Issue 55 Uncrewed Systems Technology Apr/May 2024 Sellafield’s UAV equipment l Applied EV Blanc Robot l Battery tech l Robotican’s Goshawk l UGVs l UAVHE RW1 rotary l Roboat UVD l Autopilots l Arkeocean UVD l UMEX 2024 l CycloTech UVD

Read all back issues online UST 55 : APR/MAY 2024 UK £15, USA $30, EUROPE €22 Charge and go Battery materials advance, boosted by 3D printing Safer skies Autopilots in the age of AI Future template How Applied EV can place any body structure for any task on the Blanc Robot

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3 April/May 2024 | Contents Uncrewed Systems Technology | April/May 2024 26 50 68 98 60 04 Intro Battery improvements, new ways of powering vehicles, and advances in path-planning and autopilots hold great potential 06 Platform one: Mission-critical info Converting a two-stroke to run on kerosene, using AI to pinpoint and assess cracking in concrete, an inaugural autonomous jet flight by the US Air Force, operating a swarm of 100 ground and aerial robots, a noise-suppression system that will help rescue people, testing rollable solar cells in orbit, using a 5G network to control parking robots, improving path-planning, and more 20 In conversation: Amanda Smith The engineer leading Sellafield’s UAV equipment programme explains how advanced inspection techniques are being used to keep humans out of harm’s way 26 Dossier: Applied EV Blanc Robot Flexibility hits new heights with the Blanc Robot UGV, a blank slate on which to build any body structure for any application 40 Focus: Battery technology A new generation of enhanced materials is boosting the performance of battery cells, aided by AI and 3D printing 50 In operation: Robotican’s Goshawk Unveiling the Goshawk Intercepter counter-UAS system, modelled on a bird of prey, which captures hostile drones in a non-destructive way and returns to its Smart Nest 60 Insight: UGVs Intelligent vehicles are being designed for every industry and purpose, from farming to mobility, mining and the last mile 68 Dossier: UAVHE RW1 rotary Two supercharged Wankel rotaries, built with the latest CNC machining tech and innovations used for motorsport 80 UVD: Roboat & Holland Shipyards Group This summer, athletes and visitors at the Paris Olympics will be able to take a trip down the Seine on an autonomous vessel 88 Focus: Autopilots Flight controllers are evolving to become sophisticated, safety rated systems able to interface with computer-vision AI 98 In operation: Arkeocean How a swarm of ULF-detecting autonomous micro-AUVs can be used to guard the oceans and seek out hostile submarines 104 Show Report: UMEX Some exciting wares on show at the expo’s biggest stage yet 108 UVD: CycloTech Bumblebee 2.0 A unique flight system enabling highly manoeuvrable, compact vehicle designs, inspired by a 100-year-old cycloidal propeller 114 PS: Red Bull Racing camera missile This little battery-operated UAV has a top speed of 350 kph

ELECTRIC, HYBRID & INTERNAL COMBUSTION for PERFORMANCE ISSUE 151 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2024 The future is now Exploring AM machines Power to the dirt Winning in Motocross Pushing the twostroke A Kawasaki odyssey UK £15, US/CN $25, EUROPE €22 THE COMMUNICATIONS HUB OF THE ELECTRIFIED POWERTRAIN Read all back issues and exclusive online-only content at ISSUE 024 | MAR/APR 2024 UK £15 USA $30 EUROPE €22 Protective housing The pursuit of power Polymers offer lasting cover for components Inverters take more control Porsche gets wet Marine applications for its most advanced e-powertrain 4 April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Intro | April/May 2024 Range is still a challenging topic for autonomous systems with electric propulsion. Whether it’s extending the range for a driverless car or the mission time for a UAV in the air, getting more out of the batteries is a major challenge. This is being addressed in various ways, from advances in battery technology, from silicon anodes to solid-state cells, to new ways of powering aircraft, and advances in path planning and autopilots. The latest battery technologies that provide longer time in the air for high-altitude pseudo satellites (HAPS) are examined on page 40, while the challenges of coordinating multiple UAVs monitoring one of the largest bridge-construction projects in the world is detailed in Platform One. New algorithms for path planning are being used when batteries don’t last long enough, adding in the areas to observe and the return to charging points. At the same time, the variable thrust propulsion technology being developed by CycloTech is opening up design choices for uncrewed aircraft designers, as we discuss on page 108. Meanwhile, the latest developments in autopilot technology are pulling together the path-planning and range extensions on page 88 to make all this as seamless and transparent as possible to the operator. Nick Flaherty | Technology Editor Further, faster, longer Read all back issues online UST 55 : APR/MAY 2024 UK £15, USA $30, EUROPE €22 Charge and go Battery materials advance, boosted by 3D printing Safer skies Autopilots in the age of AI Future template How Applied EV can place any body structure for any task on the Blanc Robot Editorial Director Ian Bamsey Deputy Editor Rory Jackson Technology Editor Nick Flaherty Production Editor Vickie Johnstone Contributor Peter Donaldson Technical Consultants Paul Weighell Ian Williams-Wynn Dr Donough Wilson Prof James Scanlan Dr David Barrett Design Andrew Metcalfe UST Ad Sales Please direct all enquiries to Simon Moss Subscriptions Frankie Robins Publishing Director Simon Moss General Manager Chris Perry The USE network Having now provided several enterprises around the world with the support and connections they need to implement efficient and sustainable technological solutions, we’re keen to continue expanding this free service. If the uncrewed vehicle and/or system you’re working on could benefit from some independent advice, from engineers specialising in the appropriate field, then please do get in touch. Email your question/challenge/dilemma/predicament to or visit and raise a case with us. All questions will be treated in the strictest confidence, and there’s no obligation whatsoever to follow any recommendations made. Volume Ten | Issue Three April/May 2024 High Power Media Limited Whitfield House, Cheddar Road, Wedmore, Somerset, BS28 4EJ, England Tel: +44 1934 713957 ISSN 2753-6513 Printed in Great Britain ©High Power Media All rights reserved. Reproduction (in whole or in part) of any article or illustration without the written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. While care is taken to ensure the accuracy of information herein, the publisher can accept no liability for errors or omissions. Nor can responsibility be accepted for the content of any advertisement. SUBSCRIPTIONS Subscriptions are available from High Power Media at the address above or directly from our website. Overseas copies are sent via air mail. 1 year subscription – 15% discount: UK – £75; Europe – £90 USA – £93.75; ROW – £97.50 2 year subscription – 25% discount: UK – £135; Europe – £162 USA – £168.75; ROW – £175.50 Make cheques payable to High Power Media. Visa, Mastercard, Amex and UK Maestro accepted. Quote card number and expiry date (also issue/start date for Maestro) ALSO FROM HPM

