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Author: Subject: Unmanned Aircraft thread, part 2
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[*] posted on 25-10-2017 at 07:48 PM


Turkey to start testing satcom control of Anka-S UAV

Kerry Herschelman - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

24 October 2017

Turkey’s domestically developed Anka-S unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is scheduled to begin satellite communications (satcom) control tests as the last step before the completion of acceptance testing.

Unlike the two Anka-A and single Anka-B prototypes already built by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the Anka-S will be fitted with a Turksat 4B satcom system to extend its control beyond line of sight. This will give it a range of thousands of kilometres and increasing the strategic capabilities of the Turkish armed forces.

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[*] posted on 26-10-2017 at 07:53 PM


QinetiQ inducts Firejet target to CATS service

Richard Scott - IHS Jane's International Defence Review

25 October 2017


Two MQM-178 Firejet targets were launched on 7 October as part of a multitarget presentation for Exercise ‘Formidable Shield’. Source: QinetiQ

QinetiQ has introduced the Kratos Defense and Security Solutions’ MQM-178 Firejet aerial target into the Combined Aerial Target Service (CATS) provided to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).

A first Firejet target sortie was flown by QinetiQ at the end of September. Two MQM-178 targets were subsequently flown from the MoD Hebrides Range as part of a multitarget presentation for Exercise ‘Formidable Shield 2017’.

Under CATS, which began in April 2008, QinetiQ has a 20-year contract with the MoD to deliver aerial targets for weapon operator training and weapon system test and evaluation. The target service is delivered from the United Kingdom and overseas, and includes ground-based air-defence training, aerial target services for the Royal Navy, and an air-to-air service for the Royal Air Force.

The CATS service was originally delivered using four different aerial target systems comprising (in order of complexity): the Leonardo Mirach 100/S high-performance subsonic target system; the Meggitt Voodoo intermediate target system; the Meggitt Banshee basic target; and the Meggitt Helicopter Pop-Up portable static target.

Introduction of the MQM-178 represents a partial recapitalisation of the higher end of the CATS inventory. Pitched as a general-purpose target for air defence weapon system testing, the Firejet is pneumatically launched from a rail launcher, and so eliminates the operations costs associated with the use of rocket-assisted take off.

For ‘Formidable Shield 2017’ – a US Navy 6th Fleet exercise intended to improve allied interoperability in a live-fire integrated air and missile defence (IAMD) environment using NATO command-and-control structures – QinetiQ flew both Mirach and Firejet targets together from the MoD Hebrides range for the first time. This ‘salvo’ presentation was performed on 7 October as part of a no-notice launch of surrogate anti-ship cruise missiles in the IAMD exercise scenario.

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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 05:15 PM


Vanilla UAV completes record-breaking five-day flight

26 October, 2017 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Stephen Trimble Washington DC



A Virginia-based start-up has demonstrated that a sub-500kg unmanned air vehicle (UAV) can fly more than five days without refueling with a conventional diesel motor.

Vanilla Aircraft’s VA001 landed at NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on 23 October after flying 121h and 24min — or five days — carrying a small payload, the company announced on 26 October.

The aircraft uses a deceptively simple configuration with a top-mounted, 11m (36ft)-diameter wing and a diesel engine, yet is theoretically capable of non-stop, 10-day endurance. The VA001 completed its most recent test with three days of of fuel on board.

“As exciting as this milestone is, the flight itself was quite boring. The plane did what it was designed to do and landed ready to go right back into the air again,” says Vanilla chief engineer Neil Boertlein.

The five-day excursion is the latest achievement by the relatively young UAV company. Vanilla celebrated a 21h flight by the VA001 in April 2016 and announced a record-breaking, 56h endurance flight last January. The latter was planned to be a five-day mission, but severe icing conditions forced VA001 to land early.

Vanilla Aircraft has now completed 10 test flights of the VA001, with funding support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research.

The company now plans to launch production of the aircraft in the “coming months”, targeting commercial and military buyers.

The next series of demonstration flights will focus on carrying classified and unclassified surveillance and communications payloads, according to Vanilla.

