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Amsterdam, Holland (SPX) Jun 28, 2019 - RAI Amsterdam, Johan Cruijff ArenA and the municipality of Amsterdam will jointly explore the added value and feasibility of a drone hub corridor. Places in the city where electrically powered unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) can take off and land. The reason for this is a European project on Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and the fact that the European Commission and EASA have announced the new rules for drones.

Henk Markerink, CEO Johan Cruijff ArenA and Paul Riemens, CEO RAI Amsterdam, announced this during WeMakeTheCity in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. These urban issues about mobility, digital infrastructure and safety are the themes during Amsterdam Drone Week, December 4 to 6 in RAI Amsterdam.

After the summer, the municipality of Amsterdam, RAI Amsterdam and Johan Cruijff ArenA will start exploring the opportunities and possibilities that drone technology can offer for the city, its inhabitants and businesses. Waternet and GVB will also join the exploration. Johan Cruijff ArenA and RAI Amsterdam, for example, want to investigate the feasibility and added value of so-called eVTOL hubs. eVTOL stands for electric vertical take-off and landing, places where drones can take off and land without hindrance.

Paul Riemens explains about the collaboration: "We want to investigate whether it is possible, for example, to organize blood or organ transports through the city with drones. Companies such as Uber, Airbus and Amazon say they are ready. However, it seems to me that social parties should also investigate what is desirable and feasible. This project is a first step in this direction and we cordially invite other parties to join in."

Henk Markerink, CEO of the Johan Cruijff ArenA, sees the exploration as a logical step in the long collaboration between RAI and the stadium. "We are both smart venues and we believe in the opportunities and possibilities that urban air mobility can offer. For example, during events, drones could be an extension of support services and contribute to crowd control and safety inspection. So it makes sense that we investigate those possibilities, together with the municipality of Amsterdam, among others. "

The municipality of Amsterdam is also closely involved in the exploration. Ger Baron, CTO of the municipality of Amsterdam, knows that urban air mobility will become a topic anyway: "It is possible, so it will happen. And then you have to ask yourself "how do you deal with that as a city?" As far as the municipality of Amsterdam is concerned, urban air mobility is not yet about passenger transport but about everything that has to do with assets. Then transport by air is very obvious.

"According to Baron, it is therefore good that there is already "practicing": "Then it concerns things like: How does the charging work? How do you use them as effectively as possible? Do the fire brigade and police both have to have a drone or can they be used in a multifunctional way? Amsterdam will probably be one of the first cities where this is going to play, so I like to be at the front."

European initiative
Nynke Lipsius, Event Director Amsterdam Drone Week, explains why RAI Amsterdam has taken the initiative for the exploration. "The Urban Air Mobility Demonstrator project (EIP-SCC-UAM) is a European initiative with the aim of exploring innovations with the application of drone technology within urban areas. The objective is that drones ultimately contribute to a sustainable, safer and more accessible city."

Amsterdam Drone Week (ADW) is the global Tech platform for sharing knowledge on current air solutions, potential innovations and vital regulations from 4 - 6 December in RAI Amsterdam. During three days all key players, big and small, commercial and non-commercial, from various industries, knowledge institutes and authorities, gather to co-create and co-operate. Creating urban air solutions together. For more information visit amsterdamdroneweek.com.

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Washington (UPI) Jun 28, 2019 - General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. was awarded a $21.9 million contract for support services on the Gray Eagle drone, the Defense Department announced Thursday.

The contract with the U.S. Army calls for procurement of performance based logistical support services on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system, a 3,600-pound, 28-foot-long drone with a 56-foot wingspan. It has a range of 2,500 nautical miles and a ceiling of 25,000 feet, and can carry up to four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

In a profile of the system, the Army said the Gray Eagle addresses a need for a long-endurance, armed, unmanned aircraft system that offers greater range, altitude and payload flexibility over prior systems.

The contract announced on Thursday is a modification of a previous contract. Work will be performed at General Atomics' facility in Poway, Calif., with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2020.

The U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting agent.

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Boston MA (SPX) Jul 01, 2019 - In the Harvard Microrobotics Lab, on a late afternoon in August, decades of research culminated in a moment of stress as the tiny, groundbreaking Robobee made its first solo flight.

Graduate student Elizabeth Farrell Helbling, PhD '19, and postdoctoral fellow Noah T. Jafferis from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering caught the moment on camera.

Helbling, who has worked on the project for six years, counted down.

"Three, two, one, go."

The bright halogens switched on and the solar-powered Robobee launched into the air. For a terrifying second, the tiny robot, still without on-board steering and control, careened towards the lights.

Off camera, Helbling exclaimed and cut the power. The Robobee fell dead out of the air, caught by its Kevlar safety harness.

"That went really close to me," Helbling said, with a nervous laugh.

"It went up," Jafferis, who has also worked on the project for about six years, responded excitedly from the high-speed camera monitor where he was recording the test.

And with that, Harvard University's Robobee reached its latest major milestone - becoming the lightest vehicle ever to achieve sustained untethered flight.

"This is a result several decades in the making," said Robert Wood, Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS, Core Faculty member of the Wyss Institute and principle investigator of the Robobee project.

"Powering flight is something of a Catch-22 as the tradeoff between mass and power becomes extremely problematic at small scales where flight is inherently inefficient. It doesn't help that even the smallest commercially available batteries weigh much more than the robot. We have developed strategies to address this challenge by increasing vehicle efficiency, creating extremely lightweight power circuits, and integrating high efficiency solar cells."

