Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
08 Mar 23. Kaman and Phi Aviation Announce Commercial Agreement. Kaman Corporation and PHI Aviation LLC announced at the 2023 HAI Heli-Expo that Kaman’s subsidiary, Kaman Aerospace Corporation (“Kaman”) and PHI have entered into a master commercial agreement for the promotion, sales and support of a commercial version of Kaman’s KARGO UAV unmanned aerial system, including collaboration relating to its ongoing design and certification.
In connection with that agreement, Kaman and PHI entered into a Non-Binding Memorandum of Understanding that outlines PHI’s intent to purchase 50 units of Kaman’s commercial KARGO UAV. Kaman and PHI expressed their commitment to work together to bring KARGO UAV to the broader commercial market and offer field support in the future.
KARGO UAV is a purpose-built autonomous medium-lift logistic vehicle that is being developed for military and civilian use to meet real-world requirements for today and into the future. It is designed to be capable of carrying 800 lbs., flying 500 miles, and hover for an extended period without the requirement to transition to forward flight. These capabilities make the KARGO UAV ideal for PHI and its core customers. PHI takes on some of the most challenging assignments in aviation to deliver high-quality support for energy providers, hospitals, air medical organizations, and government and military organizations.
“PHI is one of the most respected vertical lift suppliers in the energy, air medical and MRO industries,” said Carroll Lane, President of the Kaman Precision Products Segment. He added, “We are delighted they have chosen KARGO UAV to meet the anticipated needs of their customers. PHI’s reputation for excellence, commitment to safety, and innovation leadership made them the most fitting launch customer for Kaman.”
“We look forward to working together with Kaman to augment our present fleet offering for our customers. With the addition of KARGO UAV to our fleet, we will be expanding our capabilities and adding value in a way that complements our core business. Kaman’s long history in heavy-lift rotorcraft systems and our shared commitment to safety makes them the perfect partner for PHI Aviation,” said Keith Mullett, Managing Director of PHI Aviation.
PHI has been a market leader and pioneer in the aviation industry for more than 74 years, partnering with customers to bring new technology to market. With a fleet of more than 200 helicopters spanning six continents, PHI embraces innovation to drive strategic growth and create new opportunities to better serve its customers. (Source: UAS VISION)
07 Mar 23. FAA Grants Textron Systems Special Airworthiness Certificate to Operate Aerosonde UAS in Civil Operations.
- Advances Integration of UAS into National Airspace System
Textron Systems Corporation, a Textron Inc. (NYSE:TXT) company, announced today it has been issued a special airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct civil unmanned aircraft operations at its Unmanned Systems Service and Support Center located in Blackstone, Virginia, adjacent to the Allen C. Perkinson Blackstone Army Airfield (KBKT).
The company received the special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category, abbreviated SAC-EC. The rarely granted authority allows Textron Systems to operate its Aerosonde® MK 4.7G unmanned aircraft system (UAS) within the National Airspace System (NAS) as part of initial and recurring proficiency training missions and research and development (R&D) operations. The SAC-EC represents increased flexibility and convenience for the company’s customers, as well as cost savings that result from the ability to train steps away from the classroom at the Unmanned Systems Service and Support Center.
“This is a significant achievement because of what it says about the safety of operating unmanned systems in the NAS,” said Wayne Prender, Senior Vice President of Air Systems. “We’ve shown that our Aerosonde system achieves an equivalent level of safety compared to conventional aircraft. We’ve backed that up with more than 600,000 hours of flight time and over 3,000 aeronautical research flights conducted at KBKT airfield to support integration in the NAS.”
To grant a SAC-EC, the FAA must determine the company’s proposed operations will have no adverse impact on public safety. Obtaining the approval required the company to submit an in-depth Program Letter, Safety Checklist, operating manuals, an approved Maintenance Inspection program, and to host a comprehensive on-site safety evaluation of every component of the aircraft, the ground station, and the aircraft’s launch and recovery equipment.