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6 Mission-critical info for uncrewed systems professionals Platform one Suter Industries has developed a new engine for UAVs, which is its largest yet, and has been optimised for running on heavy fuels (writes Rory Jackson). The company decided to convert its TOA-288, a spark-ignited, two-cylinder, two-stroke boxer – unpacked in our 32nd issue (June/July 2020) – into a heavy fuel version. And, with customers calling for more engine power, Suter increased the cylinder displacement while keeping the crankcase and much of the rest of the architecture the same. “It’s now a 330 cc engine; we’ve called it the TOA-330. Where the first engine ran on 95 octane Avgas and certain synthetic fuels that customers felt were right for their needs, we’ve now been able to run on kerosenes, mainly through switching away from injecting fuel into the crankcase from the intake manifold to a semi-direct injection solution, by which we spray into the fifth transfer port,” says Dietrich Kehe, CEO of Compass Aircraft Europe (CAE), Suter Industries’ partner. The arrangement of five transfer ports in the engine is such that the fifth sits in a central position opposite the exhaust port, giving it the longest distance from the exhaust aperture of any port, with the other four transfer ports disposed elsewhere in the sides of the cylinder, functioning as ‘support ports’. “That’s a common approach in two strokes for closely controlling the fuel intake for quantity and timing – being able to put the exact minimum amount of fuel necessary into the combustion chamber precisely when you need it helps minimise fuel waste,” Kehe says. “Kerosene doesn’t vapour well, so if you try to pass it through the crankcase, you’ll have uncontrolled vapouring, and a poorly controlled fuel delivery and combustion quality.” Suter reports that tests show no significant carbon deposits indicative of incompatibilities between the heavy fuel and the engine’s oil. “We had to reduce the compression ratio and take a slight trade-off in performance to guarantee safe operation on heavy fuel. As kerosenes have no octane or cetane reading, their performance in spark-ignited engines can vary, so you have to assume the worst-case scenario and tune your engine’s compression to not cause knocking in the kerosene. For added safety, we’ll likely integrate a knock sensor,” Kehe notes. Design and testing of the larger cylinders was first performed via gasoline operations before swapping over to kerosene. While dynamometer tests are ongoing, initial trial units of the TOA-330 have been delivered to customers. Suter’s flight tests of the engine are slated to begin by the summer. ENGINES Two-stroke converted to run on kerosene April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Suter’s TOA-330 has been engineered for heavy fuel and the largest displacement of any of its engines yet (Image courtesy of Suter Industries)

7 Platform one US researchers are looking to use AI vision algorithms on autonomous vehicles to identify cracks in concrete (writes Nick Flaherty). The system, developed at Drexel University, combines computer vision from a stereo camera with a deeplearning algorithm to pinpoint problem areas of cracking before directing a series of laser scans of them to create a computer model, which can be used to assess and monitor the damage. “We aim to integrate this work with an uncrewed ground vehicle, enhancing the system’s ability to autonomously detect, analyse and monitor cracks,” said researcher Ali Ghadimzadeh Alamdari. “The goal is to create a more comprehensive, intelligent and efficient system for maintaining structural integrity across various types of infrastructure. Additionally, real-world testing, and collaboration with industry and regulatory bodies will be critical for practical application, and continuous improvement of the technology.” Training the algorithms on datasets of concrete structure images turns them into crack-spotters. “Taking a multi-scale, robotic approach will enable efficient pre-screening of problem areas via computer vision and precise robotic scanning of defects using non-destructive, laser-based scans,” said Dr Arvin Ebrahimkhanlou, an assistant professor on the project. “The neural network has been trained on a dataset of sample cracks. It can identify crack-like patterns in the images that the robotic system collects from the surface of a concrete structure. We call [these areas] ‘regions of interest’.” Once the ‘region of interest’ has been identified, the program directs a robotic arm to scan it with a laser line scanner, creating a 3D image. At the same time, a Lidar camera scans the structure surrounding the crack. Stitching both plots together creates a digital model of the whole area, showing the width and dimensions of the crack, and allowing tracking changes in between inspections. The team tested the system in the lab on a concrete slab with a variety of cracks and deterioration. The system was sensitive enough to pinpoint and accurately size up the smallest of fissures – less than a hundredth of a millimetre wide – outperforming top-of-the-line cameras, scanners and fibre-optic sensors. “This approach significantly reduces unnecessary data collection from areas that are in good structural condition while still providing comprehensive and reliable data necessary for condition assessment,” they said. Inspection equipment AI vision exposes cracks in concrete Uncrewed Systems Technology | April/May 2024 The system is sensitive enough to pinpoint and accurately size up the smallest of fissures – less than a hundredth of a millimetre wide The goal is to create a more comprehensive, intelligent and efficient system for maintaining structural integrity across various types of infrastructure

