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Bertin Exensor welcomes the New Zealand’s Ambassador to Sweden in Lund.

On April 16th, Bertin Exensor had the privilege to host Mr. David Taylor, New Zealand’s Ambassador to Sweden, at our Headquarters in Lund. The Bertin Exensor team was given the opportunity to present the activities in the field of Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS), as well as informing the Ambassador on the ongoing work with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and the Ministry of Defence.

EPE New Zealand Limited (EPE), in collaboration with Bertin Exensor, has recently been awarded a contract by the New Zealand Ministry of Defence to provide the NZDF with the Flexnet Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) system, a scalable and modular sensing platform providing real-time situational awareness, early warning and identification of potential threats on the ground.

In connection with this new and important contract between EPE, Bertin Exensor and NZDF, Bertin Exensor had the privilege to host Mr. David Taylor, New Zealand’s Ambassador to Sweden, for a visit at the company’s headquarters in Lund. During the visit the Ambassador was briefed on the Company and the work that is currently done to support the NZDF. A demonstration of the Flexnet UGS platform was also given.

Live demonstration of the Flexnet UGS system.

Bertin Exensor VP Marcus Rosenqvist thanks the Ambassador for the visit and the great interest shown in the Company’s work with EPE and NZDF: ”It was an honour to host the Ambassador and we are grateful for the opportunity that further strengthens the relationship between our two nations.

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Invictus Games Foundation’s Sandakan Death March “In the Footsteps of the Brave”

The Invictus Games Foundation team followed in the footsteps of the heroic Australian and British Prisoners of War who were captured in World War II, and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

This group of international wounded service personnel and veterans retraced the path taken by British and Australian WWII POW’s in honour of their memory. This physically and mentally challenging expedition was all about coming together in support of their recovery and rehabilitation.  And the photos say it all!

We’re very proud of Lt Col Adam Modd GM, DSD on his selection in the Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 and his subsequent selection to be part of the Invictus Sandakan Death March, a Borneo Trek called “In the Footsteps of the Brave”.

Invictus service personnel from different countries around the world joined together to demonstrate that despite their personal mental and physical challenges, they are still unconquered.

The Sandakan Death Marches were a series of forced marches in Borneo from Sandakan to Ranau which resulted in the deaths of 2,434 allied prisoners of war held captive by the Empire of Japan during the Pacific campaign of World War II at the Sandakan POW Camp, North Borneo.  By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, only six Australians survived, all of whom had escaped.

As an Australian Veteran Owned company, EPE is honoured to support Adam on this admirable trek, paying respect to the Sandakan prisoners of war. We provide ongoing support to our many staff who have bravely served in both military and police.
We continue to support #veterans charities to raise awareness in all areas where we can help make a positive difference.

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ELO2 lunar rover prototype at Petrie Terrace State School

We had so much fun at Petrie Terrace State School in Brisbane showing students the ELO2 lunar rover prototype being developed as part of the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer Program. ELO₂ project team members Ben Sorensen and Robbie Wild from EPE. Trusted To Protect’s Innovation team were delighted with the enthusiasm and curiosity from the students. The rover will be tasked with collecting Moon soil to extract oxygen for the creation of rocket fuel and other mission consumables.

An important part of the project is bringing Australians on our country’s first mission to the Moon and inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEM and space. One of these students could be the first Australian astronaut to step foot on the Moon! The classes of potential future scientists/engineers/space explorers asked questions that demonstrated strong scientific understanding.

This is just a snapshot of some of the comments made to their teachers – “I thought it was so cool that we might actually be able to create a habitat for humans”, “I didn’t know that it got up to 200 degrees Celsius on the Moon – that’s fascinating”, “ I thought it was really cool because we learnt all this new information – like how cold it can get.”

A treasured moment from Rafferty Sorensen: “When I saw it I thought my dad was the coolest person in the room.”

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EPE New Zealand Limited secures contract to enhance the New Zealand Defence Force’s Reconnaissance and Surveillance capabilities with Exensor Flexnet Remote Ground Sensor capabilities.

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EPE New Zealand Limited secures contract to enhance the New Zealand Defence Force’s Reconnaissance and Surveillance capabilities with Exensor Flexnet Remote Ground Sensor capabilities.

EPE New Zealand Limited (EPE) in collaboration with Bertin Exensor, has been awarded a contract by the New Zealand Ministry of Defence to provide the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) with Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R & S) capabilities as part of the Networked Enabled Army (NEA) Programme.

EPE will deliver the Exensor Flexnet Remote Ground Sensor (RGS) system to enhance New Zealand Army situational awareness and support deployed command decision-making across all echelons of command. Through a Master Supply Agreement, specialist training and ongoing associated Through Life Support (TLS) will be delivered locally in New Zealand as part of the contract by EPE.

The contract will provide personnel with a scalable and modular sensing platform that provides real-time situational awareness and early warning, and identification of potential threats, enhancing commanders’ abilities to make quick, fact-based decisions and take necessary action.

A proven capability, Exensor sensors are in-service or trial with a number of countries including the UK, Australia, USA and several NATO countries.

Andy Cross, General Manager of EPE New Zealand Limited said ‘An essential requirement for NZDF is the demonstrated capacity and capability to deliver the equipment and training, and commit to ongoing maintenance and support. As a team, EPE and Exensor have the unique ability to achieve this. We also aim to equip soldiers with technology that not only provides strategic advantage, but also enhances decision-making while safeguarding them from threats.’

Marcus Rosenqvist, VP Sales & Marketing of Bertin Exensor AB said, ‘In recent years, the use and need for the Flexnet RGS technology among forces worldwide has increased. Exensor is proud to be selected together with EPE for the supply of the latest generation of Flexnet RGS’.

 

About Bertin Exensor
Bertin Exensor is a world-leading supplier of Remote Ground Sensors (UGS) systems. Designed by Bertin Exensor, the Flexnet RGS system combines intelligence collected by seismic, acoustic, and TI sensors to detect and identify threats and targets. Flexnet is perfectly suited to military and civilian applications such as force protection, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), and monitoring of critical assets and sensitive areas. Bertin Exensor now counts over 70 employees, with facilities located both in Sweden and the United-Kingdom. Since 2017, the company is part of the French group Bertin Technologies, a well-known actor in the European Defense and Security market.

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NZ MoD awards contract to EPE New Zealand Limited to enhance New Zealand Defence Force’s Reconnaissance and Surveillance capabilities with Skydio uncrewed aircraft systems

EPE New Zealand Limited secures contract to enhance New Zealand Defence Force’s Reconnaissance and Surveillance capabilities with Skydio uncrewed aircraft systems

Wellington, New Zealand and San Mateo, Calif. – [19th December 2023]EPE New Zealand Limited (EPE) in collaboration with leading American uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) manufacturer Skydio, has been awarded a contract by the New Zealand Ministry of Defence, to provide the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) with new Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R & S) capabilities as part of the Networked Enabled Army (NEA) Programme.

Under this contract, EPE will provide Skydio’s X2D UAS to provide the New Zealand Army with an advanced micro UAS, which will elevate situational awareness and support deployed command decision-making across all echelons of command.

EPE will deliver Skydio’s UAS and raise, train and sustain the capability with ongoing Through Life Support (TLS) delivered locally in New Zealand. Skydio X2D capabilities will provide New Zealand Army personnel with a UAS with obstacle avoidance, and a combination of portability, ruggedness and ease of use that allows any unit to use the UAS as their organic surveillance and reconnaissance asset.

The UAS are being delivered as part of the Ministry of Defence’s Networked Enabled Army (NEA) Programme, which is tasked with delivering a transformational system to provide the NZDF land forces with deployable networked command, control, communications and computers (C4) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

Andy Cross, General Manager of EPE New Zealand Limited said, “EPE and Skydio share a common aspiration to contribute to a safer world and equip soldiers with technology that not only provides strategic advantage but also enhances decision-making while safeguarding them from threats. As a team we have the capacity and ability to deliver and support the capability from design through to disposal.”

“Skydio has been committed to supporting the government sector in New Zealand, Australia and broader Oceania for years with our uncrewed aircraft systems,” said Mark Valentine, President and GM, Global Government for Skydio. “We are excited to continue to partner with EPE New Zealand Limited, to deliver the Skydio X2D to the New Zealand Defence agencies. Our technology will enhance the NZDF’s ability to conduct critical battlefield missions, enhance surveillance and reconnaissance, and capture accurate mapping data. Most importantly, our drones increase the safety and security of force personnel and readiness assets.”

 

ABOUT EPE

In its 25th year of operation, EPE’s purpose is to enable and protect Australians and our allies to operate safely and securely in harmful environments or when exposed to risk. EPE provides specialist support to government agencies and defence organisations to undertake design and integration activities, and deliver niche capabilities in uncrewed systems, sensors and effectors for deployment in hazardous environments. EPE works closely with industry and research and development organisations to develop technology and products for commercialisation, and provides technology verification and validation (V&V) services at its south-east Queensland-based MILTECS facilities (Military Training, Evaluation, Certification and Systems Assurance).

ABOUT SKYDIO

Skydio is the leading U.S. UAS manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight. Skydio creates the world’s most intelligent flying machines for use by enterprise and government customers. Founded in 2014, Skydio is made up of leading experts in robotics, cameras, and electric vehicles from top companies, research labs, and universities from around the world. Skydio designs, assembles, and supports its products in the U.S. from its headquarters in San Mateo, CA, to offer the highest standards of supply chain, manufacturing and data security. Skydio is trusted by leading enterprises across a wide range of industry sectors and is backed by top investors and strategic partners including Andreessen Horowitz, Levitate Capital, Next47, IVP, Playground, and NVIDIA. For more information visit Skydio.com.

 

Find more information contact: Narelle Hoffman, Marketing and Communications Manager,

Email:

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A milestone for Australia’s first lunar mission, Australia’s ELO2 consortium unveils Moon rover prototype

ELO2 Moon Rover Prototype

ELO2 Moon Rover Prototype unveiled at the Andy Thomas Space Foundation forum in Sydney.

Australia’s ELO2 consortium unveils Moon rover prototype

06 December 2023, Sydney – Leading the way in autonomous robotic technology, the ELO2 consortium has unveiled a prototype of what could become Australia’s first lunar rover. The consortium is working on the project under the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer program which aims to land the rover on the Moon as part of a future NASA Artemis mission later this decade.

The first glimpse of the rover prototype showcases the unique technology and design elements built into this specialised rover. If selected for the mission, on the Moon’s surface, it will be tasked with transporting lunar regolith (Moon soil) to a NASA-run facility for the extraction of oxygen. The initial prototype focuses on testing chassis and suspension subsystems and features an early design of a collection device and special wheels that will enable the rover to cross the Moon’s challenging terrain.

The rover prototype’s unveiling marks an essential step in this process, focusing initially on testing chassis and suspension subsystems while paving the way for iterative enhancements and expanded functionalities throughout Stage One of the Trailblazer program. ELO2 is one of two consortia chosen by the Australian Space Agency to develop early-stage design concepts for a Moon rover.

This prototype and the following iterations are a practice in de-risking critical technologies, validating requirements, and ensuring their seamless integration – crucial for the success of Australia’s national flagship mission. Prototyping such as this is an important step in testing designs for continuous improvement; something that is essential in the space industry.

Beyond transporting regolith, the rover would autonomously navigate the lunar environment, locate and collect regolith, and is an essential element to enable NASA’s in-situ resource utilisation facility to operate. There, oxygen will be extracted from the regolith, which can be used for Artemis astronauts to breathe and for spacecraft fuel – essential elements for a sustained human presence on the Moon.

Joseph Kenrick, ELO2 Technical Director with Lunar Outpost Oceania, says, “Our consortium’s unveiling of the lunar rover prototype is a testament to Australia’s commitment to space exploration. Through the Trailblazer program, ELO2 is spearheading efforts to de-risk critical technologies while striving to deliver a successful and impactful mission for Australia. This unveiling marks the beginning of an exciting journey and invites every Australian to be part of our nation’s cosmic endeavours.”

The public unveiling of this early rover prototype aims not only to showcase progress but also to engage the Australian public. ELO2 seeks to make space more accessible by actively involving citizens in space exploration and hopes that the display of this prototype will encourage comments, feedback and ideas. Part of the rover design process is involving the Australian public through participation in a range of initiatives, such as the Big Dipper and Little Dipper Challenges which invite people of all ages to present ideas for one element of the rover – the regolith collection device or scoop, for the chance to win prizes and badges. This unveiling, along with today’s naming of the rover by the Australian Space Agency, underscores the reality of Australia’s unique capabilities, STEM engagement and innovative spirit that places the country in a prime position to contribute to missions on the Moon and beyond.

“ELO2 is designing and developing world-leading technology, capitalising on Australia’s strengths, and leveraging Trailblazer funding to develop dual-use critical technologies able to support technology development for AUKUS Pillar II. This initiative extends beyond advancing our space industry; it encompasses critical applications in climate change monitoring, critical mineral sourcing for Earth’s green transition, and remote operations in healthcare. This integrated approach not only benefits our space endeavours but also contributes significantly to vital industries on Earth,” stated Ben Sorensen, Director of Innovation and Commercialization at EPE.”

The ELO2 consortium is a collaborative venture which has combined the strength of Australia’s leading industry partners and research institutions towards the goal of creating Australia’s first lunar rover.  This initial prototype is an early step in this advanced design process, which involves continuous enhancement of the rover’s capabilities throughout Stage One of the Trailblazer program. As the mission progresses, the consortium aims to engage the public, offering insights into the advancements, challenges and discoveries on the path toward Australia’s lunar exploration milestone.

For more information: elo2.au

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Southern Space 2023 with ELO2

Southern Space 2023 conference organised by the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) incorporated a session with ELO2 .

This year’s Southern Space 2023 conference provided a platform for experts, enthusiasts, and industry leaders to converge, share insights, and shape the future of space exploration. The first panel session was an update on the Trailblazer Project from Ben Sorensen from EPE and Joe Kenrick from Lunar Outpost Oceania moderated by Dr Catherine Grace (MBBS).  The 2 companies co-leading the ELO2 consortium appreciate the opportunity to contribute by providing Australia’s space community with a unique perspective and valuable insights on the strides we are making in our mission to send the first Australian rover to the Moon.  They also discussed the range of benefits the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer Program provides to Australia in both space and on Earth.

This project isn’t just about going to space; it’s a groundbreaking effort to explore new possibilities on the Moon. The Trailblazer project aims to send the first Australian robot to land on the Moon.

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EPE co-host East Coast Forum Boardroom Breakfast with Ambassador of Ukraine

Very pleased to host His Excellency Vasyl Myroshnychenko – Ambassador of Ukraine, at another excellent East Coast Forum Boardroom Breakfast. Great insights on the resilience of the Ukrainian people as they prepare to face another long hard winter. MAJ Gen Mick Ryan, AM (Rtd) fresh from his most recent trip to Ukraine, provided his thoughts on the current military situation. Ukraine must prevail in this conflict. It will shape the face of the International World Order for the next 50 to 60 years.

