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Next Generation Vertical-Take-OffAnd-Land Unmanned Aerial Systems for Modern Military Operations Evolution of VTOL UAV Technology The Age of the Drone Coming of Age: The Evolution of Unmanned Flight Going Vertical: The Next Step for UAVs UAVs and the Future

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Published by Global Business Media



Next Generation Vertical-Take-OffAnd-Land Unmanned Aerial Systems for Modern Military Operations Evolution of VTOL UAV Technology The Age of the Drone


Coming of Age: The Evolution of Unmanned Flight Going Vertical: The Next Step for UAVs UAVs and the Future

Foreword 2 Tom Cropper, Editor

Evolution of VTOL UAV Technology


Martin UAV

From Early Beginnings

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Published by Global Business Media

More Versatile than Helicopters Looking to Fill the Gap in ISR Support

Published by Global Business Media

Combining VTOL and Fixed Wing

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The ’V-Bat’ System from Martin UAV

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The Age of the Drone

Publisher Kevin Bell Business Development Director Marie-Anne Brooks Editor Tom Cropper

What the Future Holds

Tom Cropper, Editor

Stuff of Science Fiction Tough Times The Role of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) Problems Ahead?

Coming of Age: The Evolution of Unmanned Flight

Senior Project Manager Steve Banks

Jo Roth, Staff Writer

Advertising Executives Michael McCarthy Abigail Coombes

A Long History

Production Manager Paul Davies For further information visit: www.globalbusinessmedia.org The opinions and views expressed in the editorial content in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views of any organisation with which they may be associated. Material in advertisements and promotional features may be considered to represent the views of the advertisers and promoters. The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily express the views of the Publishers or the Editor. While every care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, neither the Publishers nor the Editor are responsible for such opinions and views or for any inaccuracies in the articles. © 2016. The entire contents of this publication are protected by copyright. Full details are available from the Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.



Combat Drones Into the Future

Going Vertical: The Next Step for UAVs


James Butler, Staff Writer

False Starts A Tricky Road Systems That Work

UAVs and the Future


Tom Cropper, Editor

Going Small Vertical Take-off is Crucial An Integrated System

References 15

Cover image - HEL-STAR 6 MFF compliments of Complete Parachute Solutions WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM | 1


Foreword B

Y THE middle of the century the military may

there is relatively little money available for research and

have transitioned to an all-drone air force.

any new system has to prove its worth.

That was the conclusion of a report released in

Jo Roth will then look at the evolution of UAVs. From

2009 about the future of the Air Force. Seven

the earliest remote controlled aircraft to today’s high

years later unmanned aerial vehicles have become

tech armored drones, the military has been using

more common, but the age of the drones that the

UAVs to see further and extend their reach. He explains

report speaks of remains firmly in the realm of

why Vertical Take-off and Land (VTOL) UAVs hold the

science fiction.

key to the next phase of drone development.

In more practical terms, the big question surrounding

James Butler then looks at some of the key

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is just how much of

innovations being introduced to make that next phase

a role can they play? To a large extent, the answer will

a reality including the V-Bat and DARPA’s ambitious

depend on their ability to master the task of taking off

X-Plane VTOL program. Finally, we’ll look to the future.

and landing vertically.

From micro UAVs to ultra-high-tech VTOL strike

Our opening article comes from Martin UAV,

machines, some of the possible innovations for the

manufactures of the V-Bat UAV. Until recently, they say,

future Air Force are incredibly ambitious. However,

the Air Force had to choose between the versatility of

practicalities often hold sway. We’ll look at which

vertical take-off or the durability of fixed wing flight.

technologies will work as well in the real world as they

They explain how their V-Bat combines both.

do in the mind of innovators.

Elsewhere, we will look at how the military’s requirements are changing. Development depends not only on technological innovation but also convenience and money. Financial constraints mean

Tom Cropper Editor

Tom Cropper has produced articles and reports on various aspects of global business over the past 15 years. He has also worked as a copywriter for some of the largest corporations in the world, including ING, KPMG and the World Wildlife Fund.



