Monthly Archives: February 2011

Military Robot Markets to Exceed $8 Billion in 2016

Between 50 and 80 countries either already utilize defense robotic systems, or are in the process of building or acquiring the technology to incorporate them into their military programs. These robots may take the form of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), and even unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), but they all have in common the purpose of taking the place of, or supplementing, humans in battlefield situations.

Says Larry Fisher, research director of NextGen, ABI Research’s emerging technologies research incubator, “While the use of semi-autonomous or autonomous robots can improve military efficiency, accuracy, and operational performance, the overriding ROI for these systems is the ability to reduce the likelihood of injury or death.”

The key drivers for the defense robotics market include the strong desire to reduce or prevent military casualties in the field of operations; changes in the tactics of warfare requiring new reconnaissance, combat and task machinery, and tools; the need to reduce military spending; and developments in the fields of materials science, computer programming and sensing technology to help create more advanced robots.

Among the forces working against the growth of defense robotics are continuing weak economic conditions that negatively impact spending on defense systems; a dearth of active military conflicts for most of the world, which reduces the need for new defense systems, and ethical concerns involving the use of robots for war-fighting operations.

In developed countries, military spending is often “recession-proof,” so weak economic conditions are unlikely to impact defense robot spending greatly, since even the most expensive robot systems are far less expensive than equivalent manned systems.

As a result, says Fisher, “ABI Research projects that the market for military robots will remain healthy throughout the forecast period and beyond, with even greater opportunities opening up by the end of the decade, driven by technological advances and a growing, real-world track record of tangible benefits offered by these systems.”

This study is published as part of ABI Research’s Human Machine Technology Research Service.

Bulova Technologies Receives Additional Award from U.S. Army

Bulova announced that it has received a 5-year Master Blanket Purchasing Agreement (“BPA”) award from the United States Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal. The BPA calls for the production and delivery of 52 individual weapon items in support of the U.S. Government’s testing / training mission.

The award amount of the BPA is unlimited though, historically, the U.S. Army has purchased approximately $200 million of ammunition with similar contracts.

Stephen L. Gurba, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company comments, “The award of this new BPA for weapons, combined with the previously announced award for ammunition, makes Bulova Technologies Group, Inc. a leading U.S. supplier of both non standard ammunition and weapons to U.S. and NATO forces.”

The Company’s backlog at its Ordnance Systems subsidiary now exceeds $550 million, a historically-high number. The backlog includes two (2) contracts for three (3) different Simulators, a fuze contract, a firing device contract, an artillery metal parts contract, and two (2) new Blanket Purchase Agreements for ammunition and weapons, respectively.

U.S. air passengers to hit 1 billion yearly by 2021

CitySpur - An anticipated economic recovery will result in higher demand for air passenger services. According to a Federal Aviation Administration forecast, by 2021 the number of American air travelers could reach 1 billion, two years ahead of previous projections. So far, U.S. passengers have reached 713 million. Over the next 20 years, their number will grow by an average yearly rate of 2.8 percent, the FAA projects.

To keep up with the expected demand for air travel, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement the country must continue to update its air transportation system. One step that the FAA has taken is the development of NextGen. NextGen will allow more aircraft to fly more closely on more direct routes, reduce delays, cut carbon emissions and reduce fuel consumption and noise. The FAA’s positive outlook for the American aviation industry is based on a forecast of an annual 2.7 percent economic expansion in the U.S. over the next 21 years. This year the number of travelers who will board flights within the U.S. will go up 3 percent, and will increase 2.5 percent annually for the next two decades, the FAA said. The number of travelers who will board planes internationally is expected to jump by 7.8 percent in 2011 and 4.3 percent yearly until 2021.

AeroVironment Develops World’s First Fully Operational Life-Size Hummingbird-Like Unmanned Aircraft for DARPA

AeroVironment announced it has accomplished a technical milestone never before achieved — controlled precision hovering and fast-forward flight of a two-wing, flapping wing aircraft that carries its own energy source, and uses only the flapping wings for propulsion and control.

The milestone was part of the Phase II contract awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to AV to design and build a flying prototype “hummingbird-like” aircraft for the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program.

“The success of the NAV program paves the way for a new generation of aircraft with the agility and appearance of small birds,” said DARPA NAV program manager, Dr. Todd Hylton.

