Benelux Armies Jointly Train to Operate Integrator Drones

During the month of June, several Belgian soldiers from the new Integrator platoon, belonging to the ISTAR Battalion, are taking part in the Unified Torch exercise in Deelen, the Netherlands. Together with their Dutch colleagues from the Joint ISTAR Command (JISTARC), they train for four weeks in intelligence gathering with the unmanned reconnaissance system Integrator.

“Good launch, steady climb”, we hear. The X-300 Integrator UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) begins its six-hour training flight. A team of Belgian and Dutch soldiers carefully controls the drone from the ground. The objective is to observe fictional criminal events around Deelen Air Base.

“As part of an intelligence unit, we take aerial photos and video footage of the area. For example, we can detect enemy activity or track certain High Value Target vehicles”, explains Ewan, the commander of the Dutch section of JISTARC. “These images are viewed, analyzed and documented live. »

Three-person team

Operating an unmanned aircraft system like the Integrator requires a full team.

“The most important people are the ground crews,” explains Emil, the Belgian Air Vehicle Operator (AVO). “They make sure everything is ready. Also, we have a sensor operator. He manages the Integrator’s camera and films everything. And then, of course, there’s the operator, who controls the system and is in contact with the radios,” says Emil. “At a higher level, there is of course the head of mission, who monitors everything and who is in contact with, for example, a forward air controller (JTAC).”

First solo flight

After a year of training in the Netherlands and a final exam in Aruba, some Belgian operators are currently making their first solo flight in the Netherlands.

“It’s really exciting,” says Cédric. He too is an air vehicle operator in the Integrator platoon of the Belgian ISTAR battalion. “Before, I worked with the scouts on the ground, now I see everything from the air. Too bad there are clouds, because I would like to fly above four thousand feet once,” he adds.

Orchestration Benelux

Since 2020, Belgium has had two Integrator systems. If we add the three Dutch systems and the two Luxembourg ones, the Benelux has a total of seven Integrator systems. All these systems are part of a pool and are therefore available for all three countries.

“This means that a full Belgian crew can fly a Dutch aircraft and vice versa,” continues Ewan. “The Netherlands provides the training and are also responsible for the maintenance of the equipment. In addition, all systems are registered in the Netherlands, which means that the devices must comply with Dutch laws and regulations.”

Each system comprises two drones.

X-300 Integrator in Lombardsijde

The Belgian Integrator drone platoon is still under development. With the first AVO graduates and an analyst in training, it is increasingly taking shape. Its own flight simulator is still installed in Heverlee for the time being, but will move to Lombardsijde, as will the military, in the future. By 2024, this platoon should be fully operational and will participate in a large-scale ISTAR exercise in Norway.

Source: Belgian Ministry of Defense Press Release


U.S. Government to purchase Alpha 900 helicopter UAS

Rapid Expeditionary Concepts, a U.S.-based system integrator is pleased to announce a prime contract award from the U.S. Department of Defense for the purchase of Alpha 900 unmanned helicopter systems manufactured by Alpha Unmanned Systems, SL (Madrid, Spain) for integration, test, evaluation, and deployment.

The Prime is responsible for the integration of a specialized electro-optical sensor used in counter unmanned aerial system (CUAS) operations. In addition to providing the fully integrated solution, The Prime and Alpha will provide deployment and training support utilizing the Alpha 900 in a joint operational evaluation to be conducted by the U.S Department of Defense over the next two years.

The Prime is a veteran and minority-owned small business, that delivers end-to-end Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (C5ISR) solutions with a particular focus on integrating advanced payloads and sensors on board various manned and unmanned platforms intended for land, sea, and airborne use. They have a long track record of adapting commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology for use by various end-customers in the defence, energy, and special operations communities. The company utilizes its strengths in translating end-user-provided operational requirements into technical solutions that meet or exceed those provided by U.S. DOD in defeating evolving threats from both sophisticated and improvised unmanned systems in air, sea, and land environments utilizing the Alpha 900.

Program Director, Dr. Paul Kuttner, PhD, states, “We have a long track record of maximizing efficiencies and delivering best-value for end-users by reducing total cost, size, weight, and power (C-SWaP) of subsystems intended for utilization on unmanned aircraft, which is perfectly suited for this requirement. Our team has been involved in the design, integration and/or deployment of Group 1 – 5 unmanned aerial systems and subsystems of relevance for many years and we are confident in our ability to execute this program flawlessly. In addition, we have the unique ability to leverage an operational mindset to develop training curricula and documentation that resonates with real-world end-users will ensure operational success. We are excited to partner with the U.S. DOD and Alpha in this endeavour and look forward to many future successes, where our team can utilize the versatile and efficient Alpha 900 for use in delivering sensor suites of relevance to the ever-changing demands of conflict in various areas of operation.”