Evolution of VTOL UAV Technology Martin UAV


NMANNED AERIAL Systems have become ubiquitous. They can do everything from patrolling battle fields to delivering your latest purchase from Amazon. One of your neighbors uses them to support his real estate business and another to ensure the gas pipeline that passes by your home town isn’t leaking. There are UAS’ the size of airliners and others the size of insects. Their utility begins with their ability to carry out their tasks autonomously, freeing their human masters for things that require a wider appreciation of the ‘mission’. But it diminishes when the UAV requires support. The larger ones need, and use, airports, runways, air traffic control facilities and national airspace as much as manned aircraft do, not to mention the legions of ground personnel required to launch, recover, operate and maintain the ‘unmanned’ aircraft. As you move down the scale from something as large and sophisticated as a Global Hawk

demonstrating the ability to contribute on the battlefield by providing the field commander with video of events as they occurred. In the mid-1960s a commercial QH-43 owned by the Navy provided a remotely piloted platform that lifted communications antennas from ship decks that allowed communications between the surface and submerged submarines. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the QH-50 DASH provided a remotely piloted weapons platform for Anti-Submarine warfare ships. Later in the 1970s Kaman Aerospace was remotely piloting UH 1s in the South Western desert where they were used as target drones. Other true helicopters have advanced the art; Northrop Grumman’s MQ8B/C Fire Scout, Kaman’s BURRO, Schieble’s CamCopter, Saab’s Skeldar; and others have attempted to remove the cumbersome launch and recovery tail from the ‘runway independent’ logistics chain, with varying degrees of success. More Versatile than Helicopters While helicopter–based UAS have successfully


to something that you can hand launch, you cross through a portion of the ‘UAV system complexity spectrum’ where ancillary launch and recovery equipment begin to free UAS’ from some of the facilities required by larger vehicles, to systems that are ‘runway independent’. It’s a freedom, however, that comes at a cost; it adds layers of specialized, but necessary launch and recovery equipment that, in turn, require their own specialized operators and maintainers. It is these layers of hardware, software, personnel and expense that several new vehicles have attempted to address, Martin UAV’s approach seems to provide the most elegant solution with its unique approach to vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAVs - the V-Bat.

From Early Beginnings VTOL UAS’ have been part of the community from the beginning. As early as 1953 a tethered helicopter, a Kaman QH-43 Husky, flew for the popular television show “You Asked For It”

eliminated launchers and limited recovery equipment, they have retained the limitations that are an inherent part of helicopter performance when compared to fixed wing UAVs; slower speeds, higher fuel usage rates and shorter mission times. On the other side of the equation, the fixed wing UAV world has brought the unmanned arena one of its key features; endurance far beyond that of manned systems. They offer persistence a helicopter doesn’t approach – 10 hour, 18 hour and 24 hour mission times are common across the size and air vehicle complexity spectrum. Aerodynamic efficiency at moderate speeds and at altitudes where even turbines are easy on fuel consumption make the fixed wing UAV the air vehicle of choice for all but a few specialized missions. Even when operating at low altitudes, highly efficient sail plane like wings and internal combustion engines ensure the operator will have the endurance to keep the air vehicle on mission for extended periods. WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM | 3


Aerodynamic efficiency at moderate speeds and at altitudes where even turbines are easy on fuel consumption make the fixed wing UAV the air vehicle of choice for all but a few specialized missions


Until recently the mission planner’s choice appeared to be a binary one – Fixed Wing endurance or VTOL flexibility. With the appropriate use of tactics, techniques and procedures and a fair bit of coordination, it’s possible for a military unit in need of Intelligence, Surveillance, Target (ISR) support to get the intelligence it needs by working around the limitations of each air vehicle choice. Multiple VTOL assets can cover the same mission time of a single efficient fixed wing asset, or close coordination of fixed wing assets can keep a sensor on target that could be accomplished with a single hovering VTOL UAV. However, in the end, smaller tactical units or those deployed by small boats, helicopters or even a limited number of vehicles, depend on short endurance hand launched low payload weight UAVs for immediate support, but go begging for a UAV with significant endurance. Higher echelon services may or may not be available when required and the simple logistics imperatives of unit size precludes the use of systems that need to be launched or recovered with complicated ground equipment or installations. 4 | WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM

Looking to Fill the Gap in ISR Support Today this gap in ISR support of smaller units or lower echelon operations is going unfulfilled. In response to the gap, industry has offered hybrid VTOL/Fixed Wing UAVs, UAVs dropped from other UAVs, air launched UAVs, tube launched UAVs, ship launched UAVs and disposable systems. None have met the full requirement of significantly persistent ISR support without a large ground support equipment element for launch and recovery and also, its large footprint. A hybrid UAV can launch and recover vertically without the need for extensive launch and recovery systems and it will get the sensor on station quickly. It can provide small units with traditional fixed wing services at a somewhat reduced endurance. While the hybrids offer a partial answer, battery power for the rotors tends to limit them to one vertical takeoff and one vertical landing per flight. Additionally, the vertical lift system, which has no other function, remains attached to the vehicle for the duration of the flight, reducing the useful load available for fuel or payload as well as adding to drag, further reducing endurance.



