ScanEagle drone caught by SkyHook's proprietary system. Mobile and flexible method of launching and returning this device allows you to install various equipment with maximum use of available on board the drone volume
A series of articles will discuss new developments in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ground mobile robots (NMR) and automatic surface / underwater vehicles (ANA / APA).
2015 was a busy year for the international unmanned vehicle market. The current level of development of the UAV is constantly increasing as manufacturers expand the boundaries of autonomy, flight duration and complexity of onboard equipment, and customers implement programs to deploy third-generation systems in new roles, while refining the requirements for existing systems.
The NMR sector continues to evolve to meet the needs of the post-Afghan theater of operations. (TMD). The emerging threats, along with the established clear need to detect and neutralize rebel bombs and landmines, force us to develop new, more and more advanced systems with enhanced capabilities, especially when the emphasis is increasingly being placed on national security and immediate response, especially in counterinsurgency operations.
In the field of marine systems, both in the surface and in the underwater sectors, the development of new general principles of operations is also underway, with a special focus on enhancing mine action capabilities and searching for effective means to combat submarines.
The RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV is designed to closely monitor vast geographic areas and provide the military command with real-time information regarding the location of the enemy’s human and material resources.
The most advanced offshore UAV operator is the United States Navy, which exploit drones such as the Insilu ScanEagle, the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout and the currently undergoing larger MQ-8C Fire Scout.
The MQ-8B, with its 137 kg payload mass and 7,5 hours flight duration, played an important role in the development of the overall US Navy concept for the use of marine UAVs. This drone, which can perform reconnaissance and highlight its target with a laser target designator, was deployed in Afghanistan in support of counter-insurgency operations of the international coalition.
Helicopter-type drone MQ-8C Fire Scout
This UAV was integrated with the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS). Priority state program, in which laser semi-active guidance was added to a previously uncontrolled air-to-ground Hydra-70 missile mounted on a Bell AM-1Z Viper attack helicopter and the UH-1Y Venom light helicopter of the American Marine Corps (ILC) , which made it possible to capture targets on land and at sea with high accuracy. UAV MQ-8B also played an important role in the development of joint operations of unmanned and manned aviationby allowing the fleet determine the direction of development of the corresponding principles of combat use.
The larger MQ-8C UAV, based on the Bell 407 light helicopter, is designed for independent take-off and landing on any ship that has a landing platform, as well as from trained and unprepared ground-based platforms. This air vehicle, which combines the capabilities of the MQ-8B with the payload and flight performance of the Bell 407 helicopter, demonstrated a flight of 11 hours in August 2015 of the year as part of the fleet operational tests. At the beginning of 2015, the pilot flight program was completed, and the system is now ready to undergo operational readiness assessment before the end of 2016, as soon as the fleet has decided how to integrate this drone into its complex of systems in the coming decade.
ScanEagle launches on its own through a pneumatic catapult that makes it easy to launch the system at sea and on land
For the most part, the threat in the maritime sphere is asymmetric. Unlike the use of UAVs above the earth's surface, where such devices are mainly designed to create a picture of the environment in which ground forces operate, the marine environment is more reactive. The value of using UAVs in this environment is that crews can explore potential targets out of reach, while expanding the intelligence capabilities of shipborne optoelectronic devices and radars and with a significant reduction in operating costs compared to manned helicopters.
The rapid development of the UAV for the marine environment has also been greatly aided by threats to national security and the need for patrol vessels to monitor the coastline and protect themselves from threats from the sea. All this is a consequence of the emerging economic, political and cultural problems in the maritime sphere, which have been faced over the last decade. “It’s a fact that any country with access to the sea needs to clearly identify the threats posed by the sea and neutralize them in a timely manner,” said Dan Beechman, head of UAV marketing at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). “These threats may have small or large effective areas of reflection in accordance with their size, and therefore the country's armed forces need accurate identification capabilities.”
IAI was one of the first companies to turn to a maritime theme, having created the RQ-80A Pioneer and RQ-2 Hunter drones in the 5-s of the last century, which worked with American aircraft carriers, adjusting firing, and subsequently carrying out reconnaissance for landing forces. Today the company offers two systems in this segment: Naval Rotary UAV (NRUAV) vertical take-off and landing UAV and Maritime Heron fixed-wing aircraft. Both of them, according to Mr. Bichman, are designed to enable users to get a comprehensive maritime system that is consistent with "the current operational objectives of each country."
NRUAV is capable of rising to a height of 4600 meters, its range is 150 km, and the maximum flight duration is six hours. It has a maximum speed of 100 nodes (185 km / h), a speed of locking 60 nodes (111 km / h) and can carry a weight up to 220 kg, consisting of a universal multi-touch set with advanced features. The kit includes day and night optoelectronics, which also provides automatic tracking and distance measurement to the target, multimode radar providing sea observation and long-range surveillance, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and inverse synthetic aperture radar with selection of moving ground-based and airborne targets, navigation and avoidance of adverse atmospheric phenomena. In addition, the drone can carry either a radio intelligence sensor, or an electronic warfare sensor. The system communicates with the ground control station via a data channel within line of sight.
