Unmanned aerial vehicles | UAVs

Eagle1

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Air Force eyes inexpensive Skyborg unmanned combat aircraft that pushes bounds of artificial intelligence (AI)
Author John Keller
Mar 20th, 2019
Air Force eyes inexpensive Skyborg unmanned combat aircraft that pushes bounds of artificial intelligence (AI)

Air Force eyes inexpensive Skyborg unmanned combat aircraft that pushes bounds of artificial intelligence (AI)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – U.S. Air Force researchers are approaching industry for mature enabling technologies for a prototype a low-cost unmanned combat aircraft called Skyborg, which will have artificial intelligence (AI) and modular payloads for a wide variety of fighter and ground-attack capabilities.

Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, issued a capability request for information (FA8650-19-S-9340) on Friday for the Skyborg Autonomous Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle project.

Researchers are interested in a prototype inexpensive, quick-turnaround, autonomous unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), which will be a modular, fighter-like aircraft that can take on increasingly complex technologies and tasking to support the warfighter.

Once fielded, Skyborg will enable warfighters to adjust Skyborg's payload and autonomy modularly to support an array of missions. Researchers are interested only in technologies that quickly can move to operational use.

Advanced autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI) are poised to change the character of the international battlefield substantially in the near future, Air Force researchers explain. Researchers want to field an autonomous system that meets an immediate operational need, as well as that can jump-start complex AI development, prototyping, experimentation, and fielding.

Air Force officials plans to proceed at an accelerated timeline, with experiments and demonstrations planned for as early as 2020.

Skyborg will be attritable, meaning it will have a lost enough cost to sacrifice it in combat to attack high-value targets. It also will be reusable after flying routine missions. It also have the ability of an intelligent system to compose and select independently among different courses of action.

Its artificial intelligence embedded computing will have modular components and protocols that conform to open-systems standards, which integrate easily with third-party products. Open systems mitigate risks associated with technology obsolescence, vender-unique technology, and single sources of supply and maintenance, Air Force researchers explain.

Skyborg must have an open AI software architecture and toolkits that enable timely modifications and upgrades of complex autonomous behaviors; have modular open-systems mission hardware; and meet military certification and acquisition requirements.

Desired, but not required, in Skyborg are the ability autonomously to avoid other aircraft, terrain, obstacles, and hazardous weather; conduct autonomous takeoffs and returns; have separate sensor payloads and flight computers to allow for modular adjustments and adaptability; and have mission-planning software that integrates with next-generation Air Force mission planning tools that emphasize modularity and openness.
Researchers also want an autonomous aircraft that can operate with personnel who have limited engineering or pilot experience.

 

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Lockheed Martin unveils Condor UAS
Andrew White, Tampa, Florida
27 May 2019

Lockheed Martin unveiled its latest small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) at the 2019 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC), which was held in Tampa, Florida from 20 to 23 May.

The Condor, which has been developed as a Group I fixed-wing UAS in collaboration with the US Air Force (USAF) Research Laboratory, is designed to support small unit teams with tactical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and targeting support.

Lockheed Martin’s Condor UAS seen at the 2019 SOFIC. (Andrew White)

Lockheed Martins Condor UAS seen at the 2019 SOFIC. (Andrew White)

Lockheed Martin’s Steven Fortson, who is responsible for spectrum convergence and unmanned solutions at the company, told Jane’s that the Condor’s mission flexibility is centred around a single battery configuration, which provides an endurance of 4.5 hours.


 

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Step inside the Airbus autonomous drone
SEAN SZYMKOWSKI
MAY 26, 2019

Add Airbus as one of dozens of companies working to bring autonomous flying taxis to life. The company has been working on its prototype Vahana autonomous drone for awhile now, but on Monday the firm revealed the first pictures of the vehicle's cockpit.

What's neat is this is actually the second full-scale prototype Vahana. The company previously built what it calls Alpha One, while this model is called Alpha Two. Alpha One will continue to handle flight testing, while engineers and designers work on the interior cockpit and other solutions with Alpha Two. Impressively, Alpha One has completed 50 full-scale test flights so far.


Airbus Vahana autonomous drone
Airbus Vahana autonomous drone

Back to Alpha Two, the cockpit reveals a minimalistic interior with one seat and a screen ahead of the passenger. The company said it's worked hard to ensure passengers will see the horizon directly in front of them during their flight.

