27 juillet 2020 | Local, Aérospatial

These Companies Will Work on R2-D2-Like Drone Helper for Air Force Pilots

24 Jul 2020

Military.com | By Oriana Pawlyk

Four defense companies have been selected to begin work on the U.S. Air Force's Skyborg program, which aims to pair artificial intelligence with a human piloting a fighter jet.

The service chose Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc., and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. to move forward on the program; however, the companies will be competing for the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, estimated to be worth up to $400 million, according to an announcement.

The autonomous Skyborg is intended for reusable unmanned aerial vehicles in a manned-unmanned teaming mission; the drones are considered "attritable," or cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.

"Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force," said Brig. Gen. Dale White, program executive officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft. White and Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), together lead the Skyborg program.

"We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power," White said in a release.

"Autonomy technologies in Skyborg's portfolio will range from simple playbook algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies," added Pringle. "This effort will provide a foundational Government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous and open-architecture unmanned aerial [systems]."

Skyborg is one of three initiatives in the service's Vanguard Program portfolio for rapid prototyping and development of new-age technologies it can leverage for multiple operations. The Vanguard program brings together the research lab and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to "quickly identify cutting-edge technology and transition directly into the hands of the warfighter," the release states.

The Air Force launched the bidding process for Skyborg in May; it expects Skyborg's initial operation to be ready by the end of 2023.

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, first spoke of the Air Force Research Lab-led program last year.

He told reporters during the 2019 McAleese Conference that, while it is reminiscent of the Air Force's proposed Loyal Wingman program to send out drones ahead of fighters to act as scouts, Skyborg will take the concept even further, with an AI plane that trains with its pilot, acting as a sidekick, rapidly thinking through problems and taking command if necessary.

In short, it's R2-D2 from "Star Wars" in an aircraft of its very own, he said.

"I might eventually decide, 'I want that AI in my own cockpit,'" Roper said. "So if something happened immediately, [the AI] could take hold, make choices in a way that [a pilot would] know because [a pilot has] trained with it."


Sur le même sujet

  • Military eyes adaptive camouflage, self-repairing clothing for future troops

    29 janvier 2021 | Local, Terrestre

    Military eyes adaptive camouflage, self-repairing clothing for future troops

    5 Canadian universities leading cutting-edge research at cost of $9M over 3 years David Burke From chameleon-inspired camouflage to clothing that mends itself when damaged, the Department of National Defence is looking to outfit Canadian troops with next-wave gear that provides better protection — and less detection — on the battlefield. Those are just two technologies in a long list of cutting-edge scientific advancements that DND is spending $9 million over three years to research, spearheaded by five Canadian universities. "Adaptive camouflage would be more like a chameleon where, depending on your background, your camouflage will modify itself. So if you are in front of a dark wall, your camouflage could be darker. If you are in front of a whiter wall, your camouflage would be lighter," said Eric Fournier, director general of innovation with DND. That technology exists and is being worked on right now, he said. Fournier and the researchers working for DND are tight-lipped on details about how effective this kind of technology is and exactly how it works. DND did not supply CBC with any images of the proposed designs. "I'm not sure we're allowed to talk about it all that much yet," said Shona McLaughlin, defence scientist portfolio manager with the federal Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security program. Carleton University, Polytechnique Montreal, the University of Manitoba, the University of British Columbia and Université de Sherbrooke are leading the work. They have all received around $1.5 million so far, except for Polytechnique, which is working on two projects and has been given almost $3 million. Researching advanced materials A handful of businesses are also helping with the research, including athletic apparel manufacturer Lululemon Athletica and engineering and manufacturing firm Precision ADM. Each university is researching what's known as advanced materials, which are engineered to perform a variety of specific functions. Some of those materials can be fashioned into clothing that repairs itself. As an example, McLaughlin said a capsule could be embedded in a shirt or armoured vest that, when the garment or gear is damaged, bursts and releases a liquid or foam that solidifies and seals the hole. Research is also being done on new materials that may one day replace Kevlar and ceramics as the chief components of body armour. "Now we're looking at materials where we can actually tune the properties, we can make them lighter weight, stronger and less bulky," said McLaughlin. The goal is to have armour that holds up better to bullets, high-velocity ballistics and shrapnel, and is more comfortable for the wearer. Reducing weight of soldiers' equipment It's innovation that would be extremely helpful to troops on the battlefield, said Randy Turner, a retired special forces soldier with years of experience in combat zones. Turner was part of the Canadian Armed Forces Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), a highly trained unit that handles complex and risky missions throughout the world. He had tours of duty in Afghanistan and Bosnia. On average, Turner said soldiers carry around 60 to 65 pounds of equipment when they're on duty. "A soldier spends a lot of time on his feet and he's moving in and around vehicles. Anything that could be a little bit smaller, a little bit lighter, would also be a little less taxing on the individual's body," said Turner. The adaptive camouflage and self-repairing clothing are also of interest to Turner. He said anything that helps a soldier blend in is useful. Rips and tears in uniforms and damage to boots are also common, so clothing that repairs itself would be helpful. Still, he's apprehensive about the technology and questions whether wearable tech could distract military personnel from their job. "Has anyone asked, you know, what a soldier needs? Has anyone done a real hard needs assessment on what an infantry unit, for example, requires right now? I'm willing to bet the first thing that comes to mind is not going to be a uniform," said Turner. Other areas of protection He said the $9 million being spent on the research could be used for other things. "That's a lot of money that could be, in my opinion, better utilized to give an infantry unit some bullets so they can train and become proficient with their firearms," he said. "Give some quality training to soldiers, and that is a level of protection." At the universities, research continues with teams experimenting with fabrics that can block radio signals and printable electronics that can be woven into clothing. Printable electronics could perform a number of functions, according to McLaughlin, but she said monitoring a military member's health is high on the list. "It could be for health monitoring, if you want to make sure your soldiers are not overly stressed because they're in a hot environment ... the heat, the blood pressure, the actual stress from the exertion, those things you might want to keep tabs on," she said. Fournier has no doubt these new systems could help save lives. "Our soldiers go all over the world for all kinds of missions," he said. "Just to inform them, for example, [that] they're getting dehydrated ... It could have an impact on how missions would happen, for sure." 'Processing challenges' Teams have been working on this research for a little over a year and while progress is being made, no one has come forward with a finished project. Fournier said work like this can take years and there's no guarantee of a final product. He said the important thing is that researchers are moving the science of advanced materials forward. "In the end, we may not end up with a new protecting gear, but we will have learned a lot about making that protective gear in the future," said Fournier. McLaughlin also said people should temper their expectations. "It's not as simple as throwing everything in a pot, stirring it, and boom — you've got a material," she said. "There's processing challenges that [researchers] have to overcome. So that's one of the big things that they're working on right now ... how to actually create these things and how to evaluate them." https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/military-research-technology-combat-protection-1.5889528