The milestone is described in Nature.

To achieve untethered flight, this latest iteration of the Robobee underwent several important changes, including the addition of a second pair of wings.

"The change from two to four wings, along with less visible changes to the actuator and transmission ratio, made the vehicle more efficient, gave it more lift, and allowed us to put everything we need on-board without using more power," said Jafferis.

(The addition of the wings also earned this Robobee the nickname X-Wing, after the four-winged starfighters from Star Wars.)

That extra lift, with no additional power requirements, allowed the researchers to cut the power cord - which has kept the Robobee tethered for nearly a decade - and attach solar cells and an electronics panel to the vehicle.

The solar cells, the smallest commercially available, weigh 10 milligrams each and get 0.76 milliwatts per milligram of power when the sun is at full intensity. The Robobee X-Wing needs the power of about three Earth suns to fly, making outdoor flight out of reach for now. Instead, the researchers simulate that level of sunlight in the lab with halogen lights.

The solar cells are connected to an electronics panel under the bee, which converts the low voltage signals of the solar array into high voltage drive signals needed to control the actuators. The solar cells sit about three centimeters above the wings, to avoid interference.

In all, the final vehicle, with the solar cells and electronics, weights 259 milligrams (about a quarter of a paper clip) and uses about 120 milliwatts of power, which is less power than it would take to light a single bulb on a string of LED Christmas lights.

"When you see engineering in movies, if something doesn't work, people hack at it once or twice and suddenly it works. Real science isn't like that," said Helbling. "We hacked at this problem in every which way to finally achieve what we did. In the end, it's pretty thrilling."

The researchers will continue to hack away, aiming to bring down the power and add on-board control to enable the Robobee to fly outside.

"Over the life of this project we have sequentially developed solutions to challenging problems, like how to build complex devices at millimeter scales, how to create high-performance millimeter-scale artificial muscles, bioinspired designs, and novel sensors, and flight control strategies," said Wood.

"Now that power solutions are emerging, the next step is onboard control. Beyond these robots, we are excited that these underlying technologies are finding applications in other areas such as minimally-invasive surgical devices, wearable sensors, assistive robots, and haptic communication devices - to name just a few."

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Washington (UPI) Jul 1, 2019 - Insitu was awarded a $390.4 million contract to supply Blackjack drones for the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, as well as Blackjacks and smaller ScanEagle unmanned air vehicles, for three foreign allies.

The contract, announced Friday by the Department of Defense, covers 63 RQ-21A Blackjack attrition air vehicles for the U.S. military branches, plus six RQ-21A unmanned aircraft systems and 17 Blackjack air vehicles for Canada, Poland and Oman under foreign military sales. The contract also includes 93 ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems "in various configurations,"

The deal will include training, testing and engineering, operations support, maintenance and other services, Pentagon said.

Eight-three percent of the work will be performed at Insitu's plant in Bingen, Wash., with 5 percent at various locations into the continental United States and 12 percent outside. Work is expected to be completed in June 2022.

Naval fiscal 2019 operation and maintenance, fiscal 2019 building partnership capacity, and FMS funds in the amount of $9.9 million will be obligated at time of award, $9.5 million of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Neither drone model requires a runway, and can operate from land and sea.

The RQ-21A Blackjack is a military version of Insitu's Integrator drone.

A single RQ-21A unmanned aircraft system includes five air vehicles, including two ground control stations and other equipment.

Each drone's six payload spaces can carry up to 39 pounds with an endurance of 16-plus hours per day.

The Blackhack is considered a category 3 drone with maximum gross takeoff weight of less than 1,320 pounds, normal operating altitude of less than 18,000 feat above mean sea level and less than 250 knots per hour. It weighs 81 pounds and the length is 8.2 feet, according to the company.

The Insitu ScanEagle drone, which has been deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps since 2004 and the U.S. Navy since 2005, is a smaller long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle.

As a category 2, it can operate up to 19,500 feet and loiter over a battlefield for extended missions of 24-plus hours. Its normal operating altitude is less than 3,500 feet at an airspeed less than 250 knots per hour.

At a length of 3.9 feet and 39.7 pounds, its payload is a high resolution, day/night camera and thermal imager.

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Wright-Patterson AFB OH (SPX) Jun 18, 2019 - The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a low-cost unmanned air vehicle, successfully completed all test objectives during a 71-minute flight on June 11, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona.

The test marked the second successful flight for the aircraft this year. The inaugural 72-minute flight was recorded in March.

The Air Force Research Laboratory developed the low-cost unmanned air vehicle together with Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, Inc. The joint effort falls within AFRL's Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, which has the goal to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.

"The XQ-58A is the first Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology flight demonstrator with UAS technology to change the way we fly and fight and build and buy," said Doug Szczublewski, program manager.

There are a total of five planned test flights for the XQ-58A, with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force.

With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.

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Washington (UPI) Jun 17, 2019 - A XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aircraft completed its test objectives in a 71-minute flight last week, the U.S. Air Force announced on Monday.

The aircraft, developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., of San Diego, is regarded as an affordable potential unmanned option for missions. The drone, developed quietly in recent years, is thought to be a long-range, high subsonic drone with surveillance, strike, and electronic warfare support capability.

The June 11 flight was it's second test flight. The first, in March, was a similar 72-minute-long flight, according to Air Force officials.

