A.P.A.S.S. (Airborne Photo-reconnaissance And S...

A.P.A.S.S. (Airborne Photo-reconnaissance And Surveillance System).

A.P.A.S.S. (Airborne Photo-reconnaissance And Surveillance System).
APASS is a range of  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (U.A.V’s) designed and operated by West Wales Models Ltd.

APASS, was developed as a direct result of a specific military project which we've been involved with since April 2010. During this time West Wales Models have invested over 5,000hrs in the design, development and manufacturing of it’s UAV systems.

History.
In April 2010 West Wales Models were contacted by QinetiQ http://www.qinetiq.com and requested to respond to a tender for a new aerial target aircraft. This aircraft was to be used as a military training target for Surface to Air missile systems (SAM’s)  and was to be offered to the British MOD to supplement their existing operational platforms.

Over the course of the next few months, West Wales Models set about designing and developing a series of prototype aircraft, these aircraft resulted in  “LCAT” (Low Cost Aerial Target). The LCAT aircraft, along with its associated command and control system was further developed in the “Andarta” Aerial target platform.

Both the prototype “LCAT” and the operational “Andarta” platforms were extensively tested at the European UAV Centre in Aberporth and at the MOD's Air Defence Range at Manorbier.

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Both aircraft successfully passed all of QinetiQ’s stringent flight tests at their first attempt.

In April 2012 an enabling contract was signed between QinetiQ and West Wales Models Ltd.  This contact not only covered the delivery of a substantial number of Aircraft, but also the Ground Control Stations (GCS), the “Up-Link” and “Down-Link” Antenna Systems, all of the Aircraft Avionics, the Aircraft Fuelling System, the Ground Handling Systems and finally a comprehensive and complete Documentation Set.

Delivery of the entire Andarta system was sucessfully completed in August 2013.

"Letters of Recommendation" are available to any potential customers.

An example is shown below:-

From:- QinettQ Ltd Farnborough            

To:- Mike Perrett (Managing Director West Wales Modes Ltd)

Date: 14th August 2013

Subject: ANDARTA CONTRACT XXXXXXX

QinetiQ are delighted to recommend West Wales Models as a highly professional supplier who has delivered on time, to specification, whilst maintaining a highly positive and friendly relationship, the Andarta system. The latter project involved the following:-

Taking a commercial off the shelf aircraft and designing and developing a viable target platform capable of being offered to the Ministry of Defence for training purposes.
Following production of a prototype, to train and assist Qinetiq staff to build a further XXXX Andarta targets and manufacture XXXX new ground stations and supporting ground equipment to the standard defined in the prototype. Training QinetiQ staff to operate and maintain the entire Andarta system including flying operations, including the development of a documentation set. Demonstrating and validating the system performance against the defined requirements,

The above work packages were delivered to the exacting standards required in the Aerial Target Services industry. We would be pleased to provide further, unclassified, information where required in recognition of the excellent service provided to date by your company.

Yours sincerely
J Hackett
Commercial Manager CATS

APASS System Overview.
APASS is a series of very resilient UAV's based around a common command and control platform. The command and control platform allows all of our aircraft to be flown remotely from our Ground Control Stations (GCS) via a live video downlink transmitted directly from each of our aircraft. The platform is very flexible and allows us to switch between different aircraft types very quickly.


The system is operated via a Ultra Long-Range Frequency Hopping Spectrum Spread (FHSS) radio link, which has been designed to be extremely resilient to “jamming”. (The system is NATO approved).

The flight control system, can (if required) be configured for “full autonomous operation”, with each aircraft fitted with it’s own differential GPS and sold state Inertial Guidance System (IGS /IMU).

Since 2010 this system has been extensively tested within a very stringent military environment, during this time the system has proved itself to be 100% reliable even while operated at extreme ranges.

The APASS system can be operated from either a Portable Ground Control Station (PGCS), or from our long wheelbase Mercedes Sprinter Van, (which houses a full Ground Control Station, GCS).

In this overview we will only discuss operations from the GCS.

