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Industry Presents UAV Upgrades to UK Royal Navy
As the Royal Navy moves towards retiring its only unmanned air vehicle from service in 2017, industry has presented a number of upgrades to UK-operated systems to try and tempt the service into continuing operations with such technology.
Using the RN’s Unmanned Warrior exercise that began on 10 October, Boeing and Thales have pitched upgrades to the ScanEagle and Watchkeeper UAVs respectively, which they hope will result in some interest.
Boeing’s Insitu subsidiary has presented a dual sensor configuration of the ScanEagle for the exercise. This takes the RN’s baseline UAV with an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor and adds a visual detection and ranging (ViDAR) search capability to the payload.
Acknowledging that the RN’s feedback on the operation of ScanEagle from its ships claimed there was a lack of search function in the system, Insitu has presented the ViDAR payload in response, Faris Bashoo, maritime unmanned systems project manager at Boeing, tells FlightGlobal.
“What we are bringing is a solution to requirements that the navy issued about a year after it started operating [ScanEagle],” Bashoo says, noting that the search capability was a key missing requirement.
The ViDAR function carries out a wide area search of a body of water, identifies possible targets, and cues the EO/IR sensor to carry out further search of the area while it returns to wide area surveillance.
“We’re hoping that after Unmanned Warrior we can sit down with the navy and discuss this,” Bashoo says.
ScanEagle is operated by the navy on a contractor-owned, contractor-operated (COCO) basis, with the current contract expected to end in 2017.
During the exercise the US Navy has also been demonstrating the RQ-21A Blackjack UAV, which is a derivative of ScanEagle.
Regarding Camcopter, which Boeing is involved in alongside manufacturer Schiebel, Bashoo says that in 2015 the navy explored the rotary-wing UAV, and is considering running a six-month capability concept demonstration with the system.
“There are lots of expressions of interest, but finding funding is more difficult,” Bashoo notes. “We are hoping that after Unmanned Warrior there will be funding found.”
There is likely to be a capability gap between the end of the current COCO contract and acquiring another platform, and Bashoo says that another contracted system could be obtained to fill the void.
Meanwhile, the British Army’s WK450 Watchkeeper UAV has been demonstrated to the RN for the first time, including the inaugural use of a maritime radar capability. It carried Thales’s I-Master radar, and the company is using the exercise to demonstrate its ability to operate over both land and sea.
Ahead of Unmanned Warrior, Serco’s SD Northern River vessel travelled from Portsmouth to the west coast of Scotland where the exercise is now taking place, via west Wales, where Watchkeeper training is carried out.
While there, the launch of Watchkeeper was controlled from a land-based ground control station, with its sensors controlled from the SD Northern River, where the exercise’s Acer combat management system had been installed.
The ability of the UAV to hand over control from land to sea was a key aim, Nick Miller, Thales’s business director for unmanned systems, tells Flight Global, and demonstrates to the Ministry of Defence what it could potentially do with its future 54-strong fleet of Watchkeepers.
Contry: Great Britain
2016-12-01Last week a delegation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle experts from the United Kingdom met with industry leaders in California to highlight the United Kingdom’s regulatory leadership. The United Kingdom has sophisticated regulations governing the use of Unman
Last week a delegation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle experts from the United Kingdom met with industry leaders in California to highlight the United Kingdom’s regulatory leadership.
2016-10-12RAF Wants British Weapons for Protector Fleet
The UK Royal Air Force remains confident that it will introduce British-made weapons onto its future Protector unmanned air vehicle, although a final decision on this element of the programme has yet to be made.
2016-08-28Student Designs Communications Drone for Disaster Relief
A college student at Staffordshire University in the UK has designed a disaster relief drone that will set up an emergency communications network.
2016-08-19New England Utility Flying High Over Drone Test
New England’s largest power provider may soon join the growing number of power utilities using drones to keep watch over their power lines.
2016-08-18Live Maps for Unmanned Air Systems in UK
Createc has been funded by the UK Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) to work on a software solution that can be easily incorporated into existing unmanned air systems (UAS) using only on-board passive sensors and a previous map.
2016-08-08British Firms Launch New Inspection Drone Solutions
One of the UK’s leading industrial training companies is joining forces with a key player in the growing construction/inspection drone industry.
2016-07-05Thales Gets UK £80M Watchkeeper Support Contract
The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded Thales a £80 million contract to deliver Support to the British Army’s combat proven Watchkeeper Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
2016-07-03UK to Consider Training Reaper Pilots
As the number of slots available to foreign allies at the US Air Force’s unmanned air vehicle training school continues to be limited, the UK is considering establishing its own domestic capability, ahead of a planned acquisition of a new fleet of remotely piloted aircraft.
2016-06-26British Police Ramp Up Drone Purchases
British police agencies are keeping the “Game of Drones” alive and well as more departments deploy UAVs to fight crime and search for missing persons.
2016-06-21Leading UK Energy Firm Signs Up for UAS Inspections
Cyberhawk Innovations has secured significant works with FTSE 100 listed SSE Plc, one of the UK’s largest energy companies. The campaign, which began in May this year, will see Cyberhawk carry out close visual inspections of more than 600 blades using UAVs. Work will be completed across wind turbines at various SSE windfarms throughout Scotland, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.
13 Takeaways from The White House Workshop
13 Takeaways from The White House Workshop
2012-04-05 Hydrogen-powered Fuel Cell Flies ScanEagle