"The XQ-58A is the first Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology flight demonstrator with [unmanned aircraft systems] technology to change the way we fly and fight, and build and buy," said Doug Szczublewski, program manager.

Notably, it falls within the military's Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology category, whose objectives include breaking the cycle of continuously escalating costs of aircraft. It is envisioned that the planes can be used collectively, with no serious harm to a mission if one is lost.

In last week's test flight at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., the prototype aircraft "completed all test objectives," an Air Force statement said. A previous test flight in March had similar results, and three more test flights are planned.

The five test flights are planned in two phases, including evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.

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Washington (UPI) Jun 17, 2019 - Boeing Co. selected BAE Systems to supply vehicle management systems for its MQ-25 unmanned aerial aircraft, BAE announced on Monday.

The contracts involve the plane's Vehicle Management Control System, which will control all flight surfaces and perform overall management duties of the plane, and the Identification Friend or Foe System, which identifies other aircraft and quickly establishes whether they are allies or enemies. The plane is the U.S. Navy's first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft and is designed to provide a refueling capability. Boeing's $805 million agreement with the Navy calls for four MQ-25 aircraft to be delivered initial operational capability testing by 2024.

"The MQ-25 program is vital because it will help the U.S. Navy extend the range of the carrier air wing, and Boeing and our industry team is all-in on delivering this capability," said Dave Bujold, Boeing MQ-25 program director. "The work we're doing is also foundational for the future of Boeing."

The planes are drones, each the size of a fighter plane. They will not carry weapons but will be based on aircraft carriers to refuel other aircraft mid-flight, including the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler and Lockheed Martin F-35C fighters. The Navy is upgrading four aircraft carriers with an Unmanned Carrier Aviation Mission Control System to accommodate the MQ-25s, with the USS George H.W. Bush expected to be the first carrier to be equipped with the UMCS.

A MQ-25A prototype, known as a T-1 or Stingray, is expected to take its first test flight by the end of the year. Built at Boeing's St. Louis facility, a prototype was taken to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Illinois, a small airport 40 miles away, in April. It will undergo taxiing tests there, and the Federal Aviation Administration must certify the aircraft and grant clear airspace for it to fly. Ground control stations are being installed at the airport, which is near Scott AFB in Illinois.

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Moscow (Sputnik) Jun 27, 2019 - Russian air defence forces regularly pick up and track a variety of US and NATO reconnaissance aircraft, including drones, operating near Russian airspace, with such activity increasing substantially in recent years.

JSC Radio Technical and Information Systems, a major Russian R and D and production enterprise responsible for developing and producing a variety of advanced radar, automated control systems, communications equipment and other hardware for military and strategic civilian applications, has conducted testing of a new radar system which can detect low-flying targets including drones, the company's press service has announced.

In a press release, the company said the experimental system used innovative methods for detecting man-made objects, including super-resolution algorithms scanning the observable area.

"New technical capabilities create new markets for the remote sensing of Earth," RTI Systems general director Maxim Kuzyuk said of the new equipment.

"The unique hardware and software-algorithmic solutions which engineers have applied...will allow us to solve completely new problems for our customers," Kuzyuk noted.

The company indicated there has been a tremendous growth in space-based radar observation systems in recent years, with these systems touting advantages over satellite photography including their all-weather, round-the-clock and broad coverage capabilities.

Russia has a wide variety of radar systems designed to monitor Earth-based processes and to warn the country's political and military leadership of possible threats to national security.

Earlier this year, Roscosmos proposed the creation of a new constellation of remote sensing satellites dubbed the 'Sovereign's Eye' which would allow Russia to monitor "the dynamics of any changes" in any corner of the planet.

Russian air defences have detected and tracked a growing number of US and NATO drones operating near Russia's borders. In 2018 alone, air defences reported tracking around 1,000 spy planes and UAVs attempting to test Russia's defences in the Baltic and Black seas, as well as around Russian military facilities in Syria. The aircraft comprised about a third of the estimated 3,000 foreign aircraft picked up and tracked by the air defence troops over the course of the year.

Source: RIA Novosti

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Washington (UPI) Jun 17, 2019 - U.S. Central Command confirmed that a MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down over Yemen at an altitude that suggested Iranian involvement.

A statement on Sunday said the U.S. drone, known as a Reaper, was shot down on June 6 by a SA-6 surface-to-air missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

"The altitude of the engagement indicated an improvement over previous Houthi capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance," the statement added.

A week later on June 13, another surface-to-air missile shot at a MQ-9 surveillance drone over the Gulf of Oman, but missed its target by about half-mile. The weapon used was "a modified Iranian SA-7" missile, CENTCOM said.

The June 13 drone arrived minutes earlier over the M/T Front Altair, a tanker ship on fire in the Gulf of Oman, after what U.S. officials called a mine attack on the ship by the Iranian Republican Guard Corps. It was one of two ships believed to be damaged by mines on that day. Iran has denied involvement in the incident.

Attacks on the drones can be regarded as additional evidence that Iran was involved in the attacks on the ships, U.S. officials say.

The decision to publicly blame Iran for the incidents increased the possibility that the United States will increase its troop size in the Middle East in what the White House calls a campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran. Both ships, tankers owned by companies in Japan and Norway, were attacked in international waters and sustained explosions and fires that remain unexplained.

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Washington DC (SPX) Jun 17, 2019 - A new energy-efficient data routing algorithm developed by an international team could keep unmanned aerial vehicle swarms flying - and helping - longer, report an international team of researchers this month in the journal Chaos, from AIP Publishing.