APASS GCS Vehicle.
The Mercedes Sprinter we use for our GCS has been extensively modified to provide a comfortable and secure location from which to operate the APASS aircraft. The rear of the vehicle has an external 240v 16amp AC input, which is normally connected to either a local AC supply or to our own pure sine wave generator.


The vehicle is fitted with a 6kw high power inverter, which is in turn connected to twin 100amp 12v Sealed Lead-Acid batteries. A “make-before break” switch is fitted between both batteries, so the batteries can be switched “on” and “off-line” without interruption to associated equipment. Battery voltages are displayed within the vehicle and low voltages will trigger an audible alarm.

The vehicles 140amp alternator has been modified to allow operation of the GCS while the engine is running.

The GCS within the vehicle can be powered in any of the following configurations:-

  • External 240v AC power input, either from a standard AC supply or generator.
  • Via the onboard Inverter when powered directly from the vehicles diesel engine.
  • Via the vehicles batteries and Inverter (Either Battery 1, Battery 2 or via both Batteries).
  • If all of the inputs listed above become unavailable, power is then provided to the GCS directly from the GCS own “stand-alone” UPS.

Switching between any of the configuration listed above is “hitless” and has no effect on either the “up-link” (to the aircraft) or “down-link” (from the aircraft). Even with all power inputs “out of service”, our UAV’s can till be operated for up to 3hrs, just on the redundant UPS.

The GCS vehicle is fully carpeted and is fitted with two “Captain” swivel type seats.
Florescent lighting is fitted to the vehicle, however to minimise screen refection’s during flight operations, the internal lighting can be switched to low power LED’s.


The vehicle is fitted with nine 13amp three pin sockets for the powering of Laptop Computers etc. In addition four 12v DC charging outputs are provided for charging of low voltage equipment.

The vehicle is fitted with an external co-axial fan unit thereby providing excellent ventilation during hot weather. A 3kw heater can be operated simultaneously along with the GCS if required during colder weather.


The vehicle is fitted with a Panasonic 43” Plasma screen and DVD/ HDD/SD video recorder to record all flight operations. The screen is rubber mounted so that the vehicle can be driven during flight operations if required. A second 19” LCD monitor is also normally used as a redundant monitor.

All A.C. 240-volt power distribution throughout the vehicle is protected by automatic circuit breakers and fed through a 30ma RCCD.

The vehicle is capable of carrying:-

  • Two GCS 
  • Two complete aerial systems.
  • Two complete in aircraft, packed within their shipping cases.
  • All auxiliary equipment to fully support each aircraft’s flight operations (Ground Restraint Systems, Cables, Fueling rigs, Moinitors, Transmitter etc).

The Vehicle has been tested and approved by VOSA to carry a maximum of 5 persons.

APASS GCS Hardware.
The GCS is built around a two ruggedised 21” Sleeved cases, one of which houses the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and it associated AC power distribution. The second case houses all of the GCS external interfaces, the “Uplinks” High Power Amplifier (HPA), the “Downlink” Video Receivers, the Video Diversity Switch Unit (VDSU), twin Stabilised Power Supplies and finally the DC Distribution and Fusing Panel.

APASS Transmitters and GCS “Uplink”.
The transmitters used to control the APASS aircraft are essentially commercial available radio transmitters that have been extensively modified by inclusion of a bespoke Frequency Hopping Spectrum Spread (FHSS) Radio Frequency Module.

The radios can be operated in either a “standalone” mode or can be connected directly to the GCS’s HPA and it’s associated aerial array for long range operations. In this mode of operation, power is provided to the Transmitter directly from the GCS, although the transmitter itself is able to operate even should the DC power input to the transmitter become disconnected, this switch over process is once again “hitless”.

Our Transmitters can be “uploaded” with new aircraft configuration “Maps” from a Laptop or PC in just a few seconds. The Transmitters themselves can be loaded with up to 30 different aircraft configurations. The communication algorithms we use to talk to our aircraft allow us to synchronise up to 2048 aircraft or GCS’s simultaneously.

