Posts Tagged drone archer

Company Spotlight: Conquiro

Glyn Rosser, Managing Director of Conquiro comments, “The real-time advantage of having an aerial surveillance asset is obvious. Giving forewarning of anything from IED placements to ambushes, UAVs really are life-savers.”

This is cool. A friend of mine works for this company and he wanted to give me a heads up about what they are all about. So below is some information from their press release and from their website. Basically this is a PMSC with a focus on the use of UAV’s, and specifically the Aeryon Scout.

Last year during the Libyan uprising, I wrote about the Aeryon Scout being used by the rebels for ISR. Here is a link to that post and it gives you an idea as to it’s capabilities. I am sure Conquiro will go on to use other UAV’s as the technology improves, but the Aeryon definitely has operational history behind it.

The other thing I like about this company is that it kind of reminds me of a modern day version of John Hawkwood’s White Company, or a private military company that had a huge component of longbowmen. (drone archers) If you are interested in working for the company, go check out their career page or send them an email. –Matt

Twitter for Conquiro here.

Who We Are
Conquiro is a UK registered company that is made up of ex-British Army servicemen. All three Directors have served within Military Intelligence and UAV/ISTAR roles.
Formed in early 2012, Conquiro is the only company of its kind in the UK with operational experience and Subject Matter Expertise (SME) in UAV operations and consultancy.
What We Do
Conquiro provides Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Systems, often referred to as UAV’s or UAS. Conquiro not only provides the equipment, but also SME operator pilots.
In addition, all of our pilots are trained security operators and have the training to analyze imagery obtained during deployment.
Not only do we provide system specific provision, but a full range of turn-key consultancy solutions for clients requiring UAV capabilities.
Our consultancy ranges from identification of suitable platforms, through to procurement, paperwork and bespoke training for in house UAV capabilities.
Our Equipment
Currently our workhorse UAV is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) platform. However, we work closely with UK based manufacturing representatives in order to provide clients with bespoke solutions, and can procure the best platform in order to match client needs.

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Building Snowmobiles: Air-Dropped Guided Mortar

Now this is neat, and it definitely falls under the Building Snowmobiles category for it’s potential impact on the battlefield. What General Dynamics has invented will help to empower the infantry unit on the ground or the developing nation that is looking for a cost effective air power capability. GD has created a smart mortar that is relatively cheap and simple to set up and could be considered the next generation, small scale JDAM.

Imagine this if you will. Mortars in all of their various calibers, are cheap and plentiful.  Countries throughout the world have thousands of mortars in their stockpiles, and the mortar has been a staple of all infantries in modern times. But now there is a way to take these dumb munitions, and make them smart. This invention opens the flood gates of innovation for today’s battlefields. With this post, I will attempt to highlight some of the possibilities and advantages of these smart mortars.

First is the cost effectiveness. As countries continue to look for cost savings and added value for their militaries due to world wide economic hardships, then ideas like this will gain favor. An example would be the JDAM and how it was a cost effective means of upgrading the cheap and plentiful stockpiles of 50o or 1000 lbs dumb bombs, resulting in a cost savings to the US Air Force. Likewise, you take a mortar that is already mass produced and cheaply made, add the ‘Roll Controlled Fixed Canard (RCFC) guidance kit, with an innovative flight-control and GPS-based guidance and navigational system‘, and now you have a smart mortar. This is much cheaper than making a mini missile or completely redesigning the whole thing.  But of course most defense companies would want to redesign the whole thing, and call their missile ‘more expensive, but better’, all for the sake of creating another business unit.

I don’t know about that ‘better’ part, and there is a strong case of why an upgraded mortar is actually ‘better’. A mortar is already designed to be lethal and lightweight, so an infantryman can carry it around out in the field. A mortar must also be durable and stable, just so it does not prematurely explode in the hands of the user. The design of the mortar also lends itself to having a stable flight path, just so an infantryman can depend upon it’s flight path and impact point for accurate bracketing.  So I like the design of the mortar, and to complement it’s design with a GPS based guidance system that you can screw into it’s nose, is awesome and simple.