“We have begun to fully demonstrate the viability of this ultra-long endurance aircraft system and are anxious to test new payloads and realize capabilities heretofore unimagined,” says Vanilla chief executive Tim Heely.
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[*] posted on 31-10-2017 at 10:25 PM


China’s AT200 cargo UAV to supply military installations in South China Sea

Richard D Fisher Jr - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

30 October 2017

China is planning to use its new AT200 cargo unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to carry out deliveries to the country’s military bases in the South China Sea, according to the Institute of Engineering Thermophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


China is planning to use its new AT200 cargo UAV to carry out deliveries to the country's military bases in the South China Sea. (Institute of Engineering Thermophysics)

“Because of its strong performance, the UAV can not only carry out military transport missions… [it] will [also] play an important role in securing military supplies for islands and islets in the South China Sea,” said the institute in a 27 October statement.

With a maximum take-off weight of around 3.4 tonnes and a payload of 1.5 tonnes, the AT200 has been described as China’s heaviest cargo UAV. Based on a Pacific Aerospace Limited P-750 XSTOL light utility turboprop, the UAV was jointly developed by the Institute of Engineering Thermophysics and SF Express Group. It conducted its maiden flight on 26 October in China’s northwestern Shaanxi Province.

The UAV, which can fly for up to eight hours, has a cruise speed of 313 km/h, a flight range of 2,183 km and a service ceiling of around 6,100 m, according to the institute. The AT200, which is powered by a 750 hp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34 turboprop, reportedly only requires a 200 m long runway to conduct take-offs and landings.

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[*] posted on 3-11-2017 at 10:29 PM


Under-fire DJI introduces new security countermeasures

3rd November 2017 - 09:11 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Hong Kong

DJI, the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial UAS, has been in the headlines over recent months regarding bans of its products by Western militaries. Rather than ISR usage, however, such UAS are typically used to gather imagery for public-relations purposes.

The US military initiated a ban in May, one that is still in existence. US Army staff were told to ‘cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media and secure equipment for follow-on direction’.

Later, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) triggered a fortnight-long suspension of ‘all commercial off-the-shelf unmanned aerial systems’ on 9 August. Citing ‘cyber vulnerabilities’, it conducted a formal risk assessment of products such as DJI’s Phantom.

The ADF operates around 40 DJI UAS, some of which Shephard observed gathering imagery during July’s Exercise Talisman Sabre.

The end result was ‘revised operating procedures’ from the ADF and permission to resume flight operations on 21 August.
Kevin On, associate director of communications at DJI, told Shephard ‘we are happy to hear that the department will continue to use our products with confidence’.

Shenzhen-based DJI revealed in August that it was developing a new offline mode to allay fears. 

‘In order to provide enhanced data privacy assurances for sensitive government operations and enterprise customers, DJI recently announced a new local data mode that stops internet traffic to and from its flight control app,' On explained.

‘This new feature adds an additional layer of security for operators of flights involving critical infrastructure, governmental projects or other sensitive missions.’

On continued: ‘We don’t know how militaries use our products and what they do with them, so we do not want to speculate about their concerns. We make civilian drones for peaceful purposes and our drones are not constructed to military specifications.’

While DJI would not speculate on potential loopholes, the security concerns presumably centre upon flight information and data being remotely sent to China and stored on Chinese servers.

The Chinese government and military is known to passively and actively suck up copious amounts of intelligence from overseas and there is genuine concern that using Chinese-built aircraft could represent a security risk.

As well as militaries, police forces are another increasingly common user of commercial UAS. The South China Morning Post published an article in September highlighting the utilisation of DJI aircraft by the Hong Kong Police. The police are trialling them for anti-crime and anti-terrorism operations.

Search and rescue is another potential use and Hong Kong’s Fire Services Department has invested HK$200,000 ($25,600) on three DJI aircraft, including one with thermal imaging. 

On said: ‘In addition to the HK example, there are various use cases around the globe where law enforcement agencies are taking advantage of our aerial technology to monitor traffic, to catch criminals and for investigation purposes.