8 The US Air Force Research Laboratory has flown its Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) autonomous jet aircraft for the first time (writes Nick Flaherty). The 28 ft (8.8 m) XQ-67A uncrewed air vehicle (UAV) is the first of a second generation of autonomous collaborative platforms (ACP) as part of the loyal wingman programme in the US. This is the first use of a common airframe that will be used for other aircraft, says Doug Meador, autonomous collaborative platform capability lead at AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate. This approach paves the way for other variations of the UAV to be rapidly replicated on a standard chassis. “This approach will help save time and money by leveraging standard substructures and subsystems, similar to how the automotive industry builds a range of vehicles,” said Meador. “From there, we can build other aircraft – similar to that of a vehicle frame – with the possibility of adding different aircraft kits to the frame, such as an OBSS or Off-Board Weapons Station [OBWS]. “We broke it down into autonomy, human systems integration, sensor and weapons payloads, networks and communications, and the air vehicle. We’ve been evolving this class of systems since the start of the Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technologies [LCAAT] initiative [in 2015],” he added. “We had always intended from the start of LCAAT to have multiple vehicle-development spirals or threads of vehicle development,” said Trenton White, the OBSS programme manager. “Then, once the vehicle is proven ready, you can start integrating stuff with it, such as sensors, autonomy, weapons, payloads and electronics.” This uses a new development approach termed a “genus” as the foundational core architecture from which several “species” of aircraft can be built. The developer, General Atomics, said unspecified advancements in manufacturing technology since the first-generation XQ-58 Valkyrie aircraft built by Kratos will allow a usable aircraft to be created faster at a lower cost, with a new species of UAV rolled out every few years using the same basic platform. The XQ-67A is designed to fly up to 45,000 ft (13,715 m) for a range of 2,200 miles (3500 km) at over 600 mph. “The main objectives are to validate an open aircraft system concept for hardware and software, and to demonstrate rapid time-to-market and low development cost,” said White. Carrying sensors, the OBSS is slower but has longer endurance than the OBWS, which is faster and more manoeuvrable with better range. Autonomous aircraft Common UAV platform for sensing systems Platform one April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology The autonomous XQ-67A is designed to fly up to 45,000 ft for a range of 2,200 miles at over 600 mph The main objectives are to validate an open aircraft system concept for hardware and software, and to demo rapid time-tomarket and low dev cost


10 Researchers in the USA have shown that one operator can manage up to 100 autonomous ground and aerial robots in a swarm (writes Nick Flaherty). The findings represent a big step towards efficiently and economically using swarms in a range of roles, from wildland firefighting to package delivery and disaster response in urban environments. “We don’t see a lot of delivery UAVs yet in the USA, but there are companies that have been deploying them in other countries,” said researcher Julie Adams of the College of Engineering at Oregon State University (OSU). “It makes business sense to deploy delivery UAVs at scale, but it will require a single person to be responsible for very large numbers of these aircraft. This is the first step towards getting additional data that would facilitate that kind of system.” The research stems from a programme at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called OFFSET, short for Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics. This project deployed swarms of up to 250 autonomous vehicles – make minor adjustments to it. The objective data from the trained swarm commanders demonstrated that a single human can deploy these systems in built environments, which has very broad implications beyond this project.” Testing took place at multiple Department of Defense Combined Arms Collective Training facilities. Each multiday field exercise introduced additional vehicles, and every 10 minutes swarm commanders provided information about their workload and how stressed or fatigued they were. During the final field exercise, featuring more than 100 vehicles, the commanders’ workloads were assessed through physiological sensors, which fed information into an algorithm that estimates someone’s sensory channel workload levels and their overall workload. “The swarm commander’s workload estimate did cross the overload threshold frequently, but just for a few minutes at a time, and the commander was able to successfully complete the missions, often under challenging temperature and wind conditions,” said Adams. Autonomous robots Helping operators track bigger swarms multi-rotor aerial drones and ground rovers – which were able to gather information in ‘concrete canyon’ urban surroundings, where line-of-sight, satellite-based communication is impaired by buildings. “The project required taking off-theshelf technologies and building the autonomy needed for them to be deployed by a single human called the swarm commander,” said Adams, who is also the associate director for deployed systems and policy at OSU’s Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute. “That work also required developing not just the needed systems and the software, but also the user interface for that swarm commander to allow a single human to deploy these ground and aerial systems.” Smart Information Flow Technologies developed a virtual reality interface called I3, which allows the operator to control the swarm with high-level directions. “The commanders weren’t physically driving each individual vehicle, because if you’re deploying that many vehicles they can’t – a single human can’t do that,” said Adams. “The idea is that the swarm commander can select a play to be executed and April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Smart Information Flow Technologies developed a virtual reality interface called I3, which lets operators control the swarm