Other approaches, for example, dropping a fixed wing from a hovering lift platform, may reduce the overall weight and size of the ground support equipment, but it adds another UAV to the system that must be operated and maintained in order to launch and recover the fixed wing UAV, which is the actual sensor platform; a smaller physical footprint, but a more complicated maintenance problem.

Combining VTOL and Fixed Wing True VTOL / Fixed Wing UAVs are rare. Only two compete for today’s VTOL market and both are ‘tail-sitters’, but there the commonality ends. The older system uses a nose mounted open rotor for vertical lift and propulsion in forward flight. A complicated folding ground stand forms fixed wing tail surfaces in forward flight and battery powered fans imbedded in the wings provide yaw stability in the hover, but more importantly, the fans provide the pitching moment required to begin the vertical dive required to accelerate to wing borne flight speeds. The hazards associated with open rotors have been demonstrated on more than one unfortunate occasion by the true helicopter UAV community and apply here as well. They are prone to inflicting injury upon the unwary and require standoff distances or protective barriers that significantly impact operational utility. Hovering for launch and recovery is a major advance over launchers and recovery systems, but limiting the

capability to only launch and recovery seriously limits the system’s usefulness. ‘Hover and Stare’ and ‘Perch and Stare’ have long been a major advantage of VTOL systems and shouldn’t be easily given up.

The ’V-Bat’ System from Martin UAV Martin UAV, a small Texas based UAV company, recently began offering the ‘V-Bat’, a system that combines the best of both VTOL and Fixed Wing characteristics. It uses a tail mounted, ducted fan for both vertical lift and wing borne propulsion. Control vanes in the duct provide attitude control in a hover as well as traditional rudder and elevator control in forward flight. The duct also does triple duty as a ground stand for takeoff and landing. The enclosed fan protects operators near the air vehicle during engine start, takeoff and landing. Safe close quarters operations open the envelope of possible tactics, techniques and procedures to include launch and recovery in situations not normally considered suitable for UAVs’ operations, extremely small special operations boats, tight urban canyons, small roof tops, or small clearings in dense forests. The fan provides sufficient power and control authority to permit the V-Bat to takeoff vertically and perform a level transition to wing borne flight. No dive required, no fans required to provide a pitching moment from vertical to WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM | 5


Martin UAV has successfully participated in a number of recent demonstrations flying from unprepared land sites and impossibly small deck spaces


horizontal attitude and more importantly, the ability to repeat the maneuver anytime during an operational mission. The ducted fan and V-Bat’s sophisticated control allows the V-Bat to hover and stare anytime it’s commanded to do so by the operator. This provides a unique flexibility in mission planning and execution. Martin UAV has successfully participated in a number of recent demonstrations flying from unprepared land sites and impossibly small deck spaces. The V-Bat is generating interest with several US and international military organizations with the VTOL capability, flexibility and safety offered by this new, disruptive design. VTOL UAV technology has evolved from its beginning as a ‘remoted’ manned helicopter to quad and multi rotor copters that dominate the commercial “drone” market. Fixed wing UAVs have come a long way since their first use in the early 1960s to widespread adoption on the battle fields of the Middle East. But for real utility, they still suffer from either dependence on launch and recovery equipment, large open spaces, or small payloads. Only a few systems have broken the technology barrier


between VTOL and Fixed Wing and, of those, only the Martin UAV V-Bat appears to have focused on the operator’s need for operational flexibility, technical elegance, safety and providing the benefits of both vertical and wing borne operations.

