Author Archives: Beth Maundrill

Stimulating simulation and tantalising training at I/ITSEC 2017

The simulation and training industry’s annual showcase, I/ITSEC, always proves to be a great show for the Shephard team. We are happy to admit that the event does not bring hard-hitting news every year but there is still plenty of updates, opinions and new products for the team to cover and here we’ve selected some of our top stories and videos from the week for you to cast your eyes over.

For the first time this year we saw a fast boat simulator amongst the aircraft trainers and virtual reality kit.

Meanwhile, one of the US Air Force’s most lucrative training programmes, the TX Advanced Pilot Training Programme, continued to see the three main competitors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Leonardo DRS, fight it out.

As part of the TX programme UK company, EDM, showcased a Martin-Baker Mk18 ejection seat. The company is offering training Mk18 seats for the US Air Force’s T-X programme ground based training system element.

Back on the ground, Pratt & Miller Defense debuted the newest addition to its Trackless Moving Targets (TMT) family with a solution that replicates infantry forces moving on the battlefield. The TMT-Infantry variant is currently being funded by the US Army’s PEO STRI office through a Rapid Innovation Fund.

Finally, the show brought a new element to its annual live, virtual and constructive exercise, Operation Blended Warrior, with various international partners, mainly Swedish companies, taking part in the exercise for the first time. 

As always you can catch up on the news at the Shephard Media website and we’ll see you in Orlando for I/ITSEC 2018!

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like I/ITSEC

It’s that time of year again and no I’m not taking about Christmas! The Shephard team will be embarking on the annual jaunt to the sunshine state for military simulation and training’s biggest event, I/ITSEC.

Even though the show starts on Monday we have been giving you an early look at the news and what to expect at this year’s show.

Some of the major projects that we’ll be keeping an eye on include the US Air Force’s T-X programme, the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) Program, TH-57 replacement, C-17 aircrew training system (ATS) requirement, Air Commando Training System and the USAF SCARS project, to name but a few.

The T-X programme has provided us with some twists and turns with Raytheon and Leonardo having decided they will no longer jointly bid on the programme while BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman pulled out altogether. Leonardo continues to pursue the programme with it’s T-100, Boeing has teamed with Saab and Lockheed Martin still in the race.

Meanwhile on the helicopter side of things the CHR programme continues to move forward as it proceeds to assembly, test, and evaluation of the Sikorsky HH-60W helicopter’s training systems.

The C-17 ATS is also opening doors for industry to re-bid for the solution which is currently supplied to the US Air Force, currently held by Link Simulation & Training which was awarded the contract in 2011.

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As well as the big programmes we will be bringing you the latest tech news from image generation to projection technologies.

New players are also set to enter the market such as FoxGuard Solutions, best known for its industrial computing capabilities, which is dipping its toe into the military simulation and training market.

For all the news from I/ISEC make sure you follow the team on twitter @ShephardNews and bookmark the dedicated I/ITSEC show news site.

Drone regulation debacle drags on

‘Hurry up and get on with it’ was the message from one member of the European Parliament (MEP) to the European Commission as she spoke about drone regulation at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference last week.

In 2016 we reported on some of the squabbles over drone regulation in the EU Parliament. Since then some progress has been made but things just are not moving fast enough for some MEPs.

November 2016 saw MEPs back draft EU rules on drones and emerging risks, which would bring drones within the EU civil aviation framework for the first time among other directives.

Part of new EU rules to ensure safety and privacy

The draft rules would also empower the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to issue directives and recommendations to address risks that might arise from unlawful acts or from flight paths that cross regions that are the scene of armed conflict.

But since then progress has been slow.

The European parliamentarian said her message to the European Commission is ‘you need to get a move on…we do need a bit of action I would suggest’.

She also suggested that some regulation should be looked at on a case by case basis. ‘Rather than strict rules that would regulate the industry out of existence.’

One thing that is not helpful to the pursuit of drone regulation are negative press stories including the recent collision between an unmanned platform and small passenger plane over Québec City.

‘Those headlines are not helpful…we do not need the bad publicity,’ the MEP said.

As Europe tries to push forward on rules and regulation some nations are already forward looking. For instance the UK already has rules that are being implemented and is exploring measures to curtail the misuse of drones, including penalty fines.

The current rules and regulations from the European Union can be found here and we will continue to cover developments, if and when they happen.

Boeing buys another unmanned enterprise

Today’s big industry news sees Boeing expand its autonomous portfolio with the announcement that it is to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences.

Alongside Aurora, Boeing also added Liquid Robotics to its unmanned portfolio in December 2016. Liquid Robotics told me that it had been working more closely with Boeing’s other unmanned subsidiary, Insitu, on teaming unmanned sea and air assets together.

The acquisition of smaller outfits by large defence and aerospace companies has long been a trend in unmanned markets across the land, sea and air domains. Notably in 2016 General Dynamics Mission Systems acquired Bluefin Robotics and back in 2012 Lockheed Martin bought Procerus Technologies and now markets the Indago UAS.

With the unmanned marketplace containing many smaller companies, a visit to this year’s Xponential highlighted this, we are likely to see this type of consolidation continue.