Alpha Unmanned Systems, SL is the leading Spanish manufacturer of small tactical helicopter unmanned systems. Weighing only 55lbs, the Alpha 900 helicopter UAV is renowned for its comparatively long autonomous flight time (up to 4 hours with up to 8.5lbs of payload capacity). The Alpha 900 helicopter UAVs are small fuel powered helicopters that take-off and land automatically on moving platforms. Alpha’s helicopter UAVs have been acquired by customers in 9 countries on 4 continents and are used for a variety of purposes, from maritime security to power line inspection, mapping, and precision agriculture.

Alpha’s CEO, Eric Freeman, states, “Alpha is delighted to support the US Government and is pleased that its reliable products fulfill the demanding requirements for this project. We hope to build a long-lasting relationship with the US Government and to help other Spanish companies with cutting-edge technologies enter the world’s largest and most important technology marketplace.”

Insitu Announces its High Seas, Long Endurance Integrator VTOL Unmanned Aircraft

Insitu, A Boeing Company, today announced its Integrator Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exhibition in National Harbor, Maryland.

Integrator VTOL launches vertically on ships or land without sacrificing payload capacity or endurance. The system retains the performance of fixed-wing aircraft, providing the same long range wide-area surveillance capability for extended periods.

Integrator VTOL is uniquely designed to operate as a portable system in tight quarters, such as ship decks, and in challenging maritime conditions with high seas and gusty winds. No stationary launch and recovery equipment is required – providing expeditionary (ship-to-ship, ship-to-land) portability and modularity across both UAS hardware and payloads while minimizing impact to other flight operations.

With greater than 16 hours of endurance carrying 40 lbs. of best-in-class, modular payloads, the unique design offers three-times improvement in range and endurance over hybrid-VTOLs. It also has a significant improvement over tail-sitters in its ability to fly on and off ships in rough seas where ship roll and motion present major issues for tall and narrow base tail-sitter UAS.

“Integrator VTOL is a no-compromise unmanned aircraft system,” said Diane Rose, Insitu president and CEO. “Customers can finally have it all: vertical launch and recovery with industry-leading payload capacity and endurance for their most critical missions, even in the most extreme maritime environments and sea states, without sacrificing valuable transport, deck, or hangar space.”

The system has two parts: FLARES (Flying Launch and Recovery System) developed by Hood Tech, and the Insitu Integrator air vehicle. Requiring no modifications to the aircraft, FLARES performs normal operations at half throttle, allowing significant control authority to withstand gusts, lower density air and higher ship deck motion.

To deploy, FLARES engages Integrator and climbs into the sky. Once it reaches its desired altitude, FLARES dashes forward before releasing Integrator, allowing Integrator to perform its long range, wide-area surveillance mission for extended durations. Once Integrator is released, FLARES returns to a ship’s deck or land to await Integrator’s return.

As Integrator approaches at the end of its mission, FLARES again climbs into the sky with a recovery rope attached and performs Insitu’s well-proven maritime retrieval method. FLARES then lowers Integrator to the ship’s deck or the landing area to complete the mission.

About Insitu

With offices in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, Insitu creates and supports unmanned systems and software technology that deliver end-to-end solutions for collecting, processing and managing sensor data. To date, our systems have accumulated more than 1.4 million flight hours.

FLARES adds VTOL to Insitu’s Integrator

Insitu’s new Flying Launch and Recovery System enables the Integrator vehicle to operate VTOL. Photo courtesy of Insitu.

On the ground, it looks like a giant spider pouncing on its prey. But once airborne, Insitu’s latest VTOL system supports a unique paired solution that’s being offered to the U.S. Navy and other customers.

In this iteration, Insitu’s Flying Launch and Recovery System (FLARES) octocopter is a VTOL mothership that launches the company’s Integrator fixed-wing vehicle. Integrator itself is essentially unchanged, but using FLARES provides maximum payload capacity and endurance of 40 pounds and 16 hours—one customer recently ran a 25-hour operational sortie with Integrator. FLARES’ power flexibilty, robustness and redundancy can handle challenging weather conditions while performing signals intelligence, electronic warfare and other missions.

