U.S. Navy funds AeroVironment ISR research

Puma 3 AE UAS being launched from a navy vessel (Image credit: AeroVironment)
Puma 3 AE UAS being launched from a navy vessel (Image credit: AeroVironment)

AeroVironment, Inc. has received a $16 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract from the U.S. Navy to develop computer vision and advanced video analytics systems for multi-domain robotics, to enhance intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and targeting. The unmanned system developer supplies the Navy with Blackwing loitering reconnaissance systems and Switchblade loitering munitions.

This U.S. Navy contract, which will be managed by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, New Jersey, falls under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme. The computer vision research is part of the ‘Automated Entity Classification in Video Using Soft Biometrics’ SBIR Phase III research brief. Phase III projects tend to focus on helping suppliers transition new technology into valuable products or services that fit Navy requirements.

Under a multi-year research and development agreement, AeroVironment will identify and conduct new research to provide new AI capabilities for its products and other systems it integrates with. The company aims to develop a video analytics software ecosystem that can be used across multiple platforms to enhance situational awareness across a wide range of mission areas. The core goal of the research is to optimise ISR and targeting capabilities across different domains.

AeroVironment supplies the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy with a variety of unmanned systems. It even supplies the U.S. Navy with unmanned aerial vehicles for submarines. Its Blackwing and Switchblade drones can be deployed via an underwater-to-air delivery canister launched from the side of the submarine. The drones typically remain airborne for about 40-60 minutes.

The company also develops advanced unmanned ground vehicle solutions capable of dealing with hazards and explosives, or threat assessment. Via its latest acquisition, Tomahawk Robotics, AeroVironment also control software, control and edge devices, and other wearable systems for controlling robotics and ISR.

The computer vision and video analytics research conducted during the next few years, could end up supporting a wide range AeroVironment and non-AeroVironment robotics and ISR systems in the future.

by Carrington Malin