UAV swarms are cooperative, intercommunicating groups of UAVs used for a wide and growing variety of civilian and military applications. In disaster response, particularly when local communications infrastructure is destroyed, UAV swarms linked to one or more local base stations act as eyes in the sky, providing first responders with crucial damage and survivor information.

"The battery capacity of UAVs is a critical shortcoming that limits their usage in extended search and rescue missions," said co-author Wuhui Chen, a researcher at China's Sun Yat-Sen University.

Much of a UAV's energy use can be related to high bandwidth and long transmission times - think of the drain on the battery of your phone in such cases. To address this, Chen and colleagues have developed a UAV swarm data routing algorithm that uses the strength of the group to maximize real-time transmission rates and minimize individual UAV battery challenges.

Their new hybrid computational approach combines linear programming and a genetic algorithm to create a "multi-hop" data routing algorithm. A genetic algorithm solves chaotic optimization problems using an analogue of natural selection, the process that drives biological evolution.

In real time, the new adaptive LP-based genetic algorithm (ALPBGA) identifies the lowest communications energy route within a swarm and simultaneously balances out individual UAV power use, for example, by determining which UAV will beam information to a base station.

"By balancing power consumption among the UAVs, we significantly enhance the ability of the whole system," said Patrick Hung, a co-author at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Canada. "Our simulations show that our approach can outperform the existing state of the art methods."

These computer simulations show that, especially as swarm size increases from 10 to hundreds of UAVs, ALPBGA reduces the number of UAVs that stop communicating by 30% to 75% compared to existing leading UAV swarm communication algorithms.

"We believe the results of our research will inspire others to design more energy-efficient UAV communication systems," said Chen, who plans to extend the ALPBGA research to optimize it within the context of different swarm flying trajectories.

Research Report: "Energy-efficient data routing in cooperative UAV swarms for medical assistance after a disaster"

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Washington (AFP) June 12, 2019 - Uber said Wednesday it plans to speed up restaurant meal delivery by using drones for its Uber Eats service, in the latest effort by the ride-hailing giant to disrupt the transport sector.

At its Uber Elevate Summit, the company said it had regulatory approval to begin tests of delivering food by drone in the region of San Diego, California.

"Our goal is to expand Uber Eats drone delivery so we can provide more options to more people at the tap of a button," said Luke Fischer, head of flight operations at Uber Elevate.

"We believe that Uber is uniquely positioned to take on this challenge as we're able to leverage the Uber Eats network of restaurant partners and delivery partners as well as the aviation experience and technology of Uber Elevate."

For logistical reasons, the drones will not deliver directly to customers, but to a safe drop-off location where an Uber Eats driver will complete the order.

In the future, Uber hopes to land the drones on parked vehicles located near each delivery location to allow the final delivery by hand.

Uber said it had developed a proprietary airspace management system called Elevate Cloud Systems that will guide the drones to their location.

While not the first food drone delivery service, Uber is aiming for a potentially large-scale service through its food service partners across the United States.

Initial testing in San Diego was done with McDonald's, and will be expanded to include additional Uber Eats restaurants later this year.

The drone service is part of Uber's move to the skies as it seeks to develop an aerial ride-sharing network tied in with its smartphone app to help people avoid traffic congestion on the ground.

Uber said the drone service will provide data that will help manage its air network, and eventually allow the aircraft to operate autonomously.

- New autonomous car -

Separately, Uber unveiled its newest self-driving vehicle produced by Volvo Cars.

The Volvo XC90 prototype will be "capable of fully driving itself," according to an Uber statement, with sensors atop and built into the vehicle to allow it to operate and maneuver in an urban environment.

"Working in close partnership with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet," said Eric Meyhofer, CEO of Uber Advanced Technologies Group.

Uber signed a deal in 2017 with Volvo, which is owned by China's Geely, to produce "tens of thousands" of self-driving cars for a fleet of autonomous taxis.

Volvo said it will use a similar autonomous base for the introduction of its first commercially available autonomous drive technology in the early 2020s.

This week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he does not expect fully self-driving vehicles to be deployed for at least 15 years, but that autonomous features will be gradually introduced and that some "easy" trips may be made autonomously.

Uber also unveiled the latest versions of its electric bikes and scooters that round out its shared transportation system.

rl/wd

Uber

VOLVO AB

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Washington (UPI) Jun 11, 2019 - The tracking strategy utilized by hawks could be used to capture rogue drones, according to a new study.

Falcons track their prey a lot like a heat-seeking missiles honing in on a target -- they follow a streamlined trajectory, capturing airborne prey. But hawks must navigate more crowded environs and follow small targets that zig and zag across the ground.

Researchers at the University of Oxford wanted to decipher the guidance law that helps hawks track the erratic escape maneuvers of squirrels and field mice.

A guidance law informs an animal, missile, aircraft or other tracking device on how to move and turn to intercept its target.

"In a pursuit, [the guidance law] might say 'turn at a rate that depends on how far off center your target is' or 'turn at a rate that depends on how quickly the bearing to your target is drifting,'" Graham Taylor, a professor of zoology at Oxford, told UPI. "A missile would typically use the second of these guidance laws, and we previously found the same uncannily missile-like behavior in peregrine falcons."

To find out how a hawk's guidance system operates, scientists set up a system of high-speed cameras and filmed five captive-bred Harris' hawks chasing a prey-like target programmed to move unpredictably across the ground.

