Skyborne at Land Forces 2018

Skyborne attended the Land Forces 2018 Exhibition in Adelaide last week. Never a dull moment, Skyborne was nominated and shortlisted for four innovation awards (SME Innovation Grant, Young Innovator Award, Innovation Award for Combat Equipment and Mobility and National Innovation Award) and participated in the 3-minute pitch competition. We are delighted to announce that we took out the pitchfest award for “Land Force Benefit”, which was one of three awards in a 30-team line-up. Defence Minister Christopher Pyne presented CEO Michael Creagh with the award.

Business development meetings and networking events took up the majority of the time in Adelaide and we’re likely to see the flow-on benefits over the next few months. Thanks to DST Group, The Australian Army, CASG and the LAND4108 / 159 project leaders who took time out of their busy schedules to visit our stand and observe the latest Cerberus GL developments.

Most folks that visited were huge fans of our technology concept and wanted to see it develop further. Some questions that came up often were:

1) “How does Cerberus GL compare to loitering munitions?”

Loitering munitions have their place, however it’s a different platform to Cerberus GL. If your only goal of squad and platoon level fire support is weight minimisation, then utilise a loitering munition every time. However, Cerberus GL offers four advantages over such devices. Firstly, cost. A loitering munition consumes its airframe, flight computer and optics etc when it explodes on the target. Cerberus GL fires standard 40mm grenades; a few orders of magnitude lower costs per shot. There are also multiple grenades to use if the armament is a multishot grenade launcher. Secondly, Cerberus GL provides persistent ISR and battle damage assessment after firing. Loitering munitions (almost by definition) cannot. Thirdly, speed of effector. Loitering munitions are at best subsonic fixed-wing aircraft, with a top speed of perhaps 40 m/s. A standard HE 40mm grenade has a muzzle velocity of approximately double this at 76 m/s. For targets of opportunity, Cerberus can quickly aim and fire a high speed round. Finally, operation flexibility is far superior with Cerberus. Shotguns, net-guns, micro-munitions etc could all be fitted, let alone the range of 40mm grenade types available (HE, smoke, IR, flash, CS etc). This means that the right armament is chosen for the right mission.  

2) “How can you achieve good accuracy with your system? The airframe has noise on it.”

Time will tell what kind of accuracy we will get from our combination of airframe pointing and small-range weapon gimbal aiming. Theoretically we can achieve a Circular Error Probable of 1.5 m at a range of 180m. However, if all we do is match a soldier’s accuracy, we already have a useful fire support platform. Better to keep our soldiers out of harm’s way.

3) “How can your UAS handle counter UAS devices such as drone-shield?”

These counter UAS devices perform one or a number of the following: GNSS jamming, GNSS spoofing, radio communications jamming and spoofing. Cerberus has no specific defences against these systems other than encrypted communications at this stage. However, counter-weapon devices exist for every type of weapon to some extent. For example, one could argue that there’s no point in having an assault rifle on the battlefield because armoured vehicles exist. The current nature of asymmetric warfare is such that it’s highly unlikely that a modern adversary of the Australian Army and its allies would a) have access to the same EW drone jamming and hijacking devices that we do and b) always have them on standby. Consider for example, the counter-terrorism role Cerberus GL might play, firing flash grenades through windows in a hostage situation. How easy is it for terrorists to buy (for example) an IAI ELI – 4030, get trained in its operation and set it up? 

More generally, the Cerberus platform is a game-changing, compounding innovation system. We start the design with the most efficient hover platform possible. A helicopter is the most efficient for hover efficiency but cannot adequately tilt during hover to point munitions up and down and would require a low hanging, high angular range gimbal mechanism to point the weapon. Cerberus has only two main lift fans and a balance fan due to the novel centre of gravity placement towards the front.  It is 20% more efficient in hover than a quad-copter of the same mass. This twin-actuating propeller system allows airframe pointing of the weapons, which in turn allows the weapon and weapon gimbal to be mounted close to the centre of gravity. This has a two-fold advantage: streamlined flat packaging for ease of transport and reduction of the recoil pitch-down moment, which enables minimisation of platform mass. The intrinsic recoil robustness of the platform in combination with the hover efficiency allows the entire vehicle to be so small and light, coming in at under 6 kg. 

The Land Forces event was exciting, educational and informative! We made a mission example promo video that was released at the event, feel free to check it out!

Finally, it is very exciting times here at Skyborne – we will have some special news in the next update.