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Author: Subject: Unmanned Aircraft thread, part 2
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[*] posted on 3-10-2017 at 09:05 PM


JCREW orders climb as demand for C-UAS capability increases

Geoff Fein - IHS Jane's International Defence Review

03 October 2017

Northrop Grumman has observed an increasing demand for its Joint Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED) Electronic Warfare (JCREW) system as ground forces seek options to defend themselves against the threat posed by small unmanned aircraft systems (UASs).

The company has received recent contracts, totalling more than USD300,000 for the JCREW system, some of which will be diverted by the US Navy (USN) for counter-UAS (C-UAS) missions, Colin Phan, director, avionics and tactical networks for Northrop Grumman told Jane’s .

Northrop Grumman had been delivering JCREW units under a previous Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract for dismounted and mounted fixed sites.

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[*] posted on 3-10-2017 at 09:17 PM


USAF seeks directed energy-based counters to UAVs

Gareth Jennings - IHS Jane's Missiles & Rockets

03 October 2017


The Insitu ScanEagle sits at the top-end of the size scale of UAVs to be covered in the USAF's DE C-UAS experiment. Source: IHS Markit/Gareth Jennings

The US Air Force (USAF) is to develop laser and microwave-based solutions for combating small and tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be ready for trials in fiscal year (FY) 2018.

The Directed Energy (DE) Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (DE C-UAS) is an experimental programme recently launched by the Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Group (SDPE) of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

A capability request for information (CRFI) issued in mid-September and reported by the USAF on 2 October seeks to find DE weapon systems for targeting Group 1 (maximum take-off weight [MTOW] up to 20 lb [9.07 kg]) and Group 2 (MTOW up to 55 lb [24.9 kg]) UAVs.

“DE C-UAS operations will integrate with traditional Command and Control (C2) concepts and organizations and existing joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs). DE C-UAS systems may employ a modular structure capable of interfacing with existing weapon system platforms and sensors to tailor configuration to tasking. Proposed systems must be robust and have integrated sensors used to find, fix, track, and target single and/or multiple [UAV] targets. Capabilities of interest include (but are not limited to): Battle Command and sensor systems that facilitate rapid detection, identification and classification of [UAV] targets integrated with a system that can provide the capability to interdict, defeat, or deny enemy use of [UAVs] through the use of directed energy (high-power microwaves and laser weapon systems),” the CRFI read.

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[*] posted on 3-10-2017 at 09:23 PM


DARPA and AFRL take laser aim at small UAVs

03 October, 2017 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Leigh Giangreco Washington DC

The US Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are ramping up their efforts to thwart small unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), with two recent requests out looking for sensors and lasers to shoot down or disable them.

Today, US convoys are not only threatened by roadside bombs, but growing swarms of small, cheap, commercial UAVs that neither rely on GPS or radio receivers to operate. As part of DARPA’s Mobile Force Protection, the agency is developing an integrated system that could sense and “neutralise” self-guided small UAVs. The system would fit on humvees and the US Coast Guard’s Defender class boats, with the ability to detect and defeat groups of UAVs at least 1km away. DARPA is calling on industry to move quickly, with a field demonstration planned within 15 months.

“DARPA is not looking for end-to-end systems, but rather innovative technology components that can be integrated with current [Mobile Force Protections] prime integrators’ fielded concepts,” the 20 September request for information posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website states.

Meanwhile, the US Air Force Research Laboratory is gearing up for a demonstration using directed energy technology to counter group one and two UAVs. Like DARPA, the USAF would kick off the demo in fiscal year 2018. The USAF is considering both high powered microwaves and laser weapon systems that could find, fix and target single or multiple UAVs, according to the 15 September request for information.

The USAF could look to fielded technologies, such as Raytheon’s CHAMP-derivative to counter UAVs. When momentum on the Boeing AGM-86 missile-based Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project has cooled, Raytheon continued development with a ground-based air defence system that fries UAV electronics using a high-powered microwave.

The system is integrated with radar that tracks an unmanned vehicle and then determines whether it can pulse the target with a high-powered microwave source. Raytheon originally developed the HPM demonstrator for the Army, but the company could tailor the capability for the USAF or US Navy, Raytheon told reporters last year.
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[*] posted on 3-10-2017 at 09:57 PM


Unmanned Air Hopper shows its casualty evacuation credentials

03 October, 2017 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Arie Egozi Tel Aviv

An innovative unmanned helicopter designed to evacuate wounded soldiers from combat zones or perform resupply missions has been demonstrated to high-ranking officials from the Israeli defence ministry by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Developed from an existing small, manned rotorcraft design, the Air Hopper has a payload capacity of 100-180kg (220-397lb), depending on the model, a speed performance of up to 65kt (120km/h) and a maximum flight endurance of 2h, IAI says.


Israel Aerospace Industries

During the recent demonstration, the Air Hopper simulated the evacuation of a seriously wounded soldier to a collection point for life-saving treatment, including the airborne monitoring of the patient's vital signs.

IAI says the activity additionally proved the design's ability to deliver supplies to an isolated unit, while also doubling as a communication relay for ground forces.


Israel Aerospace Industries

IAI says the Air Hopper's price would be “considerably lower” than that of a traditional helicopter, and believes the concept could have applications for both military and civilian operators.
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[*] posted on 3-10-2017 at 10:00 PM


IAI sets civil sales target for Caçador UAV

03 October, 2017 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Arie Egozi Tel Aviv

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and its Brazilian partner Avionics Services have shifted their marketing efforts in an attempt to sell the Heron 1-derived Caçador unmanned air vehicle to the civil market.

The Brazilian defence ministry in March 2017 approved the Caçador as a so-called strategic defence product, following a series of flight tests conducted in different regions of the country. However, ongoing economic problems in Brazil have delayed an expected request for proposals for the acquisition of medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs for its armed forces.

Since signing a co-operation agreement four years ago, IAI and Avionics Services have established a UAV centre at Botucatu airfield to support the pursuit of Brazilian business opportunities.

“Brazil is a huge country and there are needs to monitor big areas, for example, those that are used for agriculture," says Avi Blesser, vice-president marketing and sales of IAI's military aircraft group. "We think that the civil market has a chance to get out of the economic crisis before the defence sector."
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[*] posted on 4-10-2017 at 05:05 PM


Darpa Seeks Counter-Drone 'Sensing, Neutralization' Systems

by Bill Carey - October 3, 2017, 9:55 PM


The objective of the Mobile Force Protection system is to develop an advanced, mobile counter-UAS system. (Image: Darpa)

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has requested proposals for novel technologies to sense and defeat small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) threatening moving convoys. Plans call for conducting a field demonstration by January.

