An autonomous Advanced Composite Riverine Craft (ACRC) delivers Unmanned Ground Vehicles to the beach to conduct threat detection and neutralization operations during the ANTX 2017 exercise. (ICI Services photo)

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20/11/2017

China Pushes UAV “Total Solutions” at Dubai Airshow

DUBAI --- On the just-closed Dubai Airshow, the third largest of its kind in the world after Paris and Moscow, China's home-developed drones and Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Total Solution demonstration drew attentions, with visitors experiencing in the indoor display hall interactions of the drone, the ground station and the data links. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) on display include Wing Loong, Cloud Shadow and A-Hawk. The Wing Loong series are long-endurance UAVs, with capabilities to conduct all-time, all-weather, wide-area comprehensive detection and continuous tracking and surveillance on time-sensitive targets, said Ji Xiaoguang, the head of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) Chengdu aircraft design and research institute, adding that the series includes highly mature products, which has gone through massive testing and assessing. The high-altitude and high-speed Cloud Shadow series UAVs are adapted for wide-area electronic reconnaissance and strike tasks, Zhang Jianlong, general manager of Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group of AVIC said. With a flying altitude of 13,000 meters, the Cloud Shadow covers over 10,000 square km with photoelectric detection equipment, and ground radars in an area of 400 square km. Equipped with advanced electronic surveillance devices, it is ready to precisely attack targets within 60 km. The A-Hawk series, with its multi-rotor platform, features a large load capacity that is easy to carry, according to AVIC's official website. It is adapted for an individual soldier to conduct local situation monitoring, as well as unmanned transportation under harsh battlefield conditions. Vice president of the state-owned AVIC Zhang Xinguo introduced the UAS Total Solution as reflecting capabilities of data transmission, flight and task controls, with a single station in control of several vehicles. He added that clients are provided with a complete solution, with many visitors attracted by the autonomous and intelligent system in the exhibition stand, which shows communication system signs, ground control station simulation, interactive flight scene, and a rendering of a background scene. Zhang also mentioned the Middle East region as a target region for usefulness of the solution. "Drones can be used in detection, surveillance and intelligence with the vast deserts and extreme climate in this region. Our drones can detect specific target and landscape, catering our consumers need." Drones are supporting, and gradually working in place of manned flying vehicles in long-distant flight and dangerous tasks, he added. Moreover, the whole set of the services produced to the consumers also includes training, after-sale support, and a full-lifespan service of the drone, Zhang said. -ends-
16/11/2017

New Engine Extends Fury UAV Endurance to 15 Hours

DUBAI --- Fury, the expeditionary, runway-independent unmanned air vehicle (UAV) now has engine updates that will further increase its flight endurance, Lockheed Martin announced today. With the integration of the 1803 engine into the platform, engineering tests performed by the company indicate that Fury will be able to stay in the air for 15 continuous hours, making it one of the highest endurance unmanned systems in its class. “We’ve engineered Fury to bring the flight endurance and other advantages of much larger unmanned aircraft into a compact, effective, category three system,” said Kevin Westfall, director of Unmanned Systems at Lockheed Martin. “Lockheed Martin has invested heavily to mature the incredible capabilities Fury can deliver, and we’re excited to bring this system to customers around the world.” Fury is a long-endurance, expeditionary aircraft that leverages its advanced fuel propulsion system, power generation and low signature design to deliver capabilities to Class 3 UAV that were previously only available in larger and more complex systems. It has no landing gear, making it the most advanced truly runway-independent UAV in its class on the market today. The complete Fury launch and recovery element can be set up on unimproved ground, in an area as small as 200 feet square. Leveraging open architecture design, Fury is both adaptable and reconfigurable to serve a multitude of military missions – including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and cyber-electronic warfare. Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 97,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. -ends-
15/11/2017

Canada Updates JUSTAS Unmanned Aircraft Project

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) project was established to procure an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The project is currently in the options analysis phase. This fall, the project’s name was changed to Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) project. This change is consistent with recent changes in the lexicon and classification systems of our allies, and is a more accurate reflection of how the systems are operated. As outlined in Strong, Secure, Engaged, released in June 2017, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) have become integral to modern military operations. Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) such as the RCAF’s CU-170 Heron and other unmanned aircraft have been deployed on Canadian military operations in the past and offer several advantages including the ability to remain airborne significantly longer than current strategic surveillance platforms. The use of remotely piloted aircraft also reduces the risk to CAF personnel operating the aircraft from a distance and within a lower threat environment, and will also aid in identifying potential threats to CAF personnel in area of operations. Remotely piloted aircraft will be equipped with a variety of payloads and sensors to detect items of interest in all-weather operations including into Canada’s Arctic, and will be able to assist in a range of missions from persistent surveillance to supporting search and rescue, to combat operations. The RPAS project anticipates that remotely piloted aircraft can in fact be employed in all eight core missions outlined in Strong, Secure, Engaged, both domestically and overseas. Directly, the RPAS project supports initiatives 91 and 92, which state the government will also “invest in a range of remotely piloted systems” and “conduct research and development of remotely piloted land, sea and aerial capabilities.” The RPAS project Although the name has changed, the RPAS project’s aim remains to provide an integrated persistent long-range, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capability. The project will operate as part of a system-of-systems network and will be capable of providing near-real time information to tactical, operational and strategic commanders to support both domestic and deployed operations, and when required, provide a precision strike capability to support operations. The project will complement existing capabilities within the CAF, such as the CP-140 Aurora long range patrol aircraft. The RPAS project is not a platform replacement. The RPAS project is currently in the options analysis phase Options analysis allows departmental senior management to make informed decision on the best way to implement a project, attempting to achieve the capability identified in a manner that is acceptable to the Government. During this phase, options are formulated, cost and benefits assessed, and a business case for the options developed. The definition phase of a project marks the transition from determining what should be done to deal with a lack of a capability, to determining how the preferred option will be implemented. A project is planned during this phase. Activities include carrying out a detailed review of the project requirements and risk assessment as well as costing and planning for the implementation phase and a preferred procurement strategy selected. Projects in the implementation phase have received the approvals required to enter into contracts and commit to the expending funds and resources for the project to proceed to completion. Initial operational capability, when the ability to employ the capability is first attained, is planned for the 2025-2026 fiscal year, based on direction contained in Strong, Secure, Engaged. Project costs Costs are being evaluated as part of the options analysis phase and will be further refined during the definition phase. The estimated cost will depend on the approved procurement strategy, infrastructure and the type of platform(s) chosen. Costs will include associated sensors, ground elements and infrastructure. Number of aircraft No decision has been made concerning the number of aircraft. The number of RPASs will be sufficient to meet three simultaneous lines of tasking and may be affected by the procurement strategy, infrastructure, and specific platform(s) chosen. Economic benefits The Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy, including the Value Proposition will apply to this procurement, requiring that the prime contractor on this project invest 100 percent of the contract value back into Canada’s economy. The Value Proposition is the economic commitment that bidders make to Canada up front at bid time, which is a scored and weighted factor in winner selection. This becomes a contractual commitment for the winning bidder. Value Proposition requirements are tailored to each procurement to allow the government to steer investments and take advantage of the unique economic opportunities offered by each project. RPAS uses Domestically, the RPAS will provide a strengthened ability for surveillance of the maritime and northern approaches to Canada and support to search and rescue operations. The RPAS will allow the CAF to assist other government departments in support of special security events, such as international summits, aid to the civil authorities – such as response to forest fires or floods – and Assistance to Law Enforcement Agencies operations. Overseas, the RPAS will be capable of detecting, recognizing, identifying, and tracking targets of interest in complex environments and integrate with the systems required to process and fuse the collected information into actionable intelligence. RPAS precision strike capability Strong, Secure, Engaged indicates that the RPAS will have a precision strike capability – it will be capable of being armed. The ability to target and execute precision strikes ensures that if a threat is detected that it can also be addressed at that time. As with any use of weapons systems, the CAF will operate in accordance with domestic and international laws. Operations will be conducted in strict accordance with all the controls, procedures, and rules of engagement that govern the use of force or any other weapon. All of these systems would be remotely piloted by CAF personnel who would be directly involved in the decision-making process to execute a strike. However, the RPA(s) will be armed only if necessary for the assigned task(s). Operating environments The RPAS will be able to operate worldwide, in all weather conditions, at any time of day with the range and endurance to cover all of Canada’s airspace from any suitable operating location. The system will also need to be able to operate in low-to-medium threat environments, within joint environments with other government departments, and as part of a coalition with our allies. The Royal Canadian Air Force ensures the sovereignty of Canada through its ability to respond rapidly to any threat. The investment in the RPAS project, as outlined in Strong, Secure, Engaged, enhances the RCAF’s capability to continue to provide agile, integrated air power with the necessary reach to fulfill any requirement asked by the Government of Canada. -ends-
15/11/2017