T-motor Jiangxi Xintuo Enterprise Co Ltd THE SAFER PROPULSION SYSTEM INDUSTRY-LEVEL PROPULSION SYSTEM CAN Function UART-TTL data feedback protocol IP67 function ELECTRIC PROPELLER Platform one Stanley Robotics has used a private 5G network to control its automated parking robots (writes Nick Flaherty). The Stanley robots (detailed in issue 44, Jun/Jul 2022) are autonomous systems that can manoeuvre a vehicle into a parking space without it needing autonomous controls. They are deployed at Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport in France. Communication with the robotic system is key, and Stanley worked with ORAXIO Telecom to use a private 5G network rather than one run by an operator. This allows Stanley to have lower latency for better control of up to 100 separate robot systems, all parking vehicles across the site. “The coverage, reliability of connectivity and remote maintenance, as well as management of flow priorities are key to allowing us to increase the number of robots on the same site, and improve the efficiency and performance of the service,” said Aurélien Cord, CTO at Stanley Robotics. “The private 5G network allowed us to pool all our types of connectivity and use cases on a single infrastructure. The first site has been deployed and is in operation, and the tests continue and will be pushed forward with a gradual ramp-up to broaden the use cases and be able, in a second step, to deploy the technology more widely.” Autonomous parking 5G orchestrates robot parking manoevres Stanley Robots can control up to 100 separate robot systems, all parking vehicles across the site

12 Platform one Researchers in Japan have developed a noise-suppression system using AI for more effective victim detection by UAVs during natural disasters (writes Nick Flaherty). The ‘pseudo-UAV’ system cancels the noise of the motors and propellers to search for people more effectively in the aftermath of natural disasters, such as earthquakes. This can lead to early detection of victims, enabling a rapid response. Existing research has mostly focused on UAVs equipped with cameras that depend on images to search for victims and assess the situation. However, relying only on visual information can be insufficient, especially when victims are trapped under the rubble or in areas that fall in the blind spots of cameras. Some studies have focused on using sound to detect trapped individuals, different flight movements, complicates the development of a signal-processing filter capable of effectively removing UAV sound from the mixture,” said Prof Premachandra. Rather than machine learning, the system uses Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), which accurately grasp different types of data. It was used to understand the various types of UAV propeller sound data. This learned model is then used to generate a similar sound to that of the propellers, called pseudoUAV sound. This pseudo-UAV sound is subtracted from the actual sound captured by the onboard microphones in the vehicle, allowing the operator to clearly hear and thus recognise human sounds. This technique has several advantages over traditional noise-suppression systems, including the ability to effectively suppress UAV noise within a narrow frequency range with good accuracy. Importantly, it can adapt to the fluctuating noise of a vehicle in real time. These benefits can significantly enhance the utility of UAVs in search and rescue missions. The researchers tested the system on a real UAV with a mixture of UAV and human sounds. Testing revealed that while this system could effectively eliminate UAV noise and amplify human sounds, there was still some remaining noise in the resulting audio. Fortunately, the current performance is adequate for a proposal of this system for human detection at actual disaster sites. “This approach not only promises to improve post-disaster human-detection strategies, but also enhances our ability to amplify necessary sound components when mixed with unnecessary ones,” said Prof Premachandra. Artificial intelligence Noise suppression to improve search and rescue but this is hampered by the noise of the propellers. Multiple microphones and noise-cancellation algorithms have been used to isolate the source of victims’ sounds and then apply speech recognition. However, it can be difficult for the UAV remote operator to accurately recognise the victim’s voice from the processed sound. This software also uses predetermined words, while the sounds made by victims may vary, based on the situation. Professor Chinthaka Premachandra and Yugo Kinasada from the Department of Electronic Engineering at the School of Engineering in Shibaura Institute of Technology in Japan used AI to develop a different noise-suppression system. “Suppressing the UAV propeller noise from the sound mixture while enhancing the audibility of human voices presents a formidable research problem. The variable intensity of UAV noise, fluctuating unpredictably with April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology The ‘pseudo-UAV’ system cancels the noise of motors and propellers to help find victims faster