Darpa issued a request for information (RFI) for the “sensing” and “neutralization” technologies on September 20 and accepted proposals through October 2. The technologies it seeks will either complement or serve as components of the advanced counter-UAS system companies are developing under the agency’s Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program.

A sensing technology must be able to detect “numerous” small UAS at a distance of 1 km (0.62 mile) or greater and fit on a tactical ground vehicle such as a Humvee as well as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Defender-class 25-foot boat, Darpa said. A neutralization system must disable or destroy numerous, self-guided UAS at a distance of 1 km or greater. Darpa describes self-guided UAS as rotary- or fixed-wing drones that do not rely on radio frequency control or GPS navigation for their operation.

“With this RFI, Darpa is not looking for end-to-end systems, but rather innovative technology components that could be combined with the MFP systems integrators’ fielded concepts,” the agency stated. “This RFI aims to help Darpa stay abreast of the latest technologies…and integrate some of the most promising ones into an eventual MFP technology demonstration system.”

The agency plans to select up to 20 teams proposing sensing and neutralization systems to attend a technology day on November 8 at its Arlington, Virginia, offices. Technologies must be sufficiently mature to participate in a field demonstration planned for January, Darpa said.

In August, Darpa announced the award of MFP Phase 1 contracts to Dynetics, of Huntsville, Alabama, and two companies based in Syracuse, New York—Saab Defense and Security USA and SRC. Initiated by an RFI last year, the program aims to develop an integrated system within three to four years capable of defeating self-guided UAS attacking a moving convoy.

The Phase 1 goal is to show initial functionality of demonstrator systems; by Phase 3 plans call for a full-capability demonstration on a moving vehicle or vessel.
Darpa says it is working closely on the MFP program with the U.S. military services, the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.

“The three teams we’ve assembled have innovative ideas for a versatile, layered defense system that could protect convoys on the move from multiple small unmanned aircraft systems in real time,” said Jean-Charles Ledé, a program manager in Darpa’s Tactical Technology Office. “Each team will now work to integrate novel ideas for advanced sensors and neutralization approaches into a common framework emphasizing safety for civilian bystanders, ease of operation and low size, weight, power and cost.”
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[*] posted on 5-10-2017 at 05:47 PM


The Future of Flight: Marines Test Out 3-D Printed SUAS

(Source: US Marine Corps; issued Oct 03, 2017)

VIDEO: http://youtu.be/-raQHnA82fQ

CAMP LEJEUNE, NC --- U.S Marines with 2nd Marine Division tested remote controlled craft made through additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 26-27, 2017.

The technicians and engineers with U.S. Army Research Lab gathered Marines from different military occupational specialties to demonstrate the usefulness and convenience of the additive manufactured small unmanned aerial systems.

Unlike systems the military has in use already, the additive manufactured SUAS has the flexibility to adhere to all types of different missions, and can be created much faster.

“At this point we are focusing on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions,” said Eric Spero, a team leader in the vehicle technology directorate of the U.S. Army Research Lab. “We have different cameras such as an infrared and a day camera; there are different things we can do like stream the video to systems or a head-up display and record it for later viewing.”

Researchers have created a catalog for the crafts that allows service members to select an SUAS that is tailored to fit the needs of the mission.

Troops simply pick the SUAS that fits their mission objectives and download the information that allows the parts to be 3-D printed.

An additive manufactured SUAS can be created, constructed and ready for operations in approximately 24 hours.

“Basically, what we are doing is combining two emerging technologies,” said John Gerdes, a mechanical engineer at the U.S. Army Research Lab. “We have taken 3-D printing and quad-copters and created a means of giving troops a customized vehicle right when they need it, with the capabilities they need from it, on demand.”

Instead of fitting troops to systems that are already in use such as the RQ-11 raven or the RQ-20 puma and forcing them to compromise to complete the mission, they can instead take their needs and create a vehicle specific to the job, said Gerdes.

“These craft are the future because they’re protected by obsolescence,” said Gerdes. “We are able to give troops the technology almost immediately by printing new parts and making slight adjustments so they will always have a craft that is able to complete the mission.”

-ends-
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[*] posted on 10-10-2017 at 09:16 PM


Martin UAV eyes US to sell its vertical take-off drone

By: David B. Larter   15 hours ago


Martin UAV's vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicle takes flight. (Martin AUV)

WASHINGTON — Martin UAV is marketing a vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerialvehicle, V-Bat, that can take flight from an upright position and transition to horizontal in flight. Think of a Harrier or V-22 Osprey, only a drone.

The 84-pound drone can stay on station for 8-plus hours at 45 knots, has a range of about 350 miles and can fly up to 15,000 feet. It can dash up to 90 knots. The drone is designed to be modular, with different sensors fitting into the nose section of the aircraft, said Heath Niemi, vice president of global sales and development for Martin UAV.

“The payload is in the nose, so it‘s designed to take the payload off, put a newpayload on, so if you need [electro-optical and infrared systems], laser designator, whatever you need,” Niemi said.

The company also lists signals intelligence, short-wave infrared and 4G LTE links among the compatible payloads. The V-Bat, which is easily transportable, could be useful in a search-and-rescue situation, for example, because its vertical take-off and landing, or VTOL, capability.

“If a search-and-rescue helicopter is out there for eight hours looking for somebody, you might as well do this,” he said. “It’s 23 pounds of fuel.” The drone runs 500 watts of power and runs off JP-8 or a gasoline/oil mix. The whole rig comes in two boxes, including the drone, the ground-control station and the telemetry system. The drone can also hand off control to other operators, such as on a ship.

“It’s completely tactical; you can put in the back of a Humvee, a ship — it’s got a small footprint,” Niemi said. “You don’t have any launchers or any other equipment.” The V-Bat will be making an appearance at the Navy and Marine Corps’ massive biennial Bold Alligator exercise. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps have all expressed interest in the UAV.

The 84-lb drone can stay on station for 8-plus hours at 45 knots, has a range of about 350 miles, and can fly up to 15,000 ft. It can dash up to 90 knots.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2017 at 06:26 PM


RQ-7 Shadows to get improved engine, mission computers

By: Valerie Insinna   13 hours ago


An RQ-7 Shadow 200 is launched on its initial flight at Volk Field Wednesday (Aug. 11). Members of Company B, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 32nd Brigade, conducted the flight to test frequency compatability between the Army National Guard unit and the Air National Guard control tower. An $8 million training and storage facility for Company B is planned at Volk Field, with construction estimated to conclude in December 2012. Wisconsin National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson

WASHINGTON — A recent contract award to Textron for “Block 3” upgrade kits will give the Army’s RQ-7 Shadow a souped up engine and other modifications that will make the drone more survivable, a company official said Monday.