‘While we do not customise specifications for individual law enforcement agencies, other operators/third party may find other means to do so themselves to serve their mission objective.’

Nevertheless, models such as the Inspire and Matrice offer sensors and cameras (the Zenmuse XT thermal-imaging camera fitted on the Inspire 2, for example) suitable for out-of-the-box use by law enforcement.

On also noted: ‘DJI makes civilian drones for personal and professional use and our aerial platforms are not designed for law enforcement missions or constructed for military specifications. If law enforcement agencies choose to buy and use DJI products as the best way to accomplish their tasks, we have no way of knowing who they are or what they do with them.’

DJI has also introduced AeroScope, a tracking and identification system that uses the existing communications link to transmit information about a UAS (e.g. serial number, altitude, speed). The purpose is to better monitor airborne UAS that might be flying near airports or sensitive facilities.

Police or security agencies can access this information and use it to take appropriate action by using an AeroScope receiver.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China introduced a real-name registration policy in May for owners of UAS that weigh more than 250g. In April some 240 flights were disrupted at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport because of UAS flying in the vicinity.

Underscoring the security concerns about commercially available UAS, Pakistan’s military claimed on 27 October that it had shot down an Indian UAV in the disputed region of Kashmir. Photos of the crashed aircraft showed it to be a DJI Phantom.

However, Pakistan’s claims cannot be verified. The Indian military is known to only use domestically and Israeli-built UAVs.
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[*] posted on 4-11-2017 at 12:47 PM


NOMAD flight vehicle completes at-sea demonstration from LCS

Richard Scott - IHS Jane's International Defence Review

03 November 2017

Key Points
- NOMAD is a low-cost rotary-wing UAV forming part of ONR’s wider NEMESIS Innovative Naval Prototype
- Testing from USS Coronado demonstrated NOMAD’s upgraded launch and control capabilities, as well as a new recovery capability

The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has revealed details of new at-sea tests of its Netted Offboard Miniature Active Decoy (NOMAD) flight vehicle.


A NOMAD flight vehicle launches from the flight deck of USS Coronado (LCS 4). (US Navy)

Performed from the Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) in late August, testing demonstrated NOMAD’s upgraded launch and control capabilities, as well as a new recovery capability.

Forming part of the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR’s) wider NEMESIS (Netted Emulation of Multi-Element Signatures against Integrated Sensors) Innovative Naval Prototype (INP), NOMAD is a low-cost rotary-wing mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by NRL’s Vehicle Research Section under ONR funding.

Tube-launched for compact storage and rapid deployment, the NOMAD vehicle deploys its flip-out rotor system post-launch. NOMAD is capable of flying either as a single platform or in teams of multiple decoys to provide unmanned, persistent electronic warfare (EW) capabilities.

While designed-to-cost to allow for expendable operations, the NOMAD vehicle now has a recovery feature that allows operators to retrieve and reuse vehicles multiple times in support of development, testing, training, and potentially future operational missions. “NOMAD is a low-cost rotary-wing vehicle in which researchers can test remote control, autonomous flight control, station keeping, and safe co-ordinated flight supporting any number of possible future payloads,” said co-principal investigator Steve Tayman, senior aerospace engineer with NRL’s Vehicle Research Section. “The unique form factor provides compact, lightweight storage in an integrated launch tube, and allows for storage in a ready-to-use condition for quick reaction deployment.”

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[*] posted on 4-11-2017 at 01:43 PM


Drone wars: Turkey ups homegrown options

By: Burak Ege Bekdil   8 hours ago

ANKARA, Turkey — The growing asymmetrical threats on both sides of Turkey’s border with Syria and Iraq have compelled the country’s military, procurement and industry officials to step up efforts to boost new drone programs, even as allies continue to hold back on support.

Perhaps one of the most telling signs of progress is completion of the development phase of a program to build the country’s first drone engine.

