Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR JUL 2015 Contents 21
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 11 | JUL 2015
causes a flap
In mid-May at the Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, the US
Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Vehicle Research Section
successfully completed flight tests for the Autonomous
Deployment Demonstration program consisting of a series
of eight balloon-drops which delivered sensor-emplacement
Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft (CICADA)
micro-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) within 5m of their
intended landing locations.
Developed by NRL, the CICADA Mk III micro-UAV is a
palm-size glider (and therefore has no onboard propulsion
source) that requires another airborne platform to get it to an
altitude such that it can glide down to its destination. Its small
size and lack of a motor render the CICADA Mk III virtually
undetectable in flight, NRL claims.
The airframe of the CICADA Mk III is, effectively, a printed
circuit board (PCB) which also serves as the autopilot: the
first known multi-purpose airframe/avionics implementation of
its kind. This novel construction method significantly reduces
assembly time, minimises wiring requirements and enables
The plastic card airframe is easily scaled to accommodate
various payload sizes and potential acoustic, magnetic,
chemical/biological and signals intelligence sensors. Unique
to this construction technique, additional electronic payloads
can be inserted into the system by updating the PCB artwork
and ‘re-winging’ the aircraft.
CICADA Mk III is of such diminutive size that 18 vehicles
can be contained in a 150x150mm cube. In glide, the vehicle
is inherently stable, with a glide ratio of 3.5.
In concept, CICADA Mk III is a low-cost, GPS-guided,
micro disposable UAV that can be deployed in large numbers
to ‘seed’ an area with miniature electronic payloads. These
payloads could be interconnected to form an ad-hoc, self-
configuring network. Communication nodes, sensors or
effectors can then be placed in a programmable geometric
pattern in hostile territory without directly over-flying those
regions or exposing human elements on the ground.
CICADA Mk III is dropped from an airborne ‘mothership’
platform or balloon, flies to a single waypoint and then enters
an orbit. It descends in that orbit until it reaches the ground.
Field trials successfully demonstrate that CICADA Mk
III can achieve stand-off distances of 30nm and release
altitudes of up to 57,000ft.
The Vehicle Research Section developed the custom
autopilot for the CICADA Mk III, both hardware and software,
which has since proven to be inexpensive to produce and
robust during in-flight testing, routinely recovering from
tumbling launches. The only flight sensors are a 5Hz GPS
receiver and a two-axis gyroscope. The flight controller also
includes a custom NRL algorithm that accurately estimates
wind speed and magnitude, despite having no onboard air
Some of the potential applications for descending swarms
of CICADA Mk III UAVs include detection of troop movements
behind enemy lines or detecting the movement of submarines
below the water.
– Ian Bostock
CICADA MK III IS A LOW-COST, GPS-
GUIDED, MICRO DISPOSABLE UAV THAT
CAN BE DEPLOYED IN LARGE NUMBERS
TO ‘SEED’ AN AREA WITH MINIATURE
Essentially a flying circuit board
dropped in swarms to ‘seed’ an
area of interest, the CICADA
Mk III micro-UAV (inset) has an
extremely high packing factor
and very low per-unit cost.
UK-based Malloy Aeronautics and Survice Engineering
announced at the 2015 Paris Air Show in mid-June a teaming
arrangement to advance development of the former’s
Hoverbike technology for the US Department of Defense
Survice and Malloy are working on the Hoverbike as
part of a research and development contract with the
US Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The Hoverbike is
being developed for the military as a new class of Tactical
Reconnaissance Vehicle (TRV).
Survice is a medium-size specialty engineering firm that
has been providing research and development for the US
DoD and other industry sectors for more than 30 years.
Formed in 2012, Malloy Aeronautics is a small entrepreneurial
aerospace company that develops, markets and sells drones
and Hoverbike technology to commercial and military
Australian Chris Malloy, founder of Malloy Aeronautics,
designed the original Hoverbike prototype in his Sydney
garage. The twin propeller ‘bicopter’ design of the first
prototypes gave way to the current quadcopter design
featuring four propellers powered by a 1,170cc four-
stroke BMW motorcycle engine. Encased in a protective
polycarbonate frame, the offset rotor design affords the craft
added power and stability.
Hoverbike is not, in fact, a hovercraft, and can achieve
altitudes up to 9,000ft and significant ranges. Once fully
developed, Hoverbike is expected to attain flight speeds of
around 100 knots.
The TRV role envisaged for Hoverbike by ARL would see
the craft operated in manned or unmanned mode and flying
close to the ground when necessary to access areas or
terrain which do not complement movement by traditional
This could see a Hoverbike TRV hugging even densely
vegetated or forested terrain as stealthy avenues of approach
to a target. The military version of Hoverbike is expected to
carry an all-up payload of 180-360kg.
Other roles for which Hoverbike may be suitable include
humanitarian and disaster relief operations whereby a
Hoverbike, in manned configuration, enables emergency
personnel and first responders to access disaster areas and
then send the platform, in unmanned mode, back-and-forth to
bring forward supplies such as food and water.
Alternatively, small units operating remote from support
could use Hoverbike as the initial means of mobility to an area
or interest, then debus and have the craft on standby to fly
back to base to bring back supplies such as ammunition to
extend mission duration or extract casualties. – Ian Bostock
Hoverbike concept gains altitude
ASC builds propulsion system test facility
Australian shipbuilder ASC has designed and built a
dedicated diesel engine and generator test facility at its
submarine maintenance facility in South Australia. The
new facility enables these core elements of a submarine’s
propulsion and power system to be operated, tested and
proven off the boat.
As part of the preparation for ASC to deliver a two-year
maintenance overhaul on Collins-class diesel-electric
submarine HMAS Farncomb, a decision was taken to cut the
submarine hull and remove the diesel engines and generators
for workshop-based overhaul, which has since proven to
improve work efficiency and reduce the duration of the
The facility tested the first diesel and generator set in late
2014. The second and third sets were successfully tested in
January and February of this year, where the facility was used
to identify and resolve a number of technical issues.
In a purely tactical sense, the Hoverbike concept grants added
soldier mobility and deployment options and the ability to
overcome ground terrain obstacles that might hinder insertion
by vehicle or helicopter. Image: Hoverbike
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