The first-person photo shows what it could be like once an individual steps inside the machine. The interior also features what looks like white leather, silver seatbelt buckles, and a blonde wood accent. Each of the materials and colors mix to create a trendy in-flight space.

Airbus Vahana autonomous drone
Airbus Vahana autonomous drone

One of the few areas that remains up for debate is how passengers will enter the cockpit. Vahana said it envisions "vertiports" (airports for these kinds of drones) could have platforms or even steps.

There's no word on performance specs, but the news that full-scale tests have gone well is promising. However, most of the tests have only taken the autonomous drone a few feet in the air for a short period of time. Nevertheless, Airbus and its Vahana subsidiary team are determined to make personal flight craft a reality, as is depicted in the video below.

 

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US Coast Guard to deploy Insitu Scan Eagles on cutters in 2019

  • 08 MAY, 2019
  • SOURCE: FLIGHTGLOBAL.COM
  • BY: GARRETT REIM
  • WASHINGTON DC
The US Coast Guard will significantly expand its use of Insitu Scan Eagles when it deploys the unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) aboard four National Security Cutters by the end of 2019.

While one cutter, USCGC Stratton, has hosted Scan Eagles for about a year and a half, the 2019 deployment represents the beginning of the service’s effort to expand the use of the small drone. Three UAVs will be deployed per cutter, with a staff of Insitu operators on a service contract to fly the aircraft up to 200h per month for the service. The USCG anticipates deploying Scan Eagles aboard all of its 11 National Security Cutters, once the fleet of ships have been built.

Asset Image

Insitu Scan Eagle US Coast Guard
Insitu

The Scan Eagle has a range up to 80nm (148km) and an endurance of up to 18h. It is launched from the cutter deck using a catapult and recovered with a skyhook. The UAVs will carry a variety of payloads for the USCG, including electro-optical, mid-wave infrared, and visual detection and ranging sensors, as well as a laser pointer and communications relay hardware.

The UAVs will help extend the range of the USCG’s cutters, says Captain Carl Riedlin, USCG chief of aviation.
“It’s a chance for the cutter to be able to push away from their immediate area, not necessarily have to launch a helicopter to be able to see further out,” he says.

The UAVs will be used to assist in search and rescue, stopping drug smuggling and ice-breaking missions, among other applications.

 

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US Navy sharpens algorithm for missile and drone swarm attacks
  • 08 MAY, 2019
  • SOURCE: FLIGHTGLOBAL.COM
  • BY: GARRETT REIM
  • WASHINGTON DC
The US Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Center (NAWC WD) enhanced a prototype algorithm, which could coordinate missile and drone swarm attacks, to the point where it can now can ensure several vehicles arrive from different directions on a single target within 250 milliseconds of each other.

By converging on a single target from all sides, a swarm of missiles or loitering munitions could overwhelm an adversary and ensure that an objective is destroyed.

The so-called multi-agent trajectory planner was funded by the Office of Naval Research and NAWC WD.

“It’s really a one-of-a kind algorithm,” said Joan Johnson, executive director of NAWC WD at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor on 8 May. The algorithm is designed to direct unmanned air vehicles on a realistic flight path, she says.

“We see a lot of trajectory planners that can do obstacle avoidance and other types of things, but they haven’t taken into account the actual aero-characteristics of agents that have to fly. Getting some small thing to do a 9g turn with your algorithm is not realistic,” says Johnson. “They built in all of the aero-characteristics of the agents [into this algorithm]. You can optimise these trajectories for coordinated time of arrival. You can optimise for minimum time or minimum fuel.”

The algorithm was tested at Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona using four Navmar Applied Sciences TigerShark UAVs. The UAVs met all mission objectives, says Johnson.

The algorithm should have broad applications, she says.

“You can consider it for weapons and drones or anything where you’ve got homogeneous or heterogeneous combinations of systems,” Johnson says.

“We are looking ahead to things like autonomy and how we can leverage the algorithm for things like that. What we are trying to do is build something that is agnostic to how you want to apply it.”

NAWC WD’s trajectory planner algorithm dovetails with autonomy swarm work that is being done by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). The lab is experimenting with flight control software programs that autonomously coordinate swarms of small unmanned blimps.

Asset Image

NRL UAV blimp swarm tests
NRL


The NRL’s work is inspired by the swarm behaviour of animals. Possible applications include using swarms for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, search and rescue, and perimeter defence, says Don Sofge, computer scientist and roboticist with the lab.