Officials with Turkey’s national engine maker, Tusas Engine Industries say the PD170 engine has successfully gone through initial tests, meeting all performance criteria. Nearly five years in the making, TEI has been working on the PD170 since December 2012 when it signed a development contract with Turkey’s procurement authority, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, or SSM. The 2.1-liter turbo-diesel PD170 can produce 170 horsepower at 20,000 feet, and 130 horsepower at 30,000 feet. It can generate power at a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet.

The PD170 was designed for the Anka, Turkey’s first indigenous medium-altitude, long-endurance drone.

TEI officials said the first PD170 would soon be delivered to Turkish Aerospace Industries. The engine’s “maturity tests” are ongoing, and TEI hopes to win certification for the engine in 2018.

The ‘brave man’ and the ‘falcon’

Meanwhile, government-owned defense technologies company STM says it started a mass production program for a series of new drones with high-tech capabilities. These drones will be used by the Turkish military for anti-terrorism operations in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast where fighting between the government and Kurdish insurgency has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984.

SSM’s chief, Undersecretary Ismail Demir, said now under mass production are what officials dub “kamikaze drones.” The first deliveries to the Turkish military would begin later this year.

The “autonomous kamikaze drones” have a strike-and-hit capability. They are equipped with artificial intelligence algorithms for monitoring.

One of the drones is the Alpagu, or “brave man” in ancient Turkic languages. The Alpagu can be manually or autonomously operated, has fixed wings and can be launched from a lancer. It can be made ready for launch within 45 seconds.

The Togan, translated to “falcon” in ancient Turkish, was developed for monitoring purposes and uses AI algorithms. STM officials say the Togan features fairly high-optical zooming capabilities and high-flight performance.

The Turkish military will operate the Togan alongside the Alpagu and the Kargu, another kamikaze drone.

Homeland security and industry response

Turkey’s military and procurement officials have increasingly relied on various drone systems, most notably to boost the country’s asymmetrical fight against Kurdish insurgents and hostile Islamic groups fighting in the Syrian civil war. A two-year cease-fire with the Kurdish insurgents ended in July 2015, and thousands have died since in a renewed cycle of violence.

“There is increasing appetite from the end user [the military] for drone systems and subsystems of all possible types,” an STM official said. “Not just our company, but the whole industry is working on various programs.”

The local industry is thriving to cope with the demand. In March, Kale-Baykar, a privately owned Turkish venture, delivered a batch of six armed drones to the Turkish military. The Bayraktar TB2 drone would be stationed in Elazig close to the Kurdish insurgency zones. Turkey tested the Bayraktar last year. The drone successfully hit a target at the Konya fire test field in central Anatolia from a distance of 8 kilometers. The Bayraktar uses the MAM-L and MAM-C, both miniature smart munitions developed and produced by Roketsan.

Turkey’s local industry is also developing the BSI-101 — a system for signals intelligence — for the Bayraktar to put an end to Turkey’s dependence on U.S.-made sigint systems for drones. The Bayraktar can fly at a maximum altitude of 24,000 feet. Its communications range is 150 kilometers. The aircraft can carry up to 55 kilograms of payload.

Further enhancing capabilities, Meteksan Savunma, a privately owned Turkish defense company, said it successfully developed the country’s first indigenous automatic takeoff and landing, or ATOL, system for drones. The company said the system (OKIS in its Turkish acronym) aims to replace imported ATOL systems currently used in Turkish-made drones.

At the end of June, SSM released a request for information for a new program for the purchase of a drone system able to take aerial photography. SSM said the competition would only be open to local producers. That same month, SSM released another RFI for the acquisition of a ship-based vertical takeoff and landing drone system.
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[*] posted on 12-11-2017 at 02:53 PM


China’s UAVs Proliferate in Middle East

Nov 11, 2017


CASC’s CH-4, pictured in development, has been noted in the colors of Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Chinese gains could make it difficult for the U.S. to break back into Middle East UAV market.

Reluctance on the part of the U.S. to deliver armed unmanned air systems (UAS) to some of its key allies in the Middle East has resulted in a significant win for China.

Chinese UAS manufacturers have been rewarded handsomely with major contracts from several Middle East and Central Asian governments.

