Royal Australian Air Force funding the MQ-4C Triton UAV

June 26, 2020
Australia now plans to purchase six units of the intelligence and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle.

In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, the Australian government provides additional funding for intelligence and reconnaissance UAVs, a new unmanned underwater vehicle design is announced, and Sky Drone partners up for UAS remote control operations.

Australian government to provide funding for additional MQ-4C Triton

The Australian government will provide funding for an additional MQ-4C Triton aircraft and associated ground mission control stations from Northrop Grumman, bringing its current total commitment to three aircraft. Australia currently intends to purchase six aircraft.

A cooperative development program between the Royal Australian Air Force and the U.S. Navy, the MQ-4C Triton provides a round-the-clock maritime wide-area intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability. With its ability to operate at altitudes exceeding 50,000 feet and cover more than two million square miles of ocean and littorals in a single flight, Triton provides what Northrop Grumman describes as “unprecedented awareness to operational commanders’ common operating pictures.”

“As a strategic partner in the cooperative development program, Australia is a critical part of Triton’s development and production,” says Doug Shaffer, vice president, Triton programs, Northrop Grumman.

“This game-changing system will boost Australia’s ISR capability and enable them to meet their surveillance needs to manage the world’s third largest exclusive economic zone.”

Australia has also committed funds for the main operating base at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia that allows for a permanent control station. The country has also committed funds for a forward operating base at RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory that enables the Triton system to be deployed to support Australian national security requirements.

With a program of record for 68 aircraft, the U.S. Navy is planning five operational Triton orbits across the world. As one of the United States’ key allies and a strategic partner in the Pacific, Australia would be able to provide a sixth.

L3Harris Technologies announces new Iver4 580 UUV

L3Harris Technologies has announced the second vehicle in the Iver4 family of next-generation UUVs, the new man-portable Iver4 580 UUV.

The UUV is designed to address several customer missions, including survey; multi-domain intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; anti-submarine warfare; seabed warfare and mine warfare.

“The Iver4 580 is the latest evolution in the Iver family of vehicles bringing mission-critical capability to underwater survey and intelligence operations in a portable package,” says Sean Stackley, president, Integrated Mission Systems.

“L3Harris continues to advance industry leading capabilities in small diameter UUVs for our military and commercial customers.”

The Iver4 580 is built with Iver4 advanced technology, and is equipped with a full suite of sensors in a portable size (5.8-inch diameter and 82-inch length). The UUV is also rapidly deployable from any vessel thanks to its small mission footprint.

The UUV provides users with a 200-meter depth system featuring sealed, hot-swappable battery sections that can be swapped without the need of a vacuum test, heading re-alignment, or special tools. This allows the vehicle to get back on mission with just minutes of downtime.

Mission time is reduced even further thanks to data recorded from the on-board sensor suite being downloadable from the Iver4 580 at gigabit Ethernet speed. The Iver4 580 design maximizes in-water efficiency, allowing the vehicle to travel at a speed of 4 knots and support longer missions.

Droniq, Sky Drone partner to provide command and control technology for BVLOS flights

Droniq, a joint venture of the DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung (German air traffic control) and Deutsche Telekom AG, has partnered with Sky Drone, a developer of real-time communication technology for drones.

Through the partnership, Droniq will use Sky Drone’s technology for controlling UAS remotely in real-time and without any limitation in range to offer a complete hardware package for locating, controlling and transmitting data of drones during beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights. This technology is also part of the UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system Droniq offers for the German market; a service that facilitates the safe integration of drones into public airspace and provides the basis for broad commercial use of drones over large distances.

“Sky Drone perfectly complements the UTM approach of Droniq and is an essential building block for making BVLOS flights reality,” says Ralph Schepp, COO of Droniq.

“We’ve seen the technology being used at several of our customers in Germany and are absolutely convinced of Sky Drone’s technology and their pragmatic mentality.”

Droniq can now provide real-time communication for drones during their flights now that it is the exclusive partner of Sky Drone. Real-time command and control, video, sensor and telemetry data can be transferred with low latency from the drone to the ground control station and vice versa using the 4G/LTE network of Deutsche Telekom.

This technology complements Droniq’s LTE-tracking module “HOD4track” (Hook-On-Device), which uses the mobile network to send its position every second to the UTM system. That device also receives signals from helicopters, gliders and small aircraft in the vicinity and sends those to the UTM as well, providing the drone pilot with situation awareness of their airspace. To allow other aircraft in the vicinity to see the drone right in their cockpit, the HOD4track broadcasts its own position.

By adding real-time communication with the drone over unlimited distances, the CE-conform product “HOD4command” extends Droniq’s offering. It can be mounted onto any aircraft, and all supported autopilots can be equipped with it, making the UAS controllable over long distances. The data communication is end-to-end encrypted, which means it is protected from unauthorized access.

The HOD4command is based upon Sky Drone technology that is currently being used in Africa and Europe to help deliver medicine and vaccines to hard-to-reach villages. In Germany, it is used for intersite logistics of a large pharmaceutical company.

The structurally identical product “HOD4stream” is available with a larger data plan, which allows video, sensor and telemetry data to be transmitted in real-time. During industrial applications such as maintenance and inspection of pipes and routes as well as in industrial facilities, data can be transferred and analyzed in real-time. Additionally, first responders are already using this technology for remote situational awareness.

“Droniq is the ideal partner for our real-time communication system for drones that’s already being used across the globe,” says Boris Boege, CEO of Sky Drone.

“Their reach in Germany and Europe allows the efficient use as well as safe integration of drones into the public airspace.”

Compiled by Brian Sprowl, Associate Editor, AUVSI

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