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Robotic Weapon System gives helicopters hidden firepower

By

June 23, 2014

Artist's concept of Duke Airborne Systems’ Robotic Weapon System (RWS) in action

Artist's concept of Duke Airborne Systems’ Robotic Weapon System (RWS) in action

Image Gallery (9 images)

When we hear about military robots, it usually evokes images of Terminator-like killing machines, but it can also mean robotic systems designed to help soldiers concentrate on the job at hand. Case in point is Israel-based Duke Airborne Systems’ Robotic Weapon System (RWS). Unveiled at the Eurosatory defense industry show in Paris, the system billed as a “first-of-its-kind” is a concealable robotic gunnery module that allows utility helicopters to fly into hostile territory without an armed escort.

The Duke RWS is a land-based gunnery system that has been adapted for helicopters. Made of light aerospace materials, it’s designed to be installed in a standard utility helicopter without the need for any structural changes to the aircraft. According to Duke, the modular kit takes up only a third of the cargo space next to the door, while leaving room for up to 12 fully-armed soldiers, though the company’s renderings make clear that it’s a snug fit with a full load.

The focus of the RWS is its electric 25 mm machine gun with up to 2,000 rounds that can include bursting, armor-piercing, and air-burst munitions. When not in use, the gun retracts completely inside the helicopter, so there’s no drag, and no indication of the hidden firepower to warn the enemy. The gun itself is mounted on a 7-axis robotic system that compensates for helicopter movement and vibration, and provides 360-degree firing capability.

The RWS module in stowed position

With the gun is a multi-spectral vision system for day/night operations and automatic target tracking. In addition, the RWS has gunfire-locating sensors that can detect weapon fire and quickly direct suppressing fire at the source.

Duke says that the RWS is designed to not interfere with the helicopter’s normal operations. It deploys automatically on command using a set of robotic arms that takes the gun from the cargo hold to a docking plate under the fuselage. Power, communications, and ammunition remain inside the helicopter and feed to the gun. The system does not need a gunner. Instead, the RWS is robotic, automatic, and is controlled by the pilot using a tablet interface. Should an emergency arise, the system can be easily jettisoned by the pilot.

"The development of the system was based on thorough and in-depth research as well as extensive know-how and experience in the area of weapon systems and their integration on aircraft," says Sagiv Aharon, Founder and CEO of Duke Airborne Systems. "Now that we have accomplished a major milestone in the development of the technