Patrick Durrant | Sydney
The Defence Innovation Hub has released a Special Notice seeking to identify innovative concepts for a man-portable Small Unmanned Aerial System (SUAS) of the future for Army, with submissions required no later than 31 July.
Technology is constraining the operational employment at the moment
“The Wasp AE [was] chosen as the preferred option for the first tranche to meet an immediate need,” Minister for Defence Marise Payne said at the time. An upgrade or replacement for the Wasp has been foreshadowed for the second tranche (Tranche B).
A Special Notice allows a Defence Business Unit that has a specific problem or technical challenge to utilise the Defence Innovation Hub as a platform for engaging industry to solve that problem.
This Notice is seeking to identify innovative SUAS concepts that may be explored and potentially developed in collaboration with the Director Army Aviation and vendors, in order to provide improved capability for the Army.
The notice states that selected vendors should be in a position to provide a capability demonstration by December 2018 and provide detailed growth and development plans for their SUAS.
In explaining the challenge context, supporting documentation said the limitations of existing SUAS, which included the interim WASP AE capability, were characterised by:
- Requirement for physical exposure of operator to launch.
- Requirement for a clear area to launch the SUAS.
- Size and weight that allows portability in field-deployment.
- Limited range and conditions of operation.
- Challenge of recovery of the UAV craft without damage in the process, and hence re-use.
- Limited sensor payload capacity and sensor performance capability.
The call for submissions requests that solutions should aim to provide (and ultimately demonstrate) a range of benefits.
“Some of these benefits may not be deliverable today, but all would be expected to be part of a comprehensive, viable and mature solution procurable in 2020.”
A SUAS on the move capability is one that Army would be keen to explore. Army UAS program manager Lieutenant Colonel Keirin Joyce recently told ADM that presently among the SUAS class there was no system that can operate at a speed necessary to support vehicles on the move.
“Those that claim they can have a power endurance that would require recovery of the system every twenty minutes in order to change battery.”
LTCOL Joyce said technology is constraining the operational employment at the moment and it is very much a case of watch and wait.
“It all depends on just how fast the technology develops, there are certainly some innovative solutions being developed that we are keeping our eye on.”
He explained that in the near term, tethered systems such as a high-speed quadrotor deployed from the roof of a vehicle could provide vehicles with an ISR capability. See our forthcoming July issue of ADM for more on the future of Army SUAS.