The $41 million contract, which was awarded last month, includes funds to integrate and qualify the Block 3 modifications as well as 36 upgrade kits, said William Irby, Texton’s senior vice president and general manager for unmanned systems.

One of the biggest capability enhancements provided in Block 3 is a new engine, which boosts the Shadow’s current 38 horsepower motor to a more powerful 49 horsepower system, he said.

However, there are a number of other important benefits to the Block 3 kit, including the integration of the joint tactical radio system, voiceover capability and a more powerful mission computer. The upgrades will make it more survivable in bad weather, making it able to withstand up to two inches of rain per hour, and give it a more powerful cooling system, Irby said.

It also adds mufflers, which will reduce the noise the aircraft makes.

“One of the points of feedback over the years was that the Shadow was too loud.” There was a benefit to that sometime, because adversaries would stay indoors when they could hear it, he said, but the mufflers will allow the Army operate it in a more clandestine manner.

The Army has bought 114 Shadow systems so far, each of which includes four air vehicles, two ground control stations, and two datalinks, Irby said. Once the Block 3 kits are delivered, it will be up to the service to decide when and how its RQ-7s are upgraded.

“Most likely, at this point, those updates will be done on a kit basis in the field,” he said. “And that specific schedule has not been laid out yet.”
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[*] posted on 11-10-2017 at 09:03 PM


Improved Panther UAV ready for South Korean contest

11 October, 2017 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Arie Egozi Tel Aviv

An enhanced version of the Panther vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned air vehicle that is being offered to South Korea has undergone testing, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) confirms.

Changes have been made to the design's fuselage, wings and propulsion system. The updates were made after a flight test conducted at the Gyeryongdae emergency landing strip in South Chungcheong province late last year – an activity that concluded with the Panther sustaining slight damage on landing.

Avi Blesser, vice-president of IAI's military aircraft group, confirms that the main changes made to the UAV have been completed and tested. The company and its South Korean partner Hankuk Carbon have adapted the design in the hope of winning a competition to equip the nation's armed forces with an unmanned VTOL asset.

Industry sources say that the current tension between Seoul and North Korea has increased the urgency to acquire and operate such a system.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2017 at 10:04 PM


AeroVironment Softlaunches PUMA 3 and RAVEN 3



AeroVironment announced at AUSA that its PUMA AE and RAVEN small unmanned aircraft systems(UAS) are being enhanced with new upgrades. The upgrades include durability enhancements to the aircraft to operate in more rugged environments, improved ability to support advanced third-party payloads and software applications and enhanced performance in challenging radio electronic warfare/cyber environments where interference is prevalent.

“The PUMA 3 and RAVEN 3 upgrades are based on customer feedback and provide enhanced capabilities while preserving backward compatibility for our users,” Kirk Flittie, Vice President and General Manager of AeroVironment’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems business unit, said. “While thousands of our small UAS are working hard every day in rugged locations around the globe, we are always listening to our customers to determine how we can enhance our Family of Systems to make it even more powerful and reliable, especially in the highest risk operations. In addition to product enhancements, we are currently working with several customers on certification of our existing and upgraded UAS to operate in their national airspace systems. We take airworthiness and certification of our systems, and the components that go into our UAS, very seriously.”

The next-generation avionics suite on the PUMA 3 and RAVEN 3 will include specialized processors to support advanced navigation techniques and third-party algorithms. Additionally, customers will be able to interface with next generation GPS modules for operation in GPS-challenged environments. Both aircraft will have an improved inertial measurement unit to enhance their flying capability.

PUMA 3 features enhanced composite structures to support landing with heavier configurations and at higher altitudes. PUMA 3 will incorporate a new, more efficient smart battery as well as enhancements to battery safety. It will also reduce the system’s footprint from six transport cases to four, and will feature a flyable configuration in a single transport case with a luggage-type handle for improved portability.

RAVEN 3 will feature a new smart battery with an integrated state-of-the-charge indicator and improved safety and reliability during charging and flight operations. It will also include an optional AVTracker capability, which improves RAVEN’s ability to maintain “eyes on target.” 

Finally, PUMA 3 and RAVEN 3 will be equipped with Digital Data Link (DDL) security upgrades to support operation in more challenging RF environments and will include M1/M2/M5 radio frequencies to conform seamlessly and securely to the US Department of Defense’s new frequency spectrum allocation.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2017 at 10:19 PM


Israeli UAV producers face tighter export restrictions

11 October, 2017 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Arie Egozi Tel Aviv

Limitations on the transfer of advanced technologies embedded in the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron TP unmanned air vehicle are making a competition with the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper in India more complicated for the Israeli company.

"The restrictions that the Israeli Ministry of Defence attaches to the export of this advanced UAV are many, and in such a close competition may be a crucial factor," one Israeli source tells FlightGlobal.

India last year signed up to the international Missile Technology Control Regime, which oversees the sale of equipment including long-range and long-endurance UAVs.

IAI has proposed local production and assembly of an XP variant of its Heron TP, to address New Delhi’s “Make in India” policy, partnering with Dynamatic Technologies and Elcom Systems.

Their teaming agreement also covers support provisions for future operations with the type.

Israeli sources say that with the competition now nearing a selection decision, the issue of technology transfer has become “very real”.

The US Congress has already given its approval to a potential MQ-9 sale to India.

Meanwhile, Israel’s defence ministry is to place additional restrictions on companies that plan to demonstrate armed UAVs to potential foreign customers.

To run from offering such systems through to their demonstration and making requests for an export licence, the new process represents “a total change of policy – especially when it comes to certain clients”, an Israeli source says.

Israel's policy shift comes after an incident that led to the temporary suspension of a licence issued to Aeronautics Defense Systems to export its armed Orbiter 1K loitering UAV to Azerbaijan. The decision is linked to an ongoing investigation, launched after claims that the system had been demonstrated against live Armenian targets.

Aeronautics denies that such activity took place, noting: “We never demonstrate our systems against live targets and that rule was kept in this case.”

Under a long-standing relationship between the Israeli company and Azerbaijan, local production of the unarmed Orbiter 2 and 3 has already been performed.