And China’s successes in those geographic areas have prompted it to explore other markets further afield.

In April, Avic demonstrated a model of its Wing Loong II, an MQ-9 Reaper-size air system at an exhibition in Mexico—right in the U.S.’s backyard. In June, it debuted at the Paris Air Show, displayed with an array of Chinese-produced weaponry.

It is hard to determine the actual number of Chinese-made armed UAVs now in service with countries in the Middle East, but the platforms are operational with the air forces of Iraq, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and reports suggest they have found their way into Egypt and Jordan as well.

Some of these countries have also used them in combat. Saudi Arabia has employed the systems during the air campaign over Yemen, while Iraq has flown them in its ongoing campaign against the Islamic State group.

The UAE has gone further and deployed several to Libya’s Marj District to support the Libyan National Army against Islamic fighters there.

All these nations had requested to purchase armed versions of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, but were denied by the Obama administration due to concerns that selling into the region would break the international Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) rules, which attempt to prevent proliferation of technologies that enable the creation of delivery systems for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The UAE was granted permission to purchase unarmed exportable versions of the Predator, known as the Predator XP.

Beijing’s success in the region revolves around two almost identical air systems, both virtual copies of the MQ-1 Predator.

These are the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) CH-4, known as Rainbow, and the Chengdu or Avic Wing Loong I, designated GJ-1 in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force service. One analysis puts the price of a CH-4 system at one-fifth that of an MQ-1.

In October, it emerged that the Trump administration had begun exploring the loosening of the MTCR and other arms protocols in order to facilitate the export of U.S.-manufactured UAS, but China’s stranglehold could be difficult to break.

In March, it was announced that CASC could open a factory to build as many as 300 CH-4 systems for the Saudi armed forces over the coming years.
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[*] posted on 15-11-2017 at 08:47 PM


China’s Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology unveils TYW-1 strike-capable UAV

Richard D Fisher Jr - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

14 November 2017


China’s Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology unveiled its TYW-1 strike-capable reconnaissance UAV (seen here) on 13 November. Source: Via YOUUAV.com

China’s Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology unveiled on 13 November its TYW-1 strike-capable reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at Beihang’s new factory in the eastern Chinese city of Taizhou.

The 9.85 m-long and 2.5 m-high platform is based on the BZK-005 multirole medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV that is believed to be in service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The TYW-1, which has a wingspan of 18 m, features the same pusher-engine, twin-boom, outward-canted stabiliser design of the BZK-005. However, it is reported to have a maximum take-off weight of 1,500 kg compared with the 1,250 kg of the BZK-005.

The recently unveiled UAV can carry a 370 kg payload, features four underwing pylons, has a ceiling of 7.5 km, an endurance of 40 hours, and can reach a top speed of 200 km/h, according to Chinese media reports.

The platform is also equipped with an electro-optical system that can reportedly read a licence plate 50 km away from an altitude of 5,000 m. It also features both line-of-sight and satellite navigation and control systems.

Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System Technology is an offshoot of the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA), which developed the BZK-005 together with the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group.

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[*] posted on 16-11-2017 at 08:06 PM


Elbit Systems grows Hermes family with new tactical system

Huw Williams - IHS Jane's International Defence Review

15 November 2017


Hermes 45 draws on technology developed for the wider Hermes family. Source: Elbit Systems

Elbit Systems has developed a small tactical-level unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that is designed to offer extended endurance.

The Hermes 45 draws on technology from the wider Hermes family of UAS, and Jane’s understands that it has a maximum operating endurance of in excess of 24 hours – more akin to that of a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) system.

The air vehicle has a blended wing design with a combustion engine driving a pusher propeller. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 65 kg, including a payload capacity of up to 15 kg, and can simultaneously operate with up to three payloads.

Hermes 45 is primarily intended as an ISR asset, payloads earmarked for the UAS include electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors, maritime radar, and electronic and signals intelligence systems, among others.