Textron Systems’ Aerosonde UAS is a small, high endurance, expeditionary unmanned aircraft. It is powered by a high performance, heavy fuel, direct injection, reciprocating engine and has a broad operational flight envelope. The certification allows the company’s aircraft operators to conduct Visual Line of Sight training and R&D operations in Class D, E, and G airspace. (Source: ASD Network)
07 Mar 23. Sikorsky Long-Range Hybrid-Electric VTOL Demonstrator to Inform Future Military and Commercial Missions. Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, is producing a Hybrid-Electric Demonstrator (HEX), a fully-autonomous hybrid-electric vertical-take-off-and-landing (eVTOL) prototype. With a maximum gross weight of more than 7,000-pounds, the uncrewed aircraft will serve as a flying test-bed to evaluate large aircraft design, novel propulsion systems and control architectures for sustained hover, and ranges greater than 500 nautical miles.
“As Sikorsky celebrates 100 years of flight innovations, it’s fitting to highlight our continued commitment to safe and sustainable transformative flight,” said Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky president. “Sikorsky’s HEX aircraft will provide critical insights into the possibilities of electric systems in VTOL aircraft. Ultimately, we want to show the potential of large, advanced air mobility vehicles to perform utility missions for the U.S. military and transport passengers between cities.”
For the HEX project, GE Aerospace will offer a CT7 turboshaft engine combined with a 1MW-class generator and associated power electronics, building on hybrid electric propulsion systems being developed by GE Aerospace for both NASA and the U.S. Army.
“Bringing innovative technology is a top priority for GE Aerospace,” said Amy Gowder, President and CEO of Defense & Systems at GE Aerospace. “We are committed to developing hybrid electric propulsion systems that save fuel and optimize performance for the military and commercial applications. We are thrilled to build off our existing work with NASA and the Army to offer to power Sikorsky’s HEX aircraft and bolster the future of flight.”
Family of large VTOL aircraft envisioned
The Sikorsky Innovations rapid prototyping group will lead the HEX program. Led by its director, Igor Cherepinsky, the Innovations team will design, build and integrate the HEX airframe and electric motors with the company’s MATRIX™ autonomy flight control system.
Depending on insights learned from the flight test program, and assessment of customer applications, the HEX program could lead to a family of eVTOL vehicles scaled to carry passengers and payload for both military and commercial applications.
Sikorsky’s MATRIX™ autonomy system will control flight aboard the HEX aircraft. Developed and tested extensively over the past decade, the software, hardware and sensors that comprise the MATRIX system have demonstrated high flight reliability in low-altitude and obstacle-rich scenarios. During the U.S. Army’s Project Convergence 2022 exercise, a MATRIX-controlled Black Hawk helicopter without pilots or crew on board demonstrated optionally piloted resupply missions.
07 Mar 23. RAN receives first two BlueBottle USVs from Ocius Technology.
Delivery of the remaining three Ocius BlueBottle USVs are slated to complete by July this year.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has received the first two of five BlueBottle uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) from Australian company Ocius Technology.
The delivery was announced by the Australian Government.
The vessels were handed over by the company’s officials to Australian Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy and Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite.
Conroy said: “As a trading nation, surrounded by oceans, a sustained maritime security presence is essential for assuring our national economy.
“Autonomous capabilities and innovative technologies, such as the Ocius BlueBottle USVs, will assist our Navy in supporting Australian interests.
“Powered by the wind, waves and the sun, the Ocius BlueBottle can autonomously monitor designated areas for extended lengths of time.”
The Sydney-based engineering company has developed the USVs in close coordination with the RAN, as part of a Defence Innovation Hub’s initiative.
The autonomous capability is expected to boost the RAN’s capabilities to safeguard the country’s maritime trade routes and resources to further enhance the national security. (Source: naval-technology.com)
07 Mar 23. Thales Australia and AIR Hub sign MOU on air mobility systems.
Thales Australia and Swinburne University of Technology’s Aerostructures Innovation Research Hub (AIR Hub) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the development of new operational concepts to advance R&D opportunities and support evolving aviation concepts including Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) for next generation aerostructures.
The MOU will expand Thales’s existing partnership with Swinburne University of Technology to focus on Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) to support regional cargo delivery and critical infrastructure inspections, Urban Air Mobility including Electrical Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL), Concept of Operations for urban vertiports, and the integration of concepts of operation for traditional Air Traffic Management (ATM) and new concepts of operation for Unmanned Air Traffic Management (UTM).