Blickfeld in Germany has used a new plastic material for its latest lightdetection and ranging (Lidar) optical sensor (writes Nick Flaherty). Blickfeld’s Qb2 is the first smart Lidar sensor able to both capture and process 3D data on a single device. It uses lasers to produce highly accurate 3D measurements for autonomous systems, and the optical carrier is moulded into the ULTEM resin developed by SABIC. In comparison to aluminium, using the ULTEM resin helped to reduce overall system costs, through an integrated part design and easier production scale-up. During the design phase of the Qb2, Blickfeld faced the challenge of miniaturising the design of the optical carrier while retaining its performance. The optical carrier is one of the most challenging parts of the Lidar device as it holds its key optics and microelectronics. The demanding material requirements for this newly developed part include reliable retention of dimensional tolerances in all directions over a broad range of temperatures to support the high optical performance of the Lidar in different environments, as well as low creep for snap-fit assembly. This also helped to reduce system assembly costs, compared with aluminium. ULTEM is an amorphous thermoplastic polyetherimide (PEI) material, available in a transparent version to allow the laser light to pass through. Key for Blickfeld is the high glass transition temperature of 217 C, which allows predictable stiffness and strength up to 200 C. The material is inherently flame-resistant without additives, with a limiting oxygen index (LOI) of 47%, making it difficult to ignite, and it meets the UL94 V0 specifications, with a thickness as low as 0.41 mm, to replace aluminium. It can also be extruded, thermoformed, extrusion blow-moulded and injection-moulded. Flowability permits long flow lengths down to 0.2 mm thick using conventional injection-moulding equipment. “The ULTEM resin offered a clear solution to Blickfeld’s desire of replacing aluminium in their new compact optical carrier. Lidar is a growing market, and our material and design support has helped Blickfeld solve the design challenges of structural applications in opto-electronics,” said Dr David Elvers, business development manager at SABIC Specialties. Optical sensors Plastic protection for smart Lidar Harwin’s connector products are proven to perform in extreme conditions, with shock, vibration and temperature range rigorously tested. WITH OUR QUALITY, SERVICE, SUPPORT, AND HIGHLY RELIABLE PRODUCTS, YOU CAN DEPEND ON HARWIN. CONNECT TECHNOLOGY WITH CONFIDENCE // WWW.HARWIN.COM Harwin UAV Uncrewed Systems March 24.indd 1 11/03/2024 16:40

14 Platform one Rollable perovskite photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are being tested in orbit to provide power for satellites and autonomous space systems (writes Nick Flaherty). Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has successfully launched the rollable, printed PV cells into space aboard Australia’s largest private satellite, Optimus-1, on Space X’s Transporter-10 mission. Working with Space Machines, the mission aims to explore the potential of printed, flexible solar cells as a reliable energy source for future space projects. These modules use a unique approach, where the cells are deployed with ribbons of titanium-nickel, a shape-memory alloy (SMA) that unrolls when it warms up. The flexible cells are less than a micron thick, the result of using a printed layer of metal halide perovskite material, rather than silicon or gallium arsenide (GaAs) on a plastic substrate with a thickness of 125 μm. This can reduce the manufacturing costs for a solar cell with a rollable form factor, with lower stowed volumes and a specific power that is 10 times greater than commercial, triple-junction GaAs solar cells, which are commonly used for space applications that have a specific power of under 0.5 W/g. This comes from using the lighter, thinner substrate and perovskite PV material, which has an energy conversion ratio of above 10%. The trained SMA produces a thermal activation force such that a 20 to 30 mm-wide SMA ribbon is sufficient to roll out a flexible, 300 mm-wide solarcell module on a 125 μm-thick plastic substrate. Less SMA material is required for the thinner substrates. The cells have shown a tolerance to high-energy proton (14 MeV) and electron (>1 MeV) radiation in the laboratory that is comparable with, or superior to, equivalent glass-based solar cells, and they are significantly less dependent on the angle-of-incidence of the light than GaAs cells. In-situ testing is providing information on the performance of the various types of perovskite cells as they orbit the planet. “Based on our research, we expect our printed, flexible solar cells will stand up to the effects of cosmic electron and gamma radiation, which can compromise the performance and integrity of traditional solar cells,” said Dr Anthony Chesman, renewable energy systems group leader at CSIRO. “We are also confident that these cells will outperform traditional cells in cases where sunlight hits them at non-optimal angles.” PV solar cells Space tests for rollable solar cells “CSIRO’s printed, flexible solar cells could provide a reliable, lightweight energy solution for future space operations and exploration,” said CSIRO’s space program director, Dr Kimberley Clayfield. “If the space-flight test reveals similar performance as we’ve shown in the lab, this technology offers significant advantages over traditional, silicon-based solar.” Eight mini-modules using two different printed, flexible solar cells made by CSIRO were attached to the surface of Optimus-1 to test performance in orbit, where temperatures vary from -80 C in the dark to +130 C in the light. April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Dr Anthony Chesman, renewable energy systems group leader at CSIRO