We also have the ability to take-off the aircraft from one location in “Stand-Alone Mode” and then switch to “Remote” GCS’s at a different locations while the aircraft is in flight. This switch-over between different GCS’s occurs in around 200m/s, during which time the aircraft may enter it’s stable flight “failsafe" condition.

All APASS aircraft are fitted with extremely low noise diversity receivers and make use of bespoke “off-axis” polarised aerials with integral ground-planes.

As mentioned previously, up to 2048 GCS’s can be configured to operate simultaneously, therefore with suitably placed multiple GCS’s, it become readily apparent (that even without the use of the Autopilot function) the range of the APASS system is only limited by fuel load.

APASS GCS "Downlink".
The UPS backed-up ground station displays a wealth of information which is streamed directly from the aircraft via it’s fully redundant video / data and audio link. The “Downlink” comprises a diverse high gain Helix attenna system with Gas-Fet Masthead pre-amplifiers with are powered directly from the GCS. The downlink (which is configured to provide both “Spatial” and “frequency” diversity) presents it’s inputs to the Video Diversity Switch Unit (VDSU) which is housed in the video downlink shelf of the GCS.

The function of the VDSU is to select the best video downlink signal and pass this on to the UAV pilots display screens. This unit (which currently has patent pending by West Wales Models), looks at each of the two-video downlink and then synchronies both of the video signals. An on-board frame-store and Comparator is then used to select the best signal to present to the UAV pilot. The VDSU is able to switch signals at up to 200 times per second and displays very low latency.

During switching, frames-sync of the video image is always maintained, the only indication to the operator that switching is taking place is via the high intensity LED’s located on the GCS video shelf and an almost imperceptible change of contrast as the screen switching takes place. The LED’s on the GCS front panel merely display the currently active Video path.

APASS Aircraft (Generic overview).
All APASS aircraft are fitted with twin regulated high capacity lithium polymer batteries, which provide over 8,000mah of battery capacity. These batteries are switched via a failsafe “soft-switch”, with “Schottky diodes” being used to isolate each of the battery sets.

All flight controls are controlled by Servo’s, which are Optically Isolated and fed by a regulated diverse DC power supplies. On critical control surfaces more than one servo is used to provide yet another level of redundancy.

Usually our aircraft operate with a single colour Sony Super HAD 2 low light video camera, a single Autopilot / On Screen Display module and a differential GPS receiver. In additional two high power video downlink transmitters are fitted to provide both the video/data and audio link back to the GCS.

If required we can increase redundancy by the addition of both redundant Video Cameras, twin Auto-Pilots / On Screen Displays, Duel Diversity Receivers and triple / quadruple Video Transmitters.

However it is worth noting that in over 3½ years of flight operations (even on a single camera / Auto-pilot system) we have never lost an aircraft.


Auto-Pilot Configurations.
The aircraft’s on-board Autopilot can be configured to fly in any of 7 different modes, typical modes of operation are:-

  • Maintain position.
  • Maintain altitude.
  • Maintain bearing / heading.
  • Fly to Waypoint.
  • Fly-by-Wire ("Pitch", "Bank" and "Yaw" angles are limited, despite pilot inputs)
  • Full “Manual” operation.
  • The aircraft can either be told to “Return home”, or if the ground station is powered down the aircraft will detect this and return home automatically.

Payloads.

All APASS aircraft have the capability to carry heavy payloads and sensors.  Payloads can be carried either Internal/ External or on Wing-Pylons. However in most circumstances it is usually best to carry the heaviest payloads on the special straightened mount which is fitted to the underside of all our aircraft. Typical payloads include, “profession still” and “video cameras” along with various electronic sensor packages. 

If required external power can be supplied to these payloads / packages via additional battery packs, or by the use of a variety of either fixed or variable voltage regulators.


Additional options exist to add extra “baffled” Kelvar fuel tanks into the wings on all our aircraft. These wing tanks then become a structural member of the aircraft and can be used to carry additional payloads on their integral pylons. These pylons are directly bonded to the fuel tanks and provide a very secure mounting which are very effective at damping out parasitic isolations.