The final concept demonstrator is called the ‘Nano Hummingbird’ and is capable of climbing and descending vertically, flying sideways left and right, flying forward and backward, as well as rotating clockwise and counter-clockwise, under remote control and carrying a video camera payload. During the demonstration the Nano Hummingbird flew in and out of a building through a normal-size doorway.

“The historic achievement made by the Nano Hummingbird is an example of the leading-edge innovations introduced and deployed almost routinely by the AeroVironment UAS team,” said Tom Herring, AV senior vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “From the battle-proven Raven, Wasp and Puma small UAS to the tiny Nano Hummingbird to Global Observer, the largest, highest and longest flying UAS, AeroVironment continues to define the future of unmanned aircraft systems. Our mission in doing so is to provide our customers with advanced tools that help them succeed.”

The hand-made prototype aircraft has a wingspan of 16 centimeters (6.5 inches) tip-to-tip and has a total flying weight of 19 grams (2/3 ounce), which is less than the weight of a common AA battery. This includes all the systems required for flight; batteries, motors, communications systems and video camera. The aircraft can be fitted with a removable body fairing, which is shaped to have the appearance of a real hummingbird. The aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, but is smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature.

“The success of the Nano Hummingbird was highly dependent on the intense combination of creative, scientific, and artistic problem-solving skills from the many AV team members, aided by a philosophy of continuous learning, which we feel was only possible due to the unique R&D environment here at AV,” said Matt Keennon, AV’s project manager and principal investigator on the NAV project.

The technical goals for the Phase II effort were set out by DARPA as flight test milestones for the aircraft to achieve by the end of the contract effort. The Nano Hummingbird met all, and exceeded many, of the milestones:

  1. Demonstrate precision hover flight within a virtual two-meter diameter sphere for one minute.
  2. Demonstrate hover stability in a wind gust flight which required the aircraft to hover and tolerate a two-meter per second (five miles per hour) wind gust from the side, without drifting downwind more than one meter.
  3. Demonstrate a continuous hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source.
  4. Fly and demonstrate controlled, transition flight from hover to 11 miles per hour fast forward flight and back to hover flight.
  5. Demonstrate flying from outdoors to indoors, and back outdoors through a normal-size doorway.
  6. Demonstrate flying indoors ‘heads-down’ where the pilot operates the aircraft only looking at the live video image stream from the aircraft, without looking at or hearing the aircraft directly.
  7. Fly the aircraft in hover and fast forward flight with bird-shaped body and bird-shaped wings.

Sustained Military and Commercial Aviation Spending Means Strong Markets for Pulsed RF Power Semiconductors

Continuing strong demand from the military and commercial avionics sectors means that markets for pulsed RF power semiconductors should continue robust growth, according to the latest forecasts from ABI Research. The S-Band radar device market, for example, which is critical for both military and civilian aviation, is growing at greater than 10% per annum.

Research director Lance Wilson notes that, “Some macro-economic analysts talk about declines in military spending, but our data suggests that military procurement of pulsed RF power semiconductors will continue at an almost undiminished rate. Budgets for major weapons systems – very costly aircraft carriers or new fighter aircraft – may suffer, but when it comes to ‘bang for your buck’, military electronics are comparatively inexpensive. Electronic warfare and other forms of electronic communications are going to gain greater prominence. National defense and air safety are fairly immune to the vagaries of consumer markets, so while there may be pauses as military budgets are thrashed out, we expect that we’ll generally see increased spending.”

Civil aviation safety is also something that simply has to be addressed. Many existing air traffic control and safety systems are now 30 years old and nearing the end of their life-cycles. Upgrades to radar, improved transponders, and other steps to enhanced safety can’t be ignored. Also, commercial aviation is a worldwide market with many sources of demand.

Meanwhile on the materials front, Gallium Nitride (GaN) technologies are continuing their slow but steady march into new radar and other systems.

$322 Million Task Order Awarded by U.S. Army

ManTech announced that the company has been awarded a task order under its Strategic Services Sourcing (S3) prime contract to support the operations of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Management Command’s Software Engineering Center Field Support Directorate. The award, made in the third quarter of 2010, is valued at $322 million, with an initial period of performance of 12 months plus one additional option year.

Under the contract, ManTech will help the Army improve overall field software and systems support to warfighters. The company will deploy field support representatives worldwide to support the Army’s evolving tactical command, control, communications, computer intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) efforts. It also will provide software and systems engineering support for C4ISR and related battle command and management information systems connected to Army, joint and coalition networks and infrastructures.