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16 April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Dr Donough Wilson Dr Wilson is innovation lead at aviation, defence, and homeland security innovation consultants, VIVID/ futureVision. His defence innovations include the cockpit vision system that protects military aircrew from asymmetric high-energy laser attack. He was first to propose the automatic tracking and satellite download of airliner black box and cockpit voice recorder data in the event of an airliner’s unplanned excursion from its assigned flight level or track. For his ‘outstanding and practical contribution to the safer operation of aircraft’ he was awarded The Sir James Martin Award 2018/19, by the Honourable Company of Air Pilots. Paul Weighell Paul has been involved with electronics, computer design and programming since 1966. He has worked in the realtime and failsafe data acquisition and automation industry using mainframes, minis, micros and cloud-based hardware on applications as diverse as defence, Siberian gas pipeline control, UK nuclear power, robotics, the Thames Barrier, Formula One and automated financial trading systems. Ian Williams-Wynn Ian has been involved with uncrewed and autonomous systems for more than 20 years. He started his career in the military, working with early prototype uncrewed systems and exploiting imagery from a range of systems from global suppliers. He has also been involved in ground-breaking research including novel power and propulsion systems, sensor technologies, communications, avionics and physical platforms. His experience covers a broad spectrum of domains from space, air, maritime and ground, and in both defence and civil applications including, more recently, connected autonomous cars. Professor James Scanlan Professor Scanlan is the director of the Strategic Research Centre in Autonomous Systems at the University of Southampton, in the UK. He also co-directs the Rolls-Royce University Technical Centre in design at Southampton. He has an interest in design research, and in particular how complex systems (especially aerospace systems) can be optimised. More recently, he established a group at Southampton that undertakes research into uncrewed aircraft systems. He produced the world’s first ‘printed aircraft’, the SULSA, which was flown by the Royal Navy in the Antarctic in 2016. He also led the team that developed the ULTRA platform, the largest UK commercial UAV, which has flown BVLOS extensively in the UK. He is a qualified full-size aircraft pilot and also has UAV flight qualifications. Dr David Barrett Dr David Barrett’s career includes senior positions with companies such as iRobot and Walt Disney Imagineering. He has also held posts with research institutions including the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, MIT and Olin College, where he is now Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics, and Principal Investigator for the Olin Intelligent Vehicle Laboratory. He also serves in an advisory capacity on the boards of several robotics companies. Uncrewed Systems Technology’s consultants Researchers in China are finding ways around the limitations of UAV battery life for large-scale monitoring applications (writes Nick Flaherty). As missions cannot be completed by a single UAV powered by one battery (typically lasting 30-40 minutes), owing to the wide scope of inspections required on a construction project, the scheduling of UAVs of multiple types and their charging demands are key considerations. Construction environments vary dynamically, so multi-round inspection tasks must be conducted to search for hidden dangers. To prevent collisions between UAVs and facilities, no-fly zones are needed to limit the routes that UAVs can use when travelling between sites, making path-planning challenging. The classical vehicle routing (VRP) algos used for logistics and delivery services do not work for large monitoring applications, say researchers at Shanghai University in China, who are developing alternatives. In conventional VRP scenarios, UAVs usually visit each customer point once within a known time window, with no instances of network inaccessibility between customer points. However, construction monitoring needs UAVs to make multiple visits to specific points within periodic time windows with nofly zones, and consider the charging locations. A mathematical model and a tailored algo were developed for planning UAV inspection routes to search for hidden dangers on an engineering project. Consecutive inspection tasks for a given site are separated by a time window, and a mixed-integer linear programming (MILP) model is used to consider the limitations of the batteries and no-fly zones. This model determines the routing and scheduling of multiple different UAVs with varying periodic inspection and charging cycles and no-fly-zone constraints. A tailored algo, based on a variable neighbourhood search (VNS), was used to solve the model at large scale. This is being used for inspection at the Shiziyang Bridge project in Guangdong province, which is being built with a world-record main span of 2180 m. Batteries Finding the optimum route for large-scale UAV inspections

Platform one Researchers in China have created an alllight real-time communications network to enable seamless connectivity across space, in air and underwater (writes Nick Flaherty). Different light sources are combined to provide connectivity, initially to and from fixed nodes. It can support wired and wireless device access simultaneously, and carry out bidirectional data transmission between network nodes. “This wireless network enables uninterrupted connectivity across environments for two-way, real-time data transmission between the network nodes carrying out communication and data exchange within and between networks,” said research team leader Yongjin Wang of Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications. The network uses blue light for underwater communication as seawater has a reduced absorption window for blue-green light, allowing it to travel farther underwater than other wavelengths. So the system can be used to control uncrewed underwater vehicles or establish communications between underwater devices and buoys. White LEDs are used to transmit information between objects such as buoys or ships that are above water. For connections with airborne devices, such as UAVs, deep ultraviolet light is used as this avoids interference from sunlight. bandpass filter isolates the desired light signals from those in the other spectra.” The researchers showed the all-light network could accomplish full-duplex real-time video communication and transmission of sensor data, images and audio files via wired and wireless access. When 2560 x 1440-pixel and 1920 x 1080-pixel real-time videos at 22 frames per second were fed into the network, they remained clear with little lag. A network packet analysis tool showed a maximum packet loss ratio of 5.80% and a transmission delay of less than 74 ms. “The all-light communication could be used in oceans and lakes, where sensors gather ecological data and communicate with surface buoys,” said Wang. Light Space-air-sea connectivity Finally, for point-to-point communications in free space, near-infrared laser diodes are applied because they emit directional light with high optical power. The researchers designed the network so that it allows wireless or wired access to the internet, based on the TCP/IP scheme, making it useful for real-time connections. “It was important to establish a unified transmission mode from communication with blue light, white light, deep UV wavelengths and laser diodes, so we can integrate them using Ethernet switches,” said Wang. “The LEDs and modulation schemes determine network throughput, while the avalanche photodiode limits the transmission range, and an optical Is your job search lacking focus? Frustrated at looking for autonomous and robotics related engineering vacancies on generic job boards? Visit for a clearer view of what’s on offer. Different light sources are combined to provide connectivity