The aircraft utilises a short rail launcher that can be installed on naval vessels and integrated on vehicles; it is recovered by an automated spot landing system that does not require a landing strip or other infrastructure. The exact details of the landing profile have not been revealed, although an examination of the vehicle’s design would suggest this utilises a parachute, the aircraft’s ability to deploy from naval vessels also points to an at-sea recovery capability – Elbit Systems has already developed this for its small Skylark C UAS. It is claimed that the air vehicle can be relaunched within 20 minutes of recovery.

Hermes 45 has an operational ceiling of 15,000 ft and can be controlled out to a range of 250 km; it can also utilise a satellite communications system. The system is operated by a two-person crew.

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[*] posted on 21-11-2017 at 12:00 PM


China unveils two armed A-Hawk VTOL UAV models

Richard D Fisher Jr - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

20 November 2017

The state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) unveiled two models of its A-Hawk series of strike-capable, reconnaissance vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at the 12-16 November Dubai Airshow 2017.

The multi-rotor A-Hawk I and A-Hawk II UAVs were marketed at the exhibition as being capable of carrying out military surveillance, cargo transport, and attack missions.


AVIC displayed a quarter-scale model of its A-Hawk I (also known as Cloud-1) VTOL UAV at the 12-16 November Dubai Airshow 2017 (Via Sina.com)

On display was a quarter-scale model of the A-Hawk I (also known as Cloud-1) equipped with what appeared to be two ordnance launchers. Powered by eight rotor engines, the platform has a maximum take-off weight of 175 kg, an endurance of 30 minutes, can carry a payload of 65 kg, and is able to reach a speed of 60 km/h and an altitude of 3 km.

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[*] posted on 21-11-2017 at 04:34 PM


The Week In Technology, Nov. 20-26, 2017

Nov 20, 2017

Graham Warwick | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Aerotain Skye Cleared To Fly Over Crowds 

The safest place for a drone might be inside a bubble. The FAA has granted a waiver to Columbus, Ohio-based marketing group CivitasNow to operate a drone inside a blimp over crowds. Technically the vehicle, an Aerotain Skye, is a “tethered aerostat” or a blimp-on-a-rope, less of an aircraft and more a camera-toting buoy floating in the air. 

The Skye typically takes the form of an orb, something as playful as a soccer ball, as bland as a corporate logo, or as menacing as a giant flying eyeball. It does not have to be spherical; Aerotain’s website shows a model shaped like a goofy version of the Starship Enterprise. 

What makes the UAV work is a body that is mostly helium, with small propellers mounted on the outside so an operator can direct the bulbous balloon. In keeping with the safety of the design, the propellers are encased, so no errant fingers get sliced. 


Aerotain’s helium-filled Skye drone is designed to minimize the risk of harm while flying over crowds. Credit: Aerotain

“We wanted it safe enough to fly above people, and for people to even touch it while it’s flying,” says Daniel Meier, CEO and co-founder of Aerotain, “And we could achieve that, which is why the FAA granted us this waiver.”   

Deflated, the Skye weighs only 14 lb. With that weight spread over the roughly 220 ft.³ of volume, should the orb come into contact with a person, it will likely have the impact of a giant beach ball. Should the 7.5-ft.-dia. sphere spring a leak, it will gently descend, rather than hurtle to the ground. 


Eagan Airship’s Plimp combines a winged quadcopter drone airframe with a helium-filled envelope for safety. Credit: Plimp

The Skye began six years ago as a collaboration between ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Disney Research Zurich. The goal was a drone that people could interact with safely, and so the designers merged quadcopter drone parts with a giant, soft, safe and gentle buoyant orb. 

Aerotain is not the only drone company looking to helium envelopes for safer flight over crowds. Eagan Airships’ Plimp drone has a small winged airframe below a large, blimplike envelope, creating a heavier-than-air machine that gently glides to the ground, rather than crashing should anything go wrong. 

Even with the strangeness of its body, Meier says the Skye flies like a normal quadcopter, though there are a few factors to consider. The Skye is limited to a top speed of about 10 mph, and cannot operate in winds over 6 mph. For indoor events or sheltered stadiums, this is not a problem, but it can limit where the drone can go outside. It is also another reason for the tether, which can keep a hold on the Skye should a strong gust try to pull it away. 