Video reconstruction techniques helped scientists translate the film footage into a 3D model, revealing the hawks' flight patterns.

"Working forward from the start of the attack, we used a computer simulation to predict how the hawk would have turned under a range of different guidance laws, and identified which gave the best model of the data," Taylor said.

The analysis showed the Harris hawk's tracking ability is dictated by a mix of two guidance laws. The bird's turns are guided by the angle between the direction to its target and their current flight direction, as well as the rate at which the direction to its target is changing.

According to Taylor, natural selection led to the hawk's adoption of guidance laws that are better suited for hunting in a cluttered environment and tracking targets at close range.

The finding, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, could have implications for drone technologies.

"Part of our motivation for studying how hawks intercept targets was to find out how aerial hunters achieve the same functionality -- being able to grab a maneuvering target in a cluttered environment -- as technology requires to make a successful anti-drone drone," Taylor said. "In fact, the main grant that sponsors this work is on visually based guidance in birds and its applications to autonomous air systems."

Taylor and his colleagues are currently working with engineers and industry partners to develop drone interception technologies, and their latest prototype features wings that can change shape like a bird's wings.

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Las Vegas (AFP) June 5, 2019 - Amazon said Wednesday it expects to begin large-scale deliveries by drone in the coming months as it unveiled its newest design for its "Prime Air" fleet.

Jeff Wilke, head of Amazon's consumer operations, told the company's Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics and Space conference in Las Vegas that drones would play a role in ramping up efforts to shorten delivery times for many items to just one day for Amazon Prime members.

"We've been hard at work building fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles (25 kilometers) and deliver packages under five pounds (2.3 kilos) to customers in less than 30 minutes," Wilke said in a blog post.

"And, with the help of our world-class fulfillment and delivery network, we expect to scale Prime Air both quickly and efficiently, delivering packages via drone to customers within months."

Amazon offered no details about where or when the drone deliveries would be operational.

The company conducted its first test of drone deliveries in 2016 in Britain. At the time, it said US regulations made it harder to use drones for delivery in the United States.

Wilke said Wednesday that Amazon has invested to make its delivery drones safer and more efficient.

"It can do vertical takeoffs and landings -- like a helicopter," he said. "And it's efficient and aerodynamic -- like an airplane. It also easily transitions between these two modes, from vertical-mode to airplane mode, and back to vertical mode."

The new drones are also designed to be stable even in gusty wind conditions, Wilke added.

"We know customers will only feel comfortable receiving drone deliveries if they know the system is incredibly safe," he said.

"So we're building a drone that isn't just safe, but independently safe, using the latest artificial intelligence technologies."

Amazon said earlier this year it would speed up its free delivery for its Prime subscribers, currently two days for most items, to a single day, with North American customers the first to benefit.

It said it would spend some $800 million in the current quarter in the effort to shorten delivery times. It is also hiring more drivers and offering employees an opportunity to launch their own delivery enterprise with a subsidy from Amazon.

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Washington (UPI) Jun 3, 2019 - Insitu was awarded a $47.9 million contract for 34 ScanEagle reconnaissance unmanned air vehicles for four governments in Asia.

The Boeing subsidiary will provide 12 aircraft for Malaysia, 8 for Indonesia, 8 for the Philippines and six for Vietnam, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Friday.

The order also provides for spare payloads, spare and repair parts, support equipment, tools, training, technical services and field service representatives for each nation.

Seventy-seven percent of the work will be performed at Insitu's plant in Bingen, Wash., as well at multiple shore and at sea locations, including 9 percent in Malaysia, 5 percent each in Philippines and Vietnam, and 4 percent in Indonesia.

Work is expected to be completed in March 2022.

Foreign military sales funds in the full amount of the contract will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This order combines purchases for each of the governments under the foreign military sales program.

Starting in 2004, the U.S. Marine Corps contracted Boeing to provide services support to protect Marines deployed in Iraq. The Air Force purchased one ScanEagle system in late 2006 and deployed it to Iraq.

The ScanEagle weighs only 39.7 pounds with a length of 3.9 feet and wingspan of 10.2 feet.

It can fly for 20-plus hours at a speed of 55-80 mph up to 16,000 feet.

Rather than being launched from an airfield, the ScanEagle takes off from a pneumatic launcher, known as the SuperWedge. It is recovered using the "Skyhook" retrieval system -- a hook on the end of the wingtip to catch a rope hanging from a 30-to-50-foot pole, according to the U.S. Air Force.

The ScanEagle system includes a ground control station, remote video terminal, and a launch and recovery system, and is run by two specially trained personnel.

"Expeditionary and versatile ScanEagle delivers persistent imagery on land or at sea at a fraction of the cost of other remote sensing methods," the company said on its website.

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Washington (UPI) May 30, 2019 - Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $65 million contract for parts for production and delivery of drones for the U.S. Navy and the Australian government.

The deal, announced Wednesday by the Department of Defense, calls for long-lead production components for three Lot 5 MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft. The contract also covers equipment and materials for ground stations for all three drones.

The MQ-4C Triton is designed to provide aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance over ocean and coastal regions.

The unmanned aircraft, under development for the Navy, is based on the company's RQ-4B Global Hawk drone used by the U.S. Air Force.

The Triton is just under 50 feet long and has a 130-foot wingspan, and can remain aloft for more than 24 hours at a time.

Northrop Grumman has been obligated fiscal 2019 Navy aircraft procurement funds, as well as cooperative partner funds, in the full amount of the contract.