UAV vertical takeoff and landing Naval Rotary UAV (NRUAV)
UAV NRUAV is based on a set of transformation into the helicopter system HeMoS (Helicopter Modification Suite) developed by IAI Malat. HeMoS can automatically take off and land from ships, carry out combat damage assessment and round-the-clock, over-the-horizon target designation in adverse weather conditions. “A marine UAV meets a wide range of operational needs, for example, it is invaluable in the fight against illegal fishing, piracy, rebel activity and other activities aimed at undermining the country's sovereignty,” Bichman continued. “This highly efficient system makes an important contribution to the formation of a comprehensive perception of the situation at sea without risking human lives.”
By its basic parameters, Maritime Heron is very similar to the standard Heron UAV launched from the ground (MALE class apparatus (Medium Altitude Long Endurance - medium height with a long duration of flight)), but with the additional possibility that the naval variant is able to take off and land on the aircraft carrier on their own. The drone has a wingspan of 16,6 meters and a take-off weight of 1250 kg. The maximum ceiling is 9000 meters and the duration of the flight to 40 hours, depending on the task and configuration of the onboard equipment. The aircraft can carry a variety of sensors, and can simultaneously use various devices and devices in order to transmit relevant information about large areas for a long time. In the sea configuration, the UAV carries sensors specifically designed for this environment, including, for example, systems such as the Multi-mission Optronic Stabilized Payload MOSP (Multi-purpose Stabilized On-Board Equipment) from IAI, EL / M-2022 Maritime Marine Radar (MPR) from IAI ELTA and Automatic Identification System AIS (Automatic Identification System).
In order to increase operational flexibility, a ground control station of a drone can be based on land or a ship, and control can be transferred from one station to another in real time. “When working on marine spaces, it is very important to meet specific environmental conditions, use the platform from any offshore platform and perform a wider range of tasks,” continued Bichman. “The greatest operational advantage is the ability to perform the full cycle of the task: detection, classification and identification using one integrated and highly efficient system.”
In October, the Schnebel Camcopter S-2015 UAV 100 showed its ability to interact with the South African navy ship (photo below)
Today, ScanEagle, created by Boeing and Insitu, is one of the most successful offshore UAVs. This aircraft UAV can operate at 3000 cruising altitude for 20 hours, carrying onboard equipment for various operational needs, including optoelectronics, electronic intelligence and electronic warfare equipment, communications equipment and repeater, mapping equipment and radar (with a synthetic aperture and function selection of ground moving targets).
ScanEagle launches independently using a pneumatic catapult and returns using the SkyHook system, which distinguishes it from other aircraft-type UAVs in the maritime market. A crane installation with an overhanging rope loop is installed onboard the vessel, when the UAV is flown through, it is caught by this loop for the wing tip (the scheme resembles bird snares), the engine is turned off and then the UAV is turned back by turning the crane installation. “The sea launch and return of ScanEagle are unique; it is truly the only aircraft-type UAV on the market with extensive operating experience that you can launch and catch on a ship. Therefore, so many fleets use this unit, ”says Andrew Duggan, executive director of Insitu Pacific. - Starting from a catapult is not so unique, but what really sets it apart is the SkyNook system. Networks are used to return other aircraft-type UAVs to the ship, and the problem is that if the network is fixed on the ship and the UAV misses, the drone hits the ship, whereas with the SkyHook system the UAV flies parallel to the ship, so if it misses, then flies away for another run. "
ScanEagle drone is in service with the fleets of the United States, Canada, Malaysia and Singapore; In addition, in recent years, he has taken part in a number of contests, including tests conducted by the British fleet and most recently the Australian fleet, to test and evaluate performance. From an Insitu point of view, deploying such well-known operators definitely helps move the market forward. “The demand is quite significant, and in many respects it is determined by the unique qualities of ScanEagle. “There is quite a lot of competition in the land sector, but from a sea point of view, there are very few vehicles that can be reliably launched and returned to the ship,” Duggan continued. - Fleets that look at the system deployed by the United States, Canada and Singapore and others, and assess its importance from a tactical perspective, are showing great interest. This system can be of great help, in particular, to those operators who are either limited in space, having a single helicopter hangar on a ship, or have no space at all to accommodate a conventional deck helicopter. Even if you don't have a helicopter deck, using a ScanEagle drone allows you to get more from this vessel, in the sense that it now has aircraft that can monitor from the air, staying there until the 15 hours. When a UAV appears on board, the capabilities of this ship to patrol the exclusive economic zone, conduct search and rescue operations, combat illegal fishing or pirate ships will instantly expand. This allows you to get a lot of additional features that the command of the ship can use, so it is perfect for smaller vessels, such as corvettes or patrol boats that can not take a helicopter. "
Vertical take-off and landing quadcopter Phoenix-30 is designed to collect information for military, operational services and civilian structures
A high resolution photo taken by the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 heliport is transmitted to the control station in real time
The trend affecting all fleets and aimed at increasing the number of smaller vessels with smaller crews also expands the capabilities of the vertical take-off and landing UAV, which Schiebel did not fail to use with its S-100 Camcopter helicopter. The S-100 UAV has been extensively tested in many fleets, including the last tests of the Australian fleet in June 2015 and the South African fleet in October 2015. The Australian fleet tests focused on the multi-touch capabilities of the S-100 to demonstrate how the system can be effectively used to provide marine and coastal intelligence. The Australian fleet, for example, was shown how the combination of the S-100 drone and the three main systems, including the L-3 Wescam MX-10 camera and SAGE ESM and PicoSAR radars, can expand the area of over-the-horizon surveillance of ships and increase situational awareness.