UK and US Armies Trial High-Tech Battlefield Equipment

A world-first in the US has seen British soldiers controlling 4x4s with Xbox-style controllers and a UK driverless truck leading American trucks in an unmanned convoy. Continuing the MOD’s investment in cutting-edge technology, the UK has been working with the US military on autonomous resupply, providing a glimpse into the future of getting much-needed supplies to the front line. In a week-long exercise in Michigan, the UK MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and organisations from the US Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) have been testing an all-terrain 4x4 vehicle controlled by an Xbox-style controller, driverless trucks in convoy and Hoverbike drones for delivering supplies in the most dangerous “last mile” up to the battlefield. Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin said: “One hundred years ago we pioneered tank warfare with our US allies, and today we remain right at the forefront of military technology together. This exercise has proven the success of our ongoing investment in science and technology as we see concepts becoming reality. This particular project is spearheading solutions to the notoriously dangerous operation of supplying our frontline on the battlefield. Delivering crucial food, fuel and ammo remotely will help save soldiers’ lives.” This is a new way of coordinating and delivering vital supplies to front-line operations, aiming to reduce risk to those troops and provide on-demand delivery of food, fuel or ammunition to the front line. The Coalition Assured Autonomous Resupply (CAAR) demonstration, the first in a three-year project to bring concepts to life, marked initial demonstration of unmanned tactical resupply technologies in the three areas. The line-haul convoy is the first time ever that a UK-US collaboration has joined together in this format, with a British Army MAN SV 6-tonne truck as a ‘leader’ vehicle in the convoy, followed by two US Light Medium Tactical Vehicles (LMTV) trucks. Travelling at speeds of up to 25mph, the vehicles used integrated robotics to make decisions about speed, steering and other driving functions. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) demonstrated included the British-developed Malloy Aeronautics Hoverbike. An advanced prototype quadcopter drone, it can deliver more than 100kg of supplies, using a simple tablet controller. Unveiled for the first time, this version of the Hoverbike could also potentially be used for humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions. The 4x4 vehicle tested was a tele-operated Polaris MRZR, fitted with advanced sensors, cameras and GPS, and operated by a joint UK-US trials team. Using an adapted Xbox game console controller, Corporal Mortimer and Lance Corporal Thorne remotely ‘drove’ the 4x4 around the area to simulate an off-road task. Pete Stockel, innovation autonomy challenge lead for Dstl, said: “Following the communique signature between the two nations in 2014, we have been working closely with our American counterparts to develop effective demonstrations and assessments of important new autonomy technologies, which could one day reduce the burden on and risk to the military user, while improving logistics efficiencies and interoperability. “This is the first time that we have created a UK-US coalition semi-autonomous leader-follower convoy to bring to life concepts which will provide solutions to de-risk the Last Mile of logistics support to the front line. “We are enormously excited to be working with our US colleagues on this project, delivering on the commitment announced at the Farnborough Airshow in 2016. It has been an exciting challenge to drive this forward at pace. This could be a step-change in how operational risk might be managed, costs could be reduced and – ultimately – lives can be saved, as a result of harnessing this rapidly-evolving technology.” Under the Autonomous Last Mile resupply challenge, Dstl and the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) are bringing together a wide range of military and industry partners to join commercial-off the-shelf (COTS) suppliers with novel ideas and tech start-ups in producing a futuristic demonstration of how UK and US forces’ tactical resupply might one day operate. Colonel John McCrann, from Army Headquarters, said: “The British Army is keen to work with its US counterparts through Dstl to identify where autonomous technologies can benefit UK military capability.” Jeffrey Ratowski, TARDEC’s project leader for the Coalition Assured Autonomous Resupply (CAAR) effort, said: “We’re using US and UK Soldiers to control multiple robotic assets including the convoy, the autonomous last mile- ground piece, and there’s also an autonomous last mile- air piece.” The MOD spends 1.2% of its £36 billion defence budget on science and technology. In September Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin announced the 25 winners of the Last Mile Challenge, up-and-coming tech startups and entrepreneurs hoping to bring innovative solutions to resupply the frontline. -ends-
15/11/2017

Chinese Unmanned Aircraft Stand Out at Dubai Airshow

Two Chinese-developed series of unmanned planes have become highlights of the ongoing Dubai Airshow. The series of planes are called "Wing Loong" and "Yunying". During the airshow, the full-scale models of the planes are on display to the public for the first time. To let visitors learn more about the advanced technologies used in the operation systems of the unmanned planes, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has put up a simulative operation system in the exhibition center. Visitors can give orders to the virtual unmanned planes, and in response, the planes will take actions accordingly. For example, the simulative unmanned planes can strike the targets precisely after receiving orders. Two Chinese-developed series of unmanned planes attracted a lot of attention at the ongoing Dubai Airshow; the "Wing Loong" and "Yunying" full-scale models of the planes were displayed for the first time. (CCTV video) "We have made an overall plan to develop an operation system of unmanned planes. The technologies we used in the planes' aircraft platforms, impetus supply systems, data links, task devices and assault weapons, are all of our proprietary intellectual property rights. We integrate the advanced technologies in one system to meet users' demands. The unmanned planes showed the development and improvement of our country in relevant technologies," said Wang Yingxun, a Chinese expert in unmanned planes. The unmanned planes also attracted many foreign visitors, especially those devoted to developing technologies of unmanned aerial vehicles. "We are looking forward to this type of products. We are searching in the market and of course, it is one of options," said Faisal, from Pakistani military. In addition to the unmanned planes, the AVIC also exhibited a number of Chinese military planes such as "Fighter China No.1" and "Z-19E", and civil planes, such as "MA700". -ends-
14/11/2017

Leonardo Delivers ISR Drone to Middle East Launch Customer

DUBAI --- Leonardo, at the Dubai Air Show 2017 exhibition, has announced the completion of the first delivery of its Falco EVO Remotely-Piloted Air System (RPAS) to its launch customer in the Middle East. The first of the newly-built aircraft was completed in August with the acceptance test carried out at Leonardo’s RPAS design and construction facility in Ronchi dei Legionary, Italy. It was delivered in September. The Falco EVO, the longest-endurance model from Leonardo’s Falco RPAS family, is a surveillance and intelligence-gathering platform that can fly for more than 20 hours while carrying a payload of up to 100 kg. The Falco EVO has already been selected by two customers in the Middle East and Gulf region, echoing the success of the original Falco RPAS which has been chosen by five international customers. Existing Falco aircraft can be converted to the EVO model via the installation of a transformation kit which adds longer wings and tail booms. More than 50 Falco family RPAS are currently in operation around the world, with some customers choosing to operate them independently while others, such as the United Nations for its humanitarian MONUSCO mission, opt for Leonardo to own and operate the Falco aircraft and provide surveillance data as a managed service. This latter model is seen as a growth area for Leonardo, which is why the company recently partnered with certified air operator Heli Protection Europe (HPE) with a view to expanding the ‘drones as a service’ offering into the civilian domain. Here, Leonardo plans to offer surveillance and reconnaissance services on behalf of customers such as police and emergency responders. Leonardo is the only company in Europe able to offer a complete end-to-end RPAS system including its sensors. This capability spans from initial design to operation, including sensors, mission management system and ground control station. The Falco is also the only European RPAS in its class to have been exported and operated by an international customer. In addition to the Falco family, Leonardo is a leader in the unmanned rotorcraft domain, offering the ‘Solo’ and ‘Hero’ platforms. As part of the systems’ ongoing development, the UK Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Technology Office recently placed a two year, jointly funded research and development contract with Leonardo with a key aim being to identify, develop and exploit the opportunities offered by such emerging technologies. -ends-
14/11/2017

