ASIO to integrate its optical navigation system into a US-based defense customer’s drones

ASIO Technologies from Rosh-Ha’ayin, Israel, has disclosed it is integrating its NavGuard optical navigation systems into the drone platforms of a new US defense customer. NavGuard is a navigation system for tactical drones based solely on optical sensors, thus eliminating the dependency on GPS that exposes it to jamming attacks. Launched earlier this year, ASIO supplies the system to the IDF – directly and through drones’ manufacturers. 

Jamming is one of the most significant weak spots of military drones, who base their  navigation on GPS for location and orientation in air. However, as the GPS signals arrive from remote satellites, they are easily jammed. There are two methods for signals jamming:  transmission of strong signals that mask the original satellite signals and thus prevent their reception or transmission of false signals that send wrong information, causing the receiver to “think” that it is somewhere else. 

There are few electric protection systems on the market designed to block jamming  transmissions. Asio offers complete immunity against jamming through a navigation system that relies on optical navigation rather than GPS. NavGuard is based on day and night  cameras who provide real time visual sensing of the drone’s surroundings. In order to understand the geographic location of the drone, the system compares the visual  information from the cameras with a 3D map of the mission area, sets the location of the drone relative to the map, and provides the vessel’s command and control unit with the coordinates in a GPS format. 

For instance, if the drone flies over the Azrieli towers, the system will be able to identify this landmark on the map and “understand” the location coordinates of the drone. The optical  navigation system can be used as a backup for GPS-based navigation system or as the  primary system. 

In a conversation with Techtime, David Harel, ASIO’s CEO, says that NavGuard is a unique solution in the tactical drones’ world: “There are similar systems designed for fighter planes,  battleships and armored fighting vehicles, but they are heavy and expensive. Asio managed to develop a light-weight solution that meets the tactical drone’s requirements.” In order to adjust the system for additional platforms, Asio is currently developing smaller versions of the system for various flight outlines. 

Harel: “Our system increase the drone’s latitude and the operational confidence in  completing the mission. We see tremendous interest in this solution, and it even increased following the war in Ukraine, where drones are heavily used”. 

Currently, Asio supplies its solution to the military market, but according to Harel, the  jamming threat is relevant for the commercial drones, as well: “This problem worries the whole drones market, not only the military one. As soon as shipment of commercial packages will start to fly over populated areas – there will be a need for jamming solution”. 

“The payload is the system. Drones become sub-systems”

By: Roni Lifshitz

Thirdeye Systems received a grant of NIS 900,000 from the Israel Innovation Authority and the Ministry of Defense for the development of a Non-GPS based navigation solution, totaling in NIS 1.8 million. Non-GPS based navigation eliminates the dependence on satellite communications and immune to GPS jamming efforts. This is a new market for a company that was known mainly for its electro-optical smart algorithmics.

Lior Segal, CEO and co-founder  of the Natanya-based company (in the center of Israel), told Techtime the market is rapidly changing: “In the past, the drone was considered by customers as a ‘main system’. “However, today we see a different approach:, drones are becoming a sub-system within the complete solution. The center of interest has shifted towards the payload. This dramatic change helped us to win a Ministry of Defense NIS 9 million project, in which we take the place of a main contractor.”

Locating people inside buildings

Thirdeye was founded 12 years ago by Lior Segal, the CTO Yoel Motola and the COO Gil Barak. The idea for the company resulted military service were Lior and Yoel took active role in urban warfare events in 2009 in their role as combat infantry officers. Segal: “We started talking about a problem we faced as warriors: how to find out a person inside a room without using a screen. This is how the idea of ‘third eye’ was born: A thermal camera that identifies human beings and provides a silent warning to the warrior. We needed to find a way how to integrate this capability into a compact kit, flashlight-like gadget, placed on the personal weapon.”

With the help of Ministry of Defense Thirdeye had developed its unique algorithm and IR sensors for the warrior personal weapon, which were delivered to IDF special units that immediately put them into operational use. In 2015 it won a NIS 2 million order from the MoD for these systems called Cerberus. However, at that drones began to play a vital role in the civil and military markets, and Thirdeye decided to adjust its technology to be used with drones.

