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With the support of Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer, Texas-based Ascendant Engineering Solutions pioneered an Open Architecture two-axis gimbal to stabilize diverse forms of surveillance on unmanned aircrafts.
ManTech funded the research and development on the gimbal at the AES headquarters in Austin, Texas, and L-3 Unmanned Systems collaborated in the development process.
With this line of stabilized micro gimbals, small unmanned aircraft will have increased surveillance effectiveness and improved targeting systems. This allows for more accurate intelligence for the warfighter in the field.
This gimbal system evolved into the SUAS Tactical Agile Gimbal (STAG) line of gimbals that has diverse uses for both military and civilian contracts.
Because of the success of the STAG line, the company was awarded a contract to provide their STAG-SLD and STAG-M to the USMC and another customer who supplies the US Army.
Small unmanned aircraft experience greater turbulence and aerodynamic challenges because of their size. That made the previously available gimbal systems too unwieldy for use, and impractical in a small aircraft.
“High resolution, detection and tracking are problematic for small platforms because current mechanical solutions are too heavy and require excessive power to accommodate platform dynamics,” said Ascendant Engineering Solutions officials. “Because small UAV and micro-air vehicle (MAV) platforms are inherently less stable than larger platforms, implementing IR designator systems in these platforms is particularly challenging.”
To combat these challenges, the company created a gimbal that was lightweight and stabilized at multiple points. Bypassing their initial goal of a ten-inch platform, AES was able to create a design that was five-inches in diameter, to accommodate the miniaturized payload that is in use for the next generation of unmanned aircraft.
Using the lessons learned from the MSGLPS prototype, the STAG line of gimbals has been adapted for use in both private and military contracts, supporting operations both in local aircraft testing and in Afghanistan.
The STAG-SLD model is currently being adapted for use by the USMC, and the STAG-M model is supporting a customer that contracts with the US Army.
Air Force Small Business Innovation Research funding was essential in developing the 5” MSGLPS prototype that evolved into the current STAG product line.
“Although that first prototype didn’t transition directly to a product it did evolve to a more robust solution incorporating all the lessons learned from MSGLPS,” said Jon Noeth, President of Ascendant Engineering Solutions, LLC.
The Air Force SBIR program invested $1,483,970 into the project, which is the foundation of many technologies driving the company’s newest products.
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