Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
19 Jul 23. Draper Equips Small UAVs for Tomorrow’s Battlefield. Battlefields entered a new era with the introduction of small unmanned aerial vehicles, or sUAVs. Commonly called drones, sUAVs enable soldiers to gain an aerial view of the battlefield and improve their situational awareness of the battlespace.
Designed for low-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions that depend on rapid deployment and agile maneuverability, sUAVs are being pushed to add more technology while also being asked to fly farther, smarter and better.
It’s a situation that’s challenging the developer community, according to Won Kim, a program manager at Draper. His team is unveiling a new set of capabilities for sUAVs that represents an advance in the platform from remotely operated vehicles to those capable of fully autonomous operations.
One new capability is to equip sUAVs so that they can fly ahead of a military unit to scout a location and sense the presence of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) elements. Hazard detection using an sUAV can reduce the kinds of risks soldiers might encounter by scouting a location using handheld or vehicle-mounted sensors.
“Customers are asking, can an sUAV sniff out these CBRN hazards in place of humans? How smart does an sUAV need to be to search, map and locate these CBRN hazard without a remote operator? When an sUAV encounters a building or obstacle, can it fly in and around it safely? These are just some of the questions our team is exploring,” Kim said.
Kim’s team set to work on these challenges in a program funded by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) called CSIRP, which stands for CBRN Sensor Integration on Robotics Platform. The team investigated the customer needs through field observations, noting requirements such as sensor efficiency and resolution, flight speed, height, duration, autonomous operation, sensor-driven mapping, networked command and enhanced situational awareness through shared interactive digital maps.
Soldiers operating in urban environments, for instance, need an sUAV that can navigate in and around buildings and obstacles, such as trees or vehicles even when GPS signals are degraded or completely unavailable. Soldiers also need sUAVs to remotely search, detect, map and locate dangerous CBRN hazards. Soldiers dispersed across an area also want a way to share information that is secure, networked and mapped to the environment.
The new capabilities Draper developed for CSIRP take advantage of multiple environmental inputs, along with a sensor fusion algorithm that can synthesize data from instruments including GPS, LiDAR, inertial measurement units, magnetometers and cameras. All that fused information is designed to achieve robust and autonomous operation through the use of new algorithms developed for CSIRP that make the sUAV capable of obstacle detection and avoidance.
Under CSIRP, Draper integrated the sUAV with a mobile computing app, running on a handheld device, called the Tactical Assault Kit (TAK), which gives soldiers a map-based common operating picture on a shared network and provides enhanced situational awareness for command and control. Draper has developed software for every version TAK and the CBRN sensor plugin since it was first developed by the Department of Defense.
In a series of field tests, Draper engineers set the sUAV on a path of several miles, over and around obstacles, navigating autonomously until it detected a simulated CBRN hazard and conducted a sweep of a field one square kilometer in size to map elements of interest. The information was gathered onboard the UAV and shared with the TAK operator and users in the network, including headquarters.
“Mobile military technologies, like sUAVs, can be force multipliers and force protectors at the same time,” Kim said. “Anytime you can deploy technology like an sUAV to detect suspected CBRN hazards remotely and operate independently without exposing a soldier unnecessarily to harm is an advance in warfighter systems, and that’s important to us at Draper.”
“Draper designed the autonomy framework and sensor-driven mapping algorithm to be an extensible, modular and resilient mobility platform that is vehicle and processing system agnostic,” said Julius Rose, associate director for Sensors and Delivery at Draper. “As new capabilities and vehicles are developed, autonomous systems should be readily adaptable to support numerous mission types across domains, be that air, ground or sea. Development needs to be efficient, reusable and agile to keep up with the pace of the needs of soldiers and personnel in the field.”
Draper’s work on the CSIRP program builds on its legacy in autonomous systems, algorithms and positioning, navigation and timing. Advances made through the program will be applied to other air systems, as well as ground, marine and underwater systems. In addition to working with autonomous systems, Draper has assisted U.S. government agencies with projects including cybersecurity, technology protection and miniature cryptography for high stress environments. (Source: Armada)
20 Jul 23. Nigerian Army Operating Chinese Ziyan Blowfish UAS. The Nigerian Army has taken delivery of the Chinese-made Ziyan UAS Blowfish, a miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is designed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The Blowfish was recently showcased by the NA Command Engineering Depot (CED) at the just concluded Nigerian Army Day Celebration 2023.
The Ziyan UAS Blowfish, manufactured by the Chinese defense technology company Ziyan UAV, is a highly versatile unmanned aerial vehicle designed for a wide range of military applications.
The Blowfish is a small, lightweight UAV that can be easily transported and deployed. It has a range of up to 100 kilometers and can stay in the air for up to 6 hours. The UAV is equipped with a variety of sensors, including a high-resolution camera, an infrared camera, and a laser range finder.
The Nigerian Army has been using UAVs for a number of years, but the Blowfish is another Chinese-made UAV to be operated by the military. The UAV is expected to be used for a variety of ISR missions, including monitoring the activities of terrorist groups, tracking illegal arms shipments, and providing early warning of potential attacks.