EPE. Trusted To Protect, through our partnership with Minelab Metal Detectors was included in the most recently announced aid package supplied by Australian Defence to Ukraine. These land mine detectors are now in country, and helping to reduce the explosive threats faced by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the current counter offensive. They are also an essential tool to help people reclaim their land and homes. So much more needs to be done to help Ukraine fight and win this war.

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Field Robotics Webinar by Robotics Australia Group

Last week Robotics Australia Group hosted an industry webinar exploring the topic.

Together with EPE Innovation Director Ben Sorenson, Dr Joe CroninKate D.Andrew BateDr. John Vial and Nicci Rossouw.

Discussion focused on:

  • The growing Australian robotics industry and how it enables other industries
  • Collaboration between research organisations and industry to develop new capability
  • Competing on the global scale
  • Funding, government support and picking winners
  • How robotics creates new jobs, improve Australia’s productivity and worker safety
  • Standards, assurance, cybersecurity
  • Designing lunar rovers for the moon and using this tech to solve problems here on earth
  • Getting to robotic ubiquity (more, cheaper, faster, and how we can do it here!)

 

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The Australian Space Agency wants to bring everyone on our nation’s journey to the Moon.

Acknowledgement to Channel 7 Sunrise – 5 September 2023

Earlier today, Enrico Palermo, head of the Australian Space Agency announced a naming competition for the lunar rover that will go to the Moon in 2026.

The ELO2 Consortium lead by EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania is one of two teams that has spent the last few months designing and developing that rover!

The Australian Space Agency, in partnership with NASA, is working with Australia’s space industry to design and build an Australian-made rover. It’s part of the Trailblazer program under the Moon to Mars initiative.

Drawing on Australia’s world-leading remote operations expertise, the rover will collect lunar soil, known as regolith. NASA will attempt to extract oxygen from the sample. This is a key step towards a sustainable human presence on the Moon.

The rover will go to the Moon as part of a future Artemis mission by as early as 2026.

 

The competition

Australians can enter a name that will be in the running to be selected for the rover.

Individuals and schools across Australia can enter a rover name, along with a brief explanation for choosing it.

How to enter

The competition is now open. We will select a shortlist of 4 names from your entries and put them to a public vote. We’ll announce the winner in December.

https://consult.industry.gov.au/name-australias-lunar-rover

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Defence invests in the next generation of CBRN scientists

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A Defence postgraduate training initiative will boost the pool of STEM professionals capable of developing solutions that will enable Defence, national security and first responders to operate safely and effectively in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) environments.

DEFENCE INVESTS IN THE NEXT GENERATION OF CBRN SCIENTISTS

Pictured: PROCESS Academy students and representatives from DSTG and PROCESS partner organisations at the EPE facilities in Brisbane.

The Postgraduate Research for OCE STaR Shot (PROCESS) Academy was recently launched in Brisbane, in the headquarters of Defence industry partner EPE.

Dr Nick FitzGerald is Science, Technology and Innovation Lead for Defence’s Operating in CBRN Environments (OCE) STaR Shot. According to Dr FitzGerald, the PROCESS Academy investment will have multiple benefits. ‘Beyond the cool science that we can explore, PROCESS helps us understand the OCE ecosystem,’ he says. ‘At the same time we’ll be creating the next generation of CBRN STEM specialists. Like Defence, our industry and agency partners are looking for smart people to fill positions in the future, so they appreciate the forward-looking element of this initiative.’

Seven PhD students in the PROCESS pilot cohort participated in the orientation, which was delivered by industry partners EPE and Leidos with the support of ANSTO, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES), CASG and the Australian Army.

Imbuing context, connections and community

‘Our aim with the orientation was to give the students context, connections and community,’ says Dr FitzGerald, who developed the innovative Black Canary wearable, autonomous chemical exposure detection tool at DSTG. ‘We wanted to help the students hit the ground running by giving them an understanding of the CBRN problem space they’ll be working in. We did this through practical, experiential learning and targeted, classroom-based activities. We also introduced them, over several days, into a new network of professionals and experts in the CBRN defence and national security space, thereby building a sense of community.’

Dr FitzGerald believes imbuing students and academic supervisors with an understanding of the problem space will improve the quality of the research, and will lead to chance and coordinated interactions with potential employers beyond Defence.

Army supported the event by providing access to real CBRN protection, detection and hazard management equipment and by delivering an in-person introductory presentation on the first day of the “O” Week (delivered by the CBRN cell of Army Headquarters Combat Support Directorate).

Leidos, which holds the Land 2110 Phase 1B contract for the provision of CBRN materiel and associated training, provided members of its training team to explain the military equipment (including examples of newly acquired Defence materiel) and to outline how it is being used in threat detection, identification, monitoring, warning and protection tasks.

At the EPE proving grounds the students donned the MOPP-4 CBRN protective suit and carried out representative operations to experience for themselves the difficulties experienced by first responders and warfighters.

Students learned about CBRN equipment, and had a chance to personally experience the difficult nature of working in full-body CBRN protective gear.

Students learned about CBRN equipment, and had a chance to personally experience the difficult nature of working in full-body CBRN protective gear.

Experiencing difficulties first-hand

The PROCESS orientation was both enjoyable and valuable says student Lize Coetzee. She was grateful for the chance to hear from many industry partners and experts about various aspects of CBRN environments. ‘This deepened my understanding, particularly about the reality of being out in the field and what a soldier or first-responder might value in their equipment,’ Coetzee reflects. ‘One highlight was the opportunity to complete a variety of activities while wearing full CBRN kit which gave me first-hand experience in how difficult it is to perform activities requiring dexterity, communication, and physical effort. These are practical considerations that I had not thought of previously, but which will help guide my own research to better meet the needs of end users.’

Coetzee is developing a laser sensor which can be operated at a distance of 10 metres to identify a variety of chemical and biological hazards.

Industry partners see benefits

EPE Managing Director Warwick Penrose says his company’s support of PROCESS has an emphasis on practical immersion to build an awareness of the current Defence CBRN baseline capability. ‘This is in order to build the student’s understanding of the challenges that operators face when working in CBRN environments,’ he says. ‘At the completion of this training the PhD students had a better understanding of how Defence will apply the research being funded via the OCE STaR Shot, so that the benefits of their research can be applied more quickly.’

Looking to learn more about the Operating in CBRN Environments (OCE) STaR Shot?

The threat of CBRN attacks against military forces and civilian populations is growing which means our forces must be able to respond faster and more flexibly to CBRN events.

 

Originally published on the Australian Government Department of Defence News

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Factory Acceptance Testing robots at ICP Newtech for an international customer

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EPE has been in Ireland at the ICP Newtech robotics manufacturing and test and evaluation facility. Seamus O’Brien and Jack Batty from the EPE team spent time at ICP completing Factory Acceptance Testing on a fleet of Uncrewed Ground Vehicles including six Avenger 2.0 and four Vanguard ST. The fleet has undergone complete inspection, test and evaluation, including range testing, prior to delivery to our government agency customer in the Indo Pacific region.  The fleet will provide enhanced capabilities for bomb disposal and tactical response groups to remove operators from hazards.  Seamus O’Brien has extensive experience as an EOD technician and specialist Counter IED trainer bringing an operational perspective to the test and evaluation process.  Jack Batty is one of the leading robotics technicians in the Australasian region, one of the only technicians to be accredited by multiple leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to repair and upgrade their platforms outside the manufacturing facilities.  Once delivered to our customer EPE will provide specialist operator training and Through Life Support to optimise the capability.

We thank Kieran Nolan and the ICP Newtech team for the ongoing partnership and trust with EPE that has spanned over a decade.

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Adam Modd’s Story : NZDF Invictus Games Team 2023


Adam Modd GM, DSD our Senior Solutions Architect is representing New Zealand Defence Force at the up-and-coming Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 in September this year.

Adam has experienced some significant injuries and traumatic exposures throughout his long and distinguished military career in Bomb Disposal and Special Operations. In the spirit of the games and for awareness, Adam has shared some of his own personal challenges that he has overcome. EPE. Trusted To Protect proudly supports veterans and promotes mental health awareness for everyone.

 

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A simple guide to understanding Blue UAS vs NDAA Compliant vs American-Made drone requirements in 2023

Blue sUAS Skydio Casestudy Feature image

Blue sUAS Skydio

JUNE 12, 2023

This article from the US has important implications and transferability to Australia.

As government policies and rules on drones proliferate, drone buyers confront a sea of security focused phrases, from “NDAA compliance” to “Blue UAS” and beyond. This blog answers the key questions we hear the most:

  • What type of secure drone do I need?
  • What is the Blue UAS list and is it the same as NDAA compliance?
  • I was told to get a drone from the Blue List – what does that mean?
  • What if it is an American made drone?
  • If the drone has some parts from China, or says “Made in China”, can it still be compliant?

Before we go further, a couple of caveats. 1) This isn’t meant to be legal advice, and 2) it only covers developments in the U.S.

Every federal and state security policy revolves around the same core concern: our geopolitical adversaries are using untrustworthy technology to gain a strategic advantage. In response, policy makers are increasingly taking action by issuing requirements to curb potential threats among drones used within their jurisdiction.

NDAA Compliance: What is it and what does it mean for Unmanned Aerial Systems?

In the drone industry, “NDAA compliance” is shorthand for “supply chain security.” NDAA compliance refers to a federal law prohibiting the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) from buying drones:

  1. manufactured in a covered foreign country, or by a company based in a covered foreign country; or
  2. that use flight controllers, radios, data transmission devices, cameras, gimbals, ground control systems, or operating software manufactured in a covered foreign country or by a company based in a covered foreign country.

That law, Section 848 of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), defined a “covered foreign country” to mean China. In 2022, Congress updated the law to include Russia, Iran and North Korea. Recently, Congress extended the law even further to apply to the private sector. Beginning in October 2024, private companies can not use DJI to perform contracts for the Department of Defense.

NDAA compliance is primarily focused on the supply chain–where the drone and its key components are made, and where the manufacturer is based. Importantly, it is not a rule that the drone must be 100% free of all parts from a covered foreign country, only those specifically listed in #2 above.

How does a drone become NDAA compliant?  There is no single formal certifying body for NDAA compliant UAS. Companies can self-certify. But one organization has stepped up to make this easier, at least for the DoD.

Beyond NDAA: What it Means to be Blue UAS or on the “Blue List”

To make it easier for military services to buy secure commercial drones, DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit created a program known as Blue UAS. Selection as a Blue UAS drone verifies NDAA compliance. But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to evaluating supply chain security, the Blue UAS program conducts demanding cybersecurity assessments, ensuring approved drones can protect sensitive military information. The result of these extensive assessments yielded the Blue sUAS list, colloquially called the “Blue List.”

NDAA Compliance vs. BlueUAS: Tradeoffs for Takeoff

If you’re a private company or state and local organization, is selecting a drone as easy as reviewing the Blue UAS list, selecting one, and calling it a day? Likely, no.

To meet military-grade security requirements, every Blue UAS must be “offline”, unable to connect to the internet. That requirement makes sense for the military, but for the vast majority of organizations that means an inability to benefit from capabilities that enable live streaming, software updates, and seamless data sharing with systems of record.

Enterprise-grade security is typically enough for most private sector organizations. Skydio’s Security Trust Center can provide examples of the types of enterprise-grade security you should be seeking. Additionally, some organizations have ‘online’ versions of the same drone found on the Blue sUAS list with full NDAA compliance, such as the Skydio X2E.

American-Made Drones: Satisfying Fast-Moving Federal and State Policies

In recent years, federal and state rules on trustworthy drones have multiplied. Those actions began at the federal level. It is federal policy to prevent the use of taxpayer dollars to buy drones made by companies based in China and to “to encourage the use of domestically produced UAS.” Congress has also enacted laws requiring the military and the U.S. Coast Guard to use secure, NDAA-compliant systems. Consistent with overall federal policy, many federal departments have issued their own restrictions on using or funding drones made in China, including the Departments of InteriorJustice and Homeland Security.

States often follow the federal government’s lead on security matters. At least six states have issued their own restrictions on untrustworthy drones by state or local agencies: ArkansasTexasIndianaMississippiCalifornia, and Florida. Florida also passed a $25M grant program to support agencies transitioning to secure systems in 2023-2024. Although some states impose supply chain security requirements, none require the use of a Blue UAS drone. In general, drones produced domestically by U.S. companies will satisfy state laws.

Outside of companies that do business with DoD, private enterprises generally are not required to follow these federal and state policies. Even so, many organizations, particularly in critical infrastructure sectors, are electing to choose American-made drones for added safety and security. Trustworthy technology is good for business, and knowing your drone purchases will not be grounded by future legislation reduces risk.

To Summarize:

Blue sUAS Skydio Summary

 

Acknowledge to Skydio

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EPE hosting international government agency at EPE HQ in Brisbane

As part of EPE International’s provision of specialist capability and training in the Indo-Pacific region, our team was honoured to host an international government agency at EPE HQ in Brisbane.

Our team of Police and Military veterans delivered specialist CBRN equipment training and provided a tour of EPE’s MILTECS facility incorporating CBRNe Test Laboratory and Robotics training and testing facility.

 

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Skydio 2+ undergoes a comprehensive compliance check in Australia performed by EPE Through Life Support team to meet OEM specifications

EPE Skydio S2 Compliance Check News

EPE has delivered an order of Skydio S2+ drones to an Australian customer. As issues around trust and security are heightened in Australia and New Zealand, Skydio provides a drone manufactured in the USA with the world’s most advanced autonomy technology and the highest standards of cyber and supply chain security. All equipment provided by EPE undergoes a complete compliance check here in Australia to ensure it meets OEM specifications.

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Australian and veteran owned companies partner on Australian-first deployable forensic labs

Australian and veteran owned companies partner on Australian-first deployable forensic labs news

Nova Systems will play a key role in supporting EPE in the ongoing maintenance and support of two Weapons Technical Intelligence (WTI) labs, as part of the Land 154 Phase 2 sustainment program.

EPE has been awarded the LAND154 Phase 2 contract, a capability program that will improve the Australian Defence Force’s joint counter-improvised explosive device response.

The Weapons Technical Intelligence (WTI) facilities are a series of deployable containers, consisting predominantly of specialist scientific laboratory equipment.

Being deployable means they can be transported and utilised on-scene, allowing for rapid assessment of weapons effects and explosive devices.

Similar facilities developed overseas have enabled the rapid deployment of counter-measures during operations to protect Australian Defence Force (ADF) and allied forces.

