Founded in 1951 in Vienna, Schiebel Aircraft GmbH is the manufacturer of the CAMCOPTER S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS), a state-of-the-art rotorcraft that is highly versatile and fully autonomous.
With its carbon fibre and titanium fuselage, the S-100 meets a wide range of haulage and endurance demands, up to a service ceiling of 18,000 feet. And with two payload bays, an auxiliary electronics bay and two side-payload hard points, the emphasis is on maximising payload: up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds).
“It’s a compact helicopter that’s able to accommodate a wide variety of payloads, tailored individually to answer our customers’ specific requirements,” says Chris Day, Schiebel’s chief technical officer.
Other than small line-of-sight-only aircraft — at the “model aircraft” end of the business — accurate positioning is needed by all UASs for successful navigation, whether remote or autonomous. The CAMCOPTER S-100 includes NovAtel’s OEM628™ multi-constellation GNSS receiver as part of its position, navigation and timing (PNT) suite. NovAtel GNSS receivers and antennas are also present in some of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads the CAMCOPTER S-100 can carry.
The vehicle’s GNSS components represent its primary source for navigation data, so the precise positioning delivered by NovAtel is fundamentally important to its safe and efficient performance.
“Because the CAMCOPTER S-100 is a vertical take-off and landing system, there is no need for launch and recovery equipment or prepared sites,” says Day, “and this means we can offer significant flexibility for use at remote, austere forward operating bases, or in the maritime environment, particularly on ‘single-spot’ vessels.”
The UAS can be programmed to fly an autonomous mission profile via a simple point-and-click graphical user interface, or it can be directed manually to waypoints throughout the course of operation.
The CAMCOPTER S-100 has demonstrated its abilities repeatedly in both civilian and military applications. “The system is being used as we speak to obtain daytime and nighttime video imagery in support of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions,” Day says, “and it has already proven its worth around the world in both land and maritime environments.”
Indeed, the CAMCOPTER S-100 is being employed operationally by a number of customers across several continents. Day says the majority of Schiebel’s clients are foreign navies or other security-oriented organisations. The list also includes multinational organisations, and the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).
Combatting intentional attack through GAJT
The CAMCOPTER S-100’s GNSS system is among the best in the business, but the UAS’s operations were nevertheless seriously compromised in 2015 when it came under a sustained and hostile attack by GPS jammers.
“The jamming occurred while the CAMCOPTER S-100 was undertaking a monitoring mission over a conflict-ridden territory,” says Day. The CAMCOPTER S-100 encountered persistent intentional jamming, rendering the machine largely useless. Something had to be done quickly, so Schiebel called on NovAtel for help.
Peter Soar, NovAtel’s business development manager for military and defence, and the NovAtel team quickly rose to the challenge.
“There are many types of interference and deliberate jamming, but all depend on power,” Soar says. “The job of the jammer is to overwhelm the GPS receiver with power that swamps the very weak GPS signal. If enough jamming power is received, then any system can be defeated.
“When the jamming incident occurred in the operational area, Schiebel was able to come to us for fast support,” says Soar. “In fact, even though our GAJT-AE-N was only in low-rate initial production at the time, we were able to ship the necessary items within just days.”
He says Chris Day showed visionary leadership. “He had kept on top of what was available on the market, so when the need arose, he was ready and he wasted no time calling us,” Soar says.
GAJT is a null-forming antenna system that ensures satellite signals necessary for computing position and time are always accessible. It comes in versions suitable for land, air, sea and fixed installations.
The technology provides anti-jamming performance comparable to much larger systems, but at a significantly lower cost. Easily integrated into new platforms, GAJT can also be retrofitted with the existing GPS receivers and navigation systems on existing and legacy military fleets.
Schiebel’s Day says, “GAJT mitigates interference from electronic jamming sources by electronically changing how the GPS receives the GPS signal. It effectively switches off that part of the antenna that is being jammed, leaving the rest of the antenna available to receive the GPS signals and allowing the system to operate.”
Soar explains that the performance of a system is the sum of the power cancellation from the anti-jam system — GAJT’s datasheet performance is 40 decibels of cancellation — plus the cancellation benefits of other elements of the system such as the receiver itself.
The commercial “off-the-shelf” nature of the company’s products allowed NovAtel to quickly deliver the requested GAJT-AE-N antenna control units, along with four-element controlled reception pattern antennas (CRPAs).
“All of the integration work, the GAJT and the CRPA, was done by Schiebel,” Soar says, “with a little telephone and email support from NovAtel.”
In fact, this is a key selling point — GAJT is designed to be retrofitted. It works with any installed GPS receiver, whether it is a special encrypted military GPS receiver with a selective availability anti-spoof module (SAASM), a precision or survey receiver such as the NovAtel OEM628 or even a simple mass-market receiver.
The NovAtel material was cost effective, lightweight and easy to install, says Day. “And we greatly appreciated NovAtel’s ability to respond to technical issues and rapidly deliver the hardware.”
The result was a quick turnaround, with Schiebel’s customer able to quickly re-deploy the newly fitted CAMCOPTER S-100 within a minimal timeframe.