“We’ll have a behavior where the agents will respond to one another, such that they stay fairly close, but they avoid colliding with one another,” he says. “They’ll respond to an intruder by surrounding the intruder. This behaviour allows us to use them to protect assets.”

To improve the UAV’s functionality, the lab is looking at adding ultrasonic range, camera and acoustic sensors, as well as inertial measurement units.

Autonomy offers advantages to a swarm, especially in a war zone where UAVs could be lost to enemy fire.

“The nice thing is you can have a variable number of agents. And if you lose some of them the overall behavior of the swarm stays the same,” says Sofge. “Or, if you double the number, the behaviour stays the same.”

 

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Sikorsky Flies Black Hawk with Optionally Piloted Vehicle Technology
Kit developed by Sikorsky gives UH-60A helicopter full-authority fly-by-wire flight controls, marking the first step toward transforming the aircraft into an Optionally Piloted Vehicle

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., June 6, 2019 -- A technology kit developed by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company (NYSE: LMT), was used for the first time to operate a Black Hawk helicopter with full-authority, fly-by-wire flight controls. The May 29 flight marked the official start to the flight test program for the soon-to-be optionally piloted aircraft. Follow-on flight testing aims to include envelope expansion throughout the summer leading to fully autonomous flight (zero pilots) in 2020.



OPV Black Hawk First Flight 2019-Sikorsky


"This technology brings a whole new dimension of safety, reliability and capability to existing and future helicopters and to those who depend on them to complete their missions," said Chris Van Buiten, Vice President, Sikorsky Innovations. "We're excited to be transforming a once mechanically controlled aircraft into one with fly-by-wire controls. This flight demonstrates the next step in making optionally piloted – and optimally piloted – aircraft, a reality."

This is the first full authority fly-by-wire retrofit kit developed by Sikorsky that has completely removed mechanical flight controls from the aircraft.

Through DARPA's Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, Sikorsky is developing an OPV approach it describes as pilot directed autonomy to give operators the confidence to fly aircraft safely, reliably and affordably in optimally piloted modes enabling flight with two, one or zero crew. The program aims to improve operator decision aiding for manned operations while also enabling both unmanned and reduced crew operations.

Sikorsky has been demonstrating its MATRIX™ Technology on a modified S-76B™ called the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA). The aircraft, which has been in test since 2013, has more than 300 hours of autonomous flight.

Sikorsky announced in March that its S-92® helicopter fleet update will include the introduction of phase one MATRIX Technology that will bring advanced computing power to the platform. This foundation enables adoption of autonomous landing technology.

For more information about Sikorsky MATRIX Technology, which won an Edison award in 2018, visit https://lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/sikorsky-matrix-technology.html.

 

Eagle1

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Sikorsky Flies Black Hawk with Optionally Piloted Vehicle Technology
Kit developed by Sikorsky gives UH-60A helicopter full-authority fly-by-wire flight controls, marking the first step toward transforming the aircraft into an Optionally Piloted Vehicle

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., June 6, 2019 -- A technology kit developed by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company (NYSE: LMT), was used for the first time to operate a Black Hawk helicopter with full-authority, fly-by-wire flight controls. The May 29 flight marked the official start to the flight test program for the soon-to-be optionally piloted aircraft. Follow-on flight testing aims to include envelope expansion throughout the summer leading to fully autonomous flight (zero pilots) in 2020.



OPV Black Hawk First Flight 2019-Sikorsky


"This technology brings a whole new dimension of safety, reliability and capability to existing and future helicopters and to those who depend on them to complete their missions," said Chris Van Buiten, Vice President, Sikorsky Innovations. "We're excited to be transforming a once mechanically controlled aircraft into one with fly-by-wire controls. This flight demonstrates the next step in making optionally piloted – and optimally piloted – aircraft, a reality."

This is the first full authority fly-by-wire retrofit kit developed by Sikorsky that has completely removed mechanical flight controls from the aircraft.

Through DARPA's Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, Sikorsky is developing an OPV approach it describes as pilot directed autonomy to give operators the confidence to fly aircraft safely, reliably and affordably in optimally piloted modes enabling flight with two, one or zero crew. The program aims to improve operator decision aiding for manned operations while also enabling both unmanned and reduced crew operations.

Sikorsky has been demonstrating its MATRIX™ Technology on a modified S-76B™ called the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA). The aircraft, which has been in test since 2013, has more than 300 hours of autonomous flight.