  • Canada bids for mothballed prototype drone from Germany

    25 février 2019 | Local, Aérospatial

    Canada bids for mothballed prototype drone from Germany

    BERLIN (Reuters) - The German Defence Ministry is evaluating a bid from Canada to buy a high-altitude surveillance drone that has been parked at a German air base for years after the cancellation of the Euro Hawk program in 2013, with a further bid possible from NATO. Canada has submitted a formal bid for the prototype aircraft, which was stripped of key equipment and demilitarized by the United States in 2017, a ministry spokesman said on Wednesday without providing further details. Canadian media have reported that Canada could use the drone, built by Northrop Grumman, to monitor oil spills, ice levels and marine habitats in the remote Arctic region. NATO, which is buying its own fleet of Northrop drones, is also considering a bid for the mothballed German aircraft but has not yet submitted it, said sources familiar with the process. NATO had no immediate comment. There was no immediate reply from the Canadian government. A sale of the drone would end an embarrassing chapter that raised concerns about the German military's procurement process and triggered the transfer of former Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere to another cabinet post. Berlin told lawmakers last year that it had spent about 700 million euros ($793.5 million) on the Euro Hawk prototype, and the ISIS surveillance system built by Airbus. Berlin initiated plans in 2000 to buy five Euro Hawk drones based on Northrop's Global Hawk unmanned system at a cost of about 1.2 billion euros but later canceled the program because of cost overruns and problems obtaining certification for use in civilian airspace in Germany. It had only received the one prototype aircraft that is now being sold. Berlin is now negotiating with Northrop to buy several MQ-4C Triton drones for delivery after 2025. Northrop last year said the process could take years to complete. German opposition lawmaker Andrej Hunko, a member of the radical Left party, said the government had declared the aircraft incapable of flight after the U.S. Air Force removed U.S. built radio equipment and other key systems when it demilitarized the aircraft in 2017. “The airplane has salvage value at best,” he told Reuters. “Any proceeds from the sale would be a drop in the bucket, compared with the huge amounts spent on the program.” For NATO, the drone could provide additional support to the fleet of five high-altitude unmanned Global Hawk planes it agreed to buy from Northrop in 2012 for $1.7 billion, along with transportable ground stations. Industry officials said the Euro Hawk saga underscored problems in military procurement, noting that NATO's sister aircraft regularly traverse German air space to conduct surveillance missions over the North Sea. They also have no blanket approval for use in German civilian airspace but use case-by-case permissions from air traffic authorities. It was not immediately clear what steps would be needed to return the Euro Hawk prototype to flight. Additional reporting by David Ljungren in Ottawa; Editing by Riham Alkousaa, David Goodman and William Maclean https://www.kitco.com/news/2019-02-20/Canada-bids-for-mothballed-prototype-drone-from-Germany.html