Then there is the limited collateral damage by using a air delivered 60 or 80 millimeter mortar, as opposed to dropping a 500 lb or launching Hellfire missile. So this is another ‘small munitions’ capability that would help in situations where bigger is not necessarily better. This is a munition that is COIN friendly.

It is also a munition that could help to arm an air force of a developing nation.  If they have a Cessna or similar cheap aircraft, they could put a rack of these things on the wing, and now they have a cost effective means of establishing air power.  For dealing with insurgencies that are long term, a country needs any and all types of advantages it can gain, and having cheap and accurate weapons that have dual purpose, is a good thing to have. A country might not be able to afford Hellfire missiles, but most can purchase mortars, and with these simple kits and racks, they can now be in business–and for the long haul.  What good is it to give a country really expensive aircraft or weapons launching platforms, if they do not have the money to keep them running?  Smart mortars have a far better return on investment for the types of wars and internal problems countries are dealing with these days.

The next benefit is the size of the guidance kit and racks, and the availability of mortars all over the world. If I can send a crate of these RCFC’s and the smart racks (for whatever aircraft/UAV) to any place in the world in a very compact unit, then that is logistically pretty damned cool. I could send this kit to a Cessna operator in the Sudan, and have them up and running with a Air-Dropped Guided Mortar or ADM within an hour or two.

Let’s take that a step further. Anyone with a UAV of decent size, could be quickly outfitted with an ADM, and now that military or even private military group has a capability that can compete with the big boys.  Or better yet, a capability that will allow that company or military unit to have Close Air Support or CAS as an organic capability. In today’s battlefields, being self sufficient and not dependent upon really expensive and limited air power assets that may or may not be available, is a good way to go. It is one of the reasons why I keep pushing the Drone Archer concept, because technology is giving us the capability to empower small combat units with it’s own air assets.

Logistically speaking, this is a no brainer. A unit already has mortars, and the mechanisms in place to transport these things and move them around (trucks, aviation, infantry, pack mules, etc). By making mortars into a’ multi-use weapon’, then a unit can focus purely on it’s stock piles of these things and the RCFC’s to upgrade them. They could use them as mortars, or as ADM’s, all based on the need of the unit.

Right now, a military unit depends upon the logistics of other branches for the arming of air power. There are too many cogs in this logistics train, and too many things to go wrong. To put all control of the UAV, the mortars, the guidance systems, the controllers (drone archers), under the control of the unit commander, is to give them a capability they have never enjoyed before. You can either trust someone else with your logistics, or control your own logistics to win the fight. Of course you still have to have mortars and RFCS kits sent out to a unit by ‘someone’, but because these are such small items and easily transportable or easy to stockpile, then you can see the advantages here.

To take this train of thought further, you can either trust someone else with your CAS, or you can have your own CAS as a back up to win the fight. Of course a unit commander will always want as many air power options as possible for their particular fight.  But when there is no CAS available, and that unit commander is suffering casualties because of this lack of air power, then to have a capability to handle that unit’s problems out in the field is smart and necessary.  The way I see it, a unit should have it’s own on call CAS in the form of UAV’s armed with smart mortars, sensors, surveillance packages, etc.

To put more control of a unit’s fate in the hands of it’s leaders, is far better than depending upon the whims of some other unit and their air power. Besides, in places like Afghanistan, sometimes having CAS is not an option due to distance, weather, elevation or availability. These factors are all reasons why creating a more self sufficient unit equipped with cost effective air power assets, is a smart thing.

Now on to some other ideas here. These ADM’s could be mounted on all types of flying platforms. You could put them on blimps or aero-stats, and give these ‘eyes in the sky’ a lethal capability. Imagine how silent one of these mortars would be?  Dropping from that elevated position requires no charges. Or another idea, is to use charges and extend the ‘fan’ or lethal cone of the ADM?  The mortar is designed to handle the charge, and of course the RCFC would have to be designed to withstand that charge. But this has been dealt with by the land based GPS mortar systems that have been created.

Another possible use for an ADM is to just hand throw them out of any aircraft that is available.  If you have an ultralight aircraft or even a motorized para-glider, you could program the RCFC by hand, and throw them on a target.  Something like this could be done at night, and imagine how silent it would be?  After all, you are only dropping the thing, and not launching it like a missile or bullet. So if you couple a silent weapon delivery with  a silent aircraft with a low radar signature, then you have what’s called a poor man’s stealth bomber. And this kind of bomber does not cost billions to make, require years of training to operate, and attract undue attention.  The important thing here, is the ability to deliver a munition on target, without being caught or spotted.