What the Future Holds The next step in the evolution of vertical takeoff and landing will require an intense focus on the operator’s needs. New combinations of current technology, the addition of cutting edge technology or completely revolutionary approaches will be required to move the VTOL UAV technology ball. The limits of its utility have yet be explored and the application to markets beyond the military one are enticing – remote area power and pipeline inspection, fisheries, conservation sanctuary monitoring, precision delivery – all require austere operating bases and long endurance operations. A safe, economical, and practical VTOL UAV has been a long time coming – the next step in the field will require a carefully planned and executed implementation of today’s capability.


The Age of the Drone Tom Cropper, Editor

Unmanned aerial vehicles could have a transformative impact on the way armed forces fight in the future.


OVEMBER 2001 and for the first time, the US Airforce uses a strike drone to target the Taliban’s number three, Mullah Akhund. A year later another armed drone struck at suspected Al Qaeda targets in Yemen. Since then the drone has become an increasingly common tool in the modern military arsenal.

Stuff of Science Fiction The idea has captivated the imagination of Hollywood. The recent film Eye in the Sky envisages a scenario of multi-national teams collaborating using drone warfare. Intelligence is gathered using a Reaper Drone controlled by a US fighter pilot in Nevada (Aaron Paul). Undercover agents use a futuristic looking Insectothopter for ground intelligence and terrorists are targeted using a hellfire missile fired from the Reaper. The film mixes fact with fiction. In real life, the Insectothopter program was shelved in the 70s because it was deemed too difficult to control in crosswinds1. The US army is testing micro helicopters, not much larger than a bug, but these have a relatively short battery life2 and remain in development. However, like so many overnight phenomena, unmanned aircraft have been in the pipeline for decades. And their use relies on more practical considerations than the makers of films such as Eye in the Sky might imagine.

Tough Times One of the first issues is cost and logistics. The army faces a twin challenge of enhancing operational combat efficiency while doing so within a more constrained financial environment. The financial crisis of 2008 hit every area of government spending and the military, with its high budgets, is a ripe target for cuts. Moreover, the end of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq appeared to suggest the military could afford to enter an era of financial retrenchment. In 2011 the US Congress agreed a deal to cut $5bn from the US military budget3. The majority of NATO countries still fail to hit the stated target of spending 2% GDP on the military. In 2015 the Wall Street Journal reported that just five

of the 28 member nations had fulfilled their spending pledges4. More recently, though, that trend has reversed. For the first time in a decade NATO countries are predicted to increase their spending5. Global uncertainties and threats such as the rise of terrorism and an aggressive Russia are forcing a rethink on defense. Budgets are beginning to rise, but remain extremely tight. The imperative on armed forces to become more effective and more efficient is stronger now than ever. Every part of the military operation needs to become more deadly and effective while simultaneously reducing operational expense.

The Role of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) UAVs will have a significant role to play in this future. The global UAV market stood at $10.1bn at the end of 2015, taking in a variety of commercial, industrial and military applications. Between now and 2020 it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.12% to hit USD$14.9bn. North America still holds a dominant position with a market share of over 65%. However, there is likely to be growth especially from Europe and Russia thanks to major investment in both defence and commercial applications6. A study from ReportsnReports focuses specifically on the military drone sector. It places the market at USD$4.4bn and believes it could grow by almost 50% over the next six years. By 2022, according to the report, the market could be worth USD$6.8bn by 2022 . Much of this growth will stem from increasing combat effectiveness and the introduction of new technologies which could spark a proliferation in their use across multiple roles especially combat and surveillance. UAVs have a number of clear advantages over manned aircraft. According to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association these include: • Pilotless operation: There is no need for a qualified pilot, which naturally reduces the risk to human life as well as overall cost. A drone can enter areas which are considered extremely hazardous to human life, which might previously have been considered out of reach. WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM | 7


Global uncertainties and threats such as the rise of terrorism and an aggressive Russia are forcing a rethink on defense


•L  onger flying time: A UAV can remain in the air for up to 30 hours performing precise repetitive raster scans of an area day after day. •A  ble to work in all conditions: UAVs will be able to fly in complete darkness and fog while still performing scans such as thermal imaging of a region, geological survey or measuring cell phone, radio or TV coverage over any terrain. •F  lexible operation: A drone can be controlled remotely by an operator in any region and can complete a mission autonomously even if it loses contact. In short, they are cheaper, safer and more effective than manned aerial vehicles. They can fly further, for longer and reach areas others cannot. Small surprise, therefore, that they attract so much interest.