Work on the contract is expected to be completed by next June.

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Washington (UPI) May 31, 2019 - General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. received a $36.4 million contract modification for unmanned drone services in Afghanistan, the Defense Department announced.

The contract, announced Thursday, provides for nine months of Group 5 unmanned air system intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance services.

The air system, the MQ-9 Reaper, is part of Group 5, which indicates that the unmanned aerial vehicles are in the largest category of Defense Department classifications at greater than 1,320 pounds and functioning at altitudes above 18,000 feet.

The agreed-to services are in support of outside the continental U.S., or OCONUS, Task Force Southwest and Marine Corps operations using MQ-9 "Reaper" unmanned air systems.

Task Force Southwest is a U.S. operation in Afghanistan, partnered with the Afghan government, under NATO's Operation Resolute. It conducts security force assistance to train, advise, and assist missions to enable credible and sustainable Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in southwestern Afghanistan.

Work will be done largely at OCONUS locations, and at General Atomics facilities in Yuma, Ariz., and Poway, Calif., and is expected to be completed by February 2020.

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Pasadena CA (SPX) May 27, 2019 - Landing multi-rotor drones smoothly is difficult. Complex turbulence is created by the airflow from each rotor bouncing off the ground as the ground grows ever closer during a descent. This turbulence is not well understood nor is it easy to compensate for, particularly for autonomous drones. That is why takeoff and landing are often the two trickiest parts of a drone flight. Drones typically wobble and inch slowly toward a landing until power is finally cut, and they drop the remaining distance to the ground.

At Caltech's Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST), artificial intelligence experts have teamed up with control experts to develop a system that uses a deep neural network to help autonomous drones "learn" how to land more safely and quickly, while gobbling up less power. The system they have created, dubbed the "Neural Lander," is a learning-based controller that tracks the position and speed of the drone, and modifies its landing trajectory and rotor speed accordingly to achieve the smoothest possible landing.

"This project has the potential to help drones fly more smoothly and safely, especially in the presence of unpredictable wind gusts, and eat up less battery power as drones can land more quickly," says Soon-Jo Chung, Bren Professor of Aerospace in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) and research scientist at JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA.

The project is a collaboration between Chung and Caltech artificial intelligence (AI) experts Anima Anandkumar, Bren Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and Yisong Yue, assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences.

A paper describing the Neural Lander will be presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Robotics and Automation on May 22. Co-lead authors of the paper are Caltech graduate students Guanya Shi, whose PhD research is jointly supervised by Chung and Yue, as well as Xichen Shi and Michael O'Connell, who are the PhD students in Chung's Aerospace Robotics and Control Group.

Deep neural networks (DNNs) are AI systems that are inspired by biological systems like the brain. The "deep" part of the name refers to the fact that data inputs are churned through multiple layers, each of which processes incoming information in a different way to tease out increasingly complex details. DNNs are capable of automatic learning, which makes them ideally suited for repetitive tasks.

To make sure that the drone flies smoothly under the guidance of the DNN, the team employed a technique known as spectral normalization, which smooths out the neural net's outputs so that it doesn't make wildly varying predictions as inputs/conditions shift.

Improvements in landing were measured by examining deviation from an idealized trajectory in 3D space. Three types of tests were conducted: a straight vertical landing; a descending arc landing; and flight in which the drone skims across a broken surface - such as over the edge of a table - where the effect of turbulence from the ground would vary sharply.

The new system decreases vertical error by 100 percent, allowing for controlled landings, and reduces lateral drift by up to 90 percent. In their experiments, the new system achieves actual landing rather than getting stuck about 10 to 15 centimeters above the ground, as unmodified conventional flight controllers often do.

Further, during the skimming test, the Neural Lander produced a much a smoother transition as the drone transitioned from skimming across the table to flying in the free space beyond the edge.

"With less error, the Neural Lander is capable of a speedier, smoother landing and of gliding smoothly over the ground surface," Yue says. The new system was tested at CAST's three-story-tall aerodrome, which can simulate a nearly limitless variety of outdoor wind conditions.

Opened in 2018, CAST is a 10,000-square-foot facility where researchers from EAS, JPL, and Caltech's Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences are uniting to create the next generation of autonomous systems, while advancing the fields of drone research, autonomous exploration, and bioinspired systems.

"This interdisciplinary effort brings experts from machine learning and control systems. We have barely started to explore the rich connections between the two areas," Anandkumar says.

Besides its obvious commercial applications - Chung and his colleagues have filed a patent on the new system - the new system could prove crucial to projects currently under development at CAST, including an autonomous medical transport that could land in difficult-to-reach locations (such as a gridlocked traffic). "The importance of being able to land swiftly and smoothly when transporting an injured individual cannot be overstated," says Morteza Gharib, Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering; director of CAST; and one of the lead researchers of the air ambulance project.

Research Report: "Neural Lander: Stable Drone Landing Control Using Learned Dynamics."

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Zurich, Switzerland (SPX) May 23, 2019 - Sulzer Schmid, a Swiss company pioneering UAV technology for rotor blade inspections, and WKA, the leading blade inspection and repair service provider, have been enlisted by Vestas to conduct a massive and challenging drone-based blade inspection campaign in Scandinavia, on a staggering 1,250 wind turbines in less than 12 weeks.