“As the complexity of these systems increases, it is imperative that our warfighters receive comprehensive, consistent support,” said Louis M. Addeo, president and chief operating officer of ManTech’s Technical Services Group. “The Field Support Directorate has developed an impressive worldwide infrastructure to support these systems and the warfighters that use them. ManTech is proud to be selected once again to play a part in this effort. Our extensive software and systems engineering expertise together with our vast experience supporting U.S. military forces overseas will serve the Army well in this important effort.”

$2.2 Million in Contracts for Decoy Vehicle Program

LaBarge has been awarded $2.2 million in contracts from Raytheon Missile Systems to continue to produce complex cable harnesses and electromechanical assemblies for the Miniature Air Launch Decoy (MALD®) program. MALD is a low-cost, air-launched modular decoy vehicle that accurately duplicates the combat flight profiles and signatures of U.S. and allied aircraft. It weighs less than 300 pounds and has a range of approximately 500 nautical miles (about 575 statute miles).

Production, which will take place at LaBarge’s Huntsville, Ark., and Joplin, Mo., operations, is expected to begin this month and continue through February 2012. LaBarge is a Raytheon preferred supplier, and a recipient of Raytheon’s Six Sigma Relationship Award, prestigious Leadership Excellence Award and Team MALD Supplier Award.

LaBarge, Inc. is a broad-based provider of electronics to technology-driven companies in diverse markets. The Company provides its customers with sophisticated electronic and electromechanical products through contract design and manufacturing services. Headquartered in St. Louis, LaBarge has operations in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

CPI Aerostructures Receives $17.7 Million Contract

CPI Aerostructures announced that it has entered into a long term contract for a period of five years covering $17.7 million in structural assemblies and kits to be supplied to Sikorsky Aircraft for its S-92® civil helicopter program. The contract includes seventeen different deliverable items including door assemblies, cover assemblies, and various installation kits that contain detail parts and installation hardware used by Sikorsky to complete the final assembly of the S-92 helicopter. Each of the deliverable items are currently produced by CPI Aero for Sikorsky under separate purchase orders and were incorporated into this new five year contract to cover Sikorksy’s anticipated requirements for these items through 2016.

The S-92 helicopter is a technologically advanced aircraft in Sikorsky’s civil product line. The S-92 fleet spans several countries, and performs a number of missions, including Offshore Oil, Corporate VIP, Head of State and Search and Rescue.

B/E Aerospace Wins Chinese Programs Valued at $200 Million

B/E Aerospace announced that it has been selected by a number of China’s leading airlines, including Air China, China Southern Airlines, and Hainan Airlines, to equip their commercial airliner fleets with both B/E Aerospace seating products and B/E Aerospace food and beverage preparation and storage equipment. The awards are initially valued at approximately $200 million.

“As evidenced by today’s announcement, we have continued to successfully pursue our ambitious objectives in the Chinese aircraft interior equipment market having garnered a majority of all orders over the past several years. These awards have allowed us to further expand our leading aircraft interior products market share position in the Chinese market, the world’s fastest growing commercial aircraft market,” commented Amin J. Khoury, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of B/E Aerospace.

Saab Receives Order for Weapon-Locating System

Saab just announced that it received an order for weapon locating system ARTHUR from LIG Nex1 which is the prime contractor towards Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Republic of Korea. The order is worth MSEK 450. ARTHUR is a stand alone C-band medium-range weapon-locating system that detects and locates enemy fire. It utilities a passive phased-array antenna technology for optimized battlefield performance. The technology provides the perfect balance between mobility, range, accuracy, ECCM (Electronic counter-countermeasures), operational availability and operational cost. The ARTHUR system is widely used by demanding customers around the world. Examples of customers are Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Spain, Sweden and UK. More than 60 ARTHUR units have been sold and their availability is well proven from thousands of hours’ operation. The first ARTHUR order from South Korea came in 2007.

The system is developed by Saab in Gothenburg, Sweden. The main part of the production for this program will be done at LIG Nex1 under a localization agreement between Saab and LIG.

LIG Nex1 Co. Ltd. develops and produces a wide range of advanced precision electronic systems including missile, underwater weapon systems, radars, electronic warfare, avionics, tactical communication systems, fire control systems, naval combat systems, and electro-optics. The company was founded in 1976 and is based in Seoul, South Korea.