Sikorsky announced in March that its S-92® helicopter fleet update will include the introduction of phase one MATRIX Technology that will bring advanced computing power to the platform. This foundation enables adoption of autonomous landing technology.

For more information about Sikorsky MATRIX Technology, which won an Edison award in 2018, visit https://lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/sikorsky-matrix-technology.html.

 

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Penguin C UAS

The Penguin C is a long endurance, long range unmanned aircraft system designed for a professional use.



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AIRCRAFT SPECIFICATIONS
VALUE
Wingspan3.3 m/ 10.8 ft
MTOW22.5 kg / 49.6lbs.
Endurance20 hours
Range100 km/ 60 miles
Cruise speed19-22 m/s / 37-43 knots
Max level speed32 m/s / 62.2 knots
Ceiling4500 m / 15 000 ft MSL
TakeoffPneumatic Catapult, fully autonomous
Maximum takeoff altitude3000m /10 000 ft AMSL
Recovery
Parachute recovery, airbag
Operational temperature-25° C to +50° C
Anti- icing measuresHeated Pitot- static tube.
Flight in icing conditions is not approved.
Environmental protection< 5 millimeters/hour rain. Pitot with drain.
PROPULSION SYSTEM
VALUE
Engine Type28 cc, fuel injected
Temperature control systemAutomatically controlled via mechanical flap
Fuel type98 Octane, oil mix
Generator system100W onboard generator system
PAYLOAD SPECIFICATIONSVALUE
Payload typeDay/night gyro stabilized Epsilon range of payloads
Advanced featuresTarget Tracking, Electronic Stabilization, Moving Target Indicator
MountingMotorized retract with anti-vibration damping
DATA LINK SPECIFICATIONVALUE
Frequency2.304-2.364 GHz, 2.405-2.470 GHz, 5.00-5.800 GHz
Link RateUp to 12 Mbps
Encryption128 bit AES / 256 bit AES
FLIGHT CONTROL SYSTEMVALUE
Autopilot typePiccolo, Cloud Cap Technology
GROUND CONTROL STATIONVALUE
TypePortable, Dual touchscreen displays
GROUND DATA TERMINAL
VALUE
TypeTracking high gain directional antenna
CATAPULT SYSTEMVALUE
TypePortable pneumatic, 6000 J launch energy
Packed Size 1313 x 704 x 543 mm

 

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Penguin C UAS

View attachment 7561

Details:
 

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US Air Force to Begin First Tests on New AI Algorithms For Skyborg Program


View attachment 9326
©Air Force Research Laboratory artwork

The US Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Skyborg program is getting its first flight test this summer, with officials focusing their attention on autonomy algorithms and artificial intelligence.

The tests, set to take place at Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County, California, are expected to be conducted on a “small, but representative high-speed surrogate aircraft,” Cara Bousie, the service’s spokesperson, told Aviation Week.

Although Bousie steered clear of offering any additional details regarding the looming tests, she did indicate that the move is part of a two-year campaign for the department to determine just how the technology will perform in a controlled setting.

Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, previously revealed in a March interview that aircraft candidates that may be used during the summer trials include the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, Composite Engineering BQM-167 Skeeter and Boeing QF-16.

Disclosed to the public just in March, the Skyborg program’s objective is to deliver a combat-ready, autonomous, unmanned aerial vehicle prototype by the end of 2023. The aircraft is expected to act as a robotic wingman for service members, using its AI tech to manage combat mission tasks on its own when the need arises.

“Skyborg is a vessel for AI technologies that could range from rather simple algorithms to fly the aircraft and control them in airspace to the introduction of more complicated levels of AI to accomplish certain tasks or subtasks of the mission,” Matt Duquette, an AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate engineer, said in a March release on the program.

“Part of our autonomy development is building assurance into the system. You can either build assurance by using formal methods or approaches where at design time, as you develop these autonomous capabilities, you guarantee certain behaviors, or a more practical approach is to assess the capabilities of these behaviors at run time, meaning while they’re running on the aircraft. So, those are the capabilities that we’re interested in looking at from the experimentation level to see what type of assurance you need in the system so you can mix high and low criticality.”

According to comments Bousie gave to Air Force Magazine, there is a possibility that the department’s technology could slip into various other research programs. One in particular is ACT3, a fellow artificial intelligence team under AFRL whose focus is on developing air-to-air combat algorithms.

The official went on to say that only time will tell on what role humans will play as AI tech continues to advance.

 

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