.
“Negotiations with the UAE to acquire MQ-9B SeaGuardians are ongoing and showing continued signs of healthy progress,” said C. Mark Brinkley, spokesman for General Atomics.
Given the important amount of ship traffic moving through the Gulf country, having effective and continuous maritime domain awareness is critical for Emirati security.
General Atomic officials hope to advance a push this year to integrate its drones with Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications systems, which offers the potential of reducing operational costs and having a smaller hardware footprint. Recently, General Atomics carried out three successful trial flights of the MQ-9A fitted with an LEO relay system in an evaluation configuration.
Although the company did not disclose the identity of the LEO provider, it is believed to be Space X’s Starlink.
“The next phase [for this] would be to provide a path for integration of the system into existing Reaper fleets for customers to use in an operational capacity,” said Brinkley, adding that company officials had already pitched the option to multiple customers. (Source: Defense News)
20 Feb 23. IXAR Drones Enter the Brazil Market to Meet the BVLOS Drones Demand. FIXAR enterprise drones enter the Brazil market through partnership with Helisul Aviação. Beginning in March, Helisul will manage the sale, support, and operation of FIXAR 007 drones. The technologically advanced, compact fixed-wing craft boasts over 60-kilometers of flight capacity. That will enable extended BVLOS services for enterprise users in Brazil, particularly those in agriculture, mining, infrastructure inspection activities, and owners of offshore platforms whose missions cover vast areas.
The FIXAR 007 has already demonstrated its endurance and mettle in exacting conditions like high-altitude mountain flights. Yet its Latvia-based developer will soon top that with the FIXAR 025 – a drone with a 10-kilogram payload and astonishing 300-kilometer flight capacity that’s expected to come online later this year.
Awaiting that, Helisul will provide aerial services with the innovative FIXAR 007. The hybrid fixed-wing vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft can carry a two-kilogram payload for up to an hour at speeds of 20 m/s – around 30% faster than competing craft.
Its configuration provides the convenience of a quadcopter with the range and efficiency of a fixed-wing drone. That winning combination permits fast and easy takeoffs and landings on any terrain without needing parachutes, catapults, or other accessories, and prolonged mission distances with greater speed and efficiency.
Drawing on its deep experience and qualifications in Brazilian aviation, Helisul will put FIXAR drones’ outstanding performance capabilities to maximum use for enterprise clients.
“As it considered Brazilian partners, FIXAR recognized Helisul’s reputation for safety, quality, and technology in the aviation market,” says head of Helisul’s drone division, Lucas Fontoura, adding his company will also facilitate securing authorization from regulators to operate the craft in exceptional circumstances. “FIXAR also appreciated our experience and unparalleled ability in obtaining certification of drones used, and authorization to fly missions above 400 feet from the National Civil Aviation Agency.”
As the Helisul-FIXAR tandem solidifies its activities in Brazil, the partners will also examine ways expand their drone services work to other nations in region.
“Helisul, with its 50-year experience in aviation, offers everything FIXAR needs for expansion in the Latin American region,” says Yulia Druzhnikova, FIXAR’s co-founder and Director of Global Expansion, who points to Helisul’s excellence in drone training and maintenance as another driver of the partnership. “We are happy to contribute FIXAR’s VTOL drones, designed for advanced missions in challenging environments, to unleash the full potential of the Latin American drone market, and increase safety and efficiency.”
Its entry into Brazil reflects continued efforts by FIXAR to raise the profile of its ground-breaking drone technology in an increasing number of nations around the world – an objective Helisul will help it attain in the country and wider region.
“With this partnership, Brazil joins the USA, Australia, Japan, Korea, and European and African countries playing home to FIXAR distribution centers,” says Helisul’s executive superintendent Humberto Biesuz. “We are investing heavily in this FIXAR-Helisul partnership in order to deliver the best technology, most advanced drones, and safety to Brazilians in collaboration with the National Civil Aviation Agency”. (Source: ASD Network)
20 Feb 23. Steadicopter and BIRD Aerosystems to reveal new capability for the Black Eagle 50H.
- A Micro Maritime Patrol Radar for maritime missions at long ranges
- The highly-reliable unmanned hybrid helicopter provides an accurate intelligence picture of marine environments, up to a radius of 200 km.
Steadicopter – a leader in the Rotary Unmanned Aerial Systems (RUAS) industry, and BIRD Aerosystems – a global provider of innovative defense technology and solutions that protect the air, sea, and land fleets of governments and related agencies, are unveiling the BlackEagle 50H (BE50H) – an advanced hybrid unmanned helicopter, featuring a miniature airborne radar with advanced proprietary technology, for use in maritime intelligence missions.
Advanced capabilities for long endurance of up to five hours, together with BIRD Aerosystems’ µMPR capabilities for the detection and tracking of maritime vessels, enable the BE50H to carry out accurate mapping of all vessels within a radius of 200 km within a few hours, in harsh environmental conditions, day or night.
A true game-changer for uncrewed operations, the BE50H provides its users with the most cost-effective solution for both ISR and pinpoint CAS operations, in both the land and maritime domains, by enabling a unique combination of impressive flight endurance and an extremely versatile sensor suite.
With its open architecture modular design, the BE50H accommodates the latest mission payloads, such as BIRD Aerosystems’ µMPR. Coupled with the µMPR, the BE50H provides a first-ever combination of a small tactical RUAS (with a near-to-zero operational, maintenance & logistic footprint), capable of wide-area persistent surveillance and coverage for long durations on the one hand, with all the advantages of the rotary-UAS, such as persistent hovering, which enable additional concepts of operations for many mission applications, on the other.
Implementing sophisticated patented design features, together with powerful signal processing algorithms, BIRD Aerosystems’ µMPR uniquely detects and tracks maritime vessels with 100% identification accuracy. Implemented in a single small Line Replaceable Unit (LRU), the µMPR is extremely lightweight, with very low power consumption. It can be installed in conjunction with AIS and an electro-optical (EO/IR) payload, perform automatic cross-cues between the radar and the EO/IR sensor to confirm target identification, and automatically inform ground control using a precise geo-reference.
“Maritime border protection is one of the most prominent needs in the world today,” says Noam Lidor, VP Sales, Marketing & Business Development at Steadicopter. “The combination of the proven advantages of a hybrid unmanned helicopter system with long flight endurance that enables coverage of large maritime surfaces, with radar capabilities for identifying and locating hostile ships at ranges of several tens of kilometers, provides the vessel’s crew with an accurate intelligence picture within a wide radius of hundreds of kilometers, thereby giving them a significant advantage for mission success.”
Ronen Factor, Co-CEO and Founder of BIRD Aerosystems, added: “Ideal for the protection of maritime borders and strategic assets, BIRD’s innovative µMPR cuts through sea clutter and significantly increases mission effectiveness and cost efficiency. Small and lightweight, it can easily be installed on unmanned aerial systems, such as Steadicopter’s BlackEagle 50H, to create a cost-effective surveillance platform with excellent performance.” (Source: ASD Network)
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.