Problems Ahead? That said, it’s not all plain sailing. For all this demand, the US Air Force had to reduce drone combat missions by 8% in 2015 due to a lack of personnel. The Air Force was recently forced to offer retention bonuses of up to £125,000 to drone pilots who had been complaining of overwork8. The Air Force has been


contracting out an increasing number of missions to private companies. The number of crashes involving drones is increasing9. 2015 was a record year for drone crashes with 20 large drones being destroyed. The surge is due mainly to difficulties with the Air Force’s newest drone – the Reaper. Drones are also having to become more cost effective to launch. Larger drones such as the Reaper or the Global Hawk require a runway and Air Traffic Control to operate – much like a larger aircraft. As size reduces so does complexity, but they still require their specialized launch equipment and specially trained personnel – all of which adds to cost, infrastructure and complexity. The drive in the future will be to make UAVs more effective while reducing their infrastructure requirements. Fortunately, the immense demand for UAVs creates competition which, in turn, spurs innovation. A number of operators are coming up with a range of innovations to address this need. Part of the challenge for commanders will be to understand what these new technologies can do and which new systems will offer the best solution for their specific requirements.


Coming of Age: The Evolution of Unmanned Flight Jo Roth, Staff Writer

Vertical take-off and landing will be crucial to the next phase of UAV development.



HE PILOT of the future will not even need to leave home to wage a foreign war.” So “wrote Paul Dickinson in his 1976 book “The Electronic Battlefied”. Pilots of the future, he said, would commute to the office for an eight-hour stint flying combat missions. Forty years later and his vision is becoming reality as the army relies increasingly on unmanned aerial vehicles to undertake more and more missions. Already drones have revolutionized the way we fight wars, but that could be nothing as to what’s coming in the future.

A Long History We think of unmanned aircraft as being a product of the modern age. However, the army has been looking at ways to use them for more than a century. In the American Civil War, armies used gas balloons to give them an elevated view of the world ahead. In the early part of the 20th century, they were most commonly used as targets to train pilots. In the First World War, the rail-launched Kettering aerial torpedo ‘bug’ used pre-set controls to carry a bomb to a destination.

By the World War II, second generation bugs were being used by both sides. The allies, for example, used a radio controlled glider to float past German missile defenses. Later in the war, GB 4s became the first to be piloted by a crude form of television feed. Breakthroughs came in the seventies. By this time drones could be piloted from the ground and in 1971 they defeated manned systems in a simulated dog fight. In the sixties, they had been used as reconnaissance in Vietnam. Even so, they were still seen as unreliable until the Israeli Airforce used them alongside manned aircraft to devastating effect against the Syrian Airforce in 1982.

Combat Drones This marked the first two phases of drone warfare: ‘target’ and ‘reconnaissance’. More recently, it’s been moving into a third of ‘combat’ in which unmanned aircraft are used to enhance an army’s strike capability. Key to this is the Predator drone which has done much to revolutionize the way the US goes to war. It developed from the Gnat, WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM | 9


The holy grail, though, is something which can combine the benefits of vertical take-off with the faster, longer flying times enjoyed by fixed wing aircraft


a skimobile glider which allowed continuous observation up to 60 miles away. Since then, its use has grown greatly. It was a Predator which identified Osama Bin Laden, for example. With the addition of missiles, the Predator has now become a key strike weapon capable of being piloted from any location in the world. Speaking to the Smithsonian Richard Pildes, a professor of Constitutional Law at New York University, described them as the ‘most discriminating use of force that has ever been deployed10.” Today they are everywhere, but there is still some uncertainty about how important they could be in the future. For Major General Michael Lundy, drones might have reached as far as they need to. Speaking at the Association of the United States Army Conference on Aviation, he suggested that the army had enough drones. There were, he said, certain jobs that needed a manned aerial vehicle. Those drones that were commissioned, he said, would need to offer vertical take-off and landing. “I don’t want to be on runways anymore,” he said in his conference remarks. “A future drone in the same class as the Gray Eagle needs to have a VTOL capability. We’ve got to be able to push it forward with units. It can’t be sitting at an airfield four hours away… It’s got to be survivable, so we’ve got to reduce the signature. And we’ve got to reduce how many people it takes to run it. I’m not real concerned about the speed. Those are the key requirements – both for our large UAS and for our tactical.” The army has been trying to nail the VTOL challenge for years. In 2009, Aurora successfully tested a working scale model of its Excalibur UAV. It combined ducted fans and a hybrid drive and


was intended to carry a 400-pound payload of four hellfire missiles. It would travel at speeds up to 460mph but would also be able to hover. It could be used either as a strike weapon, going into hazardous terrain without risking the lives of pilots, or it could supply troops on the ground.