Beyond looking like a spectacle itself, the Skye can also record one. Cameras can be mounted on the drone, so that giant floating eyeball at the ballpark may in fact be watching people.

Meier says the drone can record video or send it by a downlink, so that it can show up on a Jumbotron. For now, the company operates its drones as a service, using Aerotain staff to craft and pilot the vehicles for events. 

—Kelsey Atherton in Albuquerque, New Mexico

JAXA Tests Cut Airframe Noise 

A second set of airframe noise-reduction flight tests has been completed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) under its Fquroh research program. The flights were conducted in September-October at Noto Satoyama Airport, where the initial flights took place in 2016.


Overflights by JAXA’s Hisho testbed show noise reductions from the flap and main gear treatments. Credit: JAXA

The flights by JAXA Hisho’s research aircraft, a Cessna Citation Sovereign, tested modifications to the business jet’s trailing-edge flaps and main landing gear to reduce noise on the approach to landing. The noise treatments tested were further optimized from those flown in 2016.

Preliminary results show a noise reduction of 3 dB for the flaps and 4 dB for the main landing gear at the point where the aircraft flew over the noise measurement point on the ground, says JAXA, adding that the technologies tested could reduce overall noise by 4 dB for a new-design aircraft.

The test aircraft was modified with noise-reducing fairings on the main gear, while the edges of the three flap sections on each wing were treated to minimize the cavities and vortex generators were added at the hinges.

Over 17 flights, flyover noise measurements were made a total of 222 times, using a microphone array on the ground that allowed airframe noise sources to be mapped precisely, at different frequency bands.

The research team is now preparing for flight tests on the Mitsubishi Regional Jet in the final phase of the project. JAXA plans to transfer the technologies to Mitsubishi Aircraft, Kawasaki Aerospace and landing gear-maker Sumitomo Precision Products. 

SureFly eVTOL To Fly Manned for CSE Show

If an autonomous vehicle carries a passenger, is it no longer a drone? This is the zen koan of drone-inspired transport, for everything from the Ehang 184 single-passenger octocopter to the quadcopter-inspired dress that carried Lady Gaga around a warehouse in 2013. 

Workhorse Group’s SureFly debuted at the Paris Air Show in June and the U.S. truck-maker says the eight-rotor, two-seat air vehicle will make its first manned flight on Jan. 8 in Las Vegas, just before the start of CES, the major consumer electronics expo. 


SureFly, pictured next to the Workhorse hybrid-electric light truck, is aimed at logistics and urban transport markets. Credit: Workhorse Group

The SureFly is a hybrid-electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) vehicle. Like the Ehang 184, the SureFly features a cabin for passengers set in the middle of four arms, each carrying a coaxial pair of rotors. Unlike the Ehang, the SureFly’s arms are safely above the vehicle. 

The SureFly has a 200-hp gasoline engine driving an electrical generator to power the rotors and features dual backup lithium battery packs. The final design will include a ballistic recovery parachute to ensure no hard landings. 

Workhorse is aiming the SureFly at autonomous flight in the future, but early versions will be piloted. The expected price is around $200,000, and the company is accepting preorders in advance of its first manned flight. 

—Kelsey Atherton in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Vahana Readied for Oregon Unmanned Flights

Vahana, the autonomous electric aircraft under development by Airbus’ Silicon Valley outpost A³, has arrived at Pendleton, Oregon, where it is being prepared for a first flight before year-end.

The eVTOL aircraft, with its tandem tilting wings, has been reassembled in a new hangar at Eastern Oregon Regional Airport after being shipped by road from A³’s facility in Santa Clara, California.


Still missing its eight electric motors, Vahana is pictured before shipment to Pendleton for flight preparation. Credit: Airbus A3

The high-voltage electrical system and eight 45-kW electric motors with their three-blade variable-pitch propellers are being installed. The single-seat Vahana will be flown unmanned over the Pendleton UAS Range in eastern Oregon, part of the FAA-designated Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex.

