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DRONE TECHNOLOGY ACHIEVES NEW HEIGHTS AT YUMA PROVING GROUND
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
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Source: US Army


Source: US Army


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YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. -- Humanity's first powered flight in 1903 lasted for 12 seconds.

In 2010, the Zephyr unmanned aircraft stayed aloft for two straight weeks high in the airspace above U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), setting a world record.

Last summer, an upgraded Zephyr returned to YPG and flew continuously for 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes. Perhaps more significantly, the craft was able to spend its entire flight well above the altitudes normally achieved by commercial airplanes.

"Unlike previous flights when the aircraft had to come down to between 25,000 and 35,000 feet at night, this time we were able to stay above the weather," said Lori Slaughter, test officer. "Our lowest altitude during the flight itself was 55,000 feet."

The Zephyr's intended purpose is to serve as a low-cost, more-capable alternative to a spy satellite, able to loiter over the same vicinity for hours or days at a time. It still has the same name and mission as its original iteration, but boasts a slew of upgrades.

"We have brand new avionics that are a lot more efficient and better-controlled," said Sarah Bassett, project manager. "We have also updated all the solar panels and batteries with increased performance. We've also lightened the airframe."

The construction of the Zephyr is minimalist. Built of composite carbon fiber, the craft weighs a feather-light 100 pounds and has no wheels or landing gear--it is launched off of the shoulders and from the hands of five running individuals. Virtually every square inch of the 80-foot wingspan is covered by lightweight solar cells that charge batteries that power twin electric motors.

Also onboard are sophisticated electronics that allow the craft to be monitored and steered from a ground control station. All of this runs on the electrical power equivalent to that needed to light a single commercial light bulb.

The Zephyr's ability to fly at extremely high altitudes means it can safely evade bad weather while aloft. However, it is vital for the aircraft to perform its ascent and descent in favorable conditions. An unexpected deviation in the jet stream had forced testers to land the craft after 48 hours during a test at YPG in 2013, and all concerned were keen to avoid the same thing this time around.

When the team finally achieved a favorable window on July 11, the craft was run down the runway by Airbus personnel and began its slow and steady ascent into a record-breaking flight. All was going smoothly until the weather situation deteriorated in Phoenix, about 175 miles away. Though this weather pattern had no direct impact on Yuma Proving Ground, Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport was closed for landings and had multiple commercial airliners circling in the skies above.

The Federal Aviation Administration asked for permission to use some of YPG's restricted airspace to help alleviate the aerial traffic jam that was accumulating in the skies above Phoenix, and YPG readily agreed to help. To accommodate this, the Zephyr's ascent path had to be moved to the extreme southern border of YPG's 2,000 square mile of restricted airspace, and the craft was confined to a small box to continue its climb. The deviation in the plan was completely unexpected, but testers took it in stride, ultimately seeing it as another positive test data point.

"We proved that we could stay away from commercial aircraft," said Bassett. "We managed quite easily to stay in a very small strip of air space and avoid the storms as we gained altitude."

Though YPG averages 360 days of clear weather annually and boasts stable air that is perfect for aircraft testing, testers had to cope with other effects of the intense summer heat.

To achieve optimal performance for a test baseline, the Zephyr's batteries had to be kept at a constant cool temperature prior to flight, which meant YPG personnel had to maintain a portable conditioning chamber at all times. YPG personnel also erected targets across YPG's desert ranges to give the Zephyr's optics suite things to seek while aloft. Even erecting the aircraft's ground control station prior to the flight took place in extreme temperatures.

"Our ground control system has a lot of dishes and antennas that need to be assembled on top," said Bassett. "You can't do it at night because it's dangerous. Even early in the morning, it is very hot outside."

While aloft, YPG personnel monitored the craft's flight at all hours of the day and night, and the Zephyr may have been stay aloft for an astonishing three months had other commitments not forced the crew to land and transport it for other testing elsewhere.

Making the test successful took the efforts of a multitude of YPG offices and shops, and the seamless interaction to achieve the mission impressed both the customer and the test officer.

"It's phenomenal how everyone works together," said Slaughter. "Everyone just comes together for the mission.

Source:  U.S. Army
Associated URL: https://www.army.mil/article/217347/drone_technology_achieves_new_heights_at_yuma_proving_ground
Source Date: February 12, 2019
Author: Mark Schauer 
Posted: 02/15/2019

 
 
"FIRST ZIK" MARKS 20 YEARS
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
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Hermes 450

Source: Elbit Systems


Hermes 450

Source: Elbit Systems


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TEL AVIV -- It operates two different platforms in parallel, constantly evolves technologically and is considered the RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) Division's largest squadron. This week, the "First Zik" Squadron marks 20 years of activity

This week, the "First Zik" Squadron marks 20 years of activity. The squadron is currently the largest squadron in the IAF RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) Division, home to dozens of RPAV operators - before Sde-Dov AFB's light transport squadrons were unified one month ago, the "First Zik" Squadron was the largest in the force.

The squadron operates two different aircraft: the "Zik" (Hermes 450) and "Kochav" (Hermes 900) RPAVs. The "Kochav", which was certified FOC (Full Operational Capability) just one year ago, has already begun taking a significant part in the force's activity. The two aircraft put the squadron at first place in terms of operational flight hours.

Emergency As Routine

"The squadron was first established sometime in the 1990s. In the beginning, it was only meant to operate during emergency scenarios and not during routine", said Lt. Col. S', the squadron commander.