Thirdeye's Chimera payload for drones. Credit: Techtime
Thirdeye’s Chimera payload for drones. Credit: Techtime

The first product for the new market was Chimera: An electro-optical system that includes a thermal camera, a daylight camera, and people identification algorithmics, enabling identification across wide areas. The system performed its first baptism of fire during Operation Guardian of the Walls in middle of 2021. Segal: “Our main market today is the local market. We collaborate with companies such as Elta Systems, Elbit, Aeronautics and the Israel Aerospace Industries.”

“The company employs fifty employees, with all the development, manufacturing and assembly works done in Israel. Even the AI systems’ database was developed here by us, without using external databases or sub-contractors. Our systems are platform-agnostic and can be installed on any drone – civil or military- as well.”

In April 2021 you went public on TASE. Why?

Segal: “This was our way of bringing funding to the company without being considered as a business partner of any costumer, to avoid deterring other costumers.”

What are your main current projects?

“Several products are currently in transition from R&D to serial production. We develop the Chimera-X to provide wider area grip. It is expected to reach maturation early next year. We are developing a platform for drones’ detection called Medusa and a new system for ground platforms. Unmanned vehicles will be able to use our systems for various missions, such as people tracking an people avoidance to prevent unwanted damages, especially in difficult terrain conditions.”

The core of your market is the military. What are the main trends in this market?

“We believe that Western societies refuse to pay heavy prices in a human’s lives, and therefore the need for autonomous instruments is growing. Western armies need many robotic tools in order to save human lives. The war in Ukraine illustrates how modern warfare turns into a multidimensional warfare: The warrior should be aware to everything that is happening around and above him.”

Translated by P. Ofer

 

Percepto Autonomous Drones to Monitor One of the World’s Largest Hydro-Floating Solar Farms In Thailand

Percepto, an israeli provider of autonomous inspection by industrial robotics, announced a successful completion of a proof-of-concept (POC) with the Electric Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) for the monitoring of a 250 acre floating solar farm, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

The size of 70 soccer fields and located 350m from the nearest shoreline, the solar farm is on the Sirindhorn dam basin in Southeastern Thailand, consisting of seven sections floating on buoys. Partnering with Top Engineering Corporation, a Thai drone consultancy and equipment provider, Percepto AIM software and Percepto Air drone-in-a-box will enable autonomous routine inspections of panels and other equipment to ensure proper operation and detect anomalies before they turn into bigger issues.

Joining Thailand’s electrical grid last October, the $34 million project reflects the country’s push to achieve carbon neutral status by 2050 with 145,000 solar panels harnessing power from the sun during the day and converting energy from flowing water at night. The country is seeking to use more renewable energy sources and reduce its reliance on natural gas, the current largest source for electricity generation.

Given the solar farm’s size and distance from land, equipment inspection and maintenance are cumbersome. Without drones, inspection staff would need to access the panel by boat to manually review the panels or go offshore to simply launch a drone that could provide visual inspection. Inspectors also face obstacles due to weather conditions such as extreme heat, rain and fog. Percepto drone-in-box is a robust system that was the first to pass Level 5 hurricane testing at wind speeds of up to 155 mph, and sturdy enough to handle the heat and humidity of Thailand’s tropical climate.

Percepto’s automated drones will provide regular operations and maintenance reports, map the location of the panel, and perform inspections of substations, transformers, floating fences and solar floaters which hold the panel above water. When an anomaly is detected, workers can know the exact problem, and where it is located. While one person must be in the vicinity of the panel for regulatory reasons, the inspection can be conducted remotely from Bangkok, more than 600 km away from the dam.

“We are very excited to partner with EGAT and Top Engineering Corporation on this unique and environmentally sustainable electricity project,” said Percepto Co-founder and CEO Dor Abuhasira. “Autonomous drones are strengthening the sustainable positioning of renewable energy facilities to achieve global climate targets. With Percepto drones, solar farms such as EGAT can be consistently monitored and inspected regardless of their size or location to further unleash the potential of renewable energy sources.”