Grant Williams, Technical Director, Thales Australia and New Zealand noted that “Thales’s collaboration with Swinburne’s AIR Hub is a natural extension to the extensive research and development Thales has achieved globally in advanced air traffic management systems. As a world leader in this space, we are able to leverage the extensive knowledge, skills and expertise we have around the world that has application in emerging opportunities and challenges in the UTM domain. This will bring a complete perspective to new modes of operation of ATM and UTM and their future integration.”
Under the MOU the partners will also research and develop how ATM systems need to tailor their approach to integrate UTM, while ensuring compatibility and interoperability. This requires a comprehensive understanding of ATM and UTM ecosystems from products to processes through to systems and human factors.
A world leader in ATM and UTM systems, Thales Australia will leverage its experience globally across various programs to advance these new aviation operational concepts, facilitating the development of the local skills required to sustainably support the implementation of new cutting-edge technologies. They will also ensure that the workforce and associated SMEs are ready for the new world of aviation, with the view that Australia can become one of the leaders in the domain.
Swinburne University of Technology’s AIR Hub is an advanced development collaboration between industry and research. The AIR Hub leverages state of the art facilities, expert teams, a network of industry partners and cutting-edge research to advance the next generation of air mobility.
“Future autonomy and UTM will play an important role in development of AAM,” said Dr Adriano Di Pietro, Director of AIR Hub. “By working collaboratively, Thales and the AIR Hub will undertake concurrent development, feeding data and findings between aircraft and aerostructures development and the sensory and control systems that will be installed into autonomous aircraft.” (Source: Rumour Control)
06 Mar 23. US Army conducts first sUAS Tranche 2 SRR prototype test.
The T2 systems are set to replace the existing RQ-28A systems, starting from fiscal year 2026. The US Army has carried out the maiden small uncrewed aircraft system (sUAS) prototype test under the Tranche 2 (T2) short-range reconnaissance (SRR) effort.
This prototype testing was held at Fort Benning, Georgia, US.
The demonstration was executed by the Project Manager Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ (PM UAS) Soldier UAS (SUAS) Product Office in close collaboration with the US Army’s Maneuver Battle Lab and Army Test and Evaluation Command.
The latest test is being conducted as part of the SUAS office’s initiatives to develop a new sUAS platform for the US Army soldiers to provide improved tactical capabilities in the battlefield.
It saw the participation of several vendors including Teal Drones’ Golden Eagle MK2 that was selected last year to compete for this programme.
Other vendors and prototypes include Vantage Robotics’ Swift, and Skydio’s R47 aircraft.
The testing effort assessed the performance and capabilities of each vendors’ system to see if they fulfilled the requirements of the SRR programme based on the service’s Capabilities Production Document.
The test gauged the sUAS’ operational range, flight control, day and night-time obstacle avoidance, and advanced autonomy features.
Initially, the programme included 33 vendors, of which only ten vendors were shortlisted to present their demonstrations at Fort Benning.
It was followed by technical and flight detailing sessions, after which only three vendors were selected for the final rapid prototyping phase.
Once developed, the new next-generation SRR system will replace the US Army’s existing RQ-28A systems, starting from fiscal year 2026.
The RQ-28A, the army’s first programme of record quadcopter, is a vertical take-off and landing aircraft that will allow military forces to perform beyond the line-of-sight missions. (Source: army-technology.com)
02 Mar 23. Textron Systems Advances in US Army FTUAS Program. Textron Systems Corporation, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, announced that it has been notified of a successful down select in the competition for the U.S. Army’s Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) Increment-2 Program. The company is offering its Aerosonde® Hybrid Quad (HQ) in support of the FTUAS program.
Built to support the key requirements of the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), the agile Aerosonde HQ platform offers multi-mission capability with proven reliability built upon a system with over 600,000 flight hours of performance. The size, weight and power profile of the system offers the mission performance of larger airframes with a rigorously streamlined footprint, two-person transport and a short setup time for superior tactical advantage. The aircraft is equipped to deliver day/night full-motion video, wide area surveillance, communications relay, signals intelligence and more.