18 Platform one Uncrewed Systems Technology diary April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology 2024 XPONENTIAL Monday, 22 April – Thursday, 25 April San Diego, USA Mobility Live Middle East Tuesday, 30 April – Wednesday, 1 May Abu Dhabi, UAE Uncrewed Maritime Systems Technology Wednesday, 8 May – Thursday, 9 May Wokingham, UK Unmanned-Maritime-Systems Critical Communications World Tuesday, 14 May – Thursday, 16 May Dubai, UAE Future Mobility Asia Wednesday, 15 May – Friday, 17 May Bangkok, Thailand National Congress on Next Generation Combat Vehicles Tuesday, 21 May – Wednesday, 22 May Arlington, USA combat-vehicles/ ICA Summit Wednesday, 22 May – Thursday, 23 May Frankfurt, Germany National Congress on Counter UAS Technology Thursday, 23 May – Friday, 24 May Arlington, USA ADAS & Autonomous Vehicle Technology Expo Tuesday, 4 June – Thursday, 6 June Stuttgart, Germany Japan Drone Wednesday, 5 June – Friday, 7 June Chiba, Japan Eurosatory Monday, 17 June – Friday, 21 June Paris, France MOVE Wednesday, 19 June – Thursday, 20 June London, UK Drone International Expo Thursday, 4 July – Friday, 5 July New Delhi, India Farnborough International Airshow Monday, 22 July – Friday, 26 July Farnborough, UK Commercial UAV Expo Tuesday, 3 September – Thursday, 5 September Las Vegas, USA ION GNSS+ Monday, 16 September – Friday, 20 September Baltimore, USA DVD2024 Wednesday, 18 September – Thursday, 20 September Millbrook, UK

DroneX Tuesday, 24 September – Wednesday, 25 September London, UK Intergeo Tuesday, 24 September – Thursday, 26 September Stuttgart, Germany Unmanned Systems West Wednesday, 25 September – Thursday, 26 September San Diego, USA IOT Tech Expo Tuesday, 1 October – Wednesday, 2 October Amsterdam, The Netherlands UAS Summit and Expo Tuesday, 8 October – Wednesday, 9 October Grand Forks, USA International Workboat Show Tuesday, 12 November – Thursday, 14 November New Orleans, USA Bahrain International Airshow Wednesday, 13 November – Friday, 15 November Bahrain Egypt Defence Expo Sunday, 1 December – Wednesday, 4 December New Cairo, Egypt Counter UAS Technology USA Monday, 2 December – Thursday, 5 December Arlington, USA conference/counter-uas-tech 2025 CES Tuesday, 7 January – Friday, 10 January Las Vegas, USA Geo Week Monday, 10 February – Wednesday, 12 February Colorado, USA IDEX Monday, 17 February – Friday, 21 February Abu Dhabi XPONENTIAL Europe 2025 Tuesday, 18 February – Thursday, 20 February Dusseldorf, Germany Ocean Business Tuesday, 8 April – Thursday, 10 April Southampton, UK DSEI Japan Wednesday, 21 May – Friday, 23 May Japan Paris Airshow Monday, 16 June – Sunday, 22 June Paris, France DSEI Tuesday, 9 September – Friday, 12 September London, UK 19 Uncrewed Systems Technology | April/May 2024

20 Uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become essential inspection tools at Sellafield, the large nuclear facility on the coast of Cumbria, northwest England. It treats and stores nuclear waste, and it also carries out decommissioning work on its fleet of reactors, which were previously used for grid power generation and research. Amanda Smith, 43, the engineer who leads the UAV equipment programme at Sellafield, gained her engineering education at the site and brought its capabilities up to a level that was recognised by a Nuclear Manufacturing Award for innovation, which she shared with her team in November 2023. Smith’s UAV team is part of the Remote Technologies Group (RTG). She reports to the group’s leader, and four equipment engineers/UAV pilots report to her. “They live and breathe drones, as they need to know everything from how to fly and maintain them to how to assess new systems coming through. And then, at any one time, I can have one or two graduates from the Sellafield scheme on secondment,” she says. “They learn a lot from us, and we get a lot of work from them to support my team.” The Sellafield site has many old buildings, complex pipework, tanks, hard-to-access roof spaces, waste cooling ponds and areas that pose various levels of radiation hazard, all of which must be inspected somehow. The RTG’s remit is to keep people out of harm’s way through the application of advanced inspection technologies. In addition to the UAVs, the group operates robotic arms and a variety of uncrewed The RTG engineer leading Sellafield’s UAV equipment programme explains its innovative work to Peter Donaldson April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology UAVs are used to inspect areas of the Sellafield site that are inaccessible to other methods and they are set to improve on that capability when BVLOS permissions are in place (All images courtesy of Sellafield) Nuclear de-risk