“This project illustrates the breadth of our unique capabilities as countries explore innovative solutions in their push to reduce their reliance on traditional energy sources. We’re looking forward to full drone deployment and working with EGAT and Top Engineering to leverage the many benefits of our platform,” adds Ehud Ollech, Head Of Business Development and Partnerships.

“Percepto drones will dramatically improve the consistency at which the panel provides customers with electricity, how quickly repairs are made, and the safety level of our employees,” said EGAT Chief, Fuel Business Development Department, Chanapan Kongnam. “Rather than sending out staff to inspect the panel, we will deploy inspections much more frequently than could be achieved manually. Staff are only sent out when repairs are necessary and they will know the nature of the problem and where it will be located to spend as little time on the water as possible.”

“We applaud Thailand for its innovation and commitment to developing sustainable energy sources,” said Top Engineering Managing Director, Kornnarong Tungfung. “By deploying autonomous drones powered by AI technology, Thai solar farms will be continuously observed for a variety of factors to ensure they consistently generate electricity for the people of Thailand.”

Percepto’s AIM platform fully automates visual data workflows from capture to insight, leveraging the Percepto Air drone-in-a-box portfolio, alongside other robots and visual sensors. Using advanced machine learning and AI, Percepto AIM provides an end-to-end autonomous inspection and monitoring solution, to assess risk, minimize downtime, drive efficiency, increase safety and reduce operational costs.

Percepto’s solutions are trusted by Fortune 500 customers on six continents including Siemens Energy, Delek US, Koch Fertilizer and ICL Dead Sea Works. The company is the recipient of multiple prestigious awards including Edison Gold Award and Frost & Sullivan Global Enabling Technology Leadership Award.

vHive Raises $25 Million in Series B Led by PSG

vHive, a software solution that enables enterprises to deploy autonomous drone hives to create Digital Twins of their assets, announced today that it has secured $25 million in Series B funding. The funding round is led by PSG, a leading growth equity firm partnering with software and technology-enabled services companies to help accelerate their growth. Previous investors Octopus Ventures and Telekom Innovation Pool (TIP), Deutsche Telekom’s strategic investment fund advised by DTCP, also participated in the round. Ronen Nir, Managing Director at PSG, has joined vHive’s board of directors.

vHive’s software platform provides end-to-end solutions that enable organizations to autonomously capture data using drones to create Digital Twins of their assets, such as cell towers, cranes, and structures. Its AI and computer vision algorithms were built on comprehensive data and hands-on field experience with global top-tier customers to deliver performance and capabilities that vHive believes are hard for others to replicate. The company believes its ability to connect the physical and the digital world provides enterprises with a new way to digitally transform their field assets, visually access information, and rapidly reach actionable business insights.

PSG’s investment in vHive aims to further accelerate the company’s expansion of its global customer base and enable the company to scale up operations in key markets, as well as to enter new ones. The investment is also intended to help bolster vHive’s enterprise digitization platform market leadership and product offerings, which include autonomous drones, data analytics, computer vision, and AI, and fuel the development of new solution capabilities for key markets.

“We believe vHive has built one of the industry’s most advanced and comprehensive digitization solutions, and we are excited to seek to replicate our success in the telecom and crane markets in new market verticals,” said Yariv Geller, CEO and Co-Founder of vHive. “We are thrilled to partner with seasoned investors who share a common vision to advance the company’s mission, extend its reach, and scale its customer base.”

“vHive’s solutions for capturing and digitizing physical assets have enabled the company to build a reputation as a strong partner of choice for top-tier enterprises going through digital transformation – a global trend that is sweeping through multiple industries. Its customers can experience measurable success using vHive’s solution, impacting their operations and workflows,” said Nir. “We have been impressed with the company’s rapid growth and are excited to propel it to the next level.”

vHive is a global leader of Digital Twin software solutions. vHive accelerates enterprises’ continuous digital transformation, enabling them to make better decisions based on accurate field data, analytics, and insights. vHive is a leading software solution that enables enterprises to deploy autonomous drone hives to digitize their field assets and operations.

