Issue 53 Uncrewed Systems Technology Dec/Jan 2024 AALTO Zephyr 8 l RTOS focus l GPA Seabots SB 100 l Defence insight l INNengine Rex-B l DroneX 2023 show report l Thermal imaging focus l DSEI 2023 show report l Skyline Robotics Ozmo

66 Insight | Defence systems threat detected by previous systems. Once the mines have been detected and classified, they can be neutralised using Exail’s K-Ster. This is a remotely operated expendable mine disposal vehicle, equipped with a rotating head containing a shaped charge, so that operators can launch it from a 125, navigate close to the detected mine before neutralising it with the charge. “The USVs can also act as comms relays,” Penn adds. “If an AUV surfaces, it can immediately begin transmitting pre-processed survey snapshots and other data that the USV can then relay to the operators aboard their ships. From there, they can then start analysing and classifying what kinds of threats or other points of interest have been found. “In addition to the work with the Belgian and Dutch navies on their MCM programme, where our uncrewed systems will be used alongside maritime UAVs like the Skeldar, we’re also carrying out a modernisation programme with the Latvian Navy. “We’ve updated their traditional minehunting ships with various new subsystems, such as the A-18M, our Umisoft MCM mission control software and our Seascan and K-Ster ROVs. That means they too can perform longdistance stand-off MCM, without having to replace their ships,” Penn says. Ship-to-ship logistics In addition to tasks like MCM, logistics from ship to ship, ship to shore and shore to ship are also being transformed through the use of uncrewed systems. The latest example of this was a demonstration at the US Naval Forces Southern Command/US 4th Fleet Hybrid Fleet Campaign Event (HFCE) in October 2023, where PteroDynamics performed its first ever ship-based test and demonstration flights. There, the company carried out nine autonomous launches and recoveries of its Transwing UAVs (investigated in issue 41, December 2021/January 2022) from the USNS Burlington in Florida. “Exercising our UAV and gathering data on potential ship-to-ship and ship-toshore logistics, for missions like carrying critical repair cargo, was a key aim for us at the HFCE,” says Tim Whitehand, VP of engineering at PteroDynamics. “Trialling autonomous precision takeoffs and landings on moving ships with vision-based navigation were also critical. That’s key to actually working with the US Navy, because we’ll need to fly in GPSdegraded and denied conditions.” The Transwing model flown in the demonstrations was the company’s 40 kg X-P4. This UAV’s transversefolding wings enable a mechanically simple VTOL transition 10-12 seconds after take-off, and Whitehand notes that PteroDynamics is working to make the transition faster. The craft also performed demonstrations of autonomous climbs and dashes, and the company notes that in internal tests of these it has reached 3000 ft/minute and dash speeds of 90-100 knots. To date, 12 X-P4s have been built, although Whitehand comments that the US Navy is most interested in the X-P5, a larger version of the X-P4 which is in development and is being designed for a 150 kg MTOW (the maximum weight in the UAV maintenance category) and a 27.2 kg payload capacity. The X-P4’s flights are hence aimed at proving the Transwing’s capabilities to the Navy, in advance of the larger production aircraft more suited to its preferred payload capacity. December/January 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Among the AUVs that the Inspector 125 can launch and recover is Exail’s A18-M AUV, which typically carries the company’s UMISAS synthetic aperture sonar (Courtesy of Exail) Trialling precision take-offs and landings on moving ships is key with the US Navy, because we’ll need to fly in GPS-degraded and denied conditions