EPE’s LAND 154-2 Project Director, Keith Mollison, said: “Nova Systems is a true Australian success story. The partnership between EPE and Nova Systems creates an all-Australian team to optimise this capability, while further building specialist scientific, engineering and weapons technical intelligence expertise here in Australia.”

Nova Systems Chief Operating Officer, Steven Robinson, said: “This capability gives Australia a seat on the world stage, aligning with AUKUS and NATO partners to have a deployable WTI capability that improves interoperability and will save lives.

“As part of our partnership with EPE, Nova Systems will ensure the WTI labs are sustained and ready for deployment at a moment’s notice.

“EPE’s expertise in level 2 exploitation and specialist project management is complemented by Nova Systems’ world-leading engineering capability.

“Both companies are Australian-owned and veteran founded, together building enduring sovereign skills and capability, which makes for the perfect partnership to support the ADF.”

The five-year contract includes a long-term sustainment opportunity, with the labs based in Brisbane, Queensland and Edinburgh, South Australia.

Credit to Nova Systems News 

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Portable chemical analysis for drug investigations promises more reliable and just results

Scientists aim to combat false positives and user error by making spectrometers smaller and smarter—and educating law enforcement on proper technique

In February 2022, a police department in Texas announced that it had busted a truck driver for hauling some 2,600 L of liquid methamphetamine. Using tests that mixed the substance in question with tubes of reagents, officers from the Pharr Police Department and the US Drug Enforcement Administration found that the cargo tested positive for the illicit drug. Accused of transporting about $10 million worth of drugs, the driver, Juan Carlos Toscano Guzman, spent almost 6 weeks in jail, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. But the truck’s load wasn’t meth.

Colorimetric test kits had ensnared another individual. Used since the 1970s, the tests are available for dozens of drugs but don’t always provide reliable results. At least 100,000 people across the US plead guilty to possessing drugs after positive field tests each year, according to a ProPublica estimate, so even a modest error rate—due to officers’ lacking proper training, mixing reagents in the wrong order, or getting a false positive—could mean that thousands of people’s lives are unfairly upended.

In establishing the possibility of a drug’s presence, color tests do what they’re supposed to do, says forensic scientist Brooke Kammrath of the University of New Haven. “But they’re misunderstood by the general population and the people who are using them.”

What ended up exonerating Guzman were laboratory tests. He was transporting a mix of oil and diesel, according to his lawyer. Lab methods such as Raman spectroscopy, infrared (IR) spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry are selective and more reliable methods for identifying drugs, but the delay in analyzing samples in the lab can slow investigations and leave innocent people like Guzman behind bars.

Portable versions of such spectrometers are available for police and other drug enforcement agents to use on-site, but miniaturizing analytical tools can come with trade-offs in resolution and sensitivity. To make up for that, some chemists, forensic scientists, and even data scientists have started working on ways to extract more accurate information from field samples collected by police. Some scientists have played a vital role in encouraging the equipment’s availability and adoption and in helping police understand how portable instruments can make law enforcement easier and fairer. “These are sophisticated scientific tools that we’re putting in the hands of potentially nonscientists,” Kammrath says. Scientists need to understand and explain the instruments’ advantages and limitations to ensure the equipment is being used properly, she says.

SHRINKING SPECTROMETERS

Portable spectrometers have long been used by nonscientists. Some of the earliest spectrometers that could be taken into the field appeared in the 1950s, including a portable IR spectrometer the US military developed to detect chemical warfare agents. Such instruments became common in the tool kits of US hazmat and threat response teams in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks that started a week after 9/11. Today’s array of portable instruments includes optical spectrometers, such as Raman, near-IR and mid-IR, mass, and ion mobility spectrometers.

Especially in the past 20 years, portable instruments have gotten smaller. Some mass spectrometers have shrunk to the size of a briefcase, while some Raman and IR spectrometers can be a bit larger than a deck of playing cards. “The whole revolution in consumer electronics has helped these enormously,” says Richard A. Crocombe, a spectroscopist who runs his own scientific consulting firm. Diode lasers, such as those developed for CD and Blu-ray players and other advances in telecommunications, have helped optical spectrometers slim down. And mass specs have benefited from smaller ion traps. With smaller components that can run on less power, the devices’ footprints have dwindled.

But generally, “portable instruments are not the same as their benchtop counterparts,” Kammrath says. Portable Raman spectrometers can’t yet achieve the throughput and sensitivity that benchtop systems can, and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) instruments are limited by the type and length of columns available. Resolution can be an issue, for instance, with high-pressure mass spectrometry, in which mixture components aren’t separated before analysis. For comparison, some benchtop mass specs have resolutions eight times as high as these machines.

When it comes to illicit drugs, people who clean up clandestine labs also use portable instruments to test whether the unidentified substances they encounter are dangerous. Both IR and Raman spectrometers are simple and fast to use, but IR techniques require the sample to be placed in contact with the detector. For Raman, “you can have a plastic baggie of raw materials, and you can shoot right through it and get a spectrum,” says Pauline E. Leary, a spectroscopist at Noble Supply & Logistics, which sells equipment, including spectrometers, for military applications and low-resource environments.

At the same time, each portable device has benefits and limitations: GC/MS can parse complex mixtures but destroys the sample, whereas Raman doesn’t. Fluorescence from a sample can mask a drug’s Raman signal, while water in a sample can overwhelm an IR spectrum. So combining multiple tests to create a tool kit is the best approach, Kammrath says. A recent study formed a tool kit containing handheld or portable Raman, Fourier transform IR (FT-IR), and mass spec devices. Researchers at the US Food and Drug Administration found that, using at least one of the three instruments, they could detect 81 of 88 different active pharmaceutical ingredients. When at least two techniques were used, at least one instrument detected all ingredients. Overall, the tool kit’s results were as reliable as a full-service lab (J. Pharm. Biomed. Anal. 2021, DOI: 10.1016/j.jpba.2021.114183).

According to recommendations for laboratory testing of drugs, users can pair various methods—such as color tests with GC/MS or ion mobility with IR spectroscopy, Kammrath says. Having two orthogonal techniques casts a wide net to identify many types of unknowns.

A spectrum of portable tools

Workhorse methods of portable chemical analysis need to be fast and require little sample preparation. Each comes with trade-offs
in sensitivity and possible application.

Raman spectroscopy

Up-front cost: $12,500–$25,000

Sample handling: Scans through glass and quartz containers and transparent plastics

Data acquisition time: Few seconds to 1 min

Destructive? No

Target applications: Single-component samples, high-concentration mixtures, white powders, liquids and tablets

Problematic samples: Dark, colored, and fluorescent materials, mixtures with trace amounts (e.g., pills with trace fentanyl), plant samples (e.g., marijuana)

Infrared spectroscopy

Up-front cost: $25,000–$50,000

Sample handling: Must be in direct contact with a sample

Data acquisition time: <1 min

Destructive? No

Target applications: Single-component samples, white powders, liquids and tablets

Problematic samples: Mixtures with low-concentration components, samples containing water

High-pressure mass spectrometry

Up-front cost: >$50,000

Sample handling: Analyzes a swab of a surface or packaging

Data acquisition time: 10–30 s

Destructive? Yes

Target applications: Trace amounts of analytes, mixtures

Problematic samples: Samples with concentrated components

Near-infrared spectroscopy

Up-front cost: $2,000–$37,500

Sample handling: Scans through glass and quartz containers and transparent plastics

Data acquisition time: 5 s

Destructive? No

Target applications: Single-component samples, high-concentration mixtures, white powders

Problematic samples: Mixtures with low-concentration components

Ion mobility spectrometry

Up-front cost: $10,000–$37,500

Sample handling: Analyzes a swab of a surface or packaging

Data acquisition time: 10–30 s

Destructive? Yes

Target applications: Trace amounts of analytes, high-concentration mixtures

Problematic samples: Samples with concentrated components (e.g., purified powders) that can overload the detector

Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry

Up-front cost: >$50,000

Sample handling: Analyzes a sample that has been removed from packaging and dissolved in solvent

Data acquisition time: 4–15 min

Destructive? Yes

Target applications: Trace amounts of analytes, separation of mixtures

Problematic samples: Plant samples that are not dissolved, samples with concentrated components

Sources: Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, Landscape Study of Field Portable Devices for Presumptive Drug Testing, 2018; Richard Crocombe, “The Ever-Shrinking Spectrometer: New Technologies and Applications,” in Sense the Real Change: Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Near Infrared Spectroscopy Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, Landscape Study of Field Portable Devices for Presumptive Drug Testing, 2018; Richard Crocombe, “The Ever-Shrinking Spectrometer: New Technologies and Applications,” in Sense the Real Change: Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Near Infrared Spectroscopy, ed. Xiaoli Chu et al. (Springer Singapore, 2022), DOI: 10.1007/978-981-19-4884-8_2; “Spectroscopy outside the Laboratory” 2022, DOI: 10.56530/spectroscopy.lz8466z5.

FINDING THE SIGNAL IN THE NOISE

Forensic scientists scanning a crime scene may need to see what’s hardly there—trace powders, residues in a container, dopants that make up a small part of a mixture found in the field. The spectra they get from portable instruments often can’t identify a very small amount of a substance among the noise caused by, say, other ingredients in a drug sample, Leary explains.

US law enforcement agencies have recently seized large amounts of low-dose fentanyl pills. Some of these pills had 1% or less of the synthetic opioid and mostly contained the Tylenol ingredient acetaminophen. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, less than 2 mg of fentanyl can be a fatal dose. Instrument manufacturers claimed their equipment could detect fentanyl in such pills, but Leary and Kammrath found that most of the techniques fell short when used in tests.

Acetaminophen and fentanyl have similar IR peaks, and neither IR nor Raman can detect concentrations as low as 1% anyway. With some portable mass spectrometry methods, the acetaminophen would overwhelm the detector. Ion mobility spectrometry could detect 1% fentanyl in the mixture, but the technique isn’t considered the most reliable, because unrelated ions of similar size and weight could have similar mobilities as those of a drug. “A lot of times for these field instruments, we just can’t get the limits of detection we need for a specific problem,” Leary says.

To remedy such problems, Kammrath and her colleagues are trying to come up with new ways to extract trace fentanyl from a mixture so it can be analyzed in the field with a more discriminating technique. Their working prototype is based on an extraction system from RedWave Technology, a company that develops portable FT-IR instruments. It hinges on a portable tool that takes a powder or pill and does a solvent extraction to concentrate any fentanyl present. An officer could then paint the resulting solution onto the IR detector for a scan. Extraction techniques could potentially expand the range of samples that can be analyzed by portable IR spectroscopy, Kammrath says. Of course, extractions aren’t one size fits all, so new tools would have to be developed to extract other trace drugs.

Parallel to efforts to physically concentrate samples, researchers are also finding ways to unmask components hiding in mixtures by digitally parsing their raw spectral data. There was a time when searching for tricky-to-spot spectroscopic features was like “chasing a ghost,” says Igor K. Lednev, a laser spectroscopist at the University at Albany. For instance, peaks from some components in a mixture could be rendered invisible by the spectral contributions of substances present in much higher concentrations, like in the case of pills with trace fentanyl. “Now, if we combine Raman spectroscopy with statistical analysis, we can reliably detect and identify components in a mixture which you don’t see with the naked eye,” Lednev says.

This approach relies on matching spectral data against databases of known compounds. But sometimes a dangerous drug, such as a fentanyl analog, may be missing. “That particular fentanyl analog may be completely new, and it’s not in our set of what’s familiar,” says Phillip Koshute, a data scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He and colleagues have developed machine learning approaches to detect such drugs’ signals lurking in mass spectra and Raman spectra (Forensic Chem. 2022, DOI: 10.1016/j.forc.2021.100379; SSRN 2022, DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.4246466). Working with chemists to zero in on the most important spectral features, the researchers trained machine learning models on pure substances’ spectra to detect fentanyl analogs. “The next step would be repeating the process but with the real-world, messy data,” Koshute says.

The capability to analyze mixtures or identify novel compounds could someday be built into instruments, Lednev says. Portable spectrometers are already equipped to transmit their data wirelessly. Spectra could be sent to a cloud-based tool for machine learning, returning a determination and confidence interval.

IN THE FIELD

Compared with hazmat teams and fire departments, “the forensic community has been very slow to adopt portable instruments,” Kammrath says. But some police departments and crime labs are starting to take to the devices.

Since 2011, dozens of agencies around Alabama have begun using portable Raman spectroscopy for drug testing in the field or the lab. Mark Hopwood was then the director of one of the state’s crime labs, and a backlog of some 30,000 drug cases statewide required testing. “It was taking anywhere from a year to 2 years to get lab results back,” says Hopwood, who is now a forensic scientist at Jacksonville State University (JSU).

In an effort to reduce the backlog, Hopwood’s team tried out portable spectrometers, playing with the devices for a month and doing field trials. Of the systems tested, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s TruNarc handheld analyzer—which is a Raman spectrometer with only three buttons and looks like a chunky handheld gaming console—stood out for its ease of use and durability, Hopwood says. Additionally, “there was no way to manipulate data,” he says. For instance, it wouldn’t be possible for an officer acting in bad faith to scan sugar or salt and falsely name it as cocaine or another drug in the spectral library. If a scanned substance came up as an unknown, the team could use what’s called a reach-back service, getting support within hours or a day from Thermo scientists, who could help identify the compound and add the substance to the spectral library. Such services are already commonly used by hazmat teams that want a trained analyst to verify results or talk through data concerns, Noble’s Leary says.

The spectra of the scanned substance and its library match could be shared with defense attorneys, who could then advise defendants to either go to drug court or take a plea deal, Hopwood says. A plea deal based on a spectrometry result may be preferable to one based on less-reliable color tests. And in a case in which a conviction is likely, after lab-based testing, going to court may drag out the legal process, he adds.

These are sophisticated scientific tools that we’re putting in the hands of potentially nonscientists.
-Brooke Kammrath, forensic scientist, University of New Haven

The TruNarc devices helped cut Alabama’s pending caseload by about 30% within a few months. “It ended up freeing up the jails, saving the sheriffs money—because they’re not having to feed and house people”—and the courts were able to collect fines, Hopwood says.

A 2014 survey of portable Raman for drug testing calls Hopwood a “technology champion” for the instruments. He has helped departments adopt these devices and is training drug task force and narcotics units on how to use them. He has also opened his department at JSU to officers from nearby counties, making a few devices available for their use when they need a quick identification.

Funding can hinder police departments in adopting portable spectrometry, Kammrath says. A bill was introduced in the US Congress in 2019 that would have funded departments looking to buy portable instruments for drug testing, but it didn’t garner enough support to move forward.

Kammrath says scientists could help strengthen the argument for these devices and increase their appeal to lawmakers and police. A cost-benefit analysis targeted at law enforcement that details other tangible benefits, such as cost savings from not purchasing color tests, and intangible ones, such as the cost of life from wrongful arrests and incarcerations, could help change minds. “Portable instruments are rapid, they’re reliable, and they create a reviewable record,” she says. “We haven’t made a good-enough case as a scientific community for our need for these instruments.”