Israeli companies have reported a growing interest in their armed UAVs since the start of this year.
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[*] posted on 12-10-2017 at 08:43 PM


AUSA 2017: Army begins next phase of UAS for casualty evacuation study

Geoff Fein - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

12 October 2017

Key Points
- Army set to conduct comparative research on DP-14 UAS and UH-60 Black Hawk
- In 2019 TATRC will begin research on autonomous medical systems

The US Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) and Dragonfly Picture (DPI) are using the company’s tandem rotor unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to determine the feasibility of transporting soldiers injured or wounded on the battlefield using an unmanned platform.


The US Army's TATRC is exploring the use of UAS to conduct emergency evacuations of injured soldiers. The agency is wrapping up the first phase of the effort using the DP-14 tandem rotor UAS. (IHS Markit/Geoff Fein)



The US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (AARL) and DPI are coming to the end of the first phase of a four-year effort. To date the army has developed the data acquisition system to gather information on the environmental conditions inside the DP-14 Heavy Fuel Tandem Helicopter. The sensors will characterize exposure levels to sound, air quality, shock, and vibration … anything that could potentially do harm to a patient, Nathan Fisher, project manager medical robotics and autonomous systems for TATRC, told Jane’s at the annual Association of the US Army symposium, on 10 October, in Washington, DC.

DPI is completing system integration, after which there will be some testing, Fisher noted.

“We will make it out into the field to do a re-supply scenario with soldiers if we can get all the safety clearances for using soldiers, otherwise we will use contractors,” he said. “After that phase, the next demo will be focused on casualty evacuation.”

Following the data collection onboard DP-14, the US Army Medical Research and Material Command (MRMC) will conduct a similar experiment aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to compare the results.

Fisher said it is important to have an informed set of data to help quantify any dangers to a patient and whether those dangers can be mitigated using tools they have.
The tests are expected to begin in September 2018, he added.

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[*] posted on 13-10-2017 at 05:59 PM


Tengoen’s TB001 armed reconnaissance UAV makes first flight

Gabriel Dominguez - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

12 October 2017


The Tengoen TB001 ‘Twin-tailed Scorpion’ armed reconnaissance UAV made its maiden flight on 26 September, according to Xinhua. Source: Via uav.xinhuanet.com

China's TB001 ‘Twin-tailed Scorpion’ armed reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has made its maiden flight, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency.

The 10 m-long platform took to the skies at an airport in southwestern China on 26 September just a few days after being unveiled by Chinese company Tengoen at the 14th China–Association of Southeast Asian Nations Expo that took place from 12 to 15 September in the Chinese city of Nanning.

Tengoen claims that the TB001 is the only Chinese twin-engine, twin-boom UAV on the market. The platform uses two reciprocating engines, has a wingspan of 20 m, a maximum take-off weight of 2,800 kg, a ceiling of 8,000 m, a maximum range of 6,000 km, and an endurance of 35 hours, according to information provided by the company.

The TB001 displayed at the show in Nanning was equipped to conduct satellite control linkage and carried an electro-optical (EO) targeting sensor under its fuselage. It also featured two underwing pylons that can be fitted with dual launchers for small missiles or bombs. Each pylon can reportedly carry up to 100 kg of ordnance.

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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 04:36 PM


Hoverfly thinks it can scratch Army’s itch with long-endurance tethered drone

By: Jen Judson   14 hours ago


Hoverfly makes tethered drones that can fly for up to a month and are barely detectable when deployed. (Courtesy of Hoverfly)

WASHINGTON — Hoverfly’s unmanned aircraft systems can fly for a month and are quickly deployable and barely detectable, and the company thinks its tethered UAS can scratch the U.S. Army’s itch when it comes to providing a multitude of capabilities the service needs.

The service has already put some of the firm’s tethered UAS to use. Most notably, its smaller system — LiveSky — was used during a robotics and autonomous demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia, this summer where it was tethered to a Polaris MRZR, which can be manned or unmanned, to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in advance of a tank unit moving out into position on a battlefield.

Tethered drones are nothing new, but in this case, the Kevlar-strength tether provides power to a small quadcopter, giving it the ability to fly for up to 20 to 30 days, Hoverfly CEO Rob Topping told Defense News during an Oct. 11 interview at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference. The tether and the drone are very difficult to detect, unlike large white balloons — the tethered UAS system of choice at forward operating bases in places like Afghanistan.

The UAS can fly up to 400 feet, the length of the tether.
The Army is going to have to operate on the tactical edge, staying highly mobile and avoiding detection by peer adversaries, who have the capability to detect frequencies and heat signatures in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Problems with current small drones is they can’t remain in the air long enough for thorough or persistent reconnaissance. A tethered drone on a small vehicle can move, unmanned, out into a position of advantage and provide consistent ISR, keeping soldiers out of harm’s way and also lightening the load, as the user doesn’t need to continuously control the drone in flight.

The drone can be launched and recovered while the supporting vehicle moves, and the system can autonomously shift midair; so even if it’s detected, it becomes very difficult to shoot down, Topping said.


Hoverfly's LiveSky deploys from a small vehicle, flying off the roof while attached to a tether that provides power to the drone. (Courtesy of Hoverfly)

It takes roughly two-and-a-half minutes to launch the UAS off the roof of a small vehicle and get a full picture of the battle space, according to the executive.

The system is equipped with batteries for safe landing should the tether lose power, and it is able to self-protect against such dangers as lightning.

LiveSky and a larger system — BigSky — are operated over a secure, live network, said Topping, and so the UAS can either be operated by someone very close to the drone or remotely from a tactical operations center.

The controls are extremely simple with only five buttons to directionally orient the system and to manage payloads, so training takes roughly six hours, “but that’s only because we take a long lunch,” Topping joked.

The Hoverfly solution was designed in 2010, and the company has sold thousands of the systems to a wide variety of sectors such as the movie industry and the New York City Fire Department, Topping said.

The NYC Fire Department uses the UAS to conduct overwatch of the city for 3-alarm fires or greater. It can also quickly position the system during a fire and, using a thermal imagery payload, detect the hot spots and where other dangers exist on the scene.

The UAS is the only one certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in New York to fly in class B airspace.

The drones have also been tested out along the U.S. southwest border where law enforcement walked into the desert. The UAS’ payload, consisting of an electro-optical/infrared sensor and a broadcast-quality video feed, could pick up the officers’ every movement from a great distance, including the ability to see one of them pick up a two-by-four and point it at the drone as if aiming a gun, Topping described.

The company has even brought its systems down to Puerto Rico to evaluate their utility in natural disaster recovery.


The Hoverfly drone fits into small, portable case. (Courtesy of Hoverfly)

Topping said he envisions the system aiding the Army across many echelons, from the squad level and much higher — from force protection, to communications relay, to counter-fires solutions, which require persistent eyes-on-target.