For this important campaign, time is of the essence. The blades of the 1,250 Vestas turbines located across Sweden and Finland must be inspected by the end of June, just in time for the beginning of the repair work season that traditionally takes place during the less windy summer months. To deal with that challenge, Vestas has opted for a drone-based solution, which is the only approach that can meet its high-quality standards within such a demanding time-frame.

WKA and Sulzer Schmid's have joined forces to offer the complete service needed by Vestas. Within their partnership, Sulzer Schmid's cutting-edge drone-based inspection technology will be combined to WKA's qualified field personnel and rotor blade expertise to offer a state-of-the-art turnkey solution.

WKA will deploy drones equipped with cameras and sensors to capture and record blade defects and ensure smooth operations in the field. The project management will be supported by ROBUR company TEC GmbH, an industrial services specialist.

The offering of Sulzer Schmid and WKA covers the entire workflow up until the defects are made available on the customer portal of Vestas.

In addition to diligent planning and efficient field operation, this requires a streamlined defect annotation process and the integration into the backend systems of Vestas to allow for an end-to-end information flow. The HD images captured by the drones are analysed aided by Artificial Intelligence, and detailed automated reports are generated via Sulzer Schmid's 3DX software components.

"The feedback from the field teams and the blade experts provides us with a wealth of information that helps to continuously improve the technology and to further push the boundaries of productivity and ease of deployment," explained Christof Schmid, Co-founder of Sulzer Schmid.

Thanks to the new capabilities offered by unmanned aerial vehicles, the market for drone-based rotor blade inspections is developing rapidly. "We are convinced that drone-based inspection will become the new standard in the wind industry.

In combination with an efficient field operation and a streamlined digital information flow, this innovative solution will add a lot of value to our customers. We are looking forward to seeing the results of WKA and Sulzer Schmid's collaboration on this inspection campaign", commented Jons Sjosted, Senior Service Director, Sweden and Finland of Vestas Northern and Central Europe.

To respond to the booming market demand, WKA has trained eight teams for drone inspections.

"As a trusted service provider for Vestas for blade repairs, we strive to always provide the most effective service, using the best technology available on the market. That's why we are thrilled to be able to rely on Sulzer Schmid's drone technology to expand our service and meet the demanding requirement of the wind industry world leader.

"Going forward, we are pleased to announce that all of our customers will be able to benefit from our collaboration with Sulzer Schmid," said Kyriakos Kosmidis, CEO of WKA

Tom Sulzer, Co-founder of Sulzer Schmid, concluded: "We are excited that Vestas has chosen our technology for this inspection campaign and we are convinced that we will be able to provide the added value that Vestas is looking for, working in close collaboration with WKA".

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San Diego, CA (SPX) May 21, 2019 - Commercially available drones are being adapted for nefarious use and can be employed by terrorists and criminals to drop explosive payloads, deliver harmful substances, conduct illicit surveillance, and execute harmful cyber security attacks on a network.

Government officials, security figureheads, and military leadership are extremely concerned about frequent illegal flights buzzing over Washington DC and New York City posing a threat to civilians, critical infrastructure, and marquee events. Even in the most restricted and sensitive airspace in the United States where there are federal no-fly zones for drones, frequent sightings are being reported.

U.S. Government Continues Investment to Expand Citadel Defense CUAS Capability To prevent the threat in high stakes urban environments, a classified U.S. Government customer has purchased and deployed Citadel Defense's Titan C-UAS solution to protect over a dozen sensitive locations.

After evaluation of over twenty counter drone technologies, the Defense customer awarded Citadel with the contract to detect, identify, and defeat threat drones and swarms.

When asked about concerns of the drone threat outpacing laws and regulation, Citadel Defense's Chief Executive Officer, Christopher Williams replied.

"We are excited to win this opportunity to help the US Government customer protect their airspace. This purchase shows that the government is taking the threat seriously and deploying proven counter drone technology after it has successfully endured extensive testing in real-world threat environments."

Citadel's Titan CUAS Solution
Citadel Defense designed and developed their solution alongside law enforcement experts, security operators, and warfighters to meet critical mission requirements. With nearly 8 million drones expected to congest the airspace in the next 12 months, preventing new threat drones released by manufacturers each month has never been more critical to national security.

Recognizing the changing threat environment, Citadel Defense uniquely employs a deep- learning and AI-based solution that addresses shortcomings of systems that rely solely on library-based technologies.

An arms race with drone manufacturers is a difficult battle to win when trying to maintain an updated library of signals. To avoid "hacking vulnerabilities", drone manufactures are quickly improving their security and encryption practices to prevent another individual from taking control of the drone during flight.

Through an open and extensible hardware and software architecture, Citadel Defense created a solution that can adapt to worldwide threats. Designed to meet rigorous testing requirements under the MIL-810 standard, the Titan system is rugged for many different mission sets and harshest environments. In environments where emergency communications are critical,

Attacks at Highly Sensitive Government Locations
Citadel's patented technology surgically defeats threat drones without taking down signals required for communication.

The Titan was designed to be operated by a user who has no signal expertise or training. By removing all cognitive load across the user experience and offering warfighters the ability to set the system to "autonomous mode", the Titan advantages the warfighter by allowing them to focus on their mission without distraction.

Staying Ahead of the Threat
In less than 3 minutes, the Titan system can be setup and operable with a hemisphere of protection that extends beyond distances many drones can fly. Citadel disrupts the drone's controller and video link signals, forcing the drone to safely returns home or land in place without interfering with WiFi signals.

Citadel's non-kinetic system maintains a secure airspace and reduces the risk of collateral damage. The Titan system is a proven solution for critical infrastructure, airports and stadiums.