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Selected as a Trusted Drone Provider for US Federal Government in Defense Innovation Unit’s Blue sUAS Project

Selected as a Trusted Drone Provider for US Federal Government in Defense Innovation Unit’s Blue sUAS Project

AUGUST 20, 2020

Skydio, the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight, today announced that the new Skydio X2D has been selected as a trusted drone platform for the Department of Defense and Federal Government as part of DIU’s Blue sUAS Project. This is a major milestone in Skydio’s strategy to bring the power of its world leading autonomy engine to public sector customers. To provide the best possible support to clients, Skydio is also announcing the addition of new executive leadership and strategic partnership with ADS, Inc.

Skydio selected as an approved vendor in DIU’s Blue sUAS Project. DIU’s effort builds upon the U.S. Army’s small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) program of record, the Short Range Reconnaissance (SRR), for an inexpensive, rucksack portable, vertical take-off and landing sUAS. Skydio was selected as one of five Blue sUAS vendors out of dozens of applicants.

“It’s an honor to be selected as one of the few commercial companies asked to develop this technology in service to our country,” said Adam Bry, Skydio CEO. “As concerns around trust and security have grown, Skydio is proud to provide an American drone with the world’s most advanced autonomy technology and the highest standards of cyber and supply chain security. As the only U.S drone company manufacturing at scale, and the only company with a strong commercial and consumer foundation, we are uniquely well-suited to serve the needs of the nation’s warfighters.”

Skydio X2D, announced in July, meets the specifications outlined by DIU for a lightweight, short-range reconnaissance drone and is the only fully autonomous drone in the Blue sUAS group. Skydio drones are designed, assembled and supported in the United States providing the highest level of supply chain security. During its live demonstration at DIU’s Blue sUAS virtual launch on August 19th, Skydio showcased the X2D’s world leading autonomous flight capabilities that make it the ultimate solution for reconnaissance, search and rescue, and security patrol missions. Attending the event were representatives from top US government agencies, including Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Interior (DOI), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Agriculture (DoA), Department of Commerce (DoC), General Services Administration (GSA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Skydio announces new leadership to support public sector customers. Drawing talent from the world’s top national security, public safety, and enterprise drone organizations to provide world-class service to public sector customers. Skydio is announcing the addition of three key executive team members including:

  • Chuck McGraw as Director of Sales for the Public Sector. Prior to joining Skydio, Chuck spent 20 years as an elite SEAL Team leader, holding the positions of Assault Squadron Operations Chief, Basic Training Command Operations Chief, Master Training Specialist, Senior Program Manager and Assault Team Leader. His twenty-year career has included eleven combat deployments. He has worked on multi-million dollar projects developing and transitioning new technologies from the private sector into government in support of mission critical capability requirements.
  • Alden Jones as Senior Director of Customer Success. Alden joins Skydio from American Tower Corporation (ATC), where he founded and led their UAS program to conduct 20,000 automated inspections per year. Alden’s team trained 175 existing employees to become UAS pilots and built a custom back-end automated post-processing system for analysis. Alden started his career as a US Army platoon leader during a combat tour in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. He left the Army as a captain and went on to serve in leadership roles at UTC and Pepsico before joining ATC.
  • Fritz Reber as Head of Public Safety Integration. Fritz is a former Captain of the Chula Vista Police Department, where he served as UAS Commander and developed the agency’s internationally recognized Drone-as-First-Responder (DFR) program in partnership with the FAA’s San Diego Drone Integration Pilot Program (IPP). He co-authored the agency’s first-of-its-kind Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) waver for DFR, as well as the recent CVPD Tactical BVLOS waiver enabling Close Proximity, Low Altitude public safety missions. Fritz’s 27-year law enforcement experience provides customer agencies with a knowledgeable resource for effective implementation of UAS into public safety operations.

“We have built a world class direct team and partner ecosystem with unmatched industry expertise to support Public Sector customers as they expand their next generation drone platforms. The combination of Skydio’s US-based leadership in UAS autonomy combined with our team’s experience in building scalable drone programs provides unmatched value to our customers,” added Skydio Chief Operating Officer, Mark Cranney.

Skydio announces new partnership with ADS. Government supplier ADS will serve as a reseller and contracting partner for Skydio’s public sector sales. ADS holds more than 60 Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts and Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) and has grown to be the #1 Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Supplier and a Top 50 Federal Government Contractor. Skydio’s forthcoming X2D drone will be listed on the General Services Administration (GSA) schedule and available for procurement starting in Q4 2020.

“Skydio’s autonomy features are game changing in the small UAS grouping. As the world’s leading distributor of military rated UAS, ADS is pleased to provide Skydio full support as they roll out the X2D autonomous solution to the defense and commercial sectors. Having a US based IP firm and domestic manufacturing allows Skydio to blend the best in technology with home grown production, ADS is really excited to see this benefit our mutual customers,” said Ryan Angold, ADS Senior VP of Sales.

Source: Skydio

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Royal New Zealand Navy showcases STEM careers

Seven Sharp Ahoy my new career

Awesome footage from the Royal New Zealand Navy School to Seas Camp at Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base. This initiative showcases the extensive STEM career options available in the Navy, with a specific focus on builidng confidence and curiosity in young high school women regarding potential careers in the Navy. Great way to inspire them to consider their future in the navy.

Very impressive pushups in an EOD10 bombsuit!

Acknowledgement: Seven Sharp – Ahoy my new career

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EPE first company qualified to maintain NERVA robotics

EPE first company qualified to maintain NERVA robotics

EPE first company qualified to maintain NERVA robotics

Laurent Bouraoui (Technical Director), Iwan Hauteville (Technician Plasturgist), Bruno Steux (Director of Innovation), Jack Batty, Quentin Fichet (Technician), Romain le Berre ( Sales Export Director)

EPE. Trusted To Protect is honoured by the partnership built with Nexter, and the trust their team has put in our technicians.

Nexter’s transfer of expertise and knowledge to our technicians enables EPE to build the sovereign ability to train, maintain and sustain this important capability domestically in Australia. EPE’s model of developing world class specialist technicians trained and accredited by OEMs, and based in our Maintenance and Support Hubs in Australia and New Zealand, enables us to optimise operational availability while minimising cost and time of repair. A big thank you to the Nexter team for training Jack Batty, who has become one of Australia’s leading robotics technicians, and also to Defence Australia for supporting this training through the Skilling Australia’s Defence Industry (SADI) fund.

 

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Defence announces EPE to prime the sustainment of Australia’s first deployable Weapons Technical Intelligence laboratories.

Canberra, Australia, April 20, 2023.Today, Defence announced Australian veteran owned company, EPE as the prime contractor for the sustainment of Australia’s first deployable Weapons Technical Intelligence (WTI) forensic laboratories.

The LAND 154 Phase 2 Weapons Technical Intelligence capability will improve Defence’s joint CIED response, providing the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with the ability to independently deploy a WTI capability which will provide in-depth and more deliberate exploitation conducted within a deployable, purpose-built processing facility. Providing greater depth and scope of exploitation and analysis will deliver timely, actionable operational intelligence and allow the ADF to rapidly respond to IED blast events and other threats to provide critical analysis of evidence.

Strengthening Australia’s security, the project will support a new sovereign capability – raised, trained, maintained and sustained in Australia, and create new technical jobs, develop local expertise and leverage partnerships with Australian owned subcontractors.

EPE’s WTI Project Director, Keith Mollison, said “The distinct skillsets of our military veteran team allows EPE to bring a unique combination of Weapons Technical Intelligence experts, Project Management expertise and specialist maintenance technicians to support this key capability, ensure its longevity, and boost Australia’s security and its interoperability with our allies.”

About EPE
In its 25th year of operation, EPE’s purpose is to enable and protect Australians and our allies operating in hazardous environments. EPE provides a range of Detection, Diagnostics, Mitigation, Neutralization, and Exploitation capabilities that support First Responders, Defence Forces, Law Enforcement, and other government agencies in the Asia Pacific region. Our personnel have extensive real world operational experience spanning Special Forces, Counter IED, Intelligence and Exploitation. We understand how the specialist equipment is employed and more importantly, the strategic, operational, and tactical demands encountered across the full spectrum of operational environments in which they may be deployed.

Media contacts:
For Australia and Asia Pacific contact Narelle Hoffman, Marketing and Communications Manager, EPE.
Phone: +61 (0)402 486 393 or email:
Find out more at: www.epequip.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter

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Greater protection for deployed forces

EPE_Land_154_Ph2_Labs_Prime_Contractor_NEWS

An Australian Army soldier prepares an explosive charge during an urban breaching serial at Townsville Field Training Area. Photo: Sergeant Brodie Cross


An Australian company will ensure ADF personnel working with explosive devices on operations have a safe laboratory capability to operate in.

Defence has signed a $30 million contract with Zangold Pty Ltd, trading as Explosive Protective Equipment (EPE), to support the ADF Weapons Technical Intelligence laboratories.

The deployable high-tech laboratories, which are constructed in a modern shipping container design, provide mobile protection for soldiers, sailors and aviators undertaking explosive hazardous material and forensic analysis in the field.

Zangold Pty Ltd will deliver essential services to keep the state-of-the-art laboratories operational at all times.

Assistant Secretary of Electromagnetic Warfare and Intelligence Systems Alex Rothwell said the laboratories provided a safe environment for soldiers, sailors and airmen working with explosive devices even when deployed.

“This level of support demonstrates a new level of collaboration between Defence and industry in supporting this advanced and complex capability,” Mr Rothwell said.

The support and maintenance to the laboratories will be based out of Brisbane and Adelaide and will create up to 15 full-time specialist technical positions for EPE. Support of the laboratories will also require engagement with a range of local businesses for maintenance and repair.

 

Originally published on the Australian Government Department of Defence News 

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Minister orders removal of China-linked cameras from defence premises

Minister orders removal of China-linked cameras from defence premises
Defence Minister Richard Marles has ordered the removal of Chinese surveillance cameras from sensitive Australian government buildings as part of a review.
He announced the inquiry today after an audit revealed nearly 1000 Chinese surveillance cameras were installed at government sites.
The technology is made by Hikvision and Dahua, which have links to the Chinese government.
Minister orders removal of China-linked cameras from defence premises
Defence Minister Richard Marles has ordered the removal of Chinese surveillance cameras from sensitive Australian government buildings as part of a review (Nine)

 

“We’re doing an assessment of all the technology for surveillance within the defence estate and where those particular cameras are found, they’ll be removed,” Marles told the ABC.
“It’s a significant thing that’s been brought to our attention and we’re going to fix it – it’s obviously been there … for some time and predates us coming into office.”

The Defence Department said in the audit the total number of Chinese cameras was unknown but there was at least one.
Marles cautioned the Australian public shouldn’t overreact about the risk of sensitive data being fed to Beijing.
“It’s important that it’s been brought to our attention, it is prudent we do the assessment and act on it,” he told 9News.
Other western countries including the US and Britain have acted to remove Chinese cameras from their government buildings due to concerns they may contain spyware.
Shadow Cyber Security Minister James Paterson said today federal government buildings were “riddled” with the Chinese cameras and ministers needed to draw up plans for their removal.
Minister orders removal of China-linked cameras from defence premises
Coalition Senator James Paterson said federal government buildings were “riddled” with Chinese surveillance cameras and security equipment. (Getty)

 

Paterson issued questions to every federal agency after the Home Affairs Department was unable to say how many of the cameras or related systems were in federal government buildings.
“We urgently need a plan from the Albanese government to rip every one of these devices out of Australian government departments and agencies,” Paterson said.
The cameras and security equipment were found in nearly every department except Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Agriculture Department.
The audit showed the Attorney-General’s Department had 195 of the camera systems installed at 29 sites.
The number in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was not revealed but it had identified at least 28 sites potentially affected.
Paterson said he was concerned about how CCTV technology made by Hikvision and Dahua had been used in China by the communist government.
“Both Hikvision and Dahua have been directly implicated in shocking human rights abuses and mass surveillance of Uyghur minorities in Xinjiang in partnership with the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
Minister orders removal of China-linked cameras from defence premises
Surveillance equipment made by Hikvision is widely used by Chinese security agencies. (AP)

The government review came after the Australian War Memorial in Canberra said it was removing Chinese cameras.

Eleven surveillance cameras will be removed from the memorial by the middle of this year, the Canberra Times reports.
A spokesperson for the memorial told 9news.com.au it does not comment on specific security matters but it “takes its security obligations seriously”.
Acknowledgment of 9News article written on Feb 9, 2023 https://www.9news.com.au/national/chinese-cctv-cameras-removed-from-australian-war-memorial/7f2c4648-d096-43d6-95ea-a23b71e03601
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EPE & Lunar Outpost Oceania Consortium Selected to Participate in the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer Initiative, Expanding International Space Relationship between US and Australia

EPE & Lunar Outpost Oceania Consortium Selected to Participate in the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer Initiative, Expanding International Space Relationship between US and Australia
L to R : Ben Sorensen, EPE Director of Innovation & Commercialisation | Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency | Senator Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator | Pamela Melroy, NASA Deputy Director | Dr Megan Clark AO, Chair Australian Space Agency | Aude Vignelles, CTO Australian Space Agency | Justin Cyrus, Lunar Outpost Founder ; CEO

 

Lunar Outpost and EPE will co-lead their consortium in supporting Australia’s first-ever mission to the Moon.

Adelaide, SA – March 20, 2023 – Today, Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Ed Husic MP, along with dignitaries from the Australian Space Agency and NASA announced the EPE & Lunar Outpost Oceania Consortium as one of two successful groups to receive Stage 1 grant funding from the Australian Government’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer Initiative. The project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the Australian Space Agency.

The Consortium will design critical autonomous lunar mobility and excavation solutions for the Trailblazer Initiative. Co-led by EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania, the Consortium brings U.S.-based Lunar Outpost, a global leader in commercial planetary mobility, with significant experience leading multiple successful cislunar space missions and collaboration with NASA Artemis program, together with Australia’s EPE, a Queensland-based SME specialising in robotics, autonomous systems, system integration and translation of technology in collaboration with Research and Defence organisations.

The Moon to Mars Trailblazer Initiative seeks to progress Australian space exploration with remotely operated and autonomous Australian robotic lunar assets. In Stage 1 of the Initiative, the Consortium will focus on the design and development of a lunar rover designed to operate in the Moon’s unique environment, leveraging Lunar Outpost’s experience and capabilities in autonomous lunar mobility and excavation solutions. The lunar rover will be capable of collection of lunar regolith for delivery to a NASA science in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU) facility. The EPE & Lunar Outpost Oceania Consortium aim to be selected for Stage 2 of the Initiative and delivery by NASA of an Australian lunar rover to the Moon.