There is a growing recognition of the utility of tethered drones like the ones Hoverfly produces, Topping said, because it allows sensors to become permanent or mobile, and provide much greater range while offering a new level of protection to the soldier. And it’s a disruptive capability when you compare the cost between sending a manned helicopter or other aircraft to conduct reconnaissance and the cost of deploying a Hoverfly system.

The Army is actively seeking out tethered UAS options. Its Rapid Equipping Force released a request for information in August looking for tethered UAS for “small combat outposts, route clearance elements and retrograde operations to maintain [ISR] capability on the battlefield and extend the operational coverage of both FM and Soldier Wave Radio communications and data.”

The RFI also states the UAS should be a vertical takeoff and landing solution that is persistent and rapidly deployable to be used at forward outposts in “austere, harsh environments.”
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[*] posted on 16-10-2017 at 07:17 PM


AeroVironment to expand Blackwing UAS programme

13th October 2017 - 12:10 GMT | by The Shephard News Team



AeroVironment has received a contract from the US Navy for continuation and expansion of its Blackwing small UAV programme, the company announced on 9 October.

The contract worth $2.5m includes orders for multiple Blackwing vehicles, sensor payloads and refurbishment kits. The initial set of vehicles are expected to be delivered by May 2018, while the final deliveries are to be made by November 2018.

Blackwing is a small, tube-launched unmanned aircraft that employs an advanced, miniature electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) payload, integrated inertial/GPS autopilot system and secure digital data link, all packaged into a vehicle that launches from under the surface of the sea, from manned submarines and UUVs.

Blackwing builds on the company’s UAS and its Switchblade Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS) to provide the navy with a submarine-launched UAS optimised for denied environments.

AeroVironment developed the Blackwing system as part of a 2013 US Navy and US Pacific Command (PACOM) sponsored Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration (JCTD) called advanced weapons enhanced by submarine UAS against mobile targets.

This JCTD was completed in September 2015 with recommendation to transition the capability into the fleet.

Kirk Flittie, VP and general manager of UAS division, AeroVironment, said: ‘Since first being deployed just a few months ago, Blackwing has delivered valuable new capabilities to US Naval Undersea Warfare units.

‘This contract is consistent with the navy’s plans to resupply existing vessels and equip additional submarines with the Blackwing capability.’
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[*] posted on 17-10-2017 at 11:58 AM


ADEX 2017: Korean Air progresses development of unmanned Little Bird

Gareth Jennings - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

16 October 2017

Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) has progressed development of an unmanned version of the MD 500 Little Bird light-attack and observation helicopter, with a prototype being showcased at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX) 2017.


Seen in an optionally-piloted configuration, KUS-10 is part of a wider KUS-VH programme to develop an armed unmanned Little Bird helicopter. (IHS Markit / Gareth Jennings)

An optionally piloted prototype of the Korean Air Unmanned System – Vertical Helicopter (KUS-VH), as the platform is designated, is on static display at the same event that concept was revealed in 2015. This latest model bears the designation KUS-10.

KAL-ASD has not revealed details of the testing programme to date, though this optionally piloted platform flew for the first time in 2016.

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[*] posted on 17-10-2017 at 12:00 PM


ADEX 2017: South Korea showcases unmanned solutions

Gareth Jennings - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

16 October 2017

South Korean defence contractors have put unmanned aircraft systems (UASs)/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at the forefront of their exhibits at this year’s Seoul International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX), as they look to showcase technologies and developments for a number of requirements for the Korean armed forces.


KAL-ASD's KUS-VT tiltrotor was one of a number of unmanned aircraft displayed at ADEX 2017 as South Korea showcased its domestic aerospace capabilities. (IHS Markit/Gareth Jennings)

Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) and Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) have each showcased a range of fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and tiltrotor UAS offerings that have been developed for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) and the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA).

Concepts displayed by KAL-ASD comprised the Korean Unmanned System (KUS)-VH unmanned Little Bird helicopter, KUS-FT fixed-wing tactical UAS, KUS-FS medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAS, KUS-VT tiltrotor UAS KUS-FC ‘stealth’ unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), and KUS-HD Hybrid Drone multicopter UAS.

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[*] posted on 17-10-2017 at 04:24 PM


VTOL Flexrotor Flies 32 Hr. As Small UAVs Push Endurance Limits

Oct 17, 2017

Graham Warwick | Aviation Week & Space Technology

When the General Atomics Predator unmanned aircraft was introduced in 1995, its 24-hr. endurance was game-changing for the military. Now developers are pushing state of the art in aerodynamics and propulsion to achieve far longer flight times with far smaller vehicles.

In early October, Aerovel’s Flexrotor long-endurance vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft completed a 32-hr. 8-min. flight, landing with more than 3 hr. worth of fuel remaining. Vanilla Aircraft, meanwhile, is preparing to attempt a seven-day flight with its VA001 fixed-wing UAV.

The 22-kg (48-lb.) Flexrotor is a tailsitter that takes off vertically like a helicopter then transitions to fuel-efficient wingborne flight, its two-blade proprotor providing both lift in vertical flight and thrust in forward flight.


Flexrotor prepares to fold its landing gear after taking off on a flight that lasted more than 32 hr. Credit: Aerovel

Designed to fly for up to 10 days carrying a 30-lb. payload, the VA001 weighs 600 lb. and has a 36-ft.-span sailplane-style wing and an efficient heavy-fuel engine. The tow-launched aircraft set the current endurance record for its class of almost 56 hr. in January.

The endurance record for a VTOL unmanned aircraft is 22 hr. 30 min., set in August 2016 by a Latitude Engineering HQ-60 hybrid quadrotor. The HQ-60 takes off vertically like a multicopter and transitions to wingborne flight using a pusher propeller.

For its endurance flight, a Flexrotor called Actea took off with 7.5 kg of gasoline, including 3 kg in a backpack tank. Launch weight included a payload of 1.5 kg. A second Flexrotor was flown in formation to film some of the flight.


Flexrotor transitions to fuel-efficient wingborne flight, with the proprotor providing thrust. Credit: Aerovel

Conditions on the first day were turbulent, with 20-30 kt. of wind. “Actea was holding constant altitude and so gave up a few percent of range, fighting the ups and downs,” says Aerovel President Tad McGeer, adding that performance otherwise met expectations.

McGeer led the design of both the original Aerosonde long-endurance UAV, a development of which now is produced and operated by Textron Systems, and Insitu’s ScanEagle long-endurance small unmanned aircraft system.