Weighing 1,600 lb., the 20-ft.-span full-scale demonstrator has two removable lithium-polymer battery packs with a pack-level energy density of just under 200 Wh/kg. The autonomous vehicle has a radar and camera system for sense-and-avoid and a lidar sensor for landing zone assessment.

Three months of flight tests are planned to culminate in a “capstone” flight in which the vehicle takes off vertically, transitions to forward flight, automatically detects and avoids an airborne obstacle during the cruise, converts back to vertical flight and, as it is descending, automatically detects and avoids an object on the ground.

As a next step, A³ plans to follow the Vahana with the demonstrator for a certified production vehicle by 2020. This will likely have two seats, for use as an air taxi, but will also be suitable for use as an autonomous cargo aircraft.

UMS Skeldar Launches Smaller VTOL UAV

Swedish/Swiss Joint venture UMS Skeldar has introduced a new VTOL unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed to fit within European rules that require only national approval to operate vehicles weighing 150 kg (330 lb.) or less.

Weighing less than 150 kg, the R-350 is smaller than the venture’s Skeldar V-200 VTOL UAS, which weighs in at 235 kg, including a 40-kg payload. But where the V-200 is powered by a Hirth two-stroke engine burning jet fuel, the R-350 is powered by a small turbine engine.


R-350 Weighing less than 150 kg, the R-350 fits within European rules allowing national approval of operations. Credit: UMS Skeldar

With a rotor diameter of 3.5 m (11.5 ft.) versus the V-200’s 4.6 m, the R-350 has an endurance exceeding 2 hr. carrying a 30-kg payload. The larger V-200’s endurance exceeds 5 hr. The R-350 can carry multiple payloads simultaneously, such as elector-optical/infrared and lidar sensors.

UMS Skeldar is a joint venture of Saab and Switzerland’s UMS Aero Group. Already in service with military and commercial operators in Europe and elsewhere, the V-200 is in a similar size class as the widely used Camcopter S-100 produced by Austria’s Schiebel.

Leonardo has introduced the AWHero VTOL UAS, which is close in size and performance to the Camcopter, with a 205-kg gross weight and 6-hr. endurance carrying a 35-kg payload. Like the V-200, the AWHero is principally aimed at the maritime UAS market successfully penetrated by Schiebel. 
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[*] posted on 24-11-2017 at 08:50 PM


UMS Skeldar enhances R-350, undertakes trials

Huw Williams - IHS Jane's International Defence Review

23 November 2017


Improvements to the R-350 include to the powerplant. Source: UMS Skeldar

UMS Skeldar has undertaken a week-long flight demonstration programme of its newly configured R-350 rotary-wing unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with Germany’s Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information technology, and In-Service Support (BAAINBw).

The demonstration saw the R-350 used as an unmanned mission avionics test (UMAT) platform and equipped with two specialised payloads from UMS Skeldar’s partner, ESG. The systems comprised a light detection and ranging (LIDAR) unit and a gyro-stabilised electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) camera.

The air vehicle was flown with a maximum take-off weight of 150 kg, of which 27 kg was accounted for by the payloads.

The flights were conducted at the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Aircraft and Aeronautical Equipment in Manching, and demonstrated the R-350’s ability to evaluate sensors and algorithms and undertake automatic landing site recognition for manned helicopters beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

The R-350 is a tactical level platform and the most significant changes brought in the latest iteration are focused on improvements to the powerplant. According to the company, the modifications enable the complete propulsion unit to be swapped out in less than 45 minutes, and the jet turbine element alone in under 15 minutes.

A company spokesperson told Jane’s that the propulsion system is an in-house design and that it is currently being updated from version 8 to 9, with the jet turbine component considered to be “within industrialisation”. The spokesperson noted that the engine control unit (ECU) software and control algorithms have been completely overhauled, along with a number of other subsystems, including the fuel pump. The engine can run on Jet A1 and JP8 heavy fuels, making it suitable for maritime operations.

(295 of 605 words)
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