Expanding its presence from the U.S. and EU, Lunar Outpost also announced the formation of Melbourne-based Lunar Outpost Oceania (LOOC), a wholly owned subsidiary established to support and accelerate the Australian aerospace industry. LOOC will leverage the knowledge from prior missions while building local Australian expertise to drive a successful Moon to Mars Trailblazer mission and invigorate Australia’s emerging space industry, resulting in:
● Creation of highly skilled jobs and economic growth that extends beyond the space sector into energy, mining and agriculture.
● Rapid growth and maturation of Australia’s national space capability through important scientific and engineering advancements.
● Formation of bilateral and multilateral public-private collaboration, positioning the space sector as an international front door for civil space activities and partnerships.
● Renewed interest in space for commercial and humanitarian causes, inspiring the future workforce with the future of space travel, habitation and research.

The EPE & Lunar Outpost Oceania Consortium, together with the Australian Space Agency, will connect highly capable and motivated space professionals in Australia with opportunities to leverage leading mining and mineral extraction capabilities. Coupling LOOC’s cislunar mobility expertise with EPE’s extensive experience in Uncrewed Ground Vehicles (UGV), autonomous operations and sensor integrations will accelerate efforts to take advantage of innovation in the space domain to deliver measurable improvements to Australian national security and the sustainability of the mining industry on Earth.

The EPE & Lunar Outpost Oceania Consortium is fortified with depth and expertise from Consortium Partners. Lead organisations include BHP, Northrop Grumman Australia, RMIT University’s Space Industry Hub, and University of Melbourne’s Space Laboratory. University of Adelaide, Inovor, Australian National University, Element Robotics, Colorado School of Mines and Saber Astronautics will provide specialist contributions, and Australian Industry Collaborators include Titomic, One Giant Leap, VIPAC and CD3D.

Co-founder and CEO of Lunar Outpost, Mr Justin Cyrus, is excited to partner with co-lead EPE, on the Australian Government-funded project. “With Trailblazer, our consortium will work with the Australian Space Agency to redefine resource extraction and utilisation. Trailblazer is a unique opportunity to not only utilise resources from another planetary body but also to bring that novel technology back here to Earth to guide mining into a carbon-neutral future; all in pursuit of taking mining and heavy industry into space in the years to come.”

EPE’s Managing Director, Mr Warwick Penrose, said “This is an unparalleled opportunity for the development of sovereign capability in Australia’s space industry. Together with co-lead Lunar Outpost, we’re excited to contribute to the Initiative our many years of experience testing, deploying and operating UGVs in remote and hostile environments, and leveraging the significant capabilities of our Consortium Partners to help develop a global competitive advantage for Australia within an international space exploration program.”

ABOUT LUNAR OUTPOST
Founded in 2017, Lunar Outpost has raised $12 million in funding backed by investors including the Explorer 1 Fund, Promus Ventures, Space Capital, Type One Ventures and Cathexis Ventures. In late 2022 Lunar Outpost announced the development of the commercially funded 15 kg Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform (MAPP) rover—including a payload mass allocation for MIT—scheduled for delivery by an Intuitive Machines lander to the lunar South Pole in 2023. The company is currently developing the
20 kg Lunar Vertex MAPP rover for a 2024 NASA-funded science and exploration mission to the equatorial Reiner Gamma site, supported by the NASA Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon (PRISM) program. In addition, Lunar Outpost was recently granted a NASA Lunar Surface Technology Research (LuSTR) award in partnership with the Colorado School of Mines and Michigan Technological University to develop and mature lunar regolith excavation technologies, with an end goal of successful demonstration on the Moon. Lunar Outpost is an industry leader in commercial space robotics, lunar surface mobility, and in-situ resource utilisation. From our terrestrial product lines revolutionising the air quality sector to the creation of oxygen on Mars, their impact spans the solar system. Lunar Outpost’s flagship rover, the Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform, will be the first commercial rover to the lunar South Pole in 2023. Find out more at: lunaroutpost.com. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram.

ABOUT EPE
In its 25th year of operation, EPE’s purpose is to enable and protect Australians and allies operating in hazardous environments. EPE provides specialist support to government agencies and defence organisations to undertake design and integration activities, and deliver niche capabilities in robotics, sensors and effectors for deployment in hazardous environments. EPE works closely with industry and research and development organisations to develop technology and products for commercialisation, and provides technology verification and validation (V&V) services at its south-east Queensland-based MILTECS facilities (Military Training, Evaluation, Certification and Systems Assurance).

Find out more at: www.epequip.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter .

Media contacts:
For Australia and Asia Pacific contact Narelle Hoffman, Marketing and Communications Manager, EPE. Phone: +61 (0)402 486 393 or email:
For USA contact Kealy O’Brien, Marketing Manager, Lunar Outpost.
Phone: +1 661 703 0523 Email:

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Head of NASA visit to Australia highlights space partnership

Head of NASA visit to Australia highlights space partnership
The Hon Ed Husic MP

In a continuing sign of the close co-operation between Australia and the United States, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy are visiting Australia this week, in the first visit of a sitting NASA Administrator to our shores since 2014.

Australia has a long history of collaboration in space with the US dating back to the 1950s, including helping to broadcast the Apollo 11 Moon landing to the world and tracking the most recent Artemis mission.

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic said, “It’s fantastic to welcome the head of NASA to Australia. We have been working with the US in space for more than 65 years, and I look forward to meeting Senator Nelson later this week to discuss how that continues long into the future”.

To mark the visit, Minister Husic announced grants for two successful Australian consortiums under the Government’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer initiative.

The AROSE consortium and the EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania consortium will each receive $4 million to design early-stage prototypes of a semi-autonomous rover, as part of stage one of the Trailblazer program.

Minister Husic said, “Drawing on Australia’s world leading remote operations, the rover will collect lunar soil known as regolith from the Moon and deliver it to a NASA payload, which will attempt to extract oxygen from the sample”.

The rover, which aims to launch by 2026, is part of the NASA Moon to Mars mission which will be a major step towards a sustainable human presence on the Moon and supporting future missions to Mars.

Each winning consortium is made up of a mixture of Australian industries, space start-ups, major resources companies, universities, and other research partners.

The Trailblazer program will help further develop Australia’s robotics and automation capability, aligning with the development of the Australian Government’s National Robotics Strategy.

“It is great that, with this announcement, Administrator Nelson will get to witness first-hand the extensive knowledge and capability in our space sector, as well as robotics and automation more broadly.

“From those selected to be part of the Trailblazer program, to other industry success stories and our impressive universities and research organisations, Australia has much to be proud of.

“Programs like Trailblazer are important to growing our space sector, as well as our know-how in robotics and automation. It also has an important role to play in inspiring more young Australians to consider STEM careers,” Minister Husic said.

Quotes attributable to NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson:

“I’m excited to be working with Australia on this important lunar mission.

“It’s cooperation like this that will enable NASA and our international partners to uncover more discoveries. In this new era of space exploration, every advancement is not an achievement for one country – but for all of humanity”.

Background

NASA officials will visit Adelaide, where the Australian Space Agency is headquartered, and Canberra.

The itinerary includes the launch of a new Indigenous internship program, an industry event, a tour of a collaborative space research facility, meetings at Parliament House and an address from the Administrator to the National Press Club on Thursday 23 March.

Published 20th of March 2023 on Minister  Ed Husic MP Media release https://www.minister.industry.gov.au/ministers/husic/media-releases/head-nasa-visit-australia-highlights-space-partnership 

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Smiths Detection innovation allows for the mobile detection of explosives, narcotics, and super toxic chemicals.

Smiths Detection innovation_news

The launch of the LCD 4 – a body worn toxic chemical detector – alongside a first of its kind extension – XID – brings enhanced versatility to the detector, allowing it to identify traces of super toxic chemical agents, narcotics and explosives – including fentanyl and novichok. 

Smiths Detection, a global leader in threat detection and security screening technology, today announces the launch of its latest chemical agent identifier, Lightweight Chemical Detector (LCD) 4 alongside the LCD XID extension. This will expand the detection capabilities of the LCD to include street narcotics, explosives, pharmaceuticals, and other super toxic chemical threats.

The capability of LCD can be transformed by placing the detector into the XID cradle, where it immediately turns the vapour detection device into a ruggedised mobile trace detector that can be used in any CBRNe (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive) scenario.

The XID has been developed as a direct response to the request from existing LCD customers to adapt the capabilities of the detector to the constantly evolving global threat environment which is driving the requirement to detect and identify minute quantities of super toxic threats such as fentanyl and novichok.

The LCD series is the most widely deployed personal chemical detector globally, over 100,000 detectors are in service with operators in 58 different countries. The largest operator is the US DOD through its Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) Program. The LCD and LCD XID have been evaluated in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons laboratories and provide the benchmark for personal protection against toxic chemical threats.

Smiths Detection’s Defence Market Director, Michael Lea, said: “The LCD 4 and the XID have been developed to respond to the changing threat environment. The XID gives CBRNe and HAZMAT operators the ability to detect and identify a far broader range of threats that they may encounter on everyday operations. The XID is a great illustration of Smiths Detection’s capability to develop products in response to customer needs and helping us to achieve our mission to make the world safer place.”

The LCD 4 & XID will be on display at the Security & Policing event in Farnborough, UK, 14-16 March (booth C87).

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Victoria Police to replace all Chinese-made cameras by end of 2024

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Victoria Police has confirmed it will replace all Chinese-made cameras by the end of next year amid a growing debate about how best to counter foreign intelligence gathering.

The force said a number of cameras were still operating across the state and despite being deemed low risk, would be progressively replaced.

Victoria Police China Drone News

Earlier this week, the Victorian government confirmed it would conduct an audit of all security cameras at government-owned sites. The federal government has already removed hundreds of Chinese-made devices from Commonwealth departments and locations such as the Australian War Memorial.

As The Age revealed on Tuesday, the City of Greater Geelong is replacing Chinese-made CCTV cameras amid concerns the makers of such devices are compelled to hand over data to Beijing if asked.

A spokeswoman for Victoria Police said the agency was aware of the debate surrounding Chinese-made cameras.

“There continues to be a number of Chinese-manufactured cameras used across the state and these are being progressively replaced,” she said.

Clampdown on Chinese-made CCTV cameras in Australian government buildings.

The spokeswoman added that while police would continue to monitor the situation, the cameras in question were currently considered low-risk because they were connected to a secure network.

“It is expected the cameras in question will all be replaced by the end of 2024,” she said.

The development has been welcomed by upper house Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick, whose party opposes mass surveillance. Devices made by Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua have been linked to Beijing’s efforts to ramp up facial recognition technology, and coerce and control Uyghur minorities.

“It’s good to know the replacement of cameras is on the police’s to-do list,” Limbrick said.

“But it would be even more reassuring if they could demonstrate they knew how many cameras there were and could express a bit of urgency about it.”

Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson, who has been pursuing this issue at a federal level through Senate estimates, said he’d like Victoria Police to replace all Chinese-made cameras before the end of 2024.

“I’d like to see much more urgency,” he said. “If they are a national security risk, there should be no delay in addressing it.”

Hikvision has said it was categorically false to suggest the company was a threat to national security.

A Victorian government spokesperson said: “This is a matter for Victoria Police.”

Acknowledgement of The Age news article written by Broede Carmody on Ferbuary 23, 2023. https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/victoria-police-to-replace-all-chinese-made-cameras-by-end-of-2024-20230223-p5cmwp.html

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Preserving Nepal’s Temple with Skydio 3D Scan

Preserving Nepal’s Temple with Skydio 3DScan_News

 

Culturally historic sites across the globe are a gateway to our past, binding us to our ancestors’ way of life. Every site is vulnerable to destruction and can disappear in an instant. Whether this is from man-made events like the war in Ukraine where UNESCO has sited over 150 sites damaged or destroyed, or natural disasters such as the severe 2015 earthquake in Nepal which destroyed 80% of the historic structures and temples in both Bhaktapur and Kathmandu Durbar Squares. There is an alarming need to accelerate conservation efforts through the digital documentation of historic sites in order to preserve them for the future and ensure documentation is sufficient should sites need to be rebuilt.

Deep in the Himalayas, Nepal is home to ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites, seven of which are located in the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu Valley is an ancient cultural and administrative hub that is home to thousands of temples, monuments, and palaces of significant cultural and historical importance.

Preserving Nepal’s Temple with Skydio 3DScan_1

In April 2015, Nepal suffered a devastating 7.8 earthquake, resulting in massive loss of life with nearly 9,000 deaths and thousands more injured. Over 6,000 structures were damaged in Kathmandu. It took a substantial period of time for relevant agencies to even start the reconstruction of the heritage sites, as no accurate and detailed scans existed nor were there enough resources to complete all of them within a short timeframe.

Partnering with Nepal Flying Labs

In 2021, Skydio partnered with WeRobotics to host a microgrant scholarship to Flying Labs across the globe in order to provide resources and support for projects in which Skydio Autonomy and products could provide an immensely positive impact. Each Flying Labs emerges from locally-led efforts in response to pressing challenges in a community. Of the proposals submitted, Nepal Flying Labs was selected as a recipient for their project to create a digital twin by mapping Changu Narayan Temple, the oldest temple in Kathmandu Valley dating back to the 5th Century. During the 2015 earthquake, the two-tier pagoda temples of Changu Narayan were seriously damaged, highlighting the growing need for digital preservation.

Nepal Flying Labs pilots initiatives with international humanitarian organizations and the local governments to support emergency response and reconstruction through the use of emerging technologies. Their early initiatives initially focused heavily on damage assessment and situational analysis before taking a more proactive role in preservation as technologies improved and new solutions emerged. Based on the experience of Nepal Flying Labs working with multiple governments at both local and central level during other mapping projects, the main challenge identified during the reconstruction efforts of heritage sites after the 2015 earthquake was a way to preserve the physical presence, integrity and architectural aesthetics of the structures, some of which date back several hundreds of years.

In this regard, Nepal Flying Labs stated recent studies show that, with the frequent earthquakes and the subsequent aftershocks, most of the historical buildings and cultural sites in Nepal, along with the ones in Changu Narayan Municipality, have taken heavy amounts of damage, making the structures fragile and vulnerable over time.