The Flexrotor flight was 5 hr. longer than the Aerosonde Mk 1’s 2,031-mi. flight across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Scotland in 1998, and about 10 hr. longer than the ScanEagle’s published endurance. Neither are VTOL UAVs.


Vanilla VA001 takes off on its 56-hr. record flight in January over New Mexico. Credit: Vanilla Aircraft

Aerovel is still developing the Flexrotor, working to achieve and demonstrate a higher mean time between failures before launching production, says McGeer. The UAV can carry a nose-mounted Alticam AC-5 electro-optical (EO) sensor from Hood Technology.

Alternatively, the Flexrotor can carry an Alticam 09EO2 high-zoom EO camera or 09MWIR3.5 mid-wave infrared and EO imager or a Trillium Engineering HD50 5-in. gimbal with infrared sensor. Other payload options include communications relay and signals intelligence systems.

The backpack used for the endurance flight can carry extra fuel or onboard power and Ethernet links to transmit sensor data at video rates over distances exceeding 100 km (62 mi.), says Aerovel.  

Vanilla has developed the VA001 with funding support from DARPA. The January flight was cut short by changing weather, and the aircraft landed with more than half its fuel remaining. The attempt at a seven-day flight will be launched from NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast.
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[*] posted on 17-10-2017 at 05:28 PM


Mini Drones Set to Investigate Hazardous Scenes, Announces Defence Secretary

(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Oct 14, 2017)

A pocket-sized drone and a mini-detector known as Snake Eyes are amongst the new high-tech gadgets set to investigate future chemical or bio-hazards, after Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced the winners of an innovation challenge.

As part of a collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, the Defence Secretary has awarded funding to a range of small-and-medium-sized-enterprises (SMEs) with high-tech concepts to assess potentially hazardous scenes.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “With intensifying threats abroad and the risk of accidents at home, we need the very latest technology to respond to any incident. Competitions like this with our £800 million Innovation Fund will ensure Britain has the latest in cutting-edge technology needed help keep us safe.”

The Defence Secretary made the announcement on the back of chairing the quarterly Defence Suppliers Forum last week, which brings together prime contractors, international companies and SMEs.

The Minister for Security Ben Wallace said: “This competition has the potential to see world-class equipment created to support the emergency services when they arrive on the scene of an incident.

“Through this funding, the Government is able to collaborate with academics and the private sector to turn these innovative ideas into front-line tools.”

Amongst the winners were:
-- Snake Eyes, produced by Autonomous Devices Limited in Milton Keynes, which is small enough to be posted through a letter box and relay 3D images of a space and can detect chemical agents.
-- Bath-based BMT Defence Services, who have designed an unmanned aerial vehicle with high-tech gas-sensing technology.
-- Horiba Mira, based in Nuneaton, which has a robot with its own neural networks which can deploy on decontamination missions.
-- Loughborough University, with a pocket-sized drone which can search for chemicals.

The awards, worth over £1.6m, came as part of the Autonomy in Hazardous Scene Assessment competition, aiming to bring designs into being, and eventually use, in a much shorter space of time than is usually possible.

Through the Defence and Security Accelerator, working with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the competition –to be named Minerva - isset to meet some of the challenges of assessing potentially hazardous scenes.

Peter Stockel, from Dstl, said: “After a fast-paced first phase, we are now delighted to rapidly move the project forward into phase 2 with four highly innovative and technically exciting system propositions to tackle this priority challenge we’re for UK Defence and Security.

“With continued involvement and demonstration with the user community, we aim to mature this emergent capability over the next 12 months to test the ‘art of the possible’ and accelerate this into the hands of the prospective users for further operational evaluation, both for MOD and the Home Office.”

The first round of the competition saw 18 companies selected for funding. This, the second round, chooses four of those initial winning companies to further develop their concepts.

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[*] posted on 18-10-2017 at 08:16 PM


ADEX 2017: Rafael offers South Korea laser from Drone Dome counter-UAV system

Gareth Jennings - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

17 October 2017

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is offering to integrate the laser ‘kill’ system it has developed for its Drone Dome counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (C-UAV) system onto South Korea’s own domestically built solution.


The Drone Dome C-UAV systems as displayed at the ADEX 2017 event in Seoul. Rafael is offering to fit the laser element to South Korea's own solution. (IHS Markit /Gareth Jennings)

Speaking to Jane’s at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX) 2017, a Rafael representative who asked not to be identified for security reasons said that, while South Korea has decided to adopt its own C-UAV system, this currently has no ‘kill’ element to it. The laser that Rafael originally developed for its Iron Beam counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) system and later adapted for the Drone Dome as the ‘Lite Beam’ could be easily integrated, the representative said.

As noted by the representative, in its entirety the Drone Dome comprises three separate elements that combine to provide protection against illicit UAVs out to a detection range of approximately 3 km and a kill range of approximately 2 km. These elements are the detection system, command and control (C2), and the kill effector.

Detection is provided by a combination of a RADA RPS-42 S-band multi-mission 90 degree hemispheric radar (four radars to give a full 360 degree coverage) and a Controp MEOS electro-optical (EO)/infrared surveillance suite; C2 by a command console; and the effector, which can be the Lite Beam laser, jamming, or even a high-pressured water gun depending on the threat.

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[*] posted on 20-10-2017 at 10:42 AM


Airspacex pitches military variant of MOBi air taxi

20 October, 2017 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Leigh Giangreco Washington DC

A start-up with a plan to develop an air taxi for ride sharing company Uber has tweaked the concept to perform military missions such as medical evacuation and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Six months after Detroit Aircraft Company launched the AirspaceX MOBi vehicle at an Uber-hosted summit for vertical takeoff and landing air taxis, the start-up brought the tailsitting, tilting-wing aircraft that carries a modular payload pod to a Starburst Accelerator meeting at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's headquarters.

“Today is sort of a soft introduction to the defence community,” AirspaceX chief executive Jon Rimanelli tells FlightGlobal. “My number one priority is not to support the military, at the moment. My number one is to solve problems in the US and around the world in urban mobility and we leverage that technology to provide a low cost solution for the military.”

The modular system would support multiple missions including medical and casualty evacuation, tactical resupply, soldier mobility, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and munitions delivery, Rimanelli says.

AirspaceX now is looking to partner with a branch of the US military on an exercise that could help determine a gap MOBi could fill in an austere environment, he says.

The company is conducting stability control tests on a subscale demonstrator and expects initial flight tests to wrap up soon, with production of a full-scale MOBi demonstrator planned by the end of this year.