  • PAL soon hiring for SAR main operating bases

    15 novembre 2017 | Local, Aérospatial

    PAL soon hiring for SAR main operating bases

    Posted on November 15, 2017 by Chris Thatcher The in-service support and training systems team behind Canada's new fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) aircraft expects to begin construction on a training centre at 19 Wing Comox, B.C., before the end of the year. Eva Martinez, PAL Aerospace vice president of in-service support, said the first shovel should break ground in December. “We're working on finalizing that date,” she told the Best Defence Conference in London, Ont., on Nov. 1. Canada's 16 C295W aircraft will likely be distributed three per base, with two marked for training and two to be rotated amongst the SAR squadrons to cover for aircraft undergoing maintenance. Airbus Photo The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) will take delivery of the first of 16 Airbus C295W search and rescue aircraft in April 2020 at a renewed main operating base at 19 Wing, scheduled to be stood up in December 2019. Airbus was awarded a $2.4 billion contract in December 2016 to replace the RCAF's fleet of six CC-115 Buffalos and several CC-130H Hercules assigned to search and rescue duty. The contract includes delivery of the aircraft, construction of a state-of-the-art training centre, and the first five years of maintenance and support. Options for an additional 15 years of maintenance and support services could extend the agreement to 2042 and the total value to $4.7 billion. As part of the Airbus team, PAL Aerospace will provide program management services, in-service support (ISS), maintenance and logistics support, heavy maintenance, a mobile repair team, and manage a centralized supply chain. The two companies have created a Canadian joint venture called AirPro to serve as the ISS integrator. And as a Tier 1 supplier to Airbus, PAL will provide direct maintenance, repair and overall (MRO) services as well as logistics and engineering augmentation. While CAE Canada has responsibility for the training program, infrastructure and support, PAL has the task of creating a contractor field office and tool and parts warehouse and staffing an integrated team of aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs) at the four main operating bases in Comox, Winnipeg, Trenton, Ont., and Greenwood, N.S. It will also set up a central warehouse in Winnipeg to supply all four bases, alongside an MRO facility for heavy inspections and the mobile repair party. An interim warehouse will be created in St. John's, N.L., until the Winnipeg facility is ready in December 2022. “Next year, we begin the wave of hiring,” said Martinez, noting that AMEs, a senior maintenance manager and other personnel will all need to be in place as the facilities and services at each main operating base come online, starting with Comox and then likely Winnipeg, Trenton and Greenwood, “though that may change.” This rendering shows the new fixed-wing search and rescue training centre to be built at 19 Wing Comox, B.C. CAE Image The 16 C295W aircraft will likely be distributed three per base, with two marked for training and two to be rotated amongst the SAR squadrons to cover for aircraft undergoing maintenance, she said. Although St. John's-based PAL has been providing airline, aviation and manufacturing services since 1972, establishing a global reputation in the process, the FWSAR contract has helped put the company “on the map” in Canada, Martinez acknowledged. As part of its central role in the program, PAL will be leaning on a wider supply chain of small and medium Canadian companies to achieve its industrial and technological benefits (ITB) obligations. “[We] will be expecting [our] suppliers to provide the support that we need so we too can meet our ITB and value proposition contractual commitments,” she said. As one of the first large projects to move through the procurement process since the government in 2014 introduced a defence procurement strategy emphasizing value propositions (VP) to enhance economic returns, the “FWSAR contract is actually the first in Canada to fall under a measured VP,” Martinez noted. “In other words, [the VP] wasn't just used for bid evaluation. A variety of tasks have already been pre-determined against which every Tier 1 will have to identify their labour hours specific to each of those tasks.” While Airbus will have an obligation to invest at least 15 per cent of its ITB commitments in small and medium enterprises, PAL's requirement is just 1.4 per cent. Martinez stressed, however, that the company would be looking well beyond that for additional Canadian content. “That does not mean we are going to cap ourselves at 1.4 per cent. We have just as much interest [as Airbus] in working with small and medium enterprises where it makes sense in terms of performance,” she said. https://www.skiesmag.com/news/pal-soon-hiring-sar-main-operating-bases/

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