Preserving Nepal’s Temple with Skydio 3DScan_4

Mapping Heritage Sites with Skydio 3D Scan

By leveraging Skydio 3D Scan to create a digital twin of Changu Narayan Temple, any agency such as Department of Archaeology, UNESCO, Changu Narayan Municipality, representatives from world heritage sites, and any other concerned stakeholder and individuals are able to use the high resolution images, video clips and 3D model for aiding in reconstruction and documenting structural changes over time. Throughout the process, Nepal Flying Labs worked cooperatively with multiple agencies, such as Department of Archaeology, Changu Narayan Temple Preservation Committee, District Administrative Office, and local police to assist in the logistics of permits, drone operation permissions, and closing off the site for a short period of time to conduct flights. Nepal Flying Labs was able to safely fly around the temple and close enough to capture intricate details thanks to Skydio Autonomy and reduced obstacle avoidance. After the flights, the data was processed in Bentley’s Context Capture to create the Changu Narayan Temple 3D Model. Nepal Flying labs and the local municipality now have a foundation to compare future scans against to assess deterioration, damages, and weather affecting the structure over time; a digital interactive health status.

Preserving Nepal’s Temple with Skydio 3DScan_5

The process of mapping of Changu Narayan Temple provides insight into the complex nature of how to approach conservation of Heritage sites using drones. Nepal Flying Labs approached the project with extreme care as the sentiments of the local communities need to be well understood and critically evaluated. Historically, mapping heritage sites, especially with drones, is banned unless there is an extremely critical need for the work. They formed a consortium of relevant government authorities, and local stakeholders to obtain consent for data acquisition as it was crucial for heritage mapping and maintaining the integrity of heritage sites. We would like to thank the officials from the Changu Narayan Municipality and the Department of Archaeology for their support in securing permissions for drone flights in the temple’s No Fly Zone airspace; this aspect of the work was handled with the utmost care and cooperation. This partnership highlights how vital it is to utilize locally led, on the ground, organizations as they live in the communities they operate in and have a deeper understanding of the local culture and practices in order to maintain the integrity of the site’s value to the community.

Next Steps in Heritage Preservation

After the success of documenting this first heritage site, Nepal Flying Labs is continuing to work with the Government of Nepal on efforts to map and create digital twins of other World Heritage Sites in Nepal. They are organizing a technical workshop with the Department of Archaeology in the near future with  experts in historic preservation to gather additional feedback on improvements for continuing heritage documentation. Skydio’s expert obstacle avoidance makes it an ideal platform for mapping historic sites closely without fear of crashing or damaging the site. At Skydio, we look forward to supporting Nepal Flying Labs in their efforts to preserve these historic sites for future generations.

There will never be a perfect social or economical time to engage in cultural and historical preservation initiatives. It’s vital to start now, because mother nature and war don’t pause for preservation. Locally led efforts lead to a significantly higher project sustainability due to locals understanding and living in the communities they are trying to help. Heritage preservation projects take time; it means working with local authorities, government officials, working through elections, and local aviation authorities which can range anywhere from a couple months to a couple years. All the more reason on the ground locally led efforts are needed. Skydio understands it may take years for our technology to reach various communities and corners of the world. Which is why, if there is a deep need in your community for support much like the Nepal Flying Labs, please reach out to Skydio For All at .

Acknowledgement of  Skydio article written by Mira Marquez on March 7, 2023. https://www.skydio.com/blog/digital-reconstruction-nepal-changu-narayan-temple?utm_campaign=Skydio+For+All&utm_content=social-LinkedIn&utm_medium=social&utm_post=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.linkedin.com%2Ffeed%2Fupdate%2Furn%3Ali%3AugcPost%3A7038984784689172480&utm_profile=Skydio&utm_source=LinkedIn&utm_tags=

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Skydio Soars Into 2023 as it Meets Critical Infrastructure Need

Skydio getting rich_NEWS



Skydio
, the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight, today announced it has raised $230 million in funding following a year that saw its enterprise customer base exceed 1,200 organizations, just three years after entering the enterprise and public sector market.

Skydio drones are now used by every branch of the U.S. Department of Defense, by over half of all U.S. State Departments of Transportation, by over 200 public safety agencies in 47 states and across more than 60 energy utilities. Additionally, Skydio is used by enterprises in over a dozen other industries. These customers are automating complex inspection tasks and getting situational awareness in life and death situations. On the strength of its autonomy technology, Skydio is now the largest drone manufacturer in the United States.

The $230 million Series E round brings Skydio’s total funding raised to $562 million with a current valuation of over $2.2 billion. Linse Capital led the round, joined by existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Next47, IVP, DoCoMo, NVIDIA, the Walton Family Foundation and UP.Partners. Skydio also welcomed new investors Hercules Capital and Axon, a technology leader in global public safety and a key Skydio technology partner.

“Drones enable the core industries that our civilization runs on—transportation, public safety, energy, construction, communications, defense, and more—to operate more safely and more efficiently, by putting sensors wherever they’re needed, whenever they’re needed, while keeping people safely on the ground. The transition to autonomy delivers a step change in the accessibility and utility of drones by removing the need for an expert pilot,” said Adam Bry, co-founder and CEO of Skydio. “We are still in the early innings of the industry, but we are seeing extraordinary demand globally from organizations addressing needs important to every citizen.

Today’s funding and expansion news comes on the heels of the announcement of Skydio Dock and Skydio Dock Lite, powered by Skydio’s new Remote Ops software, which enable drones to be flown without an operator on site at all. Skydio also recently launched Regulatory Services which are beginning to break through the Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) barrier with approvals for customers to operate Skydio drones beyond line of sight, including fully remote operations. The combination of technology maturity and regulatory progress for fully autonomous operations marks an inflection point for the industry.

Skydio’s 30x growth over the past three years has led to recognition as the one of the fastest-growing North American companies in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500™ awards. The growth comes against the backdrop of a market that has historically been dominated by manually flown drones made by companies based in China that are beholden to China’s governmental policy. Escalating geo-political tensions have sharpened the need for secure, trustworthy drones to serve critical infrastructure, public safety, and defense customers.

Skydio tackles these challenges with world-leading autonomous flight technology, paired with manufacturing scale in the United States – something many didn’t think was possible in the drone industry just a few years ago. Over the last year, Skydio increased its overall headcount by 40%. Skydio also revealed its new U.S. manufacturing facilities in Hayward, CA, which total over 36,000 square feet, a 10x increase in capacity. To continue to meet demand and support its rapidly growing global customer base, Skydio expects to bring over 150 manufacturing jobs to its facility in Hayward, CA and other U.S. locations.

“Skydio drones are being used to save lives and aid in the maintenance of critical infrastructure in ways that sounded like science fiction just a few years ago,” offered Bastiaan Janmat, Managing Director, Linse Capital. “We couldn’t be more excited to continue our partnership with Skydio as they solidify their position as the world’s most innovative drone technology company.”

“Drones bring substantial value in maintaining public safety, in particular in terms of increasing visibility and providing a first line of communications for first responders. Skydio fills a critical need in making that value more readily accessible to key stakeholders such as law enforcement thanks to the power of autonomy,” said Henrik Kuhl, SVP, Strategy & Corporate Development at Axon. “We are excited to continue our go-to-market and technology partnership with Skydio as we work together to deepen adoption of this technology in public safety.”

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Video showcasing the extensive CBRN defence capability of Indonesia’s Mobile Brigade Corps (BRIMOB)

After supplying specialist equipment into the CBRN capability for Indonesia’s Mobile Brigade Corps (BRIMOB), EPE International is excited to share a shortened version of BRIMOB’s video, SATUAN KBR. The video showcases the extensive CBRN defence capability Indonesian operators now have to detect, protect and decontaminate when confronted with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats throughout the geographically dispersed cities and provinces of Indonesia.

The events of the Bali bombing and other terrorist acts have heightened the Indonesian government’s emphasis on preparedness for CBRNe threats. CBRN defence has been a growing competence for the past decade with the Indonesian National Police now having one of the largest and most competent CBRN capabilities around. BRIMOB Gegana is a highly trained special operations paramilitary and tactical unit of the Indonesian National Police tasked with specialist operations such as bomb disposal, CBRN handling, counter terrorism, and intelligence.

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Transfer of specialist expertise from global supply chain to perform comprehensive diagnostics, maintenance, depot level repair and software upgrades to vital defence equipment in Australia

Through_Life_Support_Training_EPE_News

With international travel restrictions behind us, our team of Through Life Support technicians is back travelling overseas to continue their ongoing training.  Training provided and accredited by our global network of OEMs at their facilities in the US, UK, Canada and Europe has enabled our technicians to become leading experts in their fields within the Australian and New Zealand Defence industries. This transfer of specialist expertise to perform comprehensive diagnostics, maintenance, depot level repair and software upgrades in Australia has enabled us to sustain equipment for the entire equipment life cycle. Optimising the performance and life cycle of vital specialist equipment including robots, X-ray, CBRN detectors and electronic counter measures (ECM) ensures our military and police operators have equipment they can rely on in demanding operations. Recent transfer of skills has included: QinetiQ North America TALON and SPUR EOD robots Redwave chemical, explosive, narcotic and gas detectors XplorIR, ThreatID and ProtectIR.

Thanks to Australian Defence Force and Australian Government‘s Skilling Australia’s Defence Industry (SADI) Program that supports the transfer of skills into the Australian defence sector to continue developing this sovereign capability to meet current and future Defence needs.

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Improving sovereign capability to maintain, repair and upgrade complex unmanned systems

EPE recently had the privilege of hosting Travis Rideout, Principal Engineer at HDT Global based in the US, and the brains behind the Hunter WOLF UGV. Travis spent the week transferring his expertise to some of EPE’s team of Robotics Technicians and Mechatronics Engineers to assist EPE in improving the sovereign capability to maintain, repair and upgrade complex unmanned systems here in Australia.

The Hunter WOLF is in use in the USA, Australia and in numerous allied forces to support and augment dismounted soldiers. Here in Australia, Australian Defence Force has used this capability as part of the Dismounted Combat Program’s experimentation with uncrewed systems. The Hunter WOLF acts as an exemplar dismounted support vehicle providing logistical support, power, autonomous and Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) control, utilizing numerous mission payloads to enable soldiers in the field. The experience gained through this experimentation is helping the ADF to understand how it can best utilise unmanned systems in a range of operational scenarios.

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EPE Handheld Standoff Raman Detector Demonstration features in AUSDEF Bulletin

 


EPE recently showcased this capability to Defence through a scenario-based demonstration highlighting the handheld capability of the detector and the increased stand-off ranges achieved through integration onto uncrewed platforms.

The increased use of robotics and autonomous capabilities will fundamentally change the way the Army fights, and this project achieves a number of the Army’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Strategy goals : increasing situational awareness, reducing the soldier’s physical and cognitive workloads, facilitating movement and manoeuvre, increasing reach and range, and force protection, ultimately replacing soldiers in some of the most dangerous tasks.

 

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EPE announces the appointment of Adam Modd as Senior Solutions Architect

Adam served in the Armed Forces over a total period of 32 years retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.  He started with an extensive EOD career with the British Army, subsequently in 2007 he was requested to be part of a project to develop Domestic, Expeditionary, and Special Forces CBRNe, IEDD and EOD capabilities for the New Zealand Defence Force.

Adam Commanded E Squadron 1st New Zealand SAS Regt for over five years, during his 13 year career in the Defence Force he represented New Zealand on FVEY and NATO steering groups, technical working groups and International forums. Adam also deployed overseas supporting Interpol and on Special Forces operations to Afghanistan. Adam took a two year sabbatical in 2009 / 2010 to work in support of the United States Government on Special Forces programs.

In March 2020 Adam was seconded from the Defence Force to the New Zealand Ministry of Health to assist with the outbreak of COVID, during this time he deployed to the Pacific as the Mission Lead for the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team. This situation saw Adam retiring from the military as a Lieutenant Colonel, and consequently taking up the role as Director Emergency Management, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand charged with maintaining the capability and capacity to prevent, protect, mitigate, respond to and recover from natural, and unnatural threats and crises.

During the span of his military career, Adam undertook a range of roles including Leadership, Command, Operational, Scientific Research & Development, Capability Development, and Capability Delivery roles. Adam has experience on a wide range of operational deploymemts that include:  Humanitarian Aid & Disater Relief (HADR), De-mining, Biological Chemical Radiological Nuclear (BCMD), Trans-National Crime, Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Proliferation, and Intelligence.

Adam has served in many areas of conflict, danger and unrest, he has deployed on complex multi-national, multi-agency operations all over the world, as part of Special Forces, United Nations, OPCW, Interpol. FBI, FVEY & NATO Militaries and Military Intelligence roles. Adam’s operational tour experiences include: several multiple tours of Northern Ireland, multiple tours of Iraq, Hong Kong, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Columbia, Nepal, Cambodia, and numerous tours of Afghanistan.

Honours and Awards – Adam was awarded the George Medal (GM) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 for his gallantry Bomb Disposal operations, and most recently he was recognised with the award of the Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD) on the 2021 Queens Birthday Honours. Adam was also recognised for his counter terrorist work globally with a U.S. Bronze Star, U.S. Army Commendation Medal (ACOM) and three FBI Commendations.

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Defence Innovation Hub Project delivered to provide a prototype of stand-off chemical and explosive detection.

HSR_DEMO_EPE_MILTECS_news

 

Photo 1 from left to right: Rob Edye and Robbie Wild from EPE
Photo 2 : EPE team with Defence Innovation Hub and Army and AFP representatives


With Defence focused on human-machine teaming to remove soldiers and operators from immediate threats, EPE was awarded a Phase 3 Defence Innovation Hub (DIH) Contract to advance the stand-off chemical and explosive detection capability for a maritime boarding party application delivered in the previous phase. The challenge for Phase 3 was to miniaturise the hand-held stand-off Raman (HSR) detection unit and integrate onto uncrewed platforms to increase stand-off to further remove the operator from the threat.

EPE recently showcased this capability to Defence through a scenario-based demonstration highlighting the handheld capability of the detector and the increased stand-off ranges achieved through integration onto uncrewed platforms. Through this, EPE’s team of engineers were able to perform positive identification of threats up to 100m away from operators. In addition, the demonstration highlighted the results that were achieved and verified through independent testing of the detector by Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG). This illustrated the range of threats contained within the HSR library and the distances at which the detector was achieving positive identifications.

EPE’s Innovation Manager, Robbie Wild said, “the miniaturisation of this capability, and the development of a modularised approach to integrating it onto uncrewed systems opens up a variety of possibilities for the deployment and operation of other sensors, which can all successfully contribute to removing humans from threat environments, which is our underlying goal”.

One Army participant at the demonstration commented “The potential from this project is only limited by our creativity”. EPE’s plans for the future of this Project include, increasing stand-off range and trace detection capabilities of the system; looking at using the technology within specific mission sets; and progressing autonomous delivery solutions. This reinforces the importance of Defence’s DIH and the integral role it is playing in the development of innovative Australian sovereign capability.

The increased use of robotics and autonomous capabilities will fundamentally change the way the Army fights, and this project achieves a number of the Army’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Strategy goals : increasing situational awareness, reducing the soldier’s physical and cognitive workloads, facilitating movement and manoeuvre, increasing reach and range, and force protection, ultimately replacing soldiers in some of the most dangerous tasks.