Years later, the force's service members realized the RPAVs' great potential. They are precise, available, capable of staying in the air for long periods of time, and most importantly - they don't risk human lives. "As soon as we realized this, there was no war, operation or activity that the squadron didn't partake in," said Lt. Col. S'. "Operation in emergency became routine,"

The fact that the squadron was the first in the force to utilize the "Zik" made it groundbreaking in the field of RPAVs. "The 'Zik' can perform a wide variety of various missions, but as the battlefield changes, so does our activity", elaborated Lt. Col. S'. The squadron was divided into two in 2013, branching off into the "First Zik" Squadron and the "Black Snake" Squadron, which operates the aircraft as well.

"Operating two different aircraft at the same time is a complex mission", said Lt. Col. S'. "The missions may be identical, but the complexity is felt in qualification and maintenance. In the past, operators would arrive at the squadron with specific skillsets for a specific aircraft, while nowadays, operators arriving from the RPAV Academy are already familiar with both platforms."

Rising Star

The "Kochav" aircraft was certified FOC just one year ago following diligent work performed by the squadron's service members. The personnel were chosen ahead of time and transferred from other squadrons, which meant that everyone involved was an experienced professional. The crew had to be prepared for any scenario, even though it hadn't been operational until just a short while earlier.

"It was Saturday - I was at home when suddenly I was notified regarding an operational event. Without thinking twice, I put on my uniform and drove to the base," recalled Capt. A'. "When arriving at the squadron, the first thought that went through my head was how my crew and I could help. We quickly put on our technician suits and got to work." Besides handling operational events, the squadron continued integrating new systems meant to improve their capabilities, as well as performing exercises on the ground and in the air in order to maintain the crews' readiness level.

"In the future, we are due to integrate a new kind of HAS (Hardened Aircraft Shelter) for the 'Kochav', which is considered a fifth-generation RPAV in the IAF. The infrastructure will be incredible, which will further improve our missions."

"This effort will make the squadron a leading force in the field of RPAVs", expects Lt. Col. S'. "The 'Kochav' is due to be the division's backbone."

Always Connected

Besides the squadron's technological advancements over the past years, it continues to operate in all theatres at all times. "During the last bout of warfare, we helped in surveillance ahead of strikes on Hamas members and saw how our activity prevented rockets from being fired at Israel", said Lt. Col. S'.

The squadron took part in a wide range of operational activity over the past year. "Sometimes you don't need to follow the news in order to understand that something's happening", added Lt. Col. S'.

"Sometimes, when I'm in the control station during an emergency, I can actually hear a siren coming through the phone from the brigade's side, all while seeing where the rocket was launched from on the cameras. You hear the pressure, the pain and the worry in the air, but this doesn't prevent the operating forces from being precise and professional. We are always connected."

The squadron is now marking 20 years of activity. "Professionalism, initiative and fellowship - these are the three words we can use to sum up the past 20 years," concluded Lt. Col. S'. "It's amazing how so many people are a part of the squadron, which is like a family. Even though many of them have moved onto other squadrons, they never forget the 'First Zik' - it's like a home, and always will be."

Source:  Israeli Air Force
Associated URL: http://www.iaf.org.il/9073-50936-en/IAF.aspx
Source Date: February 13, 2019
Author: Yael Fuchs 
Posted: 02/14/2019

 
 
U.S. NAVY AWARDS BOEING $43M ORCA XLUUV CONTRACT
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
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Boeing’s XLUUV will be based on its Echo Voyager

Source: Boeing


Boeing’s XLUUV will be based on its Echo Voyager

Source: Boeing


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WASHINGTON -- The Boeing Co., Huntington Beach, California, is awarded a $43,000,000 fixed-priced-incentive modification to previously awarded contract N00024-17-C-6307 for the fabrication, test, and delivery of four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) and associated support elements. The Orca XLUUV will be an open architecture, reconfigurable Unmanned Undersea Vehicle.

The Orca XLUUV will be modular in construction with the core vehicle providing guidance and control, navigation, autonomy, situational awareness, core communications, power distribution, energy and power, propulsion and maneuvering, and mission sensors. The Orca XLUUV will have well-defined interfaces for the potential of implementing cost-effective upgrades in future increments to leverage advances in technology and respond to threat changes. The Orca XLUUV will have a modular payload bay, with defined interfaces to support current and future payloads for employment from the vehicle.

The competition for XLUUV requirements is still in source-selection, and therefore the specific contract award amount is considered source-selection sensitive information (see 41 U.S. Code 2101, et seq., Federal Acquisition Regulation 2.101 and 3.104) and will not be made public at this time.

Work will be performed in Huntington Beach, California (29 percent); Virginia Beach, Virginia (27 percent); Waukesha, Wisconsin (8 percent); East Aurora, New York (7 percent); Concord, Massachusetts (7 percent); Camden, New Jersey (5 percent); Smithfield, Pennsylvania (4 percent); Attleboro, Massachusetts (3 percent); City of Industry, California (3 percent); El Cajon, California (3 percent); Fairfield, New Jersey (2 percent); Ontario, California (1 percent); and Farmingdale, New York (1 percent), and is expected to be complete by June 2022.

The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.

Source:  US Navy
Associated URL: navy.mil
Source Date: February 13, 2019
Posted: 02/14/2019

 

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