The addition of the Blowfish to the Nigerian Army’s UAV fleet is a significant boost to the military’s capabilities. The UAV’s small size and long range make it ideal for operating in difficult terrain and in areas where there is a high risk of detection. The UAV’s sensors will also provide the military with valuable intelligence that can be used to plan and execute operations.
The deployment of the Blowfish is a sign of the Nigerian Army’s commitment to modernizing its equipment. The UAV is a versatile and capable platform that will be a valuable asset to the military.
This Chinese-made drone provides the NA with a range of strategic advantages, including enhanced surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, and force protection capabilities. As the Nigerian military continues to modernize and adapt to evolving security challenges, the Ziyan UAS Blowfish will undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable asset in maintaining peace, protecting borders, and countering threats to national security.
The Ziyan UAV is small and lightweight, easy to transport and deploy. It has a range of up to 100 kilometers, and Endurance of up to 6 hours.
It is equipped with high-resolution camera, infrared camera, and laser range finder, and is ideal for ISR missions in difficult terrain and areas where there is a high risk of detection.
The potential application of the Ziyan Blowfish UAV is monitoring the activities of terrorist groups, tracking illegal arms shipments, providing early warning of potential attacks, conducting reconnaissance missions, evaluating damage after an attack, and supporting ground troops in combat operations.
Recently, the Nigerian Army took delivery of three Aerosonde 4.7 Fixed Wing UAS from AAI Corp., a subsidiary of Textron Systems.
The contract for the three Aerosonde VTOL drones was signed on May 8, 2020, between Nigeria, the Pentagon, and Textron Systems.
The Nigerian Army is gearing up to be a major operator of fixed-wing aerial assets, despite the role being primarily domiciled within the domain of the air force. The Army in the year 2020 established its own UAV Command under a new ORBAT 2016 (Order of Battle). The command will deliver responsive, persistent and precise UAV capabilities to achieve the NA’s mission. Also, the new UAV command will raise, train and sustain a UAV force which will ensure task competency to deliver precise and timely Air Imagery Intelligence.
For now, it is not yet certain if the new Nigerian Army UAV command will operate alongside the Nigerian Air Force Combat Reconnaissance Group (203 CRG) in Gombe state. The Nigerian Army has been known to operate several commercial-grade drones sourced from the civilian market. (Source: UAS VISION/Military Africa)
18 Jul 23. Exail and UNH open new Maritime Autonomy Innovation Hub. Exail, a global innovator in the field of maritime autonomy, has opened a new innovation hub that will engage in all aspects of marine autonomous operations to help meet the challenges of the growing blue economy.
Exail will be using the new center to deliver increased operational advantage to U.S. civil and government customers. This includes the U.S. production of its Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV), DriX, the housing of a remote operation center to conduct worldwide remote autonomous operations, establishing local operations, maintenance and training facilities, and providing expertise on maritime autonomy while also training future generations on the use of autonomous vessels.
The new hub will be located at the University of New Hampshire, a recognized leader in the field of ocean mapping research, and located within UNH’s Olson Advanced Manufacturing Center in Durham, to facilitate collaborative work with UNH’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM).
“We’ve been working together with UNH for the past six years pioneering uncrewed technologies, and we are now capitalizing on our common achievements with the opening of this new innovation hub.” States Marine Slingue, President at Exail, Inc. “We’re very proud and excited to take this next step in our U.S. adventure, and we would like to thank UNH, CCOM and NOAA, for their great support, leadership and vision on the use of uncrewed technologies that took us where we are today. We look forward to our continuous partnership with them and all the great work we achieve together to keep advancing maritime autonomy in the U.S.”.
”This exciting collaboration will not only be good for Exail and UNH students and researchers but also good for New Hampshire and the nation,” said Larry Mayer, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire. ”We anticipate that it is just the start of bringing many of our other industrial partners and government colleagues to the state as we create a local engine for the new blue economy. ”
The opening of the new maritime autonomy innovation hub was celebrated on July 15th, in the presence of UNH President Jim Dean, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan and Assistant Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Nicole LeBoeuf. (Source: ASD Network)
19 Jul 23. Hungary Develops Jet Drone to Strengthen Air Defenses. The development of military forces can only be successful if we build up the Hungarian defense industry, the Minister Commissioner for Defense Innovation stressed at the official presentation of the Hungarian-developed unmanned aerial vehicle.
Imre Porkoláb stressed that the ProTAR jet-propelled drone was developed specifically for military use, and the unmanned aerial system is intended to improve the air defense capabilities of the Hungarian army. The new technology can also prove itself on the international market, he added.
He said the new development is a milestone in the renewal of the defense forces, and is cheaper and more powerful than its predecessors.
The developments in the defense industry contribute to the development of a wide range of devices and technologies for everyday use, and thus also have an impact on our everyday lives, he said, citing the use of the internet as an example.
Imre Porkoláb pointed out that in the current international context, airspace protection is of paramount importance, and the use of drones is becoming increasingly important.