Finally, I wanted to bring up another crucial point. The other day I was reading Time’s Battleland Blog, and came across a story about some troops who had a small UAV they were using for operations, but were not able to assist other GI’s who were in trouble. To me, this unacceptable. The rule of thumb for anyone using a drone is that ‘if you can see it, you should have the means to kill it’. Here is the quote:

It seems the only downside to having a Raven around is the feeling of helplessness it can cause when Raven-using troops see fellow soldiers in trouble too far away to help.
Blanco recalls a training mission he was on when his unit spotted fellow GIs in trouble. “Another group of soldiers came into contact with the enemy,” he says. “We were at the max distance of our aircraft…I’m going to tell you from being there and doing it, sometimes you get to see what’s on the ground and what’s going on live and then you realize it’s not a game — it’s the real deal.
“You want to jump into the fight and you can’t do it,” he says. “It’s bad when you’re looking at it at the screen and you’re looking at other soldiers getting shot at.”

Having a Drone Archer capability of being able to either drop munitions or fly the drone itself into enemy combatants, is a much needed capability. I like this focus on ‘Smalls‘ (the term the troops have coined for small drones), but we need to take it to the next level. Arming small drones with ADMs, or creating small drones that have explosives built in, are excellent tools for Drone Archers and can certainly help to exploit any opportunities on the battlefield. It would also save lives and empower the troops on the ground with a capability that was all under their control. –Matt

From Defense Industry Daily…
Application of RCFC technology to 81mm air-dropped mortars was sponsored by the U.S. Army’s Armament Research Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, in order to provide “Tactical Class Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TCUAS)” with a low-cost weapon option for rapid fielding. In the end, however, its reach is likely to extend past small UAVs, in 2 ways.
One is the growing trend away from sole USAF control of air support, and toward a much more responsive era of “federated airpower” that includes high-end aircraft and UAVs operated by the US Air Force, and lower-tier propeller planes and small UAVs operated by the US Army and Marines. Those lower-tier options use lower-cost platforms that are far more affordable to operate, which means they can be bought and operated in numbers that provide far wider battlefield coverage for small-unit engagements. The USAF’s long-running and pervasive deprecation of relevant counter-insurgency capabilities, and strong institutional preference for high-end, expensive platforms, has left them vulnerable to lower-cost disruptive technologies that meet current battlefield needs. While the service still has a key role in maintaining American power, strategic control of the air, and high-end capabilities, the new reality involves a mix of high and low-end aerial capabilities, with some control nested closer to battlefield decision-making.
The other change will reach beyond UAVs, and into USAF and USMC aircraft. The nose-mounted RCFC guidance has now been successfully demonstrated on multiple mortar calibers, in both air-drop and tube-launch applications. The tube-launched application has been successfully demonstrated at Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ in a tactical 120mm guided mortar configuration known as the Roll Controlled Guided Mortar (RCGM), which uses the existing 120mm warhead and the M934A1 fuze.
Related tube-launched weapons, which already include Raytheon’s Griffin missile, and Lockheed Martin’s Scorpion, are already finding their way to USMC KC-130J and Special Operations MC-130W Hercules, which are receiving roll-on/ roll-off weapon kits that can turn them into multi-role gunship support/ aerial tanker aircraft.
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General Dynamics Demonstrates Precision Strike Capability for Tactical UAVs with 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar
General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems has successfully guided an 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar (ADM) to a stationary ground target. The guide-to-target flight demonstrations, conducted at Ft. Sill, Okla., confirmed the ability of the 81mm ADM using a novel guidance kit and fuze to provide a precision strike capability for Tactical-Class Unmanned Aircraft (TUAV). The ADM was released from a TUAV using the company’s newly developed “Smart Rack” carriage and release system that enables weaponization of any TUAV platform.

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Technology: The Multi-Band Video Receiver MVR IV, By Coastal Defense Inc.