Into the Future The Excalibur never became a reality but it is being used as a stepping stone to create newer and more sophisticated models. It is just one of a number of exciting VTOL drone concepts which may or may not lead to a transformative design in the future. The road is indeed long and arduous and while the US military has not yet realized its dream of designing an all singing and dancing VTOL strike drone, there are signs of positive progress. It may not be here now, but it certainly remains likely in the future. Banking on the future, though, can be dangerous. Decades after Ronald Reagan first mooted his outlandish Star Wars defense program scientists are still working to make a laser guided missile protection system a reality. History is littered with examples of failed attempts to introduce cutting edge technologies into the field. Those that are successful will be those which offer not only the most effective technology, but can also cater to the requirements of the Air Force. They need something which is difficult to detect, can fly quietly and can be operated on a cost effective basis with minimal intervention from ground control crews. The holy grail, though, is something which can combine the benefits of vertical take-off with the faster, longer flying times enjoyed by fixed wing aircraft.


Going Vertical: The Next Step for UAVs James Butler, Staff Writer

Can the military finally get unmanned vertical take-off and land aircraft to work?


“ DON’T want runways.” So said US Aviation Chief Michael Lundy at a recent conference. When referring to the future of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) talk is moving to whether or not they can take off and land vertically while retaining all the traditional benefits of fixed-wing aircraft. Unfortunately, as with so many innovative technologies, the path of development is not always as smooth as it could be. The future of UAVs in the military, therefore, depends significantly on whether or not this can be used successfully.

False Starts The list of failed military VTOL projects is certainly extensive. Take the Boeing A160 Hummingbird, for example. DARPA began developing the project in the 90s and it had its first flight in 2002. It incorporated technologies never before seen in helicopters and had the ambitious goals of a 4,000km range, 24-hour endurance and the ability to fly at 30,000 ft. Flights could be largely autonomous with the aircraft making its own decisions rather than being controlled by a human. In 2005, it flew a 1,200-mile course around Victorville in one of the longest helicopter flights ever. However, the mission ended in a crash – something which would mark its chequered record. Although it was chosen by the US marine corps, the army cancelled its order in 2012, just before deployment to Afghanistan, because of its high costs and high risks. The US army also looked at Northrop Grumman’s MQ8 Fire Scout. It achieved the first autonomous landing on board the amphibious transport ship, the Nashville, in 2006 and has been used in Afghanistan. However, time and time again the army has shelved various plans because of embarrassing failures, cost or unreliability. That’s not to say they have given up on a VTOL solution. Far from it: numerous high profile projects are still

underway. One of the most high profile is the X-Plane being developed by DARPA. The first phase of contracts attracted designs from some of the leading developers such as Boeing, Aurora and Lockheed Martin. NASA’s GL 10 Greased Lightning project, meanwhile, makes use of 10 electrically driven propellers which will give it vertical take-off capabilities. So far, NASA has built a 50% scale demonstrator and in 2015 it completed its first successful test flight, in which the aircraft successfully managed to transition from hover to wing borne flight and back to hover again. IARPA’s Great Horned Owl Project seeks to use battery power to ensure a quieter UAV, which is more difficult to detect by the enemy. However, these naturally suffer from a lack of endurance or payload capabilities. Attempts are being made to solve this issue by delivering a system which quietly generates electricity from liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

A Tricky Road Each of these systems may well deliver on the magical twin goal – a best of both worlds solution which harnesses the advantages of vertical take-off and land with longer endurance. Even so, as the example of the Fire Scout and the Hummingbird demonstrate, the army has lost interest before, and it continues to struggle in its search for a system which can truly deliver on its requirements. However, one solution is already in operation. It stems from the Bat UAV already in use from Martin UAV. Back in 2010, DARPA announced funding of $369,677 for the purpose of “Covert Precision Emplacement of Small Payloads” from the “V-Bat Aircraft”11. The V-Bat uses tail mounted fan ducts to deliver both vertical and horizontal propulsion. The result is the kind of low cost, high endurance solution the military has been looking for. It can be launched and recovered in a 20x20ft space and WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM | 11