“Our objective is to build and operate one million aircraft by 2030 in the national air space which means our cost of goods are going to be so low that the military can deploy these in mass quantities,” he says. “We have designed the vehicle so spare parts and even the entire structure can be rapidly produced in theatre using additive manufacturing techniques.”

For its urban commuter role, MOBi would operate at 1,000ft or below, but the aircraft’s components have been tested to operate at a maximum altitude of 14,000ft, Rimanelli says.

AirspaceX plans to keep a pilot on board as MOBi is introduced to urban centers so the machine can learn a library of approved decisions over the next decade. For a military mission though, MOBi may include a pilot in the loop, operate as an remotely piloted vehicle or even fully autonomously, he says.
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[*] posted on 20-10-2017 at 10:44 AM


Boeing broadens bet on autonomous tech with new partnership

19 October, 2017 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Leigh Giangreco Washington DC

Boeing will invest and partner with a commercial spin-off of Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute that specialises in in developing sensors for unmanned aircraft to avoid collisions.

HorizonX, Boeing's venture capital arm, is focusing the new partnership with Near Earth Autonomy on the urban mobility market, a market sector that has received intense interest yet faces significant technical and regulatory obstacles to develop.

"This partnership will accelerate technology solutions that we feel will be key to unlocking emerging markets of autonomous flight," said Boeing HorizonX vice-president Steve Nordlund.
Boeing announced the new collaboration two weeks after agreeing to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences, a company with a portfolio of innovations in aerodynamics, aircraft structures and autonomy.

As developments in autonomous controls, electric propulsion and vertical lift accelerate, Boeing has joined several industry leaders and new entrants pursuing an opportunity to convert trips within cities normally taken by cars into small air taxis.
Near Earth Autonomy could help Boeing address two of the key technical barriers: avoiding collisions and finding a safe place to land without a human pilot aboard.

The start-up's work in the field dates back several years to its roots within Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. In 2010, the institute joined a team with Piasecki Aircraft and the US Army to demonstrate a fully autonomous flight using an MDHI MD530F light single helicopter.

Carnegie Mellon also partnered with the Office of Naval Research on an experiment that demonstrated a small quadrotor could map fires and identify victims on a smoke-filled naval vessel. The service’s research arm is working with Near Earth on developing an autonomous cargo delivery aircraft for the US Marines Corps.

Since launching last April, Boeing’s HorizonX venture capital arm has invested in startups exploring augmented reality technologies and hybrid electric commuter planes, but the Near Earth investment marks HorizonX’s firsts autonomous technology venture. As its aerospace rival Airbus looks to gain a foothold in the burgeoning air taxi market with its Urban Air Mobility division, Boeing’s new partnership Near Earth Autonomy will also pursue future air mobility products.

Boeing's announcement emphasises that the investment will explore both defence and commercial technologies. Separately, Boeing Commercial Airplanes is experimenting with developing new autonomous modes for airliners, including adding an auto-takeoff mode in future aircraft. Boeing's HorizonX also has invested in start-up aircraft designer Zunum, which is developing a 12-seat hybrid-electric aircraft with a cockpit designed to accommodate single-crew and fully autonomous operations.
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[*] posted on 21-10-2017 at 12:03 PM


ADEX 2017: KUS-10 awaits next flight opportunity

20th October 2017 - 09:10 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Seoul



The Aerospace Division of Korean Air (KAL-ASD) again showed its KUS-VH at Seoul ADEX, with the company recording progress in its quest to create an unmanned MD 500 helicopter.

KAL-ASD has assigned the nomenclature of KUS-10 to this platform that undertook its first series of flights last year. An engineer told Shephard that a pilot was aboard the helicopter during these tests to assume responsibility for some parts of the flights.

An engineer said the project had moved on quite a bit since the KUS-VH was displayed two years ago at Seoul ADEX 2015.

However, no specific timeline exists for the next series of flights.

The company needs more time and continued government funding to optimise the KUS-10’s development path. That being the case, the programme is evolving step by step with seven engineers currently assigned to the project.

The next step will be to completely remove the cockpit and the pilots’ seats so that fully autonomous flights can be undertaken in the future. At present the KUS-10 could be described as an optionally manned aircraft, with KAL-ASD listing a five-hour endurance for it.

The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) has a great many ageing MD 500 helicopters and converting some of those left in the inventory into unmanned aircraft could rejuvenate the 175-strong fleet. The idea is for one ground control station to manage up to four helicopters.

According to Korean Air, the KUS-VH could be used for ‘ISR, air delivery, emergency reinforcement, and joint operations with manned assault helicopters’. The coast guard is being touted as another potential client, plus it could potentially be utilised for forest fire monitoring, disaster relief and air delivery as a cargo-carrying version.

KAL originally assembled these MD 500s under a licence agreement in the 1970s.

KAL-ASD and Boeing signed a memorandum of agreement in September 2016 covering technical assistance for the South Korean-led project. This followed on from an earlier partnership between the two.

Boeing issued a statement about its involvement, saying: ‘The agreement builds upon the highly adaptable optionally piloted technology first developed and demonstrated by Boeing with the Unmanned Little Bird, as well as the successful proof-of-concept work done by Boeing, KAL and industry partners that led to flight testing of an optionally piloted Republic of Korea MD 500D model last year.’

Boeing added: ‘Any future missions and payloads for the aircraft are under the purview of KAL and subject to applicable international regulations.’

Indeed, the ROKA eventually plans to add 70mm rockets and air-to-ground missiles to these unmanned KUS-10s if the project reaches fruition.
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[*] posted on 21-10-2017 at 02:02 PM


‘No silver bullet’: Pentagon struggles to defeat drones in cat-and-mouse game

By: Jen Judson   12 hours ago


The Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization is working on several projects to counter unmanned aircraft systems to include one that catches enemy drones using a net. (Courtesy of the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army, as well as the other services and Pentagon organizations, is on a quest to find enduring countermeasures to defeat enemy drones in what has become a cat-and-mouse game.

Much like how a disease builds a resistance to drugs over time, the drone problem, especially in U.S. Central Command’s area of operation, is one that is constantly morphing.

According to a Defense Department organization tasked with combating the threat of unmanned aircraft systems, there is no single solution for every drone problem that friendly forces face when fighting the Islamic State group or any other enemy who can acquire cheap, commercially available drones.

Just over a year ago, the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization’s leaders took a trip to Baghdad, Iraq, on a fact-finding mission at the request of then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The Iraqis were very specific that, as a top priority, they needed the ability to counter UAS threats from ISIS.