Feature photos : EPE Trusted to Protect

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Warwick Penrose, EPE Trusted to Protect as Finalist for Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year 2022

Warwick Penrose

Specialising in chemical bomb disposal during his time in the ADF, Warwick continued to utilise his unique skills in the civilian workforce.

When the company he worked for came up for sale, Warwick made the bold decision to acquire it, using his business acumen to pave the way for consistent growth of EPE. Since then he has grown EPE from 2 to 45 staff, now delivering and supporting protective capability worldwide.

EPE specialise in the provision of complete protective capability solutions for counter improvised explosive devices, explosive ordinance disposal, and electronic counter measure amongst others. They provide support to the Defence Forces and all Police jurisdictions in both Australia and New Zealand, and other government agencies including Attorney-General’s, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs and Trade.

He credits his core entrepreneurial skills to his defence service, including the importance of being adaptable.

Through his organisation, he has been able to employ veterans from a wide variety of ranks, and believes that his veteran employees bring to the company exceptional leadership skills, work ethic, culture and ethos, giving back to the veteran community where they can.

EPE was also recognised as a finalist for Veteran Employer of the Year – Medium category of the 2020 Prime Minister’s National Veterans’ Employment Awards.

Acknowledgement Department of Veterans’ Affairs media announcement: https://www.veteransemployment.gov.au/winners-finalists/warwick-penrose-epe-explosive-protective-equipment

 

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Advisory Board consisting of Defence & Defence industry leaders appointed by EPE Group of Companies

Over the last 12 years EPE has evolved from a small Australian SME Defence business, into a Group of Companies with separate businesses operating in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The diverse business ranges from delivering an award-winning prime vendor contract to the New Zealand Defence Force, through to lead commercialisation partner working with CSIRO and DSTG to deliver a revolutionary ‘Broad Spectrum Respiratory Canister’. EPE will translate this technology to design and advanced manufacture activities for the Australian and international markets. Underpinning EPE’s sustained growth is a focus on development and integration of new and emerging technologies that will help Defence become better protected, connected and enabled, to enhance operational outcomes.

Warwick Penrose, Managing Director of the EPE Group of Companies commented “Our purpose is to improve safety and reduce the risk of harm from Explosive, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and other ‘Improvised’ threats. Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), as well as other technologies that optimise human performance are all core parts of our roadmap. To optimise our operating, growth and investment plans across the EPE Group, our Executive Team has appointed a Board of Advisors to provide independent thought governance.”

The Advisory Board is chaired by Chris Otley-Doe and includes Adam Findlay (AO) and Andrew Garth.

Chris previously founded Rubikon which he grew to become a Defence prime vendor, and was Managing Director of Accenture Australia. Chris commented on his role “Relationships are built on trust, loyalty and strong ethical bonds. This is the epitome of EPE which I have known and admired for many years. They have strong bonds with their extensive global supply chain and more importantly the service personnel that are protected by the array of what EPE provides. I’m also attracted by the innovation in a technically challenging environment, with Warwick and his team to be fast adopters of new technology.”

Adam comes to EPE with 37 years of military command experience of both conventional and special forces. He brings an exceptional knowledge of the national security environment at the strategic level, as well as close links to a generation of military leaders across the region. His senior appointments include as the Commander of all coalition Special Forces in Iraq that culminated in the liberation of Mosul from ISIS in 2017; and from 2017 to 2020 as Special Operations Commander – Australia (SOCAUST). Adam is now a Professor of Practice in Defence and Regional Security. He is also the Director of the Griffith University Defence Network (GDNet) where he leads a team that links Griffith University’s leading researchers and educators with Defence, Defence Industry and other universities to enhance national security capabilities.

In discussing why he welcomed the opportunity to join the EPE advisory board, Adam commented, “As Special Operations Commander I first got to know EPE as a company that was respected for their support, attitude and quality of their equipment that enhanced operational capabilities and protected ADF lives across the CBRNE spectrum. My ongoing interest in EPE is to enhance their development of sovereign national security capabilities to better enable and protect the warfighter. My contribution to EPE will be through linking my deep knowledge of the threat environment and ‘user requirement’ combined with my detailed understanding of the world-leading foundational scientific research currently being conducted across Australian universities.”

Andrew brings diverse leadership experience from both Defence industry and Government. This includes being a key team member that developed the 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement and then establishing the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) which has now transitioned to ODIS.

Throughout Andrew’s time in Government and business, he has been extensively involved in guiding hundreds of SMEs through to success and growth in the Defence market. He has firsthand insight into the organisational factors that consistently lead to success, and he is excited to bring this experience to EPE.

Andrew commented “Defence industry makes a significant contribution to Defence capability and the protection of our service men and women. This is absolutely exemplified in the work that EPE undertakes. Critically as EPE grows it’s becoming a globally recognised Prime Systems Integrator, bringing together the best of world leading technologies while working with local industry and research organisations to create genuine sovereign industrial capabilities. This outcome is a key objective of industry policy and Defence need.”

EPE’s Advisory Board has intentionally been structured so EPE can further minimise risk and better meet the protection needs of Australia and our allies.

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Wide open spaces support drone development


How do you know if a “drone” – an uncrewed aircraft, surface vessel or submersible – actually works? And how do you develop a set of laws that ensure the safety of both the people around them and the drones themselves? These are now persistent challenges that the Queensland government has set out to address.

Queensland has significant industry and research strengths in robotic and autonomous systems and the state government has identified this as a key growth sector.

Two of the keys to safe growth in this sector, however, are finding space to test the technology along with creating a regulatory framework that ensures safety and a harmonious coexistence. This is where Queensland’s wide open spaces, on land and at sea, come in.

The existing portfolio of ships’ Collision Avoidance regulations, or COLREGS, needed to be rethought to accommodate Uncrewed Surface and Undersea Vessels (USVs and UUVs).

The Brisbane-based Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre, or TAS DCRC, found itself leading the world in doing this, according to its CEO, Glen Schafer.

The TAS DCRC, established with support from both the Department of Defence’s Next Generation Technologies Fund and the Queensland government, is designed to help develop next-generation autonomous and robotic technologies and generally enhance the competitiveness of the sector.

Developing new COLREGS and a regulatory environment for autonomous and robotic vessels is a vital step towards bringing them into widespread service and forms part of the TAS DCRC’s Assurance of Autonomy activity, sponsored by the Queensland government. The TAS DCRC’s Robotic & Autonomous Systems Gateway is designed to help Australian researchers and companies navigate the regulatory framework with greater certainty and efficiency, Schafer told The Australian.

The TAS DCRC released the Australian Code of Practice for building and operating autonomous and remotely operated vessels in May, along with the COLREGS Operator Guidance Framework, a world first.

These were showcased and put to the test by nine USVs at the international Maritime Showcase which preceded the TAS DCRC’s Autonomous Vessel Forum last month on the Great Barrier Reef.

This was the first significant commercial demonstration of multiple autonomous vessels in Australia, says Schafer, and highlighted both the rapid growth in technology and the need for a renewed regulatory environment.

The Queensland government has also partnered with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) whose new ReefWorks tropical marine test range, opened in January this year, hosted the Maritime Showcase.

ReefWorks is based near Townsville, close to the Great Barrier Reef.

It is the world’s only marine tropical test facility in the world and so enables testing of marine technologies, uncrewed systems and new sensors in a tropical marine environment.

ReefWorks actually consists of three separate ranges covering several thousand square kilometres: a coastal range adjacent to its Townsville headquarters at Cape Cleveland; one on the Reef itself; and a third on the outer Reef and the deep water at the edge of Australia’s continental shelf.

Also in May, ReefWorks hosted two Remotely Operated Vessels (ROV) participating in the RAN’s EX Autonomous Warrior – these were controlled from the Autonomous Warrior command centre 1800km away in Jervis Bay.

EX Autonomous Warrior is the RAN’s main program for trialling potential robotic and autonomous systems, both on the surface and underwater, along with artificial intelligence capabilities.

Queensland’s long-term investment in autonomous systems research is designed to support the development and testing of new uncrewed systems across all three domains.

The TAS DCRC and ReefWorks exist alongside the Queensland Flight Test Range at Cloncurry and the MILTECS land equipment test facility in South East Queensland, all supported by the Queensland government.

Collectively, they are designed to facilitate the regulatory reforms necessary to ensure Australia and the rest of the world adopt autonomous and robotic systems safely and position Queensland as a power in a global, emerging market.

Acknowledgement: The Australian :https://www-theaustralian-com-au.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.theaustralian.com.au/special-reports/wide-open-spaces-support-drone-development/news-story/49215b9879f948e939a8bdc93e1a38e6?amp

 

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Australian Army veteran, Warwick Penrose finalist for Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year in the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards

Veteran award finialist announcement


Australian Veteran Entrepreneur Warwick Penrose has been acknowledged for his entrepreneurial spirit, passion and commitment to business in Australia. Warwick is honoured to be named as a Finalist for 2022’s Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year for leading the EPE Group of Companies.

Established under the Prime Minister’s National Veterans’ Employment Program, the Awards recognise national contribution in veteran employment. The inaugural Veteran ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award recognises outstanding achievement by a veteran creating opportunity for Australia through entrepreneurship.

EPE has grown from humble beginnings in a ‘home office’ with 2 staff around Warwick’s pool table and sub $2.5 million annual revenues. Today as a medium sized Australian defence industry partner with offices in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, employing a team of 45-50 people with revenue of $40m, EPE’s Group of Companies delivers capabilities worldwide.

EPE’s purpose is to enable and protect Australia and its allies to safely operate in harmful environments. EPE’s predominantly veteran workforce brings a unique skillset in Counter-IED and Counter-Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Improvised Threats, gained from supporting operations across Australia’s Five Eyes and NATO partners.  Warwick elaborated on this “EPE applies our domain knowledge to assist our clients to achieve their missions. I was very fortunate with my own Defence experience, having a number of postings with the sole focus to establish new capabilities, very rapidly.”

The company’s growth has enabled a focus on innovation and developing emerging technologies that will help defence become better protected, connected and enabled.  Warwick continued “We’ve partnered with Australia’s national research agency, CSIRO and have invested to build EPE’s MILTECS Test & Evaluation facilities. MILTECS supports several defence Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities (SICP’s) and has successfully expanded Australia’s test and evaluation eco-system. These facilities are now being used by defence, defence industry and our research partners to accelerate the delivery of new technologies into the hands of Australian troops and our allied partners.”

“As an individual I’m honoured to be a veteran of the Australian Army, but acknowledgement as a finalist in this award also belongs to my team of veterans and our entire team,” he said.

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BAE Systems Australia and EPE announce autonomous capability partnership

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Announcing the partnership at Land Forces 2022 in Brisbane, the two organisations will collaborate on the development of autonomous technologies through BAE Systems’ Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) program, which began this year.
Focused on implementing BAE Systems’ advanced vehicle management systems on to UGVs, the collaboration with EPE aims to develop soldier support systems for the Australian Army.

As Australian agents to the HDT Hunter WOLF (Wheeled Offload Logistics Follower) UGV platform, EPE was initially contracted to provide platform, integration and engineering support as well as test facilities, using the company’s state-of-the-art UGV test and evaluation facilities in south-east Queensland.

Operating within a multi-domain autonomy architecture, the program focuses on the integration of UGV mission systems to enable prototyping that will develop certifiable mission systems.

BAE Systems Australia, Managing Director for Defence Delivery, Andrew Gresham said:

“We are pleased to partner with EPE to help develop and grow sovereign autonomous capability here in Australia.”

“It’s critical for businesses like ours to collaborate with Australian industry so we can successfully support the ADF and, working with companies such as EPE provides opportunities to work as one team, creating an environment that fosters innovation.”

“Having access to the EPE’s unmanned ground vehicle platform and magnificent test facilities here in South-East Queensland has helped us make significant advances in ground autonomy technology, and we look forward to furthering this work together.”

BAE Systems Australia is an industry partner and the Land Domain Lead to government agency Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre. Commercialisation of this technology will be accelerated through these collaborations.

EPE’s Director Innovation and Commercialisation Ben Sorensen said:

“It’s been an extremely positive experience working with BAE Systems on a shared pursuit of a multi-domain, collaborative and autonomous robotics for Defence at our MILTECS test and assurance facility.
“Our technical teams are working collaboratively, both virtually and face-to-face, to advance the technology, enhance capability and significantly de-risk future Defence programs.”

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Queensland leading the way in autonomous defence systems

Queensland leading the way in autonomous defence systems

Already delivering leading national defence capability, Queensland is setting itself up as a world leader in autonomous defence systems’ innovation and development.


As the political environment shifts across the globe, it brings with it new security challenges. Advances in technology are enabling innovation.  Australia’s Defence requirements must also adapt.

While robotics and the development of autonomous defence systems are rapidly advancing, Defence specialist EPE is looking to do much more than simply keep up with the rest of the world.

EPE’s Director Innovation and Commercialisation, Ben Sorensen, explains that with partners such as CSIRO, the company is working at the forefront of technology to deliver new capabilities for customers.

“We’re fortunate, because Queensland has grown some world-leading technology capabilities,” Sorensen said.

“Autonomous systems technologies developed right here in Brisbane have been recognised by the US Department of Defense and Defence Primes as some of the best in the world.”

With the help of a Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority grant of $1.4 million, the Australian company has delivered a Military Training, Evaluation, Certification and Systems Assurance facility, better known as MILTECS, in South East Queensland.

MILTECS is a specialised unmanned systems training and testing facility just west of Brisbane built to help Defence, Emergency Services, industry and researchers test and build capabilities to counter Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and explosive threats in a representative environment.

“It’s really about assurance at the end of the day. That what you are developing is fit-for-purpose, that it’s going to be safe and it’s the sort of thing that we can also adopt and employ as novel capabilities to enable warfighters and emergency responders.

“Our customers and our partners are all focused on cutting-edge technology and working in environments which are extremely challenging. I certainly think that our technology and our partnerships are really pushing that edge out further.

“Our innovation work is focused on enabling and protecting people in dangerous environments. We’ve been doing work integrating sensors, and autonomy capabilities with tracked, wheeled, legged and flying robotic platforms.”

Andros Fx with EPE UDM with Titan and PAN and AUSCAM at Helidon 19

EPE’s MILTECS Manager, Dean Beaumont, says the MILTECS sites located in Queensland’s south east corner, at CSIRO’s Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies at Pullenvale and Helidon are supporting the development of human-machine teaming.

“We’ve really seen a dramatic increase in the practical testing and validation of UGVs and UAVs over the past 6 months, compared to recent years,” Beaumont said.

“Current world events are probably supporting this growth in interest and innovation, as is the need for commercial organisations to explore new ways to use robotics to enable people and keep them safe in potentially dangerous environments.”

Beaumont says the location of MILTECS is a factor in its current and future success.