The advanced, jet-powered aircraft is being developed by Rotors & Cams Zrt. together with Genevation Aircraft Kft. and HunMech Kft. on the order of the Hungarian Defence Forces Modernisation Institute. Rotors & Cams Ltd. was established as a subsidiary of the 4iG Group. At the event, László Blénessy, Deputy CEO of 4iG, said that his company is engaged in developing in the fields of IT, telecommunications, and defence technology and that the new drone is the result of technological development involving all three areas.
Zsolt Molnár, CEO of Rotors & Cams Zrt., said that the ProTAR F4J fixed-wing, jet-powered, unmanned military drone weighs 68 kilogrammes, has a top speed of about 500 kilometres per hour, can take off at an altitude of 6,000 metres and has a communication range of 75 kilometres. The drone has an operating time of one hour. The equipment consists of three parts: the aircraft, the catapult and the ground control station. An innovative feature of the Hungarian drone is that it can fly three aircraft in formation at the same time, a unique capability in the international drone market.
‘Drone technology is a priority industrial and defence area in Hungary,’ Zsolt Molnár highlighted.
The ProTAR jet drone is specifically designed for military use, as a defensive unmanned aerial system designed to improve the air defence capabilities of the military. The new technology is also making its mark in the international market, Brigadier General Imre Porkoláb, Ministerial Commissioner for Defence Innovation remarked, stating:
‘This drone is the result of several years of development work and the cooperation of Hungarian engineers. It is faster, it can take off higher, it can perform complex manoeuvres and, as it has been emphasised, it is also capable of formation flying, which is unique on the market, so we can simulate scenarios for the soldiers with these drones that were not possible before and create a more realistic training environment.’
The drone act as a decoy target during live and training firing of air defense systems as a target vehicle. The air defense unit using the device must hit the drone during a simulated alert. A variety of readiness situations can be simulated by the drone without the use of high value aircraft.
The development will radically reduce the material and human risks and implementation costs of air defense exercises.
The device can be air-launched in a short time from a launch pad, also developed in Hungary. The repetition time of the catapult launch does not exceed two minutes. In addition to the aircraft and the catapult, the third part of the equipment is the ground control station, consisting of nine people.
Top Photo: Brigadier General Imre Porkoláb speaking at the unveiling, standing next to a ProTAR on 10 July 2023 – László Kertész/honvedelem.hu
(Source: UAS VISION/Hungarian Conservative; Hungary Today)
17 Jul 23. Taking Unmanned Flight to the Next Level. Unmanned aerial systems, or UAS, such as the Gray Eagle program have been an indispensable part of the U.S. Army’s mission capabilities for more than a decade. While a UAS can run operations without putting a soldier at risk, there are still some moments where the risk is too high even for these machines. That’s where newer and smaller technology comes into play.
General Atomics, the minds behind the Gray Eagle, has been collaborating with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command to develop a new Enhanced Air and Ground Launch Effect Technology, or EAGLET, demonstrator which recently ran a series of captive carry and free-flight tests at Dugway Proving Ground.
The EAGLET is intended to be a low-cost, survivable UAS that can be launched from the ground or from the air utilizing the Gray Eagle. “The Gray Eagle platform is going to stand-off more from the threat and have longer-range sensors on it, whereas the Air Launch Effect (ALE) EAGLET-type class would be able to fly in closer,” explains General Atomics Test Engineer Tom Velky. “Because of its lower cost you’re going to be willing to take more risk with an EAGLET ALE-type aircraft than you would with a group 5 like Gray Eagle.”
This most-recent phase of testing was to explore stability and control of the new platform. Velky says their goal is to “show that it flies as we expected. It flies like an aircraft should and it can be maneuvered and brought in for a stable approach and landing as well.” The results of these tests are feeding the next phase of the project — EAGLET 2.0 — which is a continued collaboration with DEVCOM and expected to be an improved, production-ready vehicle that incorporates lessons learned from the demonstrator. Flight testing for EAGLET 2.0 is expected to begin in 2025.
The team says DPG provides them with a unique location to test their new technology. “I feel like Dugway is a very reasonable place to come test; it has great support for these types of flight demonstrations, especially something like Eaglet,” says Ethan Brown, engineering director of advanced programs at General Atomics. “The airspace that’s available here is a tremendous asset, compared to some other ranges where it’s a much more congested area and therefore more difficult to work with,” added Velky. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ US Army)
17 Jul 23. Australia to accelerate Ghost Bat development. Australia’s Department of Defence (DoD) has been directed by the government to accelerate development of the Boeing Australia MQ-28A Ghost Bat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), informed sources have disclosed to Janes.
According to the sources, the DoD has been told by Defence Minister Richard Marles to bring forward options “without delay” to develop the programme and support it in the production of Block 2 airframes.
The sovereign MQ-28A is being developed by Boeing Australia in partnership with the Australian government, and the acceleration of the programme was identified as a priority in the government’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR), which was published in April. The first Ghost Bat aircraft made its maiden flight in February 2021.
Boeing Australia is already under contract to produce 10 MQ-28As for development and testing, four of which are reported to have flown.
Currently, development of the MQ-28A is continuing through systematic testing in both live and digital environments, including at the Woomera test range in South Australia. (Source: Janes)
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