The runway-independent combination also spares users from having to deploy complex launch and recovery equipment.

The mated system is being spotlit on April 3 at the start of Sea-Air-Space, the Navy League’s global maritime exposition, at National Harbor, Maryland. A few days before its debut, Insitu Vice President, Engineering Justin Pearce fleshed out its evolution and operation.

FLARES has gone through eight-plus years of development, Pearce said, including with Insitu’s million-plus fight-hour ScanEagle UAS. “We have pneumatic launchers and vertical arresting ropes called SkyHook that have done really well for our customers. But we recognize the need for mobility and to be more expeditionary. Our customers’ requirements seem to be driving us to longer endurance, more SWaP [size, weight and power] and, obviously, with the national defense strategy’s pivot to the Pacific, mobility off ships with that long endurance. Integrator’s clearly the platform we’d leverage there.”

VTOL Virtuosity

The 12-year Insitu veteran described how the system deploys. Carrying Integrator, FLARES takes off vertically, rises to 500 or so feet, dashes forward, and then releases Integrator into fixed-wing flight. “The recovery,” Pearce added, “is similar if not identical to our current method, with a vertical rope for arresting the vehicle in flight. With that rope tethered to the deck, FLARES climbs 300ish feet, the aircraft approaches from whatever direction it needs to, recovers on that rope, and then is oriented vertically as it’s lowered back down.” The process also attenuates shipboard motion.

FLARES itself isn’t a new concept, but Insitu has worked with launch and recovery specialists Hood Tech Mechanical to develop its VTOL applications. “In combination with Integrator, it offers incredible endurance and allows us to operate off relatively small decks,” Pearce said. We’re emphasizing Integrator’s max takeoff weight of 165 pounds—you can imagine that allows a significant increase in both fuel and or payload, and therefore endurance or capability.” Multiple payloads can be used.

There’s also the Integrator Extended Range (ER), a SATCOM-enabled version. “We replaced the nose module that today would have the EO/IR or other sensor with a radio-slash-datalink for SATCOM communications, and the EO/IR sensor is placed in the center-of-gravity bay,” Pearce said. The package can operate beyond line of slight up to 300 to 500 nautical miles, within the footprint of the geosynchronous satellite spot.

Current users of Integrator who operate standard launch and recovery equipment, Pearce said, could buy the VTOL portion and add it to their current kit. New customers could purchase Integrator VTOL as a standalone system. “It’s really mix and match, and leverages our modularity.”

Pearce summed up the case for FLARES. “We believe there’s a market for long-range long-endurance platforms capable of multi-mission up to and including targeting. And our belief is that it’s going to need to come from the sea, given the set of threats America and her allies face. To do that, we believe you have to have no-compromised VTOL. And that’s what FLARES gets you: amply-sized, safe VTOL while retaining all the investment in the Integrator platform. Because of the way we launch, we believe that you’re going to have a notch above sea state or ship motion compared with other platforms.

“We’re going to see high seas and long endurance as a future, and we’re ready to support that.”

Eve Air Mobility Joins Airspace World to Discuss the Future of Urban Air Mobility

WHO: Eve Air Mobility (“Eve”) (NYSE: EVEX; EVEXW), an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) ecosystem integrator with an advanced eVTOL project, a comprehensive global service and support network, and a unique Urban Air Traffic Management (UATM) software solution.

WHAT: Attending the world’s largest influential airspace and near-space management event, Airspace World, Rob Weaver will represent Eve and share how the company is dedicated to accelerating the UAM ecosystem worldwide with its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle and agnostic portfolio of solutions in two speaking engagements.

As Eve’s urban ATM global business development leader, Rob will host the discussion “Enabling Initial Urban Air Mobility Operations” to share Eve’s latest progress on UATM that supports the introduction and scaling of UAM operations. Rob will provide insight from Eve’s recent works across the Americas, Europe and Asia with ANSPs, Regulators and Industry in preparation for the launch of this new mode of transportation.

Rob will also join fellow aviation experts to discuss the Complete Air Traffic System (CATS) Global Councils’ recent unveiling of their vision for future skies during the “Making the CATS Vision for Future Skies Reality” panel. The discussion overview covers the necessary efforts to achieve the CATS’ overarching objectives and shared vision that has great potential to accelerate progress toward the skies of 2045.