Autonomy in Weapon Systems: State of Play and Options

As the First Meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) begins at the United Nations in Geneva this week, SIPRI launches a new report, Mapping the Development of Autonomy in Weapon Systems, which aims to shed light on the current developments in autonomy in weapon systems and thereby provide important insights for informed international discussions. Autonomy in weapon systems is already a reality, but the human control element is still necessary The governance of LAWS has emerged in recent years as a major area of concern for the arms control community. The question of whether LAWS should be regulated is the focus of an intergovernmental expert discussion within the framework of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The report, which details the findings of a one-year mapping study undertaken by SIPRI, reveals that ‘autonomy’ has many definitions and interpretations, and is already a reality of weapon systems development. Autonomy is currently used to support various capabilities in weapon systems, including mobility, targeting and intelligence. A key area examined by the study is the technology that enables weapon systems to acquire targets autonomously. This has existed since the 1970s, but current targeting technology still has limited perceptual and decision-making intelligence. The report explains that performance rapidly declines as operating environments become more cluttered and weather conditions deteriorate. ‘Autonomous systems need to be more adaptive to operate safely and reliably in complex conflict environments,’ says Dr Vincent Boulanin, SIPRI’s expert on emerging military technologies and the main author of the report. ‘Given the limitations of current technology, humans have to play the crucial role of receiver of tactical information and arbiter of targeting decisions on the battlefield,’ adds Maaike Verbruggen, a PhD candidate at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and co-author of the report. Autonomy changes, but does not replace, the role of humans on the battlefield Limiting the debate on LAWS to the case of fully autonomous systems is somewhat problematic as it does not reflect the reality of how the military sees the future of autonomy in weapon systems. It also makes it more difficult to tackle the spectrum of challenges raised by the advance of autonomy in the short term. ‘Autonomy is bound to transform the way humans interact with weapons, but will never completely replace them’, argues Boulanin. ‘The focus of the UN discussion should therefore be on the impact of autonomy on human control.’ According to Boulanin, ‘The core questions of the ethical and legal debate should be: how is autonomy changing the way humans make decisions and act in warfare, and what should be done to ensure that they maintain adequate or meaningful control over the weapons they use?’ Broadening understanding of technological advances could pave the way for more constructive discussions Intergovernmental experts discussing any potential regulation, or the parameters, of human control in weapon systems must also fully understand how the technology is currently evolving and how it may, and may not, be used by the military. The report highlights that it is therefore critical to demystify technological developments and clearly identify what belongs to the realm of science fiction. ‘Machine learning is a technological development that raises many concerns and also causes confusion in the discussion on the future of autonomy in weapon systems,’ says Boulanin. ‘Further involving the engineer community, including civilian roboticists, in the discussions on LAWS could help policy and law makers to obtain a better understanding of new and relevant technologies, and the actual ethical and legal challenges they pose.’ About the report The report, Mapping the Development of Autonomy in Weapon Systems, presents the key findings and recommendations from a one-year mapping study on the development of autonomy in weapon systems. It was produced through the support of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland. The report aims to help diplomats and members of civil society interested in the issue of lethal autonomous weapons to improve their understanding of the technological foundations of autonomy, and obtain a sense of the speed and trajectory of progress of autonomy in weapon systems. It also provides concrete examples that could be used to start delineating the points at which the advance of autonomy in weapons may raise technical, legal, operational and ethical concerns. Click here for the report (147 PDF pages) on the SIPRI website. -ends-
13/11/2017

First Operational MQ-4C Triton UAV Delivered to US Navy

POINT. MUGU, Calif. --- Northrop Grumman Corp. delivered the first operational MQ-4C Triton aircraft to the U.S. Navy facility at Point Mugu, providing the service with unparalleled endurance and 360-degree coverage that allows for a vastly expanded maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission. “This aircraft represents the beginning of a new era for Naval aviation,” said Doug Shaffer, vice president, Triton programs, Northrop Grumman. “Triton is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned system that delivers a critical autonomous capability to the Navy, expanding the service’s maritime patrol mission. We are proud to be a part of this historic program.” Northrop Grumman is expected to deliver the second operational Triton aircraft later this year. Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu is home to the maintenance detachment of Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP)19. Maintainers will prepare the first two operational Triton aircraft for its employment to Guam, scheduled next year. VUP-19, the Navy’s first unmanned patrol squadron, is based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. Pilots and operators will fly the unmanned Triton aircraft from NAS Jacksonville. The Navy has announced plans to deploy Triton to NAS Mayport, Florida, NAS Sigonella, Italy and the Middle East in the future. Flying upwards of 55,000 feet for up to 24 hours at a time, Triton provides unprecedented, persistent 360-degree maritime domain awareness through vessel detection, classification and tracking. Triton aircraft can combine to fly an orbit, with one plane on station and another en route, providing the Navy with near-constant coverage of huge swaths of ocean and littorals. The program of record ultimately calls for Northrop Grumman to deliver 68 aircraft to the Navy. Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. -ends-
10/11/2017