The arrival of the V-Bat hints at a more flexible and efficient system – one where the choice is no longer just between vertical and fixed-wing systems to one where operators can harness the benefits of each within one single mission


can fly up to ten hours carrying a five pounds or more pay-load. It has a fuel range of 300 miles, can fly up to 15,000ft and reach speeds of up to 60 knots. It has a color and IR camera at the front capable of filming at night with a 30-1 optical zoom. A wing camera is used for mapping missions. A high end point and shoot camera takes multiple pictures as the drone flies a grid pattern. These are then stitched together to form a map. Ground operators control and communicate with the vehicle via radio. This can send video and telemetry back to the operator at a distance of up to 50kms. The vehicle lands on three skids which are equipped with shock absorbers while a carbon shield protects the most valuable internal sensors. The arrival of the V-Bat hints at a more flexible and efficient system – one where the choice is no longer just between vertical and fixed-wing systems to one where operators can harness the benefits of each within one single mission. It enables smaller vessels which might not 12 | WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM

previously have possessed the necessary infrastructure to make use of a UAV to greatly extend its reach and capabilities.

Systems That Work There may be more sophisticated and technologically advanced high end VTOL UAV concepts in development, but the V-Bat is already offering a solution which fits neatly into the small UAV gap. It’s a lightweight low profile device which offers all the capabilities of a much larger UAV within a far smaller package. This is still a relatively new technology, which means there is more to come. The company has already released an updated version of the V-Bat, called the Super V-Bat, with a higher fuel capacity and longer operating times. Moving into the future, demand for VTOL UAVs will continue from the military. While past failures show just how challenging this can be, new cutting-edge technologies mean the possibilities are continually expanding. It is a time of great uncertainty, but also enormous potential.


UAVs and the Future Tom Cropper, Editor

The future of UAVs in the military is one of enormous potential but also great uncertainty.


ISTINGUISHING BETWEEN fact and science fiction can sometimes be difficult when it comes to assessing the future of military development. Many of the conceptual innovations being produced look and feel much like something from the film Star Wars. However, few of them ever make it to the battlefield as more practical considerations take priority. The challenge is to understand which technologies will work in the real world.

Going Small Back in 2009, to very little fanfare, the US Air Force released a radical blueprint for a future in which manned aircraft would become a thing of the past. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan12 sketched out drone development through to the year 2047. Although laden with caveats, it raised the prospect of a world in which the military developed a series of bigger and more sophisticated flying robots which would present a viable alternative to manned aircraft in every facet of military aviation. Even dogfighting, which had previously been considered exclusively the reserve of piloted aircraft, had potential for UAVs, according to this report. Much of the report looked at what was possible rather than probable but, as we peer into the future, many of the concepts being drawn up about what the future may hold are equally fantastic sounding. Take, for example, the video concept showing killer micro drones. The Atlantic describes them as a swarm of lethal bugs, while the US Air Force uses the term “unobtrusive, pervasive and lethal”13’. The devices would look and move like small bugs. They could perch unseen on a window ledge offering sound and video recording or, when needed, take lethal action against an enemy. On a slightly large scale The Israeli Army has developed its own mini drone. Weighing in at just seven pounds, the Hero-30 can fly at speeds of more than 100mph, for up to 30 minutes. A nose camera sends video feeds back to operators allowing them to identify targets.

Once the target has been verified the Hero-30 attacks on a kamikaze run to deliver its onepound explosive war head right where it needs to go. The US has its own version. They call it the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System, or Switchblade and in 2012 it was trialled against high value targets in Afghanistan.

Vertical Take-off is Crucial The main thrust of innovation is in reducing runway dependence. Here the challenge is to combine the benefits of craft which require a runway with those which do not – namely the endurance and speed of winged aircraft with the flexibility of a helicopter. As explored elsewhere in this Report, past efforts have met with frustration. The latest, though, is stirring up an enormous amount of excitement in military ranks. In March 2016 DARPA awarded the Phase 2 contract of its experimental plane (VTOL X Plane) program to Aurora Flight Sciences. The aim is to build a demonstrator which can achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300 to 400 knots, raise aircraft hover efficiency from 60% to 70% and carry a useful payload of at least 40lbs. Aurora’s design features an unmanned aircraft with two large wings at the rear and two short winglets mounted near the nose of the aircraft. A turboshaft engine – one used in the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft – is mounted at the fuselage and can provide three megawatts or 4,000hp of electrical power. The engine comprises a total of 24 duct fans integrated into each wing to deliver power. The wings and canards rotate as needed to enable the aircraft to power forward, hover or take off vertically as required. This would be a design which meets the main goal of the next generation of VTOL: to fly fast and far just as a fixed wing drone can, but to be able to hover, land and take off vertically, just as a helicopter is able to do. The program aims to perform flight tests by 2018 and, if successful, it could inform the designs of future manned and unmanned aircraft. Other concepts include a rotor blown wing design from Sikorsky Lockheed Martin – a tail WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM | 13