This process was pioneered very successfully by West Wales Models on the Andarta aircraft.

APASS Shipping and Transportation.

The APASS system is supported with a range of ISO compliant transportation cases. These cases are designed to allow the safe and secure transportation of our system to any part of the world.

Listed below are just a few of the design features incorporated into the transportation cases, hopefully these features will indicate to potential customers the level of thought, care and attention to detail which has gone into every element of this system.

The interior of these cases has been constructed so that the Fuselage, Wings and Tailplane are all fully supported and protected by blocks of high-density laser-cut foam.

  • Each of the Aircraft cases are mounted on ball-raced wheels, which can be locked during transportation.
  • The cases are designed to fit perfectly into an ISO container and have the ability to be stacked, (The wheels having been located into special recessed cups installed onto the top of each shipping case).
  • The cases also have additional recesses which allow the landing gear of each aircraft to be securely located. These recesses hold the aircraft securely in place while the aircraft is assembled and prepared for flight.
  • During the design process even the height of the case was taken into account in order to fulfil health and safely requirments while still allowing each transportation case to be used effectively as a aircraft assembly and maintenance bench.
     


APASS Ground Support Equipment.
In order to fully support the deployment of our aircraft we have designed and manufactured a variety of specialised Ground Support Equipment in regard to both "Ground Handling" and "Flight operations". This equipment ranges from Ground Restraints Systems to high quality Aircraft Fuelling System.

Some of this specialised Ground Support Equipment is shown in the photographs below
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APASS and the Olympics.

In March 2012 we received an urgent request asking us to provide a surveillance and camera platform to cover part of the “Round Britain Olympic Torch Relay”. At the time all of our efforts were 100% focussed on our Military contact, however despite this and the very tight time schedule, we were able build an APASS prototype aircraft and successfully transmitted a live video feed from the aircraft. The video feed was then distributed to both the “BBC” and “SKY” television.

In the summer of 2012 we once again asked if we were able to provide a UAV to supplement the BBC’s coverage of the London Olympics, unfortunately due to contractual commitment’s we were forced to turn down this request.

So what's special about APASS, and what can it offer to it’s customers?

  • It’s the UK’s only commercial UAV, which has been derived directly from a military application.
  • It is one of the very few “heavy lift” UAV platforms available globally and is to our knowledge the only “heavy lift” UAV available in Europe.
  • To our knowledge, APASS is the only Long-Range, High Altitude UAV system currently available to non-military customers.
  • To our knowledge it’s the only commercial available UAV system, which uses a NATO, approved Command and Control System.

 

APASS Aircraft (Detailed overview) and current status.

APASS “Merlin” (Fully Operational and available for customer use).

Merlin is a quiet lightweight aerial platform, which due to its STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) capabilities and can be operated out of “tight” and "rough" locations. With it's large 8" wheels it can quite easily be operated even out of a ploughed field.

It is capable of lifting heavy payloads of around 4Kgs, which can be flown at low speed over extensive distances, operational flights can be extended to many hours on this platform.

Due to it's low noise and superb "Loitering" capabilities Merlin is an ideal Security, Surveillance and Aerial Observation Platform. In additional it flights characteristics and long endurance make it ideally suited for operational use as an airborne Radio Relay Station.

Merlin Specifications.
Status:- Fully operational and available for customer service.

Propulsion:- Single cylinder Petrol engine.

All-Up-Weight:- < 20Kgs.

Usable payload:- around 4Kgs

Maximum Speed:- 75MPH

Cruise Speed:- 45MPH

Best Loitering Speed:- 22MPH

Flight Duration:- Around 3-4Hrs on standard twin internal fuel tanks, but this can be extended to 8 -10hrs (Payload dependant)

Command and Control Uplink:- Long Range UHF FHSS via Ground Control Station HPA.

