The July edition of ADM covered the agile acquisition system that has seen the Australian Army become the world’s largest user of nano UAS. Now, small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) are now well on their way from suburban garages to the hands of the ADF.
Fledgling SME JAR Aerospace has confirmed work is well advanced on a fully-functioning prototype that will demonstrate by November the company’s technical concept for a next generation sUAS to replace the AeroVironment Wasp, which is in Army service until the mid-2020s.
Incorporated in January 2017 by “four blokes who started up in a garage on the Central Coast,” the company then formulated a partnership with UNSW’s Innovation Centre and attracted first and second round investment. This April, JAR Aerospace was awarded a $275,000 concept exploration contract via the Defence Innovation Hub (DIH) under Land 129 Phase 4B (Wasp Replacement).
Similar contracts went to SYPAQ Systems, which will further develop its Corvo X VTOL (Vertical Landing and Take-off) sUAS, and the University of Sydney, which will develop a lightweight UAS that combines vertical take-off capabilities with horizontal fixed wing flight for extended speed and endurance.
Lochie Burke, JAR’s Chief Marketing Officer, told ADM the DIH contract had been awarded on the basis of a clean-sheet design focused specifically on Defence’s requirements, although the young company’s general credibility had benefitted from its first product, the multi-rotor X-12 drone.
Work on prototype development of the Wasp replacement had advanced to the extent that capability was already being added.
Additional funding was anticipated from DIH to progress the prototype and work is running well ahead of schedule. “We’re fully convinced of the tremendous potential of the design,” Burke said.
The company now has 25 staff based in Sydney’s Caringbah, 15 of them full-time.
Chief Operating Officer Sam Lewinson noted that the prime requirement is VTOL capability, to allow troops to remain under cover while launching the aircraft.
Taylor Thomas, JAR’s Lead Aerospace Engineer, said the company intended to integrate a number of new technologies in its proposed Wasp replacement to enhance performance and capability.
These included advanced encryption technology to protect the system from hacking and improve endurance.
“We’re going to achieve endurances above 50 minutes at velocities more than capable of keeping up with moving vehicles. We’re developing an advanced power system that not only provides more energy but also reduces the power consumption of certain subsystems when they are not required.”
Thomas disclosed the weight of the benchmark twin rotor platform would be less than 2 kilos, with payloads of up to 300 grams. These would include electro-optics, infrared, hyperspectral imaging, “and a number of other options I can’t disclose.”
“The technical capabilities will included autonomous flight as and when required. We’ll be integrating some commercial-off-the-shelf components for the baseline design, but we’ll be ensuring the maximum-possible Australian content, and we’re developing all the software locally.”
While the focus was on Land 129 Phase 4B, the company saw significant potential in non-military applications, including search and rescue operations and other maritime procedures for a marinised commercial variant.