Worldwide Military UAV Market Worth $80 Billion

WASHINGTON, DC --- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will be the most dynamic growth sector of the world aerospace industry this decade, more than tripling in the next decade, report Teal analysts in their latest market analysis. Worldwide military adoption of UAVs and soaring demand for the next generation of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) are driving the market’s rapid growth. Teal Group's 2017 market study estimates that UAV production will increase from current worldwide UAV production of $4.2 billion annually in 2017 to $10.3 billion in 2026, totaling $80.5 billion in the next ten years. Military UAV research spending would add another $26 billion over the decade. “The UAV market continues to soar,” said Philip Finnegan, Teal Group's director of corporate analysis and an author of the study. “Increasing trade in costly high-altitude, long-endurance systems, demand for armed UAVs, the development of the next generation of unmanned combat systems, and potential new applications such as missile defense continue to drive the market.” "The Teal Group study predicts that the US will account for 57% of total military worldwide RDT&E spending on UAV technology over the next decade, and about 31% of the military procurement," said Teal Group senior analyst Steve Zaloga, another author of the study. The larger, higher value systems procured by the United States help drive the relative strength of the US market over the decade, but other areas such as Asia-Pacific are growing more rapidly. The 13th edition of the sector study, World Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems, Market Profile and Forecast 2017, examines the worldwide requirements for UAVs, including UAV payloads and companies, and provides ten-year forecasts by country, region, and classes of UAVs. Teal Group analysts already cover the UAV market in their World Missiles and UAV Briefing, which examines the UAV market on a program-by-program basis. Sensor payloads are also treated in detail in Teal's Military Electronics Briefing. The sector study examines the UAV market from a complementary perspective, namely national requirements, and includes both a comprehensive analysis of UAV system payloads and key UAV manufacturers. UAV Payloads The 2017 study provides forecasts for a wide range of UAV payloads, including Electro-Optic/Infrared Sensors (EO/IR), Synthetic Aperture Radars (SARs), SIGINT and EW Systems, and C4I Systems, forecast to more than double in overall value from $3.6 billion in FY17 to $7.5 billion in FY26. Steady growth will occur in the “default sensor” EO/IR market, following up and-down funding in recent years as several legacy endurance UAV sensor programs ended. Teal forecasts a near-term rise from $1.17 billion in FY17 to $2.0 billion in FY22, led by funding for adding U-2 sensors to Global Hawk, by HD upgrade programs for Reapers and Gray Eagles, and by new production for classified UCAVs and mini/nano-UAVs. New in the study is a more comprehensive treatment of classified and future follow-on sensor programs. According to Dr. David L. Rockwell, Teal’s lead electronics analyst, “it is vitally important to forecast these programs, as they make up more and more of the available market, even though they are in none of the documents or online sources.” He notes that, “Speculative ‘available’ forecasts – totaling more than $30 billion for payloads through FY26 – are intended to give early warning of programs that are not yet in DoD budgets or under public discussion or announced by international customers – to allow Teal’s clients to plan ahead before the RFPs are out.” Dr. Rockwell concludes that, “This $30 billion will make up more than half the UAV sensor market; we’ve put this together through my 23 years at Teal Group, and it’s just not available online.” Along with EO/IR, comprehensive coverage of the sea change in the radio frequency (RF) market also is included, with UAV radars forecast to grow from $825 million in FY17 to $2.1 billion in FY26, and SIGINT and Electronic Attack (EA) markets to grow from $750 million to $1.7 billion (with a 27.7% EA CAGR from FY17 to FY22 to begin major UCAV systems). The emphasis on – and funding for – different sensor types is already changing as geopolitics evolve back to A2/AD threats and near-peer opponents in Asia and Eastern Europe, according to Teal’s study. UAV Companies The study also includes a UAV Manufacturers Market Overview that reflects the worldwide UAV market “again continuing as one of the prime areas of growth for defense and aerospace companies,” said Finnegan. “They continue to build up their position by organic growth, acquisitions and teaming.” The study reflects the rapid growth of interest in the UAV business by covering almost 60 U.S., European, Asia-Pacific, and Israeli companies, and reveals the fundamental reshaping of the industrial environment as UAV technology proliferates worldwide. As prime contractors and small companies compete in the dynamic UAV market, they are adopting widely different strategies. "Our overview tracks the widely varying approaches being taken by these key companies, ranging from outright acquisitions to teaming arrangements and internal development of new UAV systems," said Finnegan. This year’s military study has a companion volume on civil government, commercial and consumer UAVs. The rapid growth in those markets required a new study analyzing the varying dynamics of those markets. The 2017 edition includes UAV market forecast spreadsheets, permitting data manipulation and offering a powerful strategic planning mechanism. -ends-
10/11/2017

Ukrainian UAV Makes Maiden Flight

The prototype of the new tactical UAV Horlytsya, developed by UOP State Enterprise Antonov, performed its first flight. "Today, the first flight tests of the operational-tactical UAV Horlytsya, produced by the Antonov state enterprise, have already taken place. This UAV is capable of staying in flight for 7 hours, operating at a 5 thousand meters altitude, its range of flight is 1000+ kilometers", mentioned Oleksandr Turchynov. Horlytsya technical characteristics allow performing various functions, in particular reconnaissance, fire coordination, as well as engaging enemy target by using air-to-ground missiles. According to Oleksandr Turchynov, such UAVs are the future: "As soon as we optimize semistrategic level, the next step is strategic level UAV development ". Horlytsya uniqueness is that it is the first domestic platform, capable to perform combat tasks. Currently, such devices are produced by a number of countries in the world, primarily the United States, Israel, Italy, France, China, Turkey. Development of similar complexes, as a rule, required about five years and multimillion investments, while Horlytsya was developed at the expense of SE Antonov. The UAV was designed to reinforce Ukrainian Ground Forces in conducting day and night reconnaissance under all weather conditions and transmitting the received data to the command post. Compared with other vehicles, Horlytsya can conduct air reconnaissance longer – not less than 7 hours; its tactical range is 120 km, the practical range is 1,050 km. Horlytsya is capable of conducting optoelectronic reconnaissance in the visible and infrared ranges. It automatically recognizes, captures and follows moving targets, aiming ammunition. The given UAV allows establish operational communications and support combat units that perform tasks in the tactical depth of the enemy. The UAV is part of a promising tactical unmanned aviation complex. It will consist of four drones of this type, a ground control station and facilities for launching and landing aircraft, transportation and repair. -ends-

Analysis and Background

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28/07/2017

Autonomous Military Drones: No Longer Science Fiction

The possibility of life-or-death decisions someday being taken by machines not under the direct control of humans needs to be taken seriously. Over the last few years we have seen a rapid development in the field of drone technology, with an ever-increasing degree of autonomy. While no approved autonomous drone systems are operational, as far as we know, the technology is being tested and developed. Some see the new opportunities and potential benefits of using autonomous drones, others consider the development and use of such technology as inherently immoral. Influential people like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak have already urged a ban on warfare using autonomous weapons or artificial intelligence. So, where do we stand, and what are the main legal and ethical issues? Towards autonomous drones As yet, there is no agreed or legal definition of the term "autonomous drones". Industry uses the “autonomy” label extensively, as it gives an impression of very modern and advanced technology. However, several nations have a more stringent definition of what should be called autonomous drones, for example, the United Kingdom describes them as “…capable of understanding higher level intent and direction” (UK MoD, The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 2011). Generally, most military and aviation authorities call unmanned aerial vehicles "Remotely Piloted Aircraft" (RPAs) to stress that they fly under the direct control of human operators. Most people would probably understand the concept of “autonomous drones” as something sophisticated, for instance, drones that can act based on their own choice of options (what is commonly defined as "system initiative" and "full autonomy" in military terminology). Such drones are programmed with a large number of alternative responses to the different challenges they may meet in performing their mission. This is not science fiction – the technology is largely developed though, to our knowledge, no approved autonomous drone systems are yet operational. The limiting factor is not the technology but rather the political will to develop or admit to having such politically sensitive technology, which would allow lethal machines to operate without being under the direct control of humans. One of the greatest challenges for the development and approval of aircraft with such technology is that it is extremely difficult to develop satisfactory validation systems, which would ensure that the technology is safe and acts like humans would. In practice, such sophisticated drones would involve programming for an incredible number of combinations of alternative courses of action, making it impossible to verify and test them to the level we are used to for manned aircraft. There are also those who think of autonomy meaning ”artificial intelligence” – systems that learn and even self-develop possible courses of action to new challenges. We have no knowledge that we are close to a breakthrough on such technology, but many fear that we actually might be. Autonomous drones – meaning advanced drones programmed with algorithms for countless human-defined courses of action to meet emerging challenges – are already being tested by a number of civilian universities and military research institutions. We see testing of “swarms of drones” (drones which follow and take tasks from other drones) that, of course, are entirely dependent on autonomous processing. We also see testing of autonomous drones that operate with manned aircraft, all from what the US Air Force calls (unmanned) "Loyal Wingman" aircraft, to the already well tested Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system of Poseidon P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned TRITON aircraft. We also see the further development of unmanned systems to be dispatched from manned aircraft, to work independently or in extension of the “mother aircraft”, for instance, the recently tested PERDIX nano drones, of which 100 drones were dropped from a F-18 “mother aircraft”. Such drones would necessarily operate with a high degree of autonomy. These many developments and aspirations are well described in, for example, the US planning document USAF RPA Vector - Vision and Enabling Concepts 2013-2038 published in 2014, and other documentation and even videos of such research are widely available. The prospects of autonomous technology, be it flying drones, underwater vehicles or other lethal weapon systems, clearly bring new opportunities for military forces. In the case of flying aircraft, we have learned that there are long lead times in educating pilots and operators. One of the greatest changes that will come from the development of autonomous drones is that military forces in the (near) future could develop great fighting power in much shorter timeframes than previously. It is important to note – and many have – that creating the infrastructure and educating ground crew for operating drones is no cheaper or easier than it is to educate aircrew. However, once in place, the drone crew and operation centres would be able to operate large numbers of drones. Similarly, legacy manned aircraft would be at the centre of a local combat or intelligence system extended with drones serving, for example, in supportive roles for jamming, as weapons-delivery platforms or as a system of multi-sensor platforms. Moving beyond the past limitations of one pilot flying one aircraft or one crew flying one drone to a situation where one crew could control large amounts of drones would quite simply be groundbreaking. These perspectives for new types of high-tech weapon systems – and the fears they raise – are the background for the research we conducted on autonomous drones and weapon systems. It is almost impossible to assess when these technologies will become widespread – this will depend on the situation and the need of states. However, the technologies are becoming available and are maturing and we would argue that the difficult discussions on legal and ethical challenges should be dealt with sooner, rather than later. The legal perspectives General rules apply but it is not that simple Autonomous drones, if and when they are used during armed conflict, would be subject to the general principles and rules of the Law of Armed Conflict. In this respect, autonomous drones are not to be distinguished from any other weapons, weapon systems or weapon platforms. As with any “means of warfare”, autonomous drones must only be directed at lawful targets (military objectives and combatants) and attacks must not be expected to cause excessive collateral damage. (end of excerpt) Click here for the full story, on the NATO website. -ends-
04/05/2017

Russia Works to Restore Positions In Drone Development

Unmanned aviation is a dynamically developing industry of modern aircraft construction. Technical and technological achievements boosted the design of new systems. At present drones are engaged by many armies of the world and used in armed conflicts. Our country used to have considerable achievements in the sphere and now works to restore its positions, expert Denis Fedutinov writes in the official blog of the United Aircraft Corporation. MOSCOW --- The former Soviet Union enjoyed a major experience in drone development also in the tactical class. Until recently the Russian army had old Strizh and Reis systems developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau yet in the 1970s and the Stroi-P complex with remote controlled Pchela craft designed by Kulon Research Institute and the Yakovlev bureau in late 1980s. Unfortunately, the economic plight of the transition period in the 1990s stalled the work. The initial pace was lost as a result, the designs got obsolete, the existing technical and scientific experience in the sphere was lost and the country began to considerably lag behind leading foreign producers. The interest in drones revived in Russia in mid-2000s mostly due to the effort of private companies which initiated some steps to create mostly small-class craft. The Russian defense ministry kept displaying little interest in drones for some years. The guideline was however supported by law enforcement agencies - the interior ministry, the Federal Security Service (including the Border Service) and the emergencies ministry. In early and mid-2000s the orders of the defense ministry for the design of domestic drones were very modest. The latest system in the arsenal of the Russian military was tactical Stroi-P with remote controlled Pchela craft designed at the end of the Soviet epoch. In the 1990s the system became morally outdated. In early 2000s the Kulon Institute of the Vega Concern upgraded the complex to Stroi-PD version. The Rybinsk-based Luch Design Bureau of the Vega designed another tactical Tipchak craft. As in the case of Stroi-PD the funds were appropriated mostly for R&D. The Vega Concern and the defense ministry signed a contract for the delivery of one such complex a year which was an absolutely symbolic action. Problems caused by the absence of modern reconnaissance and surveillance drones were exposed by the 2008 situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The defense ministry tried to engage available drones but none of them was capable of fulfilling the mission. The Russian troops were actually blinded. In contrast the Georgian military efficiently engaged the drones bought from the Israeli Elbit Systems Company. As for Stroi-PD, it took off with the use of powder boosters which exposed the launch site. The flight itself could not be stealthy because of the noisy two-stroke engine. The Russian military also complained about the noisy Tipchak tactical drone designed by Vega. It was created in the Luch Design Bureau in Rybinsk. Former Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said the drone was engaged in the operation in South Ossetia and performed poorly. Besides noise problems, the quality of reconnaissance data was low because of the line TV camera which failed to produce images corresponding to modern requirements. Besides, there were also problems with friend-or-foe system. The developments around the conflict with Georgia became the threshold which made the Russian defense ministry urgently take measures to rectify the stagnant situation with modern drones for the national armed forces. Initially foreign designs were purchased, as well as available systems of domestic companies. R&D to create perspective craft was launched. The first step was the purchase of drones from Israel which is the world leader in the sphere and then an additional batch of drones was assembled in Russia. Plans to buy Israeli drones were first voiced in November 2008 by General Chief-of-Staff Nikolai Makarov. As a result, the defense ministry acquired short-range Bird-Eye 400 and medium-range Searcher Mk II of the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). According to the contract signed in 2011, the drones were assembled in Russia by the UZGA Works in Yekaterinburg under Zastava and Forpost brands correspondingly. Major modernization and localization of tactical Forpost production is being considered. The drone is to get some domestically-produced systems, including a secured communications line and state system of identification, as well as GLONASS-based navigational system, radio-technical reconnaissance and data transmission devices, digital aerial survey system and lateral visibility radar. (ends)
12/06/2015

Fly-offs for French Tactical UAV Competition Begin This Month

PARIS --- France’s defense procurement agency will begin the in-flight evaluation of competitors for the future SDT tactical UAV system later this month, allowing selection of the winner by year-end after a second-round review in the fall. The evaluations, each lasting one or two weeks, will take place at Istres air base in south-eastern France. The SDT evaluations will oppose two French companies offering foreign-designed airframes with subsystems and electronics tailored to French needs: Sagem, which is offering its Patroller, and Thales, which is offering the Watchkeeper developed by its British subsidiary, Thales UK, for the British Army. Watchkeeper will be evaluated in late June, and Patroller will follow in early July. Airbus Defence and Space, which had not been invited to bid for the Système de Drone Tactique (SDT) program, submitted an unsolicited offer earlier this year based on the Textron Systems Shadow M2 unmanned system, which it has dubbed Artemis. The company is waiting for feedback from DGA and the French army on its unsolicited offer before making a full-fledged bid. Uncertainties remain as to SDT funding The French army has not specified a number of aircraft or systems, but has defined an operational requirement, leaving industry to come up with proposals on how best to meet it. However, as it now operates 22 Sperwer tactical drones, it is likely that it will ultimately require about 30 Système de Drone Tactique (SDT) aircraft divided into four deployable systems. “The 2014-2019 Military Program Law calls for two complete and deployable SDT systems, comprising 14 operational and training aircraft, to be delivered by 2019,” a DGA spokesman told Defense-Aerospace.com June 10. He added that the competition was formally launched during the fall of 2014, and that it is proceeding as planned, but declined further comment because the competition is ongoing. There are some doubts, given the French air force’s large-scale procurement of Reaper MALE UAVs, the planned development of the Eurodrone 2020 MALE, and the availability of smaller tactical UAVs, whether the French army actually needs to spend so much money to buy large UAVs of its own. “The current worry is that the program might not be completed, as the requirements are very ambitious and demanding, and there is no officially-defined budget,” says a senior official of one of the competing companies. In fact, the SDT program was barely mentioned during May 26 parliamentary hearings on the update to the 2014-2019 defense program law. Gen. Jean-Pierre Bosser, the army chief of staff, simply said that “we expect our current interim SDTs to be replaced by an SDT system,” before moving on to other issues. All three competitors stress the high French content of their offers, the high proportion of production work that will take place in France, and the fact that their solution offers sovereign, autonomous capabilities entirely free of foreign interference, for both operation and support. Sagem, with its Sperwer, is the incumbent; its latest contract was awarded in December 2013, and funded five additional Sperwer systems for delivery in 2015. In addition to those already in service with the 61ème Régiment d’Artillerie, these UAVs will maintain French army capabilities until a replacement enters service by the end of the decade. The three competitors offer three totally different approaches to the French requirement. All three offer broadly similar sensors, but differ notably in their air vehicles, which range from Sagem’s optionally-piloted and self-deployable motor glider; Thales’ updated and “Frenchified” Hermes UAV to the much smaller, and optionally catapult-launched, Shadow M2 planned by Airbus DS. In fact, the difference in size is such that the 250 kg payload of Sagem’s Patroller is heavier than an entire Shadow air vehicle, while at 450 kg empty mass Watchkeeper is less than half as heavy as Patroller. In other words, Watchkeeper is twice as heavy as Artemis, and in turn Patroller is about twice as heavy as Watchkeeper, although they all carry similar types of payloads. Given France’s insistence on maintaining its independent deployment capability, the level of technical and operational sovereignty, and the control of the supply chain, is likely to weigh heavily during the final selection. Watchkeeper Goes French Sagem’s main competitor for the French SDT contract is Thales UK’s Watchkeeper , which was developed from the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 design and adapted to UK requirements. The British Army has ordered 13 Watchkeeper systems, for a total of 54 air vehicles, about 30 of which have been delivered to date. Watchkeeper was deployed by the British Army in Afghanistan. Several aircraft arrived at Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, in August 2014, and flew its first combat mission on Sept. 16, Lt Col Craig Palmer, the point man for UAVs at British Army HQ, told reporters here June 2. However, it will not attain Full Operational Capability until 2017, he said. Watchkeeper has flown about 500 hours with the British Army, Palmer said, of which 140 hours in Afghanistan and 360 hours from its base in Boscombe Down, in England. British troops prepare a Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle for a mission at Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. (UK MoD photo) “Watchkeeper was designed from the outset to generate information superiority [and] its world-class I-Master radar is what is actually adding value. It’s a game-changer” compared to the Hermes, which has no radar, Palmer said. The Watchkeeper variant Thales has offered to France is equipped with mostly French subsystems, including a secure datalink, the same Automatic Take-Off and Landing System (ATOLS) that Thales developed for Watchkeeper, and Thales’ own electro-optical sensors. For the time being, the French army has been offered a Selex ES surface search radar, but alternate radars can also be fitted. For the French proposal, the joint Elbit/Thales datalink fitted to UK Watchkeeper has been replaced by a Thales-developed TMA/TMG 6000 dual-mode (command and ISR data) datalink, and Thales Executive Vice-President for Telecommunications Marc Darmon says the company has all the Intellectual Property (IP) rights to this product, which is obviously significant for national sovereignty issues. “We bought the source codes and we largely re-wrote them, so we have total control of the system,” says another Thales executive, dismissing concerns that foreign companies are involved in the French Watchkeeper proposal. At present, 80% of Watchkeeper components are British-made, with another 15% coming from France and 5% from the rest of the world, according to Pierrick Lerey, strategy and marketing director for Thales’ UAV and ISR business. The company has formed a French suppliers club (equipefrancewatchkeeper.com) to update Watchkeeper’s main systems, including a new-generation electro-optical payload; a new Communications and ESM payload; a new imagery chain for full HD video; interconnection with the French military C4ISR network, a new ground station and a remote video terminal. The goal, Lerey says, is to bring French content up to at least 35% for the French program, since the Watchkeeper airframe and the (new) ground stations will continue to be built in the UK. Sagem’s Optionally-Piloted Motor Glider While its competitors opted for specific, UAV-sized airframes, Sagem preferred to use a civil-certified airframe for its Patroller, which is almost as large as a MALE drone but offers the advantage of being derived from a German motor glider, the Stemme S-15. Frederic Mazzanti, Sagem Vice-President and head of its Optronics and Defense Division, notes that this means it can self-deploy using civil airspace, that it can be used for training in unsegregated airspace with a pilot on board, and that it does not need tractors or other ground equipment because it was designed to be autonomous on the ground. Patroller’s size also means it offers lots of space for fuel and sensors, and the commercial origin of its airframe means it was designed for simple, straightforward repairs with little tooling, another plus for austere operations. A soldier shows the large sensor ball of Sagem’s Patroller UAV, a large, optionally-piloted aircraft that offers much greater range and payload than its competitors (Sagem photo) Sagem’s offer comprises triplex-redundant avionics, a new fourth-generation Euroflir 41 sensor ball with a 43-cm diameter and fitted with full HD color TV, visible and thermal imaging, and laser rangefinder and designator. Several synthetic aperture radars can be fitted, depending on the customer’s preferences, and several have already been tested. Most importantly, says Mazzanti, Patroller has the capability to operate radar and EO sensors at the same time, and also to transmit their imagery at the same time. This, he notes, is a unique capability in this category, and can multiply an ISR aircraft’s effectiveness by tracking several targets with different sensors at the same time. Most Patroller subsystems and sensors are produced by Sagem itself (EO sensor ball, navigation, datalink) while the others are French-made. Sagem also owns all property rights to the airframe, so the fact that no foreign company is involved guarantees manufacturing and operational sovereignty. With its Sperwer drones, which were operated in Afghanistan by several of the nine countries that have bought it, Sagem gained precious operational experience. The French army’s 22 Sperwers attained an availability rate of 80-85% with support from Sagem. “Our availability in terms of aircraft numbers never fell short of requirements,” Mazzanti said, adding that as operators of the S-15 have logged over 1,000 flight hours per year, there is no reason for Patroller not to attain similar levels. Sagem employs over 100 people at its French plants to build Sperwer drones and its components, and the company also has assembled a cluster of SMEs to which it subcontracts some of the work. All in all, Sagem says that French content of Patroller will attain 85% by value, as only the radar and airframe would be built overseas. With a payload of 250 kg, and a mission endurance of 30 hours, Patroller is a much larger aircraft than its competitors, but Mazzanti dismisses criticism that it may be too large for its intended mission. “It is air-transportable, it fits into a standard 20-foot container, it can land with a 20-knot crosswind and it can pull 5Gs, so its size and robustness are real operational advantages.” Outsider Airbus Teams with Textron Thales and Sagem both “offered large air vehicles that are closer to MALE size, but looking at the French army requirement we thought that a smaller drone, capable of being operated from close to the front line, would be a better match,” an Airbus official said June 9. Instead of offering one of its own UAVs, the company preferred to team with Textron Systems to prepare a bid based on a tried-and-tested UAV that more closely matches the French army requirement, and which is small enough for use at brigade or division, instead of corps, level. LEGENDE: Airbus DS has offered to “Frenchify” Textron’s Shadow to develop its Artemis UAV, which is much smaller than the two SDT competitors and doesn’t need a runway, as it can be launched from a catapult. (US Army photo) Airbus has not yet formally filed a bid, and will only announce its Artemis partnership with Textron next week at the Paris Air Show. The company has so far only submitted an unsolicited proposal to DGA, and is waiting for feedback before deciding whether to invest in a formal and comprehensive proposal. Nonetheless, company officials expect a positive response, and are encouraged by the fact that a team of DGA and French army observers will fly to Yuma, Arizona during the summer for a demonstration of the Shadow M2, which will not fly at Istres. Smaller also means cheaper, and Airbus says its offer – based on Textron Unmanned Systems’ upgraded Shadow M2 – would carry much lower acquisition and operating costs, and thus allow more intensive operations for a given budget, while its small size also facilitates transport and deployment. Shadow is operated by the US Army and Marine Corps and several foreign militaries, and over 300 air vehicles have logged over 1 million flight hours, including in combat. A competitive advantage that Airbus points out is that Shadow’s long service career, and different users, are such that the latest versions benefit from a wealth of technical and operational lessons learned. For Artemis, Airbus would modify the Shadow M2 air vehicle as little as possible to limit costs, but would replace its subsystems or adapt them to French requirements. These would include Airbus’ own Lygarion datalink, a modified ground station, and French sensor packages (radar and either electro-optical or signals intelligence) that are capable of simultaneous operation. Airbus plans to purchase full rights to the Shadow airframe and ground station, and so would control the entire system, ensuring “fully autonomous operations, as well as maximum growth potential, for the French customer,” according to a briefing document. It also says that a “significant” share of production and support – about 60% -- would take place in France, supporting French industry and jobs. In reality, a large share of production would remain in the United States, so French workshare would largely be made up by training and support, in addition to some key subsystems. -ends-
12/03/2015

UAVs: France, Germany and Italy to Launch European MALE Program

PARIS --- Three European nations will sign an agreement at the Paris air show in June to jointly fund initial studies for a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said here March 11. France, Germany and Italy will follow up by awarding a study contract in December to an industry group formed by Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi. The initial contract is valued at a few dozen millions of euros. Ultimately, if the program progresses as planned, the nations plan to obtain an operational reconnaissance UAV by 2025. “Our effort in the field of surveillance drones and ISR will increase with, already this year, the launch of studies of the future European drone, with Germany and Italy, that France envisions for about 2025, ,” Le Drian said here during a March 11 press conference. An Italian defense official confirmed the agreement, which has not yet been made public in Italy, however adding “we will see whether it ultimately leads to a development program.” The three companies have been calling for such a government initiative for over two years, and in May 2013 took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement calling on their governments to “launch a European MALE program.…to support the capability needs of European armed forces while optimizing the difficult budgetary situation through pooling of research and development funding.” The companies have a double goal: to maintain the know-how and expertise of their military aircraft design offices, now that they have mostly completed work on current fighters, and to recover the UAV business that is now going to their US competitors – France and Italy operate General Atomics Predator or Reaper UAVs, like the UK, the Netherlands has just decided to buy some while Spain is also weighing buying some. “Originally, [our] idea was to prevent the procurement of Reaper drones by European governments,” but this didn’t work, Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said here during a separate March 11 press conference. “We’ve been working on this project for a long time, and we think we can develop a drone to replace the Reaper, which is an interim solution. We have asked our governments to state that an operational requirement exists, and we will be able to reply to that requirement.” In parallel, France is however continuing to boost its Reaper force, which is seeing intensive use in Africa, where it is supporting French and allied troops operating in Mali. France is due to receive a third Reaper aircraft in April, and will order a follow-on batch of three additional aircraft in August, according to a planning document released by Le Drian. “We are asking for a contract from the three governments covering initial studies,” Trappier said. “Initially, it’s a question of a few dozen million euros, although it will cost more once development is launched.” The three companies set out the details of their proposal in a second joint statement issued in June 2014, in which they proposed “a Definition Phase which has been prepared by joint development teams of Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi and which is backed by an industrial agreement on workshare and a cooperative agreement to start the MALE2020 program.” The broad lines of the industry proposal have been retained, although the initial operational capability has slipped to 2025. One of the trickier problems to be solved is the integration of the future MALE UAV into general air traffic, Trappier said. The inability to fly in unrestricted airspace is one of the reasons for which Germany canceled the EuroHawk program – a variant of Global Hawk fitted with a German sensor package – after spending several hundred million euros on its development. -ends-
23/02/2015

An Introduction to Autonomy in Weapon Systems

Source: Center for New American Security Ref: no reference Issued Feb 13, 2015 23 PDF pages In this working paper, 20YY Warfare Initiative Director Paul Scharre and Adjunct Senior Fellow Michael Horowitz discuss future military systems incorporating greater autonomy. The intent of the paper is to help clarify, as a prerequisite to examining legal, moral, ethical and policy issues, what an autonomous weapon is, how autonomy is already used, and what might be different about increased autonomy in the future. (PDF format) Full text
13/11/2014

UK: Challenges & Opportunities of Drone Security

Source: University of Birmingham Ref: No reference Issued Oct 22, 2014) 96 PDF pages Drone technology, both civil and military, under proper legal regulation, can continue to deliver 'significant benefits' for the UK's national security policy and economy in the coming decades. That is the conclusion of a new University of Birmingham Policy Commission Report which launches today. But the Government, and especially the Ministry of Defence (MoD), should do more to reach out to the public over what the Commission sees as the globally inevitable use of drones in armed conflict and in domestic surveillance. The Report finds that over the next 20 years, drones – or what the Commission and the RAF prefer to call Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) – will become an integral part of Britain's aerospace capability, providing both advanced surveillance and precision weapons delivery. They can support UK forces deployed overseas, as in Afghanistan, or help prevent mass atrocities, as with the British Government's decision to deploy the RAF Reaper fleet against the Islamic State (ISIS). This decision was announced after the Report was completed but is entirely consistent with its conclusions. The Report examines the distinctive and unavoidable choices for the United Kingdom over a crucial emerging technology and sets out the under-appreciated distinction between legally constrained British practice and the US Government's cross-border counter-terrorism strikes which dominate and distort UK public debate. The Commission considers various moral arguments and concludes that the current and emerging generation of RPA pose no greater ethical challenges than those already involved in decisions to use any other type of UK military asset. The Report shows clearly that the UK has operated its armed Reapers in Afghanistan according to the same exceptionally strict Rules of Engagement (no weapon should be discharged unless there is 'zero expectation of civilian casualties') that it applies to manned aircraft. Key findings There are three main obstacles affecting the UK Government's use of drones that must be overcome: gaining public understanding and acceptance of the legal and ethical soundness of the practice; allaying fears over the potential development of LAWS; and safeguarding British airspace and the privacy of British citizens if drones are to be increasingly used for domestic surveillance and security. (PDF format) Report’s download page
11/07/2014

UK, France to Launch FCAS Demo Phase

PARIS --- Four years after they first agreed to jointly develop an unmanned combat aircraft, France and Britain will finally launch the demonstration phase of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) on July 15 at the Farnborough air show, the French defense ministry announced July 10. The two countries’ defense ministers will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) authorizing a 24-month, €150 million definition phase of the FCAS program, known as FCAS-Demonstration Phase, the French defense ministry announced July 10. Contracts will be awarded to industry in the autumn, and the project will officially begin in January 2015. Participating companies are Dassault Aviation and BAE Systems for airframe and systems integration; Thales and Selex ES (UK) for sensors and electronics; and Snecma and Rolls-Royce for engine and power systems. “There is agreement on a two-year concept phase…[and]….a contract could be awarded shortly,” UK Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunne told reporters at the Eurosatory show here June 19, adding however that “data-sharing agreements have to be competed.” Physics and aerodynamics being what they are, it is not surprising that Dassault’s Neuron demonstrator (above) and BAE System’s Taranis demonstrator (below) should look the same at first glance. The FCAS will build on knowledge gained on both programs. (photos Dassault and BAE). BAE and Dassault have been working together for about 18 months to investigate the feasibility of joint development of FCAS, based on their separate but complementary experience in developing unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrators, either alone (BAE with its Taranis) or jointly – Dassault’s Neuron project also included Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, Sweden’s Saab as well as smaller Greek and Spanish firms. A major question mark concerns the work-sharing arrangements, as both companies are obviously keen to advance and maintain their technological know-how. This is complicated, again, by their previous work on Taranis and Neuron, which sometimes led them in different directions and which may be difficult to reconcile. “We have already shared some data, but we haven’t shown everything yet,” Benoît Dussaugey, Dassault Executive Vice-President, International, told Defense-Aerospace.com June 18, adding that full disclosure will not take place before contract award. However, having successfully managed Neuron on time and on schedule with an international team of partners, Dassault does not believe this aspect will be a show-stopper. "We are confident we will find an agreement with our partners on work-share, subject to sovereign decisions by governments," Dussaugey said. The program could be opened to additional foreign partners, he adds, on two conditions: "that everyone accepts and respects our common rules, and that the respective governments finance [their share] of the entire phase." Nonetheless, BAE’s surprise and high-profile unveiling of its Taranis UCAV demonstrator in January, which it had jealously kept under wraps until then, was clearly intended to show its credentials in the lead-up to the FCAS MoU. It is probable that, as in the previous phase, BAE will remain FCAS prime contractor, while France’s defense procurement agency, Direction Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), will act as program executive on behalf of both nations. Having successive definition and demonstration phases is considered essential for governments to define and harmonize their operational requirements, and for industry to weigh their technical feasibility and cost implications. For example, will in-flight refueling be required, and if yes using a receptacle or a boom? Where and how should radar antennas be integrated into the airframe? Will FCAS be designed to follow a pre-programmed flight path (which the French favor, as it is impervious to jamming, interception and loss of data-link), or on the contrary be remotely-piloted, as the Royal Air Force favors so as to keep a man permanently in the loop? Should the aircraft be totally silent in terms of radar, radio and IR emissions, or could it resort to jamming? Should it be single- or twin-engined? Once these basic questions are answered, processed and priced by industry, the logical follow-up would be a demonstration phase, during which the project would be further developed and prototypes or flight test aircraft built, but a decision would not be required before late 2017, which makes it very unlikely that a FCAS could fly before the end of the decade. -ends-
30/04/2014