Credit photos: vHive

Three Israeli drone companies are on the fast track to receive permanent FAA license 

[Pictured above: Aerobotics’ Optimus EX-1 drone]

First time in the autonomous Unmanned Aircraft industry, the FAA is close to issue a global certification for drones, similar to manned ones. As no unified standards exist for unmanned aircraft, the FAA has developed a designated Durability and Reliability verification process to establish criteria as an element of the proposed certification. The FAA has published last month the Airworthiness Criteria for Special Classes of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), following public comments, which includes 10 drones of several companies, among them three Israeli companies: Airobotics, Flytrex and Percepto.    

Percepto Company has received a final criterion for its 2.4 UA drone, designed for monitoring and lookout missions. This certificate will allow the drone to fly over populated areas at an altitude of 393 ft and 28 mph. Flytrex Company has received a final criterion for its FTX-M600P drone, designed for delivery of packages. This criterion covers a relatively low altitude – 230 ft and a speed of 34 mph. Airobotics Company has received a final criterion for its Optimus EX-1 drone, allowing it to fly over populated areas at an altitude of 393 ft and 31 mph.

The process of gaining the approval in front of the FAA has started for Airobotics at September 2019. Currently, in order to fly a drone it is required to request a waiver for each mission and each area cell where the drone is expected to operate. For example, if an infrastructures company is interested in flying an autonomous drone over it site for monitoring and security, it requires requesting a special approval. Gaining a “type certificate” will make it possible to operate the drone under the label of its type, without the need to request a special approval, in the same way it is done for manned aircrafts today. 

Flytrex delievery drone

Global certificate, similar to manned aircraft

Getting the final certificate will extend the drone’s usage capabilities, and will shorten the bureaucratic processes required to operate it. Airobotics VP Aviation and Regulation, Niv Russo, explains in a conversation with Techtime that up to date, no aviation authority had issued such criteria for unmanned aircrafts, “Surely not for a vehicle characterized by high level of autonomy such as our drone. Airobotics’ model has received a highly expanded criterion.  We gathered many hours of flying an experience that made it possible for the FAA to define the safety level of the vehicle. We have completed all the tests and proofing and we are in the final bureaucratic phases. I guess we are in the most advanced phase within this process’.

According to Russo, “this is a defining moment for the whole global drone industry”. Airobotics’ Optimus EX-1 is used for surveying, mapping and lookout missions. This model is intended to operate in demanding environment conditions and is completely autonomous. It navigates its position at a 1cm resolution and is able to perform its mission autonomously and independently return to its docking station. Back in the docking station, the drone is capable of autonomously performing a full process of switching battery and payloads. One of the drone’s safety facilities is an emergency parachute developed by the Israeli ParaZero Company, assuring safe landing in case of a fault. 

Percepto’s patrol drone

Smart Shooter reveals ultra-precise fire control system for UAVs

SMART SHOOTER, a designer, developer, and manufacturer of innovative fire control systems that significantly increase the accuracy and lethality of small arms, reveals the SMASH Dragon: an armed drone system incorporating Smart Shooter’s combat-proven SMASH Technology that ensures precise target elimination.

Presented by the company for the first time, SMASH Dragon is an advanced robotic weaponry payload that can be mounted on different drones and other unmanned aerial platforms. It can incorporate various types of assault rifles, sniper rifles, 40mm, and other ammunition with great precision. Extremely lightweight and therefore allowing long mission endurance, SMASH Dragon integrates a unique stabilization concept with the SMASH technology that enables the system to accurately hit static and moving targets while flying.

Featuring SMASH’s proprietary target acquisition and tracking algorithms as well as sophisticated computer vision capabilities, the remotely operated SMASH Dragon Offers the SMASH technology’s fast and precise hit capabilities and other exclusive benefits while engaging targets from the air.

