Posts Tagged UAV

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.


About CONQUIRO
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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Weapons: APC Mounted 10kW Laser By Rheinmetall

Through its work on behalf of the German government and well-targeted application of its own resources, Rheinmetall has acquired tremendous expertise in this field in recent years. Rheinmetall expects a high-energy laser weapon system with an output of 100 kW to be available within the next three to five years.

This is impressive. Rheinmetall is producing some really awesome military grade laser systems that everyone should be taking notice of. Especially these APC mounted systems. But at what point does it transition from a mild APC with laser to a tank armed with a high-energy laser?

If they can increase the strength of these lasers to 100kW, and especially if Moore’s Law applies to this industry, then why not have a tank that fires a high powered laser? Something that is quiet and will slice an enemy’s tanks/jets in half, or zap a hole in the engine. Or a tank that can shoot miles away on a single human target, and basically vaporize that individual? I could see a lot of uses for a laser.

Which brings up my next point. Why are we not using these laser weapons against humans? Is it more humane to drop a bomb on a target and potentially kill innocent people surrounding that target, or is a laser not the better tool for selectively taking out targets in population centers? This kind of weapon would put the ‘surgical’ into a surgical strike, and in a pretty dramatic star wars kind of way. lol Imagine the look on the faces of a crowd that just watched a bad guy get quietly vaporized by some laser, shot from miles away…

The other cool thing with this system is that their goal is to shoot down UAV’s and mortars/rockets. According to this article and their recent demonstration, they did just that. That is cool and hopefully they will post a video of it. So that asks another question– will we see lasers replacing guns for CRAM duty? Possibly, and the future is now. -Matt

 

Rheinmetall: successful target engagement with high-energy laser weapons
22/11/2011
Full-scale demonstrator confirms Rheinmetall’s technological lead
Having recently used a high-energy laser weapon to down an unmanned aircraft at a proving ground in Switzerland, Rheinmetall has demonstrated the operational potential of combining a powerful laser weapon with an advanced air defence system. This event provides compelling proof of the Group’s 360° competence in relevant technologies ranging from military lasers and target recognition and identification to target tracking and fire control units – and its unrivalled ability to weld them into a single, forward-looking, fully functional full scale demonstrator. At a live fire laser demo at the Group’s Ochsenboden proving ground, international guests were able to view two laser weapon demonstrators in action, each featuring different performance parameters. For example, a 10-kW laser was integrated into an air defence system consisting of an Oerlikon Skyguard 3 fire control unit and a Skyshield gun turret. Modular and scalable, the laser weapon itself consisted of two 5-kW laser weapon modules. In addition, a 1-kW laser weapon module was displayed, specially mounted on a TM 170-type vehicle for the purpose.

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Aviation: Drone Archer Weapon–The Vanguard Defense Shadowhawk UAV

Thanks to Mad Duo over at Kit Up for posting this one. I am always on the lookout for potential drone archer weapons, or UAV’s that are small and lethal. I believe tools like this can enhance the lethality of a small unit. The more we can put that capability of small lethal drones in their hands, the more options a small unit has on the battlefield.

The specifics that interested me about this UAV is that they are able to equip the thing with a 40mm grenade launcher and FLIR. Although for a platform like this, I would much rather see a precision weapon system. It would be the ultimate aerial sniper platform, and especially if they can get the stabilization game down. In this case, you could use the drone archer more like a sniper team on the battlefield, and less as a hammer that is armed with just explosive drones.

The down side with this UAV is flight time and it’s durability. If an enemy sniper is able to get one shot on this thing, they could take it out. A shotgun or drone hunter UAV would be some tools that could counter such a weapon. So the thing with this weapon is it might be best served for aerial surveillance/tracking and helping with targeting. Who knows, and what is required is to get weapons like this into the hands of the troops, and let them find it’s utility. -Matt

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

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Aviation: Air Power On The Cheap

In aerial combat, then, low tech may be the new high tech. And there is one other advantage that the turboprop has over the jet, at least according to Mr Read—who flew turboprops on combat missions in Cambodia during the 1970s. It is that you can use a loudspeaker to talk to potential targets before deciding whether to attack them. As Winston Churchill so memorably put it: “When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.” 

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     Warfare on the cheap is all the rage these days and this is an excellent little article from the Economist on the subject of cheap air power.  I just talked about Colombia’s use of these types of aircraft in their war against the FARC and I thought I would add further information behind the concept. I should also note that PMC’s like Executive Outcomes had their own air assets for operations, and that too could be classified as ‘air power on the cheap’.  If it gets the job done and you are dealing with an enemy that has no air power, then these ideas make sense.

     The one thing I keep thinking about though, is that I like cheap air power that has a high probability of survival. Or better yet, is cheap and unmanned. I think as soon as we can put robotics into these cheap propeller type aircraft, then we are effectively creating cheaper drones with built in supply and maintenance systems. Imagine an unmanned Cessna Caravan doing these types of military missions?

     Or an unmanned cargo carrier like a 747 with a payload of JDAM type munitions that could be dropped from extreme heights? There are plenty of these old, yet still working aircraft that could be outfitted with robotics. Cheap drones produced from such aircraft could be a market all by itself, and especially as smaller nations join the larger nations in their desire to have this capability– for a fraction of the price.

     Not to take away from the value of having a human in the cockpit, which to me is still the smartest computer out there. I think there will always be a need for this man and machine relationship, and especially if future small wars will require extreme discipline and precision, along with common sense and a feel for the battle field. Only a guy in the plane can really get that feel for their little patch of war and how to dominate the enemy and work with other forces. We might get there one day with UAVs, but I still think humans will have a place. -Matt

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Super Tucano

The Super Tucano, made by Embraer.

Air power on the cheap

Small, slow and inexpensive propeller-driven planes are starting to displace fighter jets

Sep 20th 2010

JET fighters may be sexy in a Tom Cruise-ish sort of way, but for guerilla warefare—in which the enemy rarely has an air force of his own with which to dogfight—they are often not the tool for the job. Pilotless drones can help fill the gap. Sometimes there is no substitute for having a pilot on the scene, however, so modern air forces are starting to turn to a technology from the yesteryear of flying: the turboprop.

So-called light-attack turboprops are cheap both to build and to fly. A fighter jet can cost $80m. By contrast the 208B Caravan, a light-attack turboprop made by Cessna, costs barely $2m. It also costs as little as $500 a hour to run when it is in the air, compared with $10,000 or more for a fighter jet. And, unlike jets, turboprops can use roads and fields for takeoff and landing.

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