WHEN: Airspace World is a three-day event beginning March 8 through March 10. Eve’s talk and panel participation are on March 9 as follows:

Enabling Initial Urban Air Mobility Operations

Thursday, March 9 at noon CET

Wing Theatre

Making the CATS Vision for Future Skies Reality

Thursday, March 9 at 2:30 p.m. CET

Boeing Theatre

WHERE: Airspace World 2023 will be hosted at the Palexpo Exhibition Centre, located at Rte François-Peyrot 30, CH-1218 Le Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland.

About Eve

Eve is dedicated to accelerating the Urban Air Mobility ecosystem. Benefitting from a start-up mindset, backed by Embraer S.A.’s more than 50-year history of aerospace expertise, and with a singular focus, Eve is taking a holistic approach to progressing the UAM ecosystem, with an advanced eVTOL project, a comprehensive global services and support network and a unique air traffic management solution. Since May 10, 2022, Eve has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange, where its shares of common stock and public warrants trade under the tickers “EVEX” and “EVEXW.” For more information, please visit

Project Convergence Demonstration Moves Military Closer to ‘Kill Web’ Approach
Project Convergence Demonstration Moves Military Closer to ‘Kill Web’ Approach
An Insitu Integrator unmanned aircraft awaits takeoff at Camp Pendleton as part of Project Convergence 22. Credit: U.S. Army/Spc. Brenda Salgado

The U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy, along with partners from the United Kingdom and Australia, took another step toward creating a “kill web” approach instead of relying on just a “kill chain” to defeat enemy attacks, service officials said after conducting a demonstration that is part of the Army-led Project Convergence 22.

“It’s not good enough to be a single service anymore, we need to be joint,” said Brig. Gen. Kyle Ellison, the vice chief of naval research, speaking to reporters after Project Convergence’s Scenario Alpha, hosted by the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton, California, but including participation from U.S. units and allies in Japan, the Philippines, Australia and Hawaii. “It’s transitioning from a very lineal kill chain approach to a kill web approach. … We need to have resiliency and redundancy in our kill webs, so as we get something is taken away, a portion of that web, we roll right into another portion that can continue to bring lethal fires down on an adversary.”

Lt. Gen. D. Scott McKean, the Project Convergence experiment director, said the exercise connected the services and the allies to integrate air and missile defense to sustain fires at longer ranges against multiple missiles, such as could be required for operations in the Pacific Ocean. It also demonstrated systems to help rapidly re-arm the combatants in the exercise.

“At its core, this experiment really looked at trying to link sensors to shooters, but we had to really make sure we could get the right information to the right location. And by having our partners with the U.K. and Australia to be part of that, it really forced us to look at these capabilities. And I think we were able to demonstrate the ability to link our sensors and our shooters which gives us that redundancy, an ability to form kill webs as opposed to kill chains,” he said. “That’s a pretty significant difference, because being interoperable, only being able to share data, is insufficient as we start looking at the potential threats in the future.”

The exercise looked at “moving data at machine speed,” to address threats or missions, he said, including using artificial intelligence to help classify threats and identify targets and move that data to the correct weapon system for a response.

Project Convergence, which the Army Futures Command describes as a “campaign of learning,” began in 2020 but has been expanding steadily. The 2021 version started to take tests out the lab and into the field, and this year the partners took it international, including not just U.K. and Australian participants but with Canada and New Zealand sending observers as well.

The overall effort is based around five core elements: people, weapon systems, command and control, information, and terrain. The intent is to have “centralized intent and decentralized execution,” Army Futures Command said, leading to the kill web Ellison described. It’s part of the military’s planned move to joint all-domain command and control, or JADC2, and is intended to also use lessons from the Air Force’s version, the Advanced Battle Management System, and the Navy’s Project Overmatch.

“…The evolution of Project Convergence has taken us from individual systems to integrating them into a network at scale,” McKean said. “How well could those technologies scale when we put them with all our joint forces? We thought data access would be a challenge. It turned out that data management was just as challenging.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville said artificial intelligence is useful in a variety of ways, including for logistics and predictive maintenance, helping reduce the amount of equipment or parts warfighters have to carry. It’s also useful in targeting, he said.

“When you take a look at some of the scenarios and have many adversarial targets coming at you, you have to quickly make decisions,” he said. “We see AI being very helpful in giving our commanders the decision-making assistance they need to make decisions very quickly on which system to use to lethally engage targets that may be coming at them.”