The company stated that the system has successfully completed live firing tests and is currently under advanced stages of development. 

Michal Mor, SMART SHOOTER CEO: “Smart Shooter’s SMASH technology offers precise elimination of threats at ground, air and sea. We are now happy to offer the same precise, combat-proven target engagement technology mounted on an unmanned aerial platform that can be controlled from a distance. When it comes to drones, platform weight is a critical factor as it impacts mission endurance and cost, and we are proud to announce that the extremely lightweight SMASH Dragon meets this criterion”.

One shot – one hit

SMART SHOOTER is a world-class designer, developer, and manufacturer of innovative fire control systems that significantly increase the accuracy and lethality of small arms. With a rich record in designing unique solutions for the warfighter, SMART SHOOTER technology enhances mission effectiveness through the ability to accurately engage and eliminate ground, aerial, static or moving targets during both day and night operations.

Designed to help military and law enforcement professionals swiftly and accurately neutralize their targets, the company’s combat-proven SMASH Family of Fire Control Systems increase assault rifle lethality while keeping friendly forces safe and reducing collateral damage. With a unique technology that makes it possible for every battlefield element to be connected with every other battlefield element, SMASH creates a micro-tactical network that dramatically enhances real-time situational awareness and ensures that the entire platoon shares a common operational picture.

The company’s experienced team of engineers combine electro-optics, computer vision technologies, real-time embedded software, ergonomics, and system engineering to provide cost-effective and easy-to-use solutions for modern conflicts. 

Fielded and operational, Smart Shooter SMASH family of solutions provides end-users with a “One Shot – One Hit” capability across multiple mission areas, creating a significant advantage for the infantry soldier and ultimately revolutionizing the world of small arms and optics.

SMART SHOOTER’s headquarters are based in Yagur, Israel, and its American subsidiary, Smart Shooter Inc., is located in Virginia. Smart Shooter also has offices in Düsseldorf, Germany, and in Canberra, Australia. 

Robotican demonstrates autonomous interceptor drone to the DoD

Israeli drone manufacturer Robotican has has successfully conducted an autonomous drone interception demonstration for the U.S. Department of Defense Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD), which one of its missions is to identify capabilities and technologies to struggle against irregular threats.

Main goal of the demonstration was to test Goshawk’s ability to capture hostile drones penetrated into a no-fly zone. After identifying the target by the Radar systems, Goshawk autonomously performs its mission – from launch to landing. Complex scenarios were also examined at this demonstration, to include chasing hostile drone and challenging head-on engagement. Robotican says that its Goshawk has successfully withstood the missions and was able to capture the hostile drones and to deliver them to a predefined area for safe disposal – with no collateral damage.

Goshawk is an autonomous drone, able to capture hostile drones through designated net. Goshawk interfaces with existing aerial defense systems and launches toward a target drone from the Smart NEST launch pad composed of two drone trappers. As opposed to other solutions, like weapon interception or GPS signal disruption, Goshawk captures and carries the drone intact. After capturing the hostile drone in the net, it is delivered to a safe area, preventing collateral damage that may be caused by potential drone falling, and also provides the ability to investigate the enemy’s drone. According to Robotican, Goshawk performed around 680 documented aerial interceptions of drones.    

Seeing the increasing use of drones by hostile groups, as the few weeks ago attack on a merchant ship in Oman bay, the American Department of Defense set the struggle against drones’ threat higher in its priority list. Nowadays, it formulates a comprehensive defense plan from drones and C-sUAS, based on various detection and interception technologies in complex scenarios. In last January the DoD announced new strategy which calls for risk-based assessments and viewing counter-sUAS defense from a joint perspective to rapidly track, defend and defeat drone attacks. Part of this strategy is the procurement and integration of various tools to cope with the drones’ threat, also evaluating that the next years’ budgets for this purpose will increased. Past publications mentioned that Israeli technologies are being examined as part of in these efforts.