The Boeing and Aurora teams have already worked together on various unmanned projects. Aurora has designed, produced and flown more than 30 unmanned air vehicles since the company was founded in 1989.

We spoke with Aurora earlier this year about one of its projects which it is developing with DARPA, the XV-24A UAS.

Watch this space because there is sure to be more to come.

Catching on: commercial UAS expansion

There is no doubt that the commercial unmanned market is continuing to grow in leaps and bounds. Many of the events aimed at the UV sector are now leaning increasingly towards non-military operators, and solely civil-focused unmanned events are now a firm fixture on our calendar.

An examination of the market shows there is huge opportunity for both the likes of DJI, providing small UAS to hobbyists and photographers, as well as the traditionally defence-orientated companies looking to service large industries such as energy and agriculture.

The latest issue of UV magazine looks into the commercial business units (CBU) that have been set up by such companies as they look to tap into what looks to be a lucrative market.

It is easy to recognise the likes of the Insitu ScanEagle and Textron Aerosonde as platforms initially made for the military. However, both companies are leading the commercial charge, and while they continue to maintain their relationships with government customers, executives are clearly looking to the future and a commercial world predicted to be worth billions of dollars.

What we have found to be most interesting about these commercial offerings is the idea of providing a whole service. It is understandable that, unlike government customers, those in the business world do not want the added expense of actually acquiring systems.

Additionally, the service concept puts a large focus on analytical tools. It was apparent at this year’s Xponential in Dallas that there is now an emphasis on data analytics within the unmanned market beyond simply the platforms themselves. Again, while government customers are able to pay for their own in-house analytics, commercial users prefer to contract someone to provide that as part of a service.

Textron and Insitu are now over 12 months into CBU operations and are both beginning to see the fruits of their labour, although at this time it is making up a small part of their profits.

One reassuring aspect of big defence organisations working in the commercial world is their know- how when it comes to regulations. Insitu told me that it continues to work with regulators on how best to incorporate UAS into commercial airspace and wants to lead by example.

While legislation on UAS is still in a state of flux, there is clearly a desire from industry to get it right. The misuse of UAS is only likely to damage opportunities in the future for those in the commercial market.

What is positive to see is a serious and thoughtful approach by the defence world to satisfy commercial requirements.

Military use of UAS also continues to move forward, with more demands being put on the platforms than ever before, including increased payload capacity, extended operational range and the fast collection of ISR data.

The enduring capability of tactical UAS is something that the same companies who are looking to the commercial market are trying to keep on top of. Military contracts continue to come thick and fast.

Again, the challenge for those key players who currently dominate US and European military procurement will be transitioning this success to the commercial world.

Competition will come from disruptive new players entering the market. While we have seen plenty of start-ups attending events with small quadcopters, there is also room for companies with new business models that appeal to the commercial customer.

Defence companies are set to make a bigger splash in the civil market – they have now gone well beyond just dipping their toes in the water, and Shephard will continue to follow the CBU journey closely.

DSEI video highlights

The recently concluded DSEI exhibition brought us new robots, boats and vehicles and the Shephard news team caught it all on video.

If you missed any of the action here are some of the video highlights from the week.

The UK based consortium led by MBDA and Leonardo showcased its Dragonfire capability for a laser directed energy weapon system.

Rheinmetall came to the show with a weaponised UGV.

On the water Supacat unveiled and demonstrated a new RIB, the SC12.

Back on dry land Harris was awarded a contract by the UK MoD for its T7 Counter IED UGV.

Finally, our very own Grant Turnbull gives us a rundown of some of his highlights from the event.

For all the coverage and even more video content from the show head to the Shephard Media website.

Diving deep into submarine tech

In the latest issue of International Maritime and Port Security magazine I had the pleasure of cover the thriving diesel-electric (SSK) submarine industry.

Editor, Richard Thomas, investigated this sector previously in the subsea warfare market report and found a sector experiencing a relative boom time, even in regions (such as Europe) that are experiencing a general contraction in naval significance and industrial output.

A series of SSK programmes in Germany, Sweden, Italy and Norway is keeping that region active for both operator and industry alike. In Asia requirements for India and Pakistan attract significant interest and industrial cooperation inside those countries, while Asia-Pacific rivals also seek to expand their subsurface fleets in a continual game of defence one-upmanship.

A Swedish Gotland Class submarine currently going through mid-life upgrades with Saab.

China is emerging as a defence influencer in the region having agreed a series of submarine procurement programmes with neighbours, while Japan and South Korea try to challenge this with their own domestic and international efforts.

We introduce submarines then into this magazine in recognition of the role that smaller SSKs play in maintaining security in the EEZs and littorals, conducting special operations against target coastlines or surveillance missions to gather valuable intelligence.

The industry supporting the demand is global, with boat builders from West to East all pursuing rich contracts and new markets. Indeed, SSKs are perhaps one of the most adaptable and effective platforms that a navy can operate, particularly because most of the time potential rivals don’t know they are being surveilled in the first place.

The U-32 is the second Type 212A submarine used by the German Navy.

Technology in propulsion and battery technology is pushing back against one of the limiting factors that SSKs have to contend with – the need to surface and run its diesels to recharge capacitors. The boats fitted with such capabilities can now stay underwater for significantly greater periods of time and maximising their use to the fleet.

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