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28 Jul 23. Kim Jong Un Shows Off New Drones to Russian Minister.
North Korea unveiled two new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that closely resemble known U.S. drone models on Thursday, signaling via state media that the country is well on its way to achieving both combat and reconnaissance drone capabilities.
It is unclear when Pyongyang began developing the new drones, but their reveal comes around two and a half years after the Jan. 2021 party congress, where DPRK leader Kim Jong Un ordered the military to produce “unmanned striking equipment” and “reconnaissance drones” with a range of 310 miles (500 km).
Both appear in photos of the “Weapons and Equipment Exhibition 2023” held in Pyongyang on Wednesday, and both appear to be models that NK Pro first identified on runways at an airbase in the northwest of the country last month, a sign of flight testing.
Framed photos displayed in front of the models on the expo floor depict flight testing — including above Pyongyang — and show that Kim inspected them in secret. The words “DPRK Air Force (조선인민군공군)” and serial numbers are printed on each of their sides.
One model, which had a wingspan of 65 feet (20 meters) when it appeared in satellite images, appeared at the expo to be equipped with two different types of missiles attached below its wings and with an overall design similar to a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper combat UAV.
“MQ-9s are capable of both recon and attack at the same time,” Yang Uk, a military analyst at the Seoul-based Asan Institute, told NK News on Thursday.
“If you look at North Korea’s MQ-9 copies, they have three weapon stations per wing, so six in total, and you can see that they loaded missiles similar to US Hellfire missiles,” Yang said. “The U.S. version of the MQ-9, by comparison, has two weapon stations per wing or four in total.”
He said North Korea’s version may “appear more armed than the original U.S. MQ-9s,” though he cautioned that Pyongyang has yet to demonstrate their true capabilities and specifications and is unlikely to have access to “U.S. technology-level sensors and avionic electric equipment.”
Xu Tianran, an analyst with Open Nuclear Network, told NK News that the bulging domes at the heads of each drone may house satellite dishes, though he questioned their purpose since Pyongyang has “no communication satellites of their own.”
He added that it “can’t be ruled out” that they serve a different function, but that “by appearance they look like satellite dishes” and that “with current geopolitical realities, it’s not completely unimaginable if [another country] rented them satellite bandwidth.”
The other model closely resembles a U.S. Air Force RQ-4A Global Hawk. It appeared during testing at Panghyon Airbase last month to have a wingspan of around 115 feet (35 meters) and elements matching the model at the weapons expo, such as a V-tail and upper air intake.
The larger model “looks like it’s a high-altitude, medium-to-long endurance type,” Ankit Panda, Stanton Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told NK News.
“The design does resemble several known drone designs, but that’s not necessarily evidence that the North Koreans are relying on stolen information or knowledge,” Panda said. “We do know that they’ve breached several defense-related firms around the world in recent years and some of those efforts could be related to high-altitude UAV design.”
He added the drones could appear at a military parade likely to take place Thursday and that he expects to see a dedicated report on flight testing and a demonstration of capabilities more clearly in state media soon.
Daniel Pinkston, a lecturer in international relations at Troy University, said the new UAVs could help North Korea strengthen its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, which he called the “weak link” in the weapons systems it has developed in recent years.
“Being able to place those UAVs in a loitering position, or track near the southern part of North Korea near the DMZ, then it would give them the opportunity to collect a lot of intelligence data from the South,” he said.
The Rodong Sinmun released several photos on Thursday partially showing the two drone models at the weapons expo but did not report any details about the weapons systems, such as their names or development history.
State TV aired a brief clip of both drones during flight testing, including the Reaper-type drone firing missiles.
The exhibition appeared to take place inside Heavy Industry Hall at Pyongyang’s Three Revolutions Exhibition House complex — the same venue as another weapons exhibition in Oct. 2021.
NK Pro detected an increase in activity at the complex possibly related to preparing for the latest expo starting in late May, though most of the work appeared related to renovating a different building.
No large drones were on the main floor at the 2021 exhibition, but smaller models appeared partially in the background of some video footage of the event. It is not yet clear if this week’s event also features such smaller models. (Source: UAS VISION/NK News)
25 Jul 23. Deploying an Aerial Drone (UAV) from a Submarine. On May 4, 2023, the final test of the French “UAV on submarine” experimentation was held off Toulon. The objective of this project is to deploy a drone from a submerged submarine in order to recover video data and to pilot it from the submarine. During the tests, the drone system developed by Naval Group and the SME Diodon was sent from a submerged SSN (Rubis-class nuclear-powered submarine). The UAV came to the surface in a waterproof protective cocoon designed by Naval Group. On the surface, this cocoon opened, and the drone positioned itself above sea level. The SSN then raised its communication antenna to establish the data link. Once communication was established, the drone was piloted from the submarine, providing video feedback from the drone’s camera on the operator’s console. According to the French Ministry of Defence, this project aims to increase the vision of the submarine in its environment. Using a drone will allow the submarine to extend the perimeter and horizon of its sensors and capabilities. (Intelligence missions, surveillance, reconnaissance ,visible or infrared ISR, radio relay, sending small packages to special forces in the field, etc.) It is also a question of providing a new medium-term disruptive operational capability that can be integrated into the current fleet. (Source: UAS VISION/Naval News)
22 Jul 23. Textron Wins Handover of DJI Source Code in Drone Patent Fight. Textron Systems Corp. has emerged victorious in a legal battle against DJI, a leading manufacturer of drones. Textron claimed that DJI had infringed upon its drone-related patents and demanded access to DJI’s source code. After a lengthy court battle, the judge ruled in favor of Textron, ordering DJI to hand over its source code.
Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd. must turn over portions of source code it was trying to shield in a patent fight with Textron Innovations Inc., which has accused DJI of stealing its drone-control technology.
US District Judge Robert W. Schroeder III of the Eastern District of Texas’s Marshall division ordered DJI on Wednesday to produce the requested source code despite DJI’s claims that doing so could expose it to “severe administrative and/or criminal penalties under Chinese law.”
The dispute between Textron and DJI centered around drone technology patents. Textron argued that DJI had copied its patented technology, leading to a significant loss in sales and market share. To prove their case, Textron demanded access to DJI’s source code, which would provide insight into the inner workings of DJI’s drones.
Textron’s victory in obtaining DJI’s source code is a significant development in the drone industry. Source code is the underlying programming instructions that make a software or hardware system function. By gaining access to DJI’s source code, Textron will be able to analyze the technology and potentially identify any patent infringements.
The court’s decision to grant Textron access to DJI’s source code signals the seriousness of the patent infringement allegations. It demonstrates the court’s recognition of the importance of protecting intellectual property rights in the ever-expanding drone industry.
While Textron’s victory is a significant milestone, the long-term implications of this ruling are yet to be fully understood. Gaining access to DJI’s source code could give Textron a competitive edge in the market. By studying the code, Textron will be in a better position to develop innovative drone technologies and potentially enhance its own product offerings.
Furthermore, Textron’s success in this legal battle against DJI could also serve as a deterrent to other companies considering patent infringements. The court’s ruling sends a clear message that intellectual property rights will be upheld and protected.
The drone industry is a rapidly growing and highly competitive market. As the demand for drones continues to rise, it is likely that we will see an increase in legal battles over patent infringement. Companies are investing significant time and resources into developing innovative drone technologies, and protecting those investments is crucial.
The Textron vs. DJI case highlights the importance of patent protection and the willingness of companies to fight for their intellectual property rights. It serves as a reminder that intellectual property is a valuable asset that should not be taken lightly.
In conclusion, Textron’s victory in obtaining DJI’s source code is a significant milestone in the drone industry. The court’s ruling demonstrates the importance of intellectual property rights and sends a clear message to other companies. As the drone market continues to expand, the protection of patents and intellectual property will play a crucial role in the industry’s development. (Source: UAS VISION/TS2)
21 Jul 23. L3Harris has created the first ever ‘launch and recovery’ AUV solution. The launch and recovery solution provides the AUV the ability to collect data from areas the submarine cannot venture.
L3Harris is the first company to develop and integrate a fully autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can be launched and recovered from a submarine. This is possible through the use of a homing and docking solution.
This ‘Torpedo Tube Launch and Recovery’ (TTLR) system enables the host submarine to remain covert in safe waters while the AUV is launched to perform surveys and missions in areas that the host cannot traverse. The system can return with data to be used for tactical and navigational planning and decision-making, delivering manned-unmanned teaming to a sub-surface fleet.
L3Harris worked closely with the US Navy to demonstrate AUV launch and recovery through a challenging test programme aboard submarines and navy support vessels.
“We were able to accomplish something the navy has been trying to do for years in response to an urgent operational need,” Daryl Slocum, L3Harris’ AUV Technology Director, stated.
TTLR will increase operational effectiveness and allow every nuclear-powered general-purpose attack (SSN-class) submarine to serve as an AUV mothership.
“We basically started with flashlights and a hoop to teach the vehicle to get into a torpedo tube with a very small [error] margin,” Slocum said. “From the time we started the project… to actually demonstrating [the capability from] a host in January of this year… took nothing short of a phenomenal team effort.”
US Navy applications for AUV solution
GlobalData expects the global uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) market to be worth $750.5m in 2030, up from $525.1m in 2020. The demand for UUVs is expected to be driven by the autonomous mine countermeasure capability enhancement and distributed fleet structure initiatives undertaken by the US, China, Russia, the UK and France.
The US Navy has multiple procurement programmes, including: Orca XLUUV, Snakehead Large Diameter UUV and Razorback medium-sized UUV. The US is expected to maintain its leading position globally while exhibiting a steady pace of growth in the next decade. (Source: naval-technology.
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