Unmanned and Unmatched: Today's Highlights in UAV Innovation

Explore today's UAV advancements: Airbus' Aerovel buy, Project WIZARD, Turkish drones' firepower, and XPeng's flying car leap at CES 2024

5 months ago   •   7 min read

By Alex
Table of contents

Happy Monday afternoon, drone enthusiasts! As you sip your afternoon coffee, let's dive into the latest and greatest from the UAV industry. From Airbus's strategic acquisitions to groundbreaking projects in air traffic control safety and beyond, today's edition of UMT Drone Dispatch is buzzing with stories that will lift your spirits higher than a drone in flight. So, buckle up and let's take a tour of today's high-flying news!

Airbus Helicopters Bolsters Unmanned Fleet with Aerovel Acquisition

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Airbus Helicopters enhances its UAS lineup by purchasing Aerovel, the maker of Flexrotor for ISTAR missions.

  • Airbus Helicopters aims to strengthen its tactical unmanned offerings by acquiring Aerovel, integrating Flexrotor's capabilities into its portfolio.
  • Flexrotor is a compact VTOL UAS designed for extended ISTAR missions, capable of operating in harsh environments, and supports a variety of payloads.
  • This strategic move allows Airbus to meet growing global demand for advanced UAS solutions and to further innovate in unmanned aviation technology.

Why this matters: The acquisition of Aerovel by Airbus Helicopters signals a significant step in advancing unmanned aerial capabilities, particularly for missions involving intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and showcases the growing importance of unmanned systems in both military and parapublic operations.

Read the full article on Airbus' website

Pioneering the Skies: Project WIZARD Enhances Air Traffic Control Safety

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NATS and the University of York collaborate on Project WIZARD to improve air traffic control safety with automated decision-making tools.

  • NATS's R&D team and the Assuring Autonomy International Programme experiment with 'Wizard of Oz' prototyping to quickly develop and test air traffic control tools.
  • The project aims to ensure safety in human-machine collaboration within the increasing complexity of UK airspace management.
  • Wizard of Oz techniques involve a human 'wizard' simulating a future tool’s automated decisions, providing early insight into human-AI interaction and potential hazards.

Why should you care? The outcomes of Project WIZARD are essential for managing the complex and evolving UK airspace, especially with new types of aircraft on the horizon. The rapid prototyping methods can revolutionize the industry by speeding up innovation and safety assurance processes.

Read the full article for a deeper dive into Project WIZARD's groundbreaking approach.

UK's Chess Dynamics Achieves EMC Excellence for Battlefield Surveillance

Chess Dynamics Sensor

Chess Dynamics' Hawkeye MMP vehicle surveillance system excels in electromagnetic compatibility tests.

  • The Hawkeye MMP system met the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency's demanding EMC standards, including resilience to Nuclear Electro Magnetic Pulse (NEMP).
  • Chess Dynamics developed a multi-stage approach to ensure the system's compatibility with existing military radio frequencies, while passing stringent electromagnetic interference tests.
  • This technological milestone underscores the increasing need for adaptable and resilient surveillance solutions in modern military operations.

Why you should care: With the ever-evolving complexity of the battlefield, the ability of technology to withstand harsh electromagnetic conditions is crucial for maintaining a robust defense posture.

Read more about Chess Dynamics' EMC achievement

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Skyports and Makutu's Drone Collaboration Takes Water Quality Monitoring to New Heights

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Skyports Drone Services and Makutu have piloted a drone service with Northumbrian Water to enhance water quality monitoring.

  • Skyports Drone Services, in partnership with Makutu, has successfully conducted test flights for a new drone-based water inspection service, offering an efficient alternative to manual water quality surveys.
  • Utilizing beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) technology and winch systems, the drones can collect and relay water quality data in near real-time, covering more area with less environmental impact and increased safety.
  • Northumbrian Water's collaboration in the pilot study marks a significant step towards more sustainable and effective water quality management across vast regions.

This innovative use of drone technology is set to revolutionize environmental monitoring, providing rapid, accessible data collection, which is crucial for water companies and the communities they serve.

Read more about this environmental tech breakthrough

XPeng AeroHT Takes CES 2024 by Storm with Futuristic Flying Vehicles

XPeng AeroHT’s Land Aircraft Carrier, with its air and ground modules separated for flight

XPeng AeroHT unveils a modular "flying car" and a sleek eVTOL flying supercar concept at CES 2024.