Christopher Williams explained, "The regulatory environment has limited adoption of counter drone technology in commercial markets. With over a year of successful deployments across U.S. Government, Army, Navy, and Air Force customers, Citadel's Titan technology is already validated in high-intensity situations that law enforcement and security operators face daily. As laws catch-up with the growing threat, a proven solution is available."

In an environment where military, government, and commercial customers are resource constrained, Citadel Defense's affordable autonomous drone protection technology acts a force multiplier for security teams because it allows them to achieve greater levels of protection with the same resources.

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West Lafayette IN (SPX) May 10, 2019 - What can fly like a bird and hover like an insect? Your friendly neighborhood hummingbirds. If drones had this combo, they would be able to maneuver better through collapsed buildings and other cluttered spaces to find trapped victims.

Purdue University researchers have engineered flying robots that behave like hummingbirds, trained by machine learning algorithms based on various techniques the bird uses naturally every day.

This means that after learning from a simulation, the robot "knows" how to move around on its own like a hummingbird would, such as discerning when to perform an escape maneuver.

Artificial intelligence, combined with flexible flapping wings, also allows the robot to teach itself new tricks. Even though the robot can't see yet, for example, it senses by touching surfaces. Each touch alters an electrical current, which the researchers realized they could track.

"The robot can essentially create a map without seeing its surroundings. This could be helpful in a situation when the robot might be searching for victims in a dark place - and it means one less sensor to add when we do give the robot the ability to see," said Xinyan Deng, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue. Drones can't be made infinitely smaller, due to the way conventional aerodynamics work. They wouldn't be able to generate enough lift to support their weight.

But hummingbirds don't use conventional aerodynamics - and their wings are resilient. "The physics is simply different; the aerodynamics is inherently unsteady, with high angles of attack and high lift. This makes it possible for smaller, flying animals to exist, and also possible for us to scale down flapping wing robots," Deng said.

Researchers have been trying for years to decode hummingbird flight so that robots can fly where larger aircraft can't. In 2011, the company AeroVironment, commissioned by DARPA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense, built a robotic hummingbird that was heavier than a real one but not as fast, with helicopter-like flight controls and limited maneuverability. It required a human to be behind a remote control at all times.

Deng's group and her collaborators studied hummingbirds themselves for multiple summers in Montana. They documented key hummingbird maneuvers, such as making a rapid 180-degree turn, and translated them to computer algorithms that the robot could learn from when hooked up to a simulation.

Further study on the physics of insects and hummingbirds allowed Purdue researchers to build robots smaller than hummingbirds - and even as small as insects - without compromising the way they fly. The smaller the size, the greater the wing flapping frequency, and the more efficiently they fly, Deng says.

The robots have 3D-printed bodies, wings made of carbon fiber and laser-cut membranes. The researchers have built one hummingbird robot weighing 12 grams - the weight of the average adult Magnificent Hummingbird - and another insect-sized robot weighing 1 gram. The hummingbird robot can lift more than its own weight, up to 27 grams.

Designing their robots with higher lift gives the researchers more wiggle room to eventually add a battery and sensing technology, such as a camera or GPS. Currently, the robot needs to be tethered to an energy source while it flies - but that won't be for much longer, the researchers say.

The robots could fly silently just as a real hummingbird does, making them more ideal for covert operations. And they stay steady through turbulence, which the researchers demonstrated by testing the dynamically scaled wings in an oil tank.

The robot requires only two motors and can control each wing independently of the other, which is how flying animals perform highly agile maneuvers in nature.

"An actual hummingbird has multiple groups of muscles to do power and steering strokes, but a robot should be as light as possible, so that you have maximum performance on minimal weight," Deng said.

Robotic hummingbirds wouldn't only help with search-and-rescue missions, but also allow biologists to more reliably study hummingbirds in their natural environment through the senses of a realistic robot.

"We learned from biology to build the robot, and now biological discoveries can happen with extra help from robots," Deng said.

Simulations of the technology are available open-source here

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Washington (UPI) May 13, 2019 - Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $163.6 million contract for support services on the U.S. Army's fleet of MQ-5B Hunter drones.

The company will operate, engineer, reconfigure and maintain the unmanned aerial systems as part of the new contract, the Department of Defense said Friday.

Work will be performed at Northrop Grumman's plant in Sierra Vista, Ariz., with the contract estimated to run through May 9, 2020.

Army fiscal 2019 operations and maintenance in the amount of $41.8 million were obligated at the time of the award.

The Hunter unmanned aircraft system has been in operation since 1996 and surpassed 100,000 combat hours in 2014.

The RQ-5A Hunter was the Army's first fielded UAS, flying its final flight in Army service at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2015. The MQ-5B is the next-generation Hunter, "continuing a legacy of service to Army corps, division and brigade warfighters,:" according to Northrop Grumman.

It flies over the battlefield with its multiple sensors, gathering information in real time and relaying it via video link to commanders and soldiers on the ground.

The MQ-5B Hunter supports contingency operations around the world with reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, communications relay and weapons delivery.

The drone has a fixed-wing, twin tail-boom design with redundant control systems powered by two heavy fuel engines -- one engine to "push" and another to "pull" the air vehicle. Its relay mode allows one Hunter to be controlled by another UAV at extended ranges or over terrain obstacles, including those found in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

As of 7/16/19 8:15pm. Last new 7/4/19 7:33am.

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