The most important task for the future is to define what it is the Air Force wants UAVs to do. From a technological standpoint, there is almost no limit to what can be achieved

sitter which resembles Boeing’s abandoned Heliwing concept14. Meanwhile, Boeing has come up with its phantom swift which has integrated fans in the body and further fans fixed on the wings to provide stability. There are, then, a number of possible solutions to the same challenge. Aurora’s approach may well provide the transformative leap forward that DARPA is looking for – only time will tell.

An Integrated System However, what does seem certain is that the future will require a fleet of multiple drones from a number of different providers. A key priority for the army, therefore, is to ensure that the system becomes as integrated as it possibly can be. According to Defense News the US Air Force is circulating a draft document outlining what is needed for a family of UAVs between 2020 and 203515. A key feature of this plan is what’s being called ‘a scalable control interface’, which can simplify the coordination of UAS on


the battlefield. Currently most have separate control stations. The most important task for the future is to define what it is the Air Force wants UAVs to do. From a technological standpoint, there is almost no limit to what can be achieved. Concepts have been drawn up for UAV alternatives to manned aircraft in every area from dog fighting to piloting nuclear bombers. The limits are defined by cost, practicalities and the actual requirements of the Air Force. Many of the projects mentioned in this article are some way off completion as yet. DARPA’s V-Plane project, for example, still has several phases to run through. The demonstrator being built now will most likely provide learnings which will lead to further lessons in the future. In the shorter term, developers are producing VTOL drones which address many of the most urgent requirements of the Air Force and Navy. These may well provide a key stepping stone in the short to medium term.



Insectothopter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insectothopter

1 2

US Micro-Drone: https://www.engadget.com/2015/05/29/us-military-micro-drone/

Congress Reaches a Deal to Cut $5bn From Defense Budget: http://www.stripes.com/news/congress-reaches-deal-to-cut-5-billion-from-defense-budget-1.376792


Just Five of 28 NATO Members Reach Defense Spending Goal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/nato-calls-for-rise-in-defence-spending-by-alliance-members-1434978193


NATO Secretary General Welcomes Increase in Military Spending: http://www.wsj.com/articles/nato-secretary-general-jens-stoltenberg-welcomes-increase-in-military-spending-by-europe-and-canada-1465836063



Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Market: http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/unmanned-aerial-vehicles-uav.asp

Military Drone Market to Grow by 50%: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/military-drones-market-to-grow-50-by-2022-driven-by-multiple-applications-575220551.html


Air Force Offers ÂŁ125K bonuses to Keep Drone Pilots: https://www.airforcetimes.com/articles/to-meet-anti-terror-demand-air-force-offers-125k-bonuses-to-keep-drone-pilots


More US Military Drones are Crashing than Ever: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/01/19/more-u-s-military-drones-are-crashing-than-ever-as-new-problems-emerge/


10 How the Predator Drone Changed the Character of War: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-the-predator-drone-changed-the-character-of-war-3794671/?no-ist 11

DARPA orders VTOL Robots: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/08/20/darpa_v_bat/

Flightplan Outlines Next 20 Years for RPA: http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/774728/flight-plan-outlines-next-20-years-for-rpa.aspx 12

Like a Swarm of Lethal Bugs: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/02/like-a-swarm-of-lethal-bugs-the-most-terrifying-drone-video-yet/273270/ 13


Boeing Heliwing in Flight: http://www.boeingimages.com/archive/Boeing-Heliwing-in-Flight-2F3XC5QKY_I.html

15 Army Wants to Link all Drones: http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/land/army-aviation/2016/04/26/army-conceptualizing-framework-uas-ecosystem/83382122/





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