Maritime sector reviews UAV capabilities as part of future security requirements
Introduction – grades of fuel
The UAV market is growing exponentially. In fact, it is expected to be valued at $14.9 billion by 2020, primarily due to its use in naval and maritime operations.
As a result of global territorial borders, countries are forced to tackle a spectrum of issues including illegal fishing, illegal border crossing, armed robbery of ships and sea piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking, maritime terrorism, arms smuggling and illegal logging. Therefore, surveillance to resolve these issues becomes a costly and challenging task for any defence operative concerned with its borders.
The security and surveillance role of UAVs have become the latest tool deployed against the murky world of organised criminal activity, where the problem lies within trying to catch out determined individuals or gangs on land or sea using grounded technologies. Most people involved in such activities are well aware of the patch or region within which they operate, so further advanced capabilities are required for the authorities to stay one step ahead. That brings in the use of aerial surveillance and specifically UAVs.
UAV platforms cannot be deployed on every single ship due to the space required to operate it. There should be at least 10×10 meters of deck space to have enough clearance for security during taking off and landing. The ship needs to be equipped with some hangaring facilities; it does not have to be very big but this caters for the logistical footprint.
Development of heavy-fuel engines
UAV’s typically use piston engines and gasoline has been the conventional fuel of choice for UAV engineers. Platforms that burn gasoline are relatively simple and inexpensive to build.
Fuel, of course, comes from crude oil, but crude oil is not a uniform substance. It is made up of liquids of varying densities. Before crude oil can be used to make fuel, it needs to be separated by its different weights – or fractions. As a whole, jet fuel is known as heavy fuel because it is denser and contains more energy in a given volume than gasoline. The reason for using this fuel over gasoline is the fact that it is very hard to ignite and it can sit in storage containers for a very long time without degrading. This makes it relatively safe and reduces the risk of fire on a ship or base.
There are a few different types of fuels that fall in the category of “Heavy Fuel”. Heavy fuel for UAV’s basically means jet fuel (Jet A, JP5, JP8). The largely Kerosene based JP8 is one of the primary fuels used for this initiative. This requirement supports NATO’s one-fuel policy.
JP-8 is a jet fuel specified and used widely to provide satisfactory performance in aircrafts, as this fuel is formulated with FSII (Fuel System Icing Inhibitor) and CI/LI (Corrosion Inhibitor/Lubricity Improver) additives. Jet fuel is a higher quality than fuels used in less critical applications and contains additives to reduce the risk of icing or explosion due to high temperature, among other properties.
One such UAV that has been built with the maritime industry in mind is our SKELDAR V-200. It not only includes an interface with BMS and C4ISR systems, but also is 4865 STANAG compliant, making it easier to implement on any maritime vessel. With a multiple payload capability and uniquely incorporating heavy fuel, the SKELDAR V-200 has the capability to take off from any ship and in minutes be gathering intelligence within the designated target areas. Government officials across the globe are employing more accurate and cost effective solutions such as UAVs when dealing with security intelligence around its borders.
Bob Schmidt, President at UAV Propulsion Tech, explains the technology behind heavy-fuel platforms:
The SKELDAR V-200, which is powered by proven Saab technology, can carry a variety of payloads and sensors including a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), Moving Target Indicator, signals payload, 3D mapping, AIS transponder, and cargo hook.
The SKELDAR V-200 development began in 2004 and the SKELDAR 5 POC prototype completed its maiden flight in May 2006. The development version was designated as the SKELDAR V-200 in 2008. It features a compact layout with segments for accommodating various payload reconfigurations. The equipment compartments are easily accessible through panels and the vertically launched UAV requires no launch or recovery equipment.
The aircraft is equipped with integrated brakes to control the revolution of the rotors. The main rotor can be rapidly dismounted for storage and maintenance. The UAV is capable of flying in a hovering mode and moving slowly, or with high speed in any direction to penetrate enemy lines. It also complies with the national aviation regulations.
The SKELDAR V-200’s major mission capabilities include surveillance, reconnaissance, target attainment and transfer of target data to strike platforms. It can be occasionally used for logistics support and ship-to-ship or ship-to-land transfers in rough weather conditions.
Safety at sea
In order to improve maritime security across these vast areas, military personnel are joining forces to swiftly respond to maritime security areas of concern.
Commander Cdr Anubhav Kumar (retd), Head of Business Development at UMS SKELDAR partner 3F-AS, with 23 years of military career in the Indian Navy an over 2400 hours of flying experience, explains the intensity of the situation:
At sea, one cannot afford to make any errors and mistakes because it can lead to severe consequences. Therefore, the SKELDAR V-200 comes with a heavy fuel engine, which makes it an ideal choice for navy commanders or maritime installations to use it as their chosen Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. This advanced and sophisticated heavy fuel engine also assists in additional landing and take-off in environments that do not allow conventional oils. While it is an open interface to both BMS and C41SR systems, it also compliant to the 4865 STANAG. As a result, the SKELDAR V-200 is easy to implement on any of the maritime vessels.
The human factor
UAVs can travel great distances whilst gathering data which it sends back to a terminal ground control station (GCS) ready for analysing. The largest factor in considering a VTOL or fixed wing platform solution is it being unmanned; which negates the risks of the human factor within an operated vehicle. In comparison with manned patrols which are not only expensive to deploy, but also cannot cover vast areas due to the humane limitations on sight, aerial capabilities and operation outside sleep and rest, a UAV can cover the area required quickly and efficiently, all the while gathering invaluable data. This data can be analysed live according to the user whilst the UAV is targeting specified locations.
According to a report released this week ‘Global Land Based C4ISR Market: Analysis of Growth, Trends Progress and Challenges (2015-2020’) the Air Based C4ISR systems market will be the fastest growing amongst all types of C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) by 2020. This will be led by increased acquisitions of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
UMS SKELDAR Training Director Ewen Stockbridge-Sime, who specialises in global civilian and military ISR/ C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) strategies, highlighted the importance of UAV Managed Services.
With those involved in illegal activities now resorting to sophisticated means, from illegal boarding of merchant ships to transporting contraband, the role of agencies in detection and prevention is more challenging than ever before.
The SKELDAR V-200 was deployed on naval asset during counter piracy patrols in the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in Gulf of Aden. The patrols help to provide a safe and secure environment for merchant vessels. The UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) was operated and maintained by UMS SKELDAR personnel, from a Maritime Patrol Ship.
SKELDAR V-200’s system is great for highly effective vertical take-off & landing (VTOL) and this makes it suitable for seaborne missions. With the help of multiple payload options along with great engineering, no other UAV can match the SKELDAR V-200 in Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) and search and rescue (SAR) roles.
Navies and security agencies around the world are increasingly relying on unmanned aerial vehicles for their reconnaissance and surveillance needs, thereby contributing to the development of the overall “drone” market that is expected to reach USD 14.9 billion by 2020.
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