  • The "Land Aircraft Carrier" features a ground module and a deployable air module for vertical takeoff and flight, with preorders starting in Q4 2024 and delivery in late 2025.
  • The eVTOL flying supercar, demonstrated internationally for the first time, boasts a design that allows for vertical takeoff and landing, transitioning seamlessly from road to flight mode.
  • These concepts cater to both personal and public service use, with the company completing key tests and moving towards mass production, while China's low-altitude economy policies are rapidly evolving.

For those fascinated by the seamless integration of road and air travel, AeroHT's innovative designs are reshaping the future of transportation.

Read the full article

Indian Navy Set to Boost ISR Capabilities with Advanced UAVs

Hermes 900 in maritime configuration – Elbit Systems

The Indian Navy is gearing up to enhance its surveillance prowess with the induction of two Hermes 900 Starliner UAVs.

  • The Hermes 900 Starliner drones, locally named 'Drishti 10', will be delivered to the Indian Navy by the end of February, enhancing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
  • Manufactured in India by Adani Defence and Aerospace, the UAVs are part of a broader move to bolster autonomous systems within the Indian Armed Forces, amidst rising inventories of UAVs in neighboring countries.
  • Navy personnel are currently undergoing training to operate these advanced drones, which are considered a "force multiplier" in modern warfare.

Why you should care: This induction reflects a significant step in modernizing the Indian Navy and keeping pace with global advancements in autonomous warfare technology.

Read the full article on Janes

Russia Bolsters Aerial Arsenal with Sirius UCAV Delivery

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Russia hints at the completion of Sirius UCAV deliveries amid losses in Ukraine.

  • After losing Su-34s to Ukrainian air defenses, Russia has reportedly fulfilled deliveries of an undisclosed aerial weapons system believed to be the Sirius UCAV.
  • The Sirius drone offers MALE/HALE-class capabilities, with long-duration flights and air-to-ground strikes, potentially covering the extensive frontline in Ukraine.
  • Russia's defense industry, particularly JSC Kronstadt and Dubna, which is under international sanctions, has been instrumental in developing and delivering these advanced UAVs.

This development indicates a significant enhancement in Russia's unmanned capabilities, potentially altering the dynamics of the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.

Read the full article on The Eurasian Times

Turkish Drone Takes Firepower to the Skies with Grenade Launcher Integration

SONGAR Drone with Grenade Launcher

Turkish firms have successfully upgraded the SONGAR drone with a 40mm grenade launcher for enhanced combat capabilities.

  • Asisguard's SONGAR drone now boasts a 6-barrel rotary grenade launcher, the RDS40-MGL, after successful integration and firing tests.
  • The advancement is part of ongoing efforts to diversify the drone's ammunition types and payloads, with night operation capabilities in the pipeline.
  • Repkon highlights the 6-barrel launcher's innovative use and expects its deployment across various military platforms globally by 2024.

Drone enthusiasts and defense watchers: behold the next level of unmanned firepower, now with night-time potential.

Read the full story on Defence Blog

Manifold Robotics Teams Up with NYPA to Revolutionize UAS Inspections


Manifold Robotics partners with NYPA to enhance UAS inspections using electromagnetic fields.

  • Manifold Robotics, in collaboration with the New York Power Authority (NYPA), has developed a new technology for UAS to navigate using electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted by power lines, improving the safety and efficiency of electric transmission infrastructure inspections.
  • The technology allows UAS to autonomously maintain a safe distance from power lines and adjust altitude according to varying conductor heights, without relying on GPS waypoints. More than 100 test flights demonstrated its effectiveness, culminating in a successful one-mile-long autonomous flight along a 345-kV line while maintaining a 20-foot standoff.
  • This innovation is significant for grid operators, especially as the push for zero-emission electricity systems and renewable energy projects increases. The technology has also earned Manifold Robotics a BVLOS waiver from the FAA, enabling extended-range UAS inspection flights.

Why should you care? This advancement represents a leap forward in UAS inspection capabilities, ensuring more reliable and efficient monitoring of vital transmission infrastructure while aligning with the goals of a cleaner energy future.

Read the full story on the Manifold Robotics and NYPA partnership.


Did you hear about the Turkish SONGAR drone with a 40mm grenade launcher? It's like something out of a futuristic action movie, except it's very real and ready to light up the skies... at night! And let's not forget the Wizard of Oz prototyping in air traffic control – because who wouldn't want a bit of magic guiding our skies? Stay tuned for more sky-high stories and remember, when it comes to drones, the future is always looking up!

As we glide to a close in today's edition of UMT Drone Dispatch, it's clear the UAV world is anything but stagnant. From Airbus flexing its muscles with Aerovel to XPeng AeroHT's sci-fi-esque flying vehicles, the sky's becoming an increasingly crowded – and exciting – place.

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