During trials of the South African fleet, conducted near the South African coast, the Schiebel S-100 helipad with SAGE ESM was launched from the deck of the hydrographic research vessel Protea to demonstrate the capabilities of this UAV for reconnaissance of sea areas and anti-piracy tasks (two main areas of interest for this fleet). In order to expand the range of tasks performed, Schiebel is working to increase the range of onboard systems available for the S-100. Electronic intelligence sensors are able to detect the radars of other vessels and thereby identify potential threats in the surrounding area. The project manager for UAVs at Schiebel, Chris Day, said the company is keen to offer advanced features in this area. “We have been flying with a pair of radar for the last few years, but they are not optimized for marine conditions, they were developed for sushi and have gained additional opportunities to work at sea, but this is probably too much of a compromise. There are several companies developing very light modern radars that are designed specifically for marine conditions. Sayeh is one of them, and we continue to work with her to test new radars, which will give us a very long range and the ability to simultaneously monitor many targets. ”
In June 2015, Schiebel also teamed up with IAI ELTA Systems to demonstrate high frequency (3-30 GHz) radio intercept and geolocation systems EL / K-7065 3D (volumetric) on board the S-100 helipad. The EL / K-7065 system provides fast marking and identification of high-frequency signals, generating a reliable list of detected electronic systems and their exact coordinates, while the short-wave on-board antenna from 300 mm to 500 mm is best suited for the S-100 drone. “The reality and the problem we face is that some individuals or groups operating at sea do not want anyone to know what they are up to; their vessels do not have radar and are often not made of metal, and this makes it difficult to detect them, says Mr. Dey. - Therefore, one of the ways to identify threats is to intercept messages. Even if they have very primitive seafaring means, they still have to talk and coordinate, therefore these interception and location-taking technologies can give the commander a hint when no other technology is working anymore. ” Schiebel recently tested a heavy-duty engine for its S-100 as it seeks to meet the needs of the marine systems market. The new engine, which is a modified commercial rotary-piston engine, is designed to solve the problem associated with the fact that marine systems operate on a variety of fuels. Now the new engine will be able to run on JP-5 (F-44), Jet A1 (F-35) and JP-8 (F-34) fuels.
The export version of the AirMule drone, known under the designation Cormorant, is currently being tested
A completely new approach was implemented by Lockheed Martin, which is working on a reconfigurable version of its Vector Hawk folding wing UAV as part of the development of a small-sized sea UAV launched from a container. Vector Hawk drone has a take-off weight of 1,8 kg and a vertical profile 101 mm; its configuration can vary from a fixed-wing system to a vertical take-off system or to a system with turning screws (convertoplan) in order to meet various operational requirements. The company believes that this system is well suited as a portable integrated solution that includes an aircraft-type device for standard and long-term tasks, a device with a folding wing that can be launched from a pipe rail from the ground or from water, a device with vertical take-off and landing. Finally, the device type tiltrotor. “What we are working on is related to our efforts towards uniformity. We want to get a device that has one fuselage, avionics and control systems, but several variants of wings so that it can dynamically adapt to different types of tasks, ”said Jay McConville, head of business development for unmanned systems at Lockheed Martin. “One of these wing configurations is a retractable wing, which is great for launching from the launch canister.”
Vector Hawk drone can have multiple configurations
Launching from a container is an interesting way to launch small-sized UAVs, it can potentially have a ton of applications in the marine field. The advantages of this method are the ability to run devices from different places with difficult environmental conditions. “Let's take the launch of the device from the container, after the launch it is deployed in flight, while launching is simplified for the operator,” McConville continued. - Also increases the number of places where you can start; Imagine launching from under water or from the air or many other scenarios, all that the operator has to do is to set up a sequence of start commands and the system will cope with the environmental conditions that exist in this scenario. ” The Vector Hawk drone lands in the same way as the widespread Desert Hawk UAV, sharply swooping down and then smoothly staying in front of the ground or in our case water. In order to reduce the loads acting on the drone during landing, the design provides for its separation into parts; In addition, all parts have a reserve of buoyancy and therefore it can be picked up from the surface and assembled again in one unit.
As the market for marine UAVs is gaining momentum, there are more clearly defined principles for the use of these systems. Among the UAVs on the market that have numerous advantages, the sailors are looking for the systems that best suit their needs and allow them to expand the capabilities of the ships and protect their crews from danger.
Tactical Robotics AirMule UAV successfully made its first loose-leaf flight at the Israeli Megido airfield in December 2015
UAV RQ-4B Clobal Hawk US Air Force successfully passed the interim test phase in May 2015 of the year
To be continued