USAF Vision & Plans for UAVs 2013-2038

Source: US Air Force Ref: no reference Issued April 04, 2014) 101 PDF pages Air Force leaders outlined what the next 25 years for remotely piloted aircraft will look like in the RPA Vector, published April 4. “The RPA Vector is the Air Force’s vision for the next 25 years for remotely-piloted aircraft,” said Col. Kenneth Callahan, the RPA capabilities division director. “It shows the current state of the program, the great advances of where we have been and the vision of where we are going.” The goal for the vector on the operational side is to continue the legacy Airmen created in the RPA field. The vector is also designed to expand upon leaps in technology and changes the Airmen have made through the early years of the program. “The Airmen have made it all about supporting the men and women on the ground,” Callahan said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them for their own advances in technology to expand the program, making it a top platform.” The document gives private corporations an outlook on the capabilities the Air Force wants to have in the future, ranging from creation of new RPAs to possibilities of automated refueling systems. “There is so much more that can be done with RPAs,” said Col. Sean Harrington, an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance command and control requirements chief. “Their roles (RPAs) within the Air Force are evolving. We have been able to modify RPAs as a plug-and-play capability while looking to expand those opportunities.” In recent years, RPAs not only supported the warfighter on the ground, they also played a vital role in humanitarian missions around the world. They provided real time imagery and video after the earthquake that led to a tsunami in Japan in 2011 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, according to Callahan. Then, most recently, during the California Rim Fire in August 2013, more than 160,000 acres of land were destroyed. Though this loss was significant, it was substantially decreased by the support of the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing, with support from an MQ-1 Predator, a remotely piloted aircraft. With this vector, technologies may be created to improve those capabilities while supporting different humanitarian efforts, allowing the Air Force to support natural disaster events more effectively and timely. The future of the Air Force’s RPA programs will be continuously evolving, to allow the Air Force to be the leader in Air, Space, and Cyberspace. “We already combine our air, space and cyber forces to maximize these enduring contributions, but the way we execute must continually evolve as we strive to increase our asymmetric advantage,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff. “Our Airmen's ability to rethink the battle while incorporating new technologies will improve the varied ways our Air Force accomplishes its missions.” (PDF format) Full text
07/03/2014

Airbus Plots Return to UAV Market

MADRID --- Airbus Defense and Space is preparing to return to the UAV market, three years after it was forced out by the reluctance of the French and German governments to financially support any of the unmanned aircraft projects which it had developed. “We are revisiting our strategy on unmanned aerial vehicles with a vision to leadership,” Antonio Rodríguez Barberán, Head of Military Aircraft sales at Airbus Defence and Space, told Defense-Aerospace.com. “We are planning to be there, even if it takes some years.” This is a major shift in company policy, as Airbus Group decided in 2011 to freeze its UAV activities after having invested over 500 million euros in several programs without having convinced its domestic customers that they were worth supporting. Corporate strategy, at the time, was to sit out until European governments decided which programs, and which companies, they would support. This approach was not very successful, however, as Airbus was frozen out of two major market segments: Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE), where France preferred buying Reaper unmanned aircraft from the United States, with Germany and the Netherlands to follow shortly, and the High Altitude Lone Endurance (HALE) segment, where its EuroHawk program was abruptly cancelled by the Germen government because of cost and regulatory failings. The company was left with only smaller UAVs, a segment where competition is rife and margins small. Airbus has now changed tack because “it’s time for a proper aircraft manufacturer to get involved, to certify UAVs to civilian standards – and I mean FAR 23 and FAR 25 – so they can be used in unsegregated airspace,” Rodriguez said. At present, UAVs can only be used in segregated airspace, under military air regulations, and so are severely limited in their operational usefulness. While it has no immediate plans to resume large-scale investments in the UAV sector, Airbus DS does not see financing as a major obstacle. “We know there is a market, and if there is a market there is money,” Rodriguez said. He adds that for Airbus this is a decade-long project, which will eventually bring it a leading role: “Airbus is not here to be a subcontractor,” he says, making clear that the company is not aiming for a subordinate role in ongoing European UAV programs. While waiting for the MALE market to mature, and for the dust to settle in the combat UAV (UCAV) segment, Airbus is finalizing development of its own tactical UAV, Atlante, which is significantly smaller than the MALE and HALE segments it previously pursued. Weighing about 550 kg, Atlante has been developed in Spain, and from the outset the goal has been to fly in segregated civilian airspace, i.e. over populated areas, and it is intended to be certified for that operational environment. “The key word here is ‘certification’,” Rodriguez says, adding that, of course, “it has to offer value for money.” Atlante first flew in February 2013, Light Transport Aircraft Sector Gliding Along While its UAV strategy matures, Airbus DS continues to improve its transport aircraft product line. It recently agreed with Indonesian partner IPT Nurtanio, also known as Indonesian Aerospace, to develop a modernized version of the C-212 light twin turboprop transport, and it also is refining the performance of the C-295, its very successful medium twin. Most of the effort is on refining the airframe design, for example by adding wingtip extensions, and on increasing engine power ratings, which together add 1,000 ft. to the aircraft’s ceiling in One Engine Inoperative (OEI) conditions. The C295’s Pratt & Whitney engines are already at their power limit, so they have no more growth potential, so these refinements, together with a major upgrade of the aircraft’s avionics, will suffice to keep them competitive for years to come, says Rodriguez. The avionics upgrade will make it easier for the aircraft to operate in a civil environment. A new design may well be necessary in 10 or 15 years, he adds, but for now it is still very premature. The current line-up is quite profitable for the company, and currently accounts for average sales of about 20 aircraft per year, worth about 700-800 million euros including 100-150 million euros for related services. Over the past 10 years, Airbus has sold 157 of the 306 light/medium turboprops sold world-wide, and so has a market share of over 50%, and this should increase as additional orders will be announced this year, one of them “by Easter.” Compared to the Alenia C-27J Spartan, its direct competitor, the C-295 is simple, offers substantially lower fuel costs and “can be maintained with a hammer and a screwdriver,” Rodriguez says. Specifically, he says that maintenance costs are 35% lower, fuel consumption is 50% lower and, in terms of life-cycle costs, “it can save one million euros per plane, per year.” -ends-
03/03/2014

US Unmanned Vehicle Roadmap, FY2013-38

Source: U.S Department of Defense Ref: 14-S-0553 Issued December 26, 2013 168 PDF pages Strategy and budget realities are two aspects of the Defense Department's new Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap, released Dec. 23. The report to Congress is an attempt to chart how unmanned systems fit into the defense of the nation. "The 2013 Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap articulates a vision and strategy for the continued development, production, test, training, operation and sustainment of unmanned systems technology across DOD," said Dyke Weatherington, the director of the unmanned warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance office at the Pentagon. "This road map establishes a technological vision for the next 25 years and outlines the actions and technologies for DOD and industry to pursue intelligently, and affordably align with this vision," he continued. Unmanned aerial vehicles have received the most press, but unmanned underwater vehicles and ground vehicles are also providing warfighters with incredible capabilities. Although unmanned vehicles have proved their worth in combat operations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, current technologies must be expanded and integrated into the sinews of the defense establishment, the report says. It also calls for unmanned systems to be programs of record in order to achieve "the levels of effectiveness, efficiency, affordability, commonality, interoperability, integration and other key parameters needed to meet future operational requirements." (PDF format) Full text