“We look forward to demonstrating why we believe the Aerosonde HQ is the right unmanned system to carry the Army forward into the future,” said Wayne Prender, Senior Vice President of Air Systems. “In its 4.8 configuration tailored for the Army BCT’s mission, our system distinguishes itself with its use of heavy fuel to simplify logistics and its efficient transportability whether by helicopters or tactical vehicle. We have designed Aerosonde to MOSA [Modular Open Systems Approach] standards. With an open approach, there’s a proven ability to rapidly inject capabilities, behaviors and payloads developed by industry, government and academic partners. With our long history of working alongside the BCTs, we’re prepared to deliver a fully integrated platform loaded with the next generation of capabilities.”
Preparing for the BCT requirements of tomorrow, Textron Systems continues to invest in integrating and demonstrating additional payloads and equipment onto its Aerosonde HQ system to optimize the Army’s low-risk path to future capabilities.
Textron Systems supports several U.S. Department of Defense customers around the globe with variants of its Aerosonde system, establishing a proven, timely and cost-effective infrastructure for production, training, spares, repairs, logistics and technology modernization. This mature ecosystem enables customers to field and sustain solutions with confidence. (Source: ASD Network)
03 Mar 23. HII and Ocean Aero to Partner on Advanced Unmanned Maritime Capabilities. HII (NYSE: HII) and Ocean Aero initiated a strategic agreement to advance the combined capabilities of their respective unmanned maritime platforms and autonomy software solutions. The unmanned solution providers recently commenced multiple, simultaneous efforts to enhance the operational reach and duration of the platforms, collaborative autonomy behaviors, shared sensor fusion and perception capabilities, and accelerated seabed-to-shore data transmission methods.
“We are pleased to partner with Ocean Aero to further expand the operational capabilities of the U.S. Armed Forces, partner nations and other maritime-focused commercial institutions,” said Duane Fotheringham, president of the Unmanned Systems business group at HII’s Mission Technologies division. “We are excited to combine the best of our individual products to deliver an exceptional suite of solutions to our customers.”
Kevin Decker, Ocean Aero chief executive officer, added: “This is the perfect time for us to partner with HII. With rising maritime challenges increasing worldwide, we need new capabilities to meet them. Incorporating our two firms’ autonomous vehicle value propositions will unlock new tools for our customers at home and abroad.”
HII and Ocean Aero are involved in several unmanned maritime systems initiatives and exercises across the globe. Ocean Aero recently completed Digital Horizon, the U.S. Fifth Fleet Maritime Domain Awareness exercise in the Arabian Gulf, where HII’s REMUS vehicles (MK18 Mod 1 and MK18 Mod 2) have been deployed continuously since 2013. The HII-Ocean Aero team is already planning to demonstrate their combined capabilities at an upcoming event in the region, in addition to other planned events and exercises for U.S. and international partners.
HII is the preeminent unmanned underwater vehicle manufacturer and a pioneer in the UUV industry, continuously producing REMUS vehicles since the early 2000s. HII manufactures a full range of REMUS UUVs, from small to extra-large, with endurance ranging from several hours to months at depths down to 6,000 meters. More than 600 REMUS UUVs have been sold across the globe, with a majority of those still in operational use today. Additionally, HII’s Odyssey autonomy software solution offers scalable autonomy aligned with open architecture standards, including Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture. (Source: ASD Network)
07 Mar 23. Chinese Y-5U transport UAV conducts landing, take-off trials. China has successfully demonstrated take-off and landing operations of its Y-5U utility and transport unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The Y-5U is an unmanned version of the Shijiazhuang Aircraft Industry Company Y-5B biplane transport aircraft. In a statement on its English-language website in March, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) said that the UAV conducted a successful round-trip flight between airports in Inner Mongolia in January. AVIC added that the UAV flew between Moqi General Airport and Arongqitongyong General Airport.
Using satellite imagery, Janes has assessed that the two airports are roughly 85 km apart. The corporation said that the flight test was divided into two sorties: On 3 January, the Y-5U successfully took off from Moqi Airport and landed at Arongqitongyong Airport. The aircraft subsequently took off from Arongqitongyong on 4 January and returned to Moqi Airport. (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.