Hat tip to Nathan Hodge for this one.  The weight of this system is an outstanding two pounds! It is also a lot less obtrusive than the system being used in that Switchblade video below. I am telling you, the day when Drone Archers become a reality in infantry units and special forces units is coming.

The next step is to take micro drones like the Switchblade and make them launchable from Gustavs, SMAWs or similar hand held rocket launchers. If you watch that Switchblade video, these things are tube launched from a basic mortar type launcher, which I assume are disposable. Perhaps they should make the Switchblade launchable from an actual mortar tube? Or the other concept would be to make a micro drone that could be launched from an RPG. Or make it like a LAW or AT -4?

The reason why I say make them launchable like this, is so that you can get these drones on top of the enemy as soon as possible. The enemy will have a running start if they see a force hand launch this drone. But if a team could shoot that UAV immediately above the battle space, then getting eyes on for the kill or for tracking purposes becomes more efficient and increases success. It can end the fight a lot quicker, if this was possible. I imagine the electronics would have to be pretty sturdy to withstand this kind of launch, but after all, they have done it with systems like the Javelin.

What is interesting too, is that drone archers would be more successful while the fight is in progress. Accurate fires in the direction of the enemy would help to keep them in place and behind cover, while at the same time the drone archer can get a UAV above that enemy element and go for a kill or for over watch purposes to help develop the situation and contribute to a team’s OODA. Interesting stuff. –Matt


Photo from Wired's Danger Room and the company website for MVR IV

Multi-Band Video Receiver (MVR IV)
The MVR-IV is a hand-held unit that receives real-time, full-motion video. Designed to work over the L, S and C bands, it provides situational awareness to ground troops from aircraft, UAV, or ground based video sources. The unit is compatible with standard-issue eyepiece and can be interfaced to a portable computer for video capture, manipulation (John Madden), retransmitting and storage. It is modular in design, is upgradeable for unit specific requirements (to include digital encoding), and works with all legacy video transmission systems. Digital link encryption for all bands is available.

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Weapons: Drone Archer Weapon–The Switchblade By AeroVironment Inc.

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Funny Stuff: Drone Archer In A Bullfight

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Aviation: Drone Archer Weapons– The MBDA TiGER Tactical Grenade Extended Range

     This weapon sounds very cool, and it is a real life version of exactly what I was talking about in my ‘drone archer’ post.  With a UAV like this, you could give a platoon or squad some very interesting options on the battlefield.

     The first one that came to my mind, was the idea of taking advantage of these small little engagements with the enemy.  If you can keep an enemy machine gunner or whomever busy with return fire, you could have two or three drone archers flying TiGERs right on top of the guy in order to solve that problem.  Better yet, you could use these TiGERs up to two miles away and solve problems from strategically positioned drone archers with access to a ‘quiver team’ (truck load of TiGERs and support crew). These crews could also fly TiGERs up to the front line to feed the drone archers plenty of arrows to use.

     What I really liked though, was the guidance systems. Supposedly it has GPS guidance, and you can use the camera in the nose for more precise targeting or last minute changes to an attack.  That is crucial, because if your target is running or tries to fool the drone archer, the TiGER could be stopped last minute and then flown back up for another attempt at a kamikazi attack. With precision guidance and a ‘top down attack’ with a small one pound warhead, I would also say that collateral damage is minimized to the extreme.  That would make this a good COIN weapon. And hey, it still has a camera which makes it a standard UAV as well.

     Swarming these things is another option that would take some figuring out. If the company created a bunch of practice TiGERs, then military units could experiment in exercises about how best to use these things.  I really think some radical platoon and squad level tactics could evolve from the use of such a weapon. It is also cool that the company is putting some ‘elephant chisel’ mechanisms on the TiGER and I would be very interested if the feeds are encrypted or not.

     Finally, I would not be surprised if MBDA has a mobile application to integrate this drone with an iPhone or similar device. Tactical Life did mention that laptops or handhelds are being considered. That would put this weapon on the PMC 2.0 list. –Matt


TiGER Tactical Grenade Extended Range. Photo by Tactical Life.

TiGER Tactical Grenade Extended Range 

TiGER is a small, man-portable, hand-launched, extended-range weapon designed for a rapid response employment to protect deployed troops.

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