21 ground vehicles (UGVs), remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for underwater work, and many simpler inspection devices such as cameras on long poles. “It’s the overall inspection capability that we look at. With a new technology, we will try as many things as possible to see what works, and then bring it back to which tools are best for which job.” Risk management The team works on the ‘ALARP’ principle, which seeks to keep risks “as low as reasonably practicable”, Smith explains. “If there is no need to fly a drone over a building or into an area, we don’t. However, if it keeps people away from harm then we do. Usually, that means avoiding having people working at height or in high-dose areas.” The first UAVs that came to Sellafield were DJI models, used in the security and resilience role, before Smith became team leader. The inspection role arose from the need to check a large number of external ventilation ducts more frequently and thoroughly, she explains. Previously, this involved erecting scaffolding, but it was impossible to inspect the tops of many ducts. Sellafield’s solution was to bring in an outside contractor to help set up a central UAV team that was able to operate within UK Civil Aviation Authority regulations. Smith’s first task as team leader was to help the contractor understand how things must be done on a nuclear site. Evolving UAV fleet The UAV chosen was the Intel Falcon 8, which proved successful. It remains on the fleet but is now getting old and coming up for replacement. “It’s quite hard to find a like-for-like system, but we still use the ones we’ve got, and have multiple spares so we can keep them going for a little longer yet.” The current fleet includes DJI Enterprise 2 models, which are used for training emergency response teams. Amanda Smith | In conversation If there is no need to fly a drone over a building or into an area, we don’t. However, if it keeps people away from harm then we do Uncrewed Systems Technology | April/May 2024 Sellafield’s UAV team is part of the Remote Technologies Group (RTG), which operates a variety of uncrewed and remotely operated inspection tools, including UGVs such as Spot from Boston Dynamics

22 In conversation | Amanda Smith For internal inspections that present collision hazards, the Elios 1, 2 and 3 UAVs are used, which have integral protective cages. “That’s not to say we can rule other types out, as Elios is relatively expensive, and if we are going to put them into areas with radioactive contamination, potentially we won’t be able to get them back. However, we have proved their value on many tasks to date.” All of the UAVs except the Elios 2 and 3 are ageing. The DJIs are being slowly phased out and the team is looking for replacements for the Falcon 8 fleet. Sellafield’s UAV team has two Skydio quadcopters for use in beyond-visualline-of-sight (BVLOS) operations, for which they are currently going through the process of obtaining Civil Aviation Authority permissions, Smith says. Each UAV has its own suite of sensors. The most used are Lidar, along with a variety of camera systems for video, thermography and photogrammetry. Smith says the team is also considering trialling a UAV-based, non-destructive testing (NDT) capability, and they have received demonstrations from potential suppliers, including Voliro. The company’s multicopters are designed to fly at a wide range of attitudes and feature rotor guards that enable them to apply an ultrasonic non-destructive testing (NDT) contact probe to the surface under testing. When it comes to developing such new capabilities, the team seeks to anticipate future needs. Historically, at Sellafield, Smith says the approach was to wait for someone to ask, but “now we are doing it differently. We know there’s a need out there, and we know what the technologies can do, and will soon be able to do.” This, she adds, enables the UAV team to suggest new ways of doing things to their customer at Sellafield, while also nudging the UAV industry in directions the team would like it to take. Contaminated area ops Any of these vehicles may have to fly into contaminated areas to carry out inspections, which raises issues around their decontamination and retrieval. “We work closely with the plant areas that we’re going to be flying in, so we understand what their contamination levels are, and what the risk is of contamination entering any parts of the systems,” Smith says. “If they can monitor their equipment and prove there’s no contamination anywhere, then we can get our systems back out, and that’s fine.” Decontaminating the UAVs can be difficult as air is drawn through the motors to cool them, and it is not usually possible to take them apart to physically check for contamination. “We’ve got multiple areas across the site where a drone has been flown in and now has to stay. They can be used for future tasks within those buildings or plants, so they are not sacrificed completely,” Smith says. Those vehicles must be maintained while they remain operational, and this mostly involves changing batteries, which generally prove to be clean when checked, so they can be taken back to the UAV team’s maintenance facility. However, with more involved tasks, such as changing propellers or motors, or carrying out a thorough check, it has to be done in situ, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). “We always make sure, where possible, that we can either get the system to a location where we can maintain it, or if we can’t physically get in ourselves, we work with the plant to determine whether they have operators that we can train up to carry out basic tasks,” Smith says. When selecting new vehicles, any elements of their design that make it easier to work on them in PPE are important, she says, “because for some of these areas we’re talking about, they’re going into [them] in full PVC air-fed suits, and possibly three pairs of gloves. You’ve lost a lot of your dexterity when you’ve got that many pairs of gloves on.” Anything sharp on the vehicle is a potential hazard. The team must consider what to do if a vehicle suffers a failure and becomes stuck in a contaminated area. Any such case will receive its own risk assessment. “Each individual plant will look at the risks to understand what is the worst that can happen,” Smith says. “We will tell them the worst thing that will happen is that they will have a UAV with a lithium-ion battery stuck in the area. They will look at their safety cases and decide whether the risk is acceptable under the ALARP principle.” April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology The 6 km2 Sellafield site has many contaminated areas, containing safety-critical structures and pieces of equipment that must be inspected