Upon returning from the trip, Navy Capt. Mike Egan, JIDO’s chief of the integrated delivery branch, answered a question from the audience at an explosive ordnance disposal symposium: “What did I hear over there? What the uniformed guys are telling me, and this is what I’m telling industry, is if anybody hasn’t noticed, there is no successful counter-UAS in Iraq,” Egan said. “There is no counter-UAS that works in Iraq.”
And so JIDO, the Army and sister services have been laser-focused on getting such a capability — even if temporarily — out to forces fighting ISIS.

“The adversary is going to adapt, and so we are never finding the solution,” Lisa Swan, JIDO’s deputy director for mission support, told a small group of reporters at an event hosted by the organization at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, on Oct. 17. “We adapt, they adapt, we adapt, they adapt. … Sometimes we put things out there and it isn’t a long-term need because they have adapted and we must move onto the next thing.”

One of JIDO’s missions — born out of combating the improvised explosive device threat that proliferated during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — is to gather intelligence, watch the enemy and learn in order to anticipate and stay ahead of the threat; so the organization is constantly working to find a solution to send to theater that anticipates the enemy’s next move and counters it before the enemy can even make it.

Lt. Gen. Michael Shields, JIDO’s director, said the organization has seen a number of different ways ISIS has used drones to cripple forces fighting it. JIDO has seen them used for typical surveillance, but ISIS has become creative, strapping explosives to drones — essentially creating an airborne IED — and also turning vehicles and people into IEDs. Coalition forces have found IEDs in houses and used as booby traps.

But the proliferation of airborne IEDs — via quadcopter and fixed-wing aircraft — has been a major problem, and it’s sometimes hard to tell if the drone is just conducting surveillance or is armed. Some fly in and explode, whereas others simply drop small munitions from overhead.

One positive, Shields noted, is that ISIS “is significantly challenged in Iraq and Syria right now.” But he acknowledged that as JIDO and others work to counter the UAS threat, “there is no silver bullet.”

“There is no one technology or capability that is going to result in the defeat of these devices,” he said.

Nevertheless, JIDO has fielded a number of solutions to CENTCOM.

NINJA, LEAP

The organization showcased a few possible solutions currently under development at Fort Belvoir as proof it’s looking at multiple angles to defeat enemy drones.

In conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory, JIDO is working on a counter-UAS solution that combines two systems already deployed in CENTCOM — a software-defined radio device that can spoof a UAS by taking control or disabling it — called the Negation of Improvised Non-State Joint Aerial threats, or NINJA, and the Long-Endurance Aerial Platform, or LEAP.

NINJA was originally a ground system, but JIDO and the Air Force Research Laboratory are taking it and putting it on LEAP so it can disable enemy drones from the sky. The system will be demonstrated at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, ahead of a deployment to CENTCOM next spring.

Additionally, the Air Force Research Laboratory is working on more of a “hard kill” solution (for when a threat isn’t responding to soft-kill electronic attacks) that uses a six-rotor, vertical takeoff and landing-capable UAS — in this case an M600 — that deploys a net to capture enemy drones. The system is platform agnostic.

The M600 can speed out to where a UAS has been detected, pick it up on its own airborne radar, deploy the net in a spread-out fashion and collect the drone.

The lab has tried many other net capture methods, according to David Hague of the Air Force Research Laboratory, such as other UASs that shoot out a net at a drone, which requires a great degree of precision, as well as ejected confetti such as streamers that get tangled up in a drone.

Spreading out the net prior to capture helps avoid issues should the net shoot and miss the target, so there is a higher level of reliability, Hague said.

The idea is to ultimately have the soft-kill and hard-kill counter-UAS solutions working together and handing off tasks when appropriate.

At DSEI, a defense conference in London, England, last month, a small Dutch company — Delft Dynamics — turned heads with its DroneCatcher system, which is a multicopter capable of taking out rogue drones by catching them with a net deployed from a “netgun.” Then the system can either drop the captured drone with a parachute if the area is clear, or fly it out of harm’s way.

Counter-UAS swarms AUSA

Counter-UAS capabilities seemed to proliferate as much as enemy drones have in CENTCOM at the recent Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington.

Many of the solutions tied into larger short-range air defense systems — another big capability gap the Army is attempting to fill — but many stood alone to focus on the direct mission set.
Lockheed Martin touted its Q-53 radar, which is going to be configured for counter-UAS detection through easy software upgrades to the system.

Orbital ATK featured a system developed through a partnership with Liteye, a Colorado-based company, that takes Liteye’s AUDS nonlethal electronic attack radio-frequency jammer system already deployed in CENTCOM and pairs it with an Orbital gun that can fire precision-guided or air-burst ammunition to provide a hard-kill option.


The AUDS, or anti-UAV defense system, was rapidly deployed for CENTCOM and has already proved effective, drowning out more than 500 drones with electronic attack, according to Dave Dorman, Orbital ATK’s vice president of armaments systems within the defense and government relations sector.

The military in CENTCOM was provided tripod-mounted systems to be used on rooftops, but it was quickly discovered the system could be mounted on pallets and armored vehicles, and the forces there began moving them around the battlefield.

CENTCOM has now generated a requirement for vehicle-mounted systems, Dorman said. Orbital hopes to have those fielded within the next six to 12 months, he said, adding that a contract is imminent to begin work mounting the AUDS to mine-resistant, ambush-protected, all-terrain vehicles, or MATV.

SRC, Inc. also had a wealth of counter-UAS technology such as the Silent Archer system that uses a 3-D multimission radar called SkyChaser. The company claims it can work on the move while detecting and tracking low, slow and small UAS.

Leonardo DRS announced at AUSA that the Army awarded it a production contract for a small amount of vehicle-mounted counter-UAS weapon systems that the service would assess in combat next year.

The Mobile Low, Slow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Integrated Defense Systems — or MLIDS — went into testing this month at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in advance of deployment.

The system consists of two vehicles. One MATV will be equipped with an elevated electro-optical infrared system that tracks and identifies UAS, and then jams them using an electronic warfare system. The other MATV will have a radar for UAS detection and tracking and will have a variety of kinetic weapons such as a turret with a .50-caliber gun. One of the other capabilities is a small UAS that can be launched from the MATV and flown forward to engage in an air-to-air fight with an enemy drone.

Raytheon also touted its laser dune buggy at AUSA, where a high-energy laser can take out drones from a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle. The company claimed it will demonstrate the dune buggy at the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in December.

And many companies like Raytheon, Nammo and Lockheed Martin continued to beat the drum on munitions designed to defeat drones.
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