“With Defence, we have bases at Amberley and Enoggera that geographically suit our location. Brisbane based Emergency Services and commercial primes are also located in close proximity to the MILTECS sites, ensuring easy access to the purpose built facilities.

“There hasn’t been a lot of red tape to set our facilities up in accordance with Queensland and Commonwealth Government requirements and legislation. We have been able to achieve all of our planned outcomes.”

Sorensen agrees.

“The south east corner of Queensland is the centre of gravity for robotics and autonomy in the country.

“There’s a critical mass of Research and Industry working together, and that seems to have created some good conditions for growth in this area.”

He says that the importance of State Government strategic policy as an enabler to allow industries to support growth shouldn’t be downplayed.

“We know support for Defence and Defence Industry is central to the Queensland Government policy, and that supports us to do our work.”

This alignment with the Defence Industries 10-year Roadmap and Action Plan reinforces the value of the strategic vision of the Queensland Government to support the growth of the defence industry.

EPE isn’t alone in autonomous defence development in Queensland.

Cloncurry, in the state’s west, is home to the Queensland Flight Test Range – Australia’s first commercial testing facility for uncrewed aerial systems. This facility enables industry to undertake testing and evaluation of new platforms and payloads, a critical requirement to Australia achieving sovereign capability.

Queensland is also home to the $50 million Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre, which is driving the development of game-changing drone and robotics technology for the Australian Defence Force, and enabling greater insights into the assurance processes necessary to ensure the safe application of new such technologies.

Additionally, the Queensland Government in partnership with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is funding the extension of a unique marine technology testing infrastructure and capability to support autonomous maritime (surface and underwater) systems at different levels of technology readiness. In May this year, the tropical marine test range, known as Reefworks, hosted elements of Navy’s Autonomous Warrior exercise, with Australian designed and built uncrewed vessels controlled from Navy’s Autonomous Warrior command centre in Jervis Bay.

The State Government also attracted Boeing Defence Australia to headquarter in Queensland along with its subsidiary Insitu Pacific.

In 2022, Insitu Pacific was selected to deliver 24 ‘Integrator’ tactical uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) under Land 129 phase 3 to the Australian Army, estimated to be worth approximately $307 million. The platforms are set to be manufactured from the company’s facility in Brisbane, with delivery expected in 2023 and 2024.

EPE also partnered with Insitu Pacific, Urban Circus and Downer to make up the all-Queensland Muskito Team which delivered to the Defence Innovation Hub a technology demonstrator for unmanned CIED route clearance and route proving, through detection, discrimination, location and reporting to provide timely, accurate tactical decision-making.

The State’s proximity to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and its long history of military presence, makes it ideally placed to work with Defence industries to promote security and stability in the region and strengthen sovereign capabilities.

“Government has recognised that the capabilities that we’re developing at EPE and at MILTECS are sovereign capabilities” Sorensen said.

“We’re working to develop human and autonomous systems capability and capacity, and commercial opportunities to supply the ADF and export markets.”

EPE’s MILTECS builds on Queensland’s track record in delivering the most advanced, large-scale military manufacturing projects including vehicles and munitions, as well as research capability, skills, facilities and supply chains ready for service.

Acknowledgement Defence Connect: https://www.defenceconnect.com.au/key-enablers/10580-queensland-leading-the-way-in-autonomous-defence-systems

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EPE announces the appointment of Ben Sorensen as Director Innovation & Commercialisation

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Ben Sorensen joined EPE in August 2022 and brings over 26 years of commercial experience to EPE. Ben leads EPE Innovation and is focused on delivering game-changing capabilities and competitive advantage for Australia.

Ben has led commercial R&D activities for CSIRO’s Data61, with responsibility for enterprise, defence and national security collaborations. He has worked extensively with defence research and development, including with the ADF, DSTG, DARPA, US Army and defence and aerospace Primes to develop and commercialise capabilities in robotics, autonomous systems, cyber security, data, AI and analytics. Most recently Ben was an executive and board director of the $100 million Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre. 

Earlier, Ben established and operated the Queensland Innovation Hub with PwC and the Queensland Government, and taught corporate venturing and disruptive innovation leadership at the QUT Graduate School of Business. He has been a member of public company executive teams (ASX:AAC, ASX:GOW), and has consulted to investment funds and investee companies. Ben has established and run intellectual property and manufacturing businesses, raised capital, and has been commercial manager for a global technology business.

Outside of EPE, Ben advises boards, invests in impact-focused technology start-ups, and has been a judge for innovation for the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Business Awards since 2015.

Ben is an author and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.  

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EPE partners with U.S. drone manufacturer Skydio to bring its autonomous platform to Australian and New Zealand Defence customers.


Australian company EPE partners with U.S. drone manufacturer Skydio to bring its autonomous platform to Australian and New Zealand Defence customers.

EPE today announced its partnership with Skydio, the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight, to offer its autonomous Skydio X2D defence drone to customers in Australia and New Zealand.

‘Our missions align, EPE’s focus is to protect our soldiers and first responders through innovative solutions’ said the Australian veteran owner of EPE, Warwick Penrose.

EPE is providing leading technologies into Defence’s Experimentation Teams in the area of Human Machine Teaming and the Skydio X2D meets current reconnaissance and surveillance requirements to counter emerging threats.

In February 2022, the Skydio X2D system was selected for the U.S. Army’s Short Range Reconnaissance (SRR) Program of Record. Leveraging Skydio Autonomy, the world’s leading AI-driven flight autonomy software, the Skydio X2D is the ultimate solution for military  customers to perform reconnaissance, search and rescue, and security patrol missions. Designed, assembled, and supported in the USA, it complies with rigorous supply chain security requirements and offers superior cybersecurity protection.

About Skydio

Skydio is the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight. Skydio leverages breakthrough AI to create the world’s most intelligent flying machines for use by consumer, enterprise, and government customers. Founded in 2014, Skydio is made up of leading experts in AI, robotics, cameras, and electric vehicles from top companies, research labs, and universities from around the world. Skydio designs, assembles, and supports its products in the U.S. from its headquarters in Redwood City, CA, to offer the highest standards of supply chain and manufacturing security. Skydio is trusted by leading enterprises across a wide range of industry sectors and is backed by top investors and strategic partners including Andreesen Horowitz, Levitate Capital, Next47, IVP, Playground, and NVIDIA.

 

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Rigaku Releases Major Software Upgrade for Handheld Raman Devices with Enhanced GUI and Analytical Workflow

Rigaku Analytical Devices, a pioneer in handheld 1064 nm Raman spectroscopy, announces the release of a new software version for their ResQ CQL product line. The Rigaku ResQ CQL 2.0 analyzer delivers an upgraded graphical user interface (GUI) providing a more streamlined workflow making it even easier to use, coupled with algorithm enhancements – including the analysis of mixtures.

The ResQ CQL, released in 2018, was based on Rigaku’s award-winning original ResQ 1064 nm Raman analyzer platform. The ResQ CQL offers users advanced analytical chemical identification using the advantage of 1064 nm Raman laser excitation which reduces fluorescence interference, in a new tactical form factor. With thousands of units successfully deployed around the world, first responders, border protection, law enforcement, and the military have chosen Rigaku’s handheld Raman portfolio to rapidly identify chemical threats – such as explosives, chemical warfare agents (CWAs), precursors, hazardous chemicals, narcotics, and more – in high stress environments.

The ResQ CQL 2.0 is the next generation of analyzers approved by the U.S. DoD JPEO DR SKO Program and delivers features including:

  • Simplified, larger on-screen buttons for easier navigation
  • Attractive, familiar icons for easy use in all light conditions
  • More streamlined navigation simplifying operation and reducing training time
  • Key information presented on the result screens in order to provide faster action
  • Improved analytical performance with an improved data collection and automated mixture algorithm providing even novice users with high performance, quality scans
  • Integrated Chemwatch SDS information
  • Enhanced device-to-device user library transfer
  • Pre-configured setting selections based on application
  • Additions to the on-board library, including narcotics and chemical warfare agents

“The goal of this new software was really to improve the overall user experience overall,” said Chris Langford, VP Marketing & Product Management. “We wanted to reduce the cognitive load on the operator by having them make fewer decisions and do less configuring of settings in order to perform a high-quality scan. We want a “push button, get answer” workflow with reliable results every time.”

Current users of the ResQ CQL can expect to receive this software upgrade free of charge.

For more information on the ResQ CQL 2.0, or to request the software, please visit our Product page.

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EPE briefing the Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart on the EPE & Freespace Operations solution to meet the AID2022 Challenge

EPE briefing the Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart

EPE briefing the Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart

Robbie Wild and Ben Evans from EPE briefing the Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart on the EPE & Freespace Operations solution to meet the AID2022 Challenge of Logistics UAV capability to carry 35 kilograms over 100km.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could be delivering supplies and doing casualty evacuations within five to 10 years, if concepts at this year’s Army Innovation Day come to fruition.

Ahead of the day, a tender was released for logistics UAV concepts to fill a capability gap of flying certain weights over set distances.

Army received 55 responses and 18 were selected to exhibit during Innovation Day.

Some concepts filled the heavy category of flying 800 kilograms over 200 kilometres, others aimed to meet the 35 kilograms over 100-kilometre category, while designs to fly 200 kilograms over 180 kilometres filled the casualty evacuation role.

Brigadier Warren Gould, Director General of Systems and Integration in Army Headquarters, said Army was looking at what was achievable, despite logistics UAVs not being a fully mature capability.

“It’s about developing concepts. Each of these are at a different level of maturity and thinking,” he said.

“None are going to lead to a delivery of immediate capability in the next 12-24 months. It’s about developing technology that has a path into a major project in future years.”

Innovation Days, held since 2016, ask industry to address a theme, receive responses, compare and narrow down selections.

Brigadier Gould said this improved on old methods of relying on industry to submit ideas and concepts.

“Here, we see them all together but we also demonstrate their wares to wider Army,” he said.

“If we were just looking at an idea in Army HQ, it would get a bit isolated, but in a public event like this with all of Army, we’re able to discuss in the margins and get different points of view.”

From here, concepts presented will be further assessed by Brigadier Gould’s team and the Defence Innovation Hub to see how likely they are to achieve benchmarks.

Successful respondents will be announced in September.

Following last year’s Innovation Day, Army entered into contracts with two companies developing alternate power supplies.

“With Army Innovation Day, we get an early view of what industry is thinking. We are able to give them guidance if they are on track with something we are interested in,” Brigadier Gould said.

“We’re able to focus energy and capacity into what could be a good idea.

“I’d like to thank the Defence Innovation Hub for their support and contracting methods to contract successful tenderers.”

Acknowledgement Australian Defence News: https://www.csiro.au/en/news/News-releases/2022/Worlds-best-respirator

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Partnership between Australian company EPE and US company Shield AI brings the drone named by joint US and Israeli forces as the ‘most mission capable indoor drone’ to Australia and New Zealand

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Partnership between Australian company EPE and US company Shield AI brings the drone named by joint US and Israeli forces as the ‘most mission capable indoor drone’ to Australia and New Zealand.

EPE announced its partnership with Shield AI, the fast-growing defense technology company building AI pilots for aircraft, to deliver its next era of AI to the Australian and New Zealand markets.

The clear synergies between Shield AI and Australian-veteran-owned EPE are evident – a shared mission to protect our soldiers underpinned by a commitment to innovative solutions. EPE is providing leading technologies into Defence’s Experimentation Teams in the area of Human Machine Teaming, in addition to the delivery of 5 Defence Innovation Hub Projects which developed innovative solutions to counter emerging threats.

Shield AI’s Nova 2 drone uses state-of-the-art path planning and computer vision algorithms to autonomously navigate complex subterranean and multi-story buildings without GPS, communications or a human pilot.

EPE will feature the Nova 2 at the Army Robotics Exposition (ARX) in Adelaide this week as part of the Chief of Army Symposium.

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Second Generation Handheld Raman Analyzer from Rigaku Analytical Devices chosen as part of the U.S. JPEO CBRND Program to modernize the Military’s DR SKO Systems

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The Rigaku ResQ CQL 1064 nm handheld Raman analyzer will be deployed globally as part of the U.S. Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets, Kits, and Outfits (DR SKO) Program

Wilmington, MA (June 1, 2022) – Rigaku Analytical Devices, a U.S.-based leading pioneer of handheld 1064 nm-Raman based spectrometers, is pleased to announce the Rigaku ResQ CQL 1064 nm Raman analyzer has been accepted for chemical identification as part of the U.S. Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO CBRND) Program to modernize the military’s Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets, Kits and Outfits (DR SKO) systems. The DR SKO System Modernization program deploys new and improved kits of technology to Department of Defense (DoD) locations around the world for characterization of suspected chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) hazards.

Rigaku’s original handheld 1064 nm Raman-based analyzer, the ResQ, was selected into this program in 2019 as part of a tech refresh program led by the DoD’s JPEO-CBRND Program. Following extensive head-to-head evaluations of a variety of technologies, Rigaku’s portfolio was chosen based on its accuracy, ease of use, ruggedness, and features.

The Rigaku ResQ CQL analyzer was launched in 2018, and offers users advanced analytical chemical analysis in a new, tactical form factor. Rigaku’s 1064 nm Raman-based technology is in use by first responders, border protection, law enforcement, and the military located around the world for identifying chemical threats – such as explosives, chemical warfare agents (CWAs), precursor chemicals, household hazardous chemicals, narcotics, and more.

Unique features to the Rigaku product line include 4C Technology which monitors individual results for precursors that could be used in recipes to manufacture greater threats. The optional QuickDetect Mode allows for the detection of non-visible amounts of a substance based on automated colorimetric technology available on-board the ResQ CQL. This provides both detection and identification on one device – not available on any other Raman analyzer.

“Rigaku is at the forefront of chemical threat analysis,” said Bree Allen, President of Rigaku Analytical Devices. “The ResQ CQL represents the next advancement in our product portfolio, and we are proud it will be part of the new chemical response toolkits used by our defense forces.

The ResQ CQL analyzer is supported by Rigaku’s global sales and support distribution channels, offering 24/7 Reachback support, library updates and software upgrades for the life of the analyzer.

For more information on the ResQ CQL, please visit https://www.epequip.com/catalogue/all-hazards-cbrne/detection-diagnostics/chemical/resq-cql/

Rigaku Analytical Devices is leading with innovation to pioneer a portfolio of handheld and portable spectroscopic analyzers for use in public health and safety, scientific and academic study, recycling and reuse of metal alloys, and to ensure the quality of key metal alloy components in critical industries. We strive to deliver quality, reliability and engaged expertise to our customers with our advanced product and capabilities and are dedicated to continual product development efforts to deliver mission critical enhancements to performance and functionality and reliable, cost-effective solutions for end users. Our rugged products operate on an open architecture platform and deliver unparalleled accuracy and support for rapid lab-quality results any time, any place.