Video Downlink:- Long Range Video Downlink via Twin or Triple HPA Amplifiers, Twin or Triple Video Helix Attenna’s with Gas-Fet Masthead Pre-Ampliers, Video Diversity Switching Units (VDSU’s).

Ground Control Station:-  2 x 21” Sleeved cases of total dimensions 70cm (H) 62cm (W) w x 75cm(D)  (Dimensions shown are for a complete GCS) Weight around 50Kgs per GCS.

Fuelling:- Provided by “in-house” designed electrical fuelling system with manual back-up system available.

Starting system:- Electrical or manual starting. Operators safely is ensured by use of our “in-house” designed positive ground restraint system.


APASS “Condor” (Fully Operational and available for customer use).

Condor is the largest, most powerful and ultimately the most capable aircraft in the current APASS fleet.

Condor is essentially the “commercial” version of the Military Platform we have developed. It is a high speed, extreme range platform capable of carrying very heavy payloads to extreme altitudes.


Visually similar, in many ways Condor is the big brother of Falcon 1 and 2.

Although large and extremely powerful, Condor’s large fuel load allows flight operations extending to very many hours.


Condor Specifications.
Propulsion:- Twin cylinder Petrol engine.

All-Up-Weight:- < 20Kgs.

Usable payload:- In excess of 6Kgs (Exact information Restricted)

Maximum Speed:- over 100MPH (Exact information Restricted)

Cruise Speed:- 60-80 MPH

Best Loitering Speed:- 40MPH

Flight Duration:- In Excess of 2hrs (Exact information Restricted)

Command and Control Uplink:- Long Rang UHF FHSS via Ground Control Station HPA

Video Downlink:- Long Range Video Downlink via Twin or Triple HPA Amplifiers, Twin or Triple Video Helix Attenna’s with Gas-Fet Masthead Pre-Ampliers, Video Diversity Switching Units (VDSU’s).

Ground Control Station:-  2 x 21” Sleeved cases of total dimensions 70cm (H) 62cm (W) w x 75cm(D)  (Dimensions shown are for a complete GCS) Weight around 50Kgs per GCS.

Fuelling:- Provided by “in-house” designed electrical fuelling system with manual back-up system available.

Starting system:- Electrical or manual starting. Operators safely is ensured by use of our “in-house” designed positive ground restraint system.


APASS “Harrier”. (Still under development).

A short range vertical take-off and landing system, capable of almost silent flight. The system will be portable and can be operated out of the most difficult locations. Operational flight will be 20-50 mins in duration (Payload depedant).


APASS “Falcon 1 and 2”. (Both prototypes have flown and aircraft could be available for customer use within 28 days).

Falcon is a high speed, long range UAV, and is capable of carrying medium sized payload to extreme distances and altitudes. Once again STOL capabilities have been incorporated into the design of this aircraft right from the outset.

Falcon is available in two "Flavours", Falcon 1 is a long-range medium lift platform with Falcon 2 being a much more powerful aircraft with medium to heavy lift capabilities at the expenses of ultimate range.
Both Aircraft are capable of flights of up to 3hrs (Payload dependent).

Other Projects completed by us.

West Wales Models have previously been a supplier to the U.S. Department of Defence (via Aurora Flight Sciences) and have participated on both the Goldeneye 50 , Goldeneye 80 and Excalibur projects. We have also working with other government agencies on the design, manufacture and development of various bespoke UAV solutions.

Additional information.

Due to their heavy lift capabilities, all APASS platforms are capable of carrying "full sized" professional video surveillance and camera systems without difficulty.

Subject to local weather conditions all APASS Platforms are operable both day and night in most weather conditions.

We firmly believe that solid engineering and attention to detail is vitally important in all forms of aviation, and we hope that by reading our system overview, the high level of professionalism we provide in this market sector has become self evident.

If you would like to discuss your UAV requirements in detail, please feel free to contact me on Tel No:- 01994 241024 or via E-Mail on sales@westwalesmodels.co.uk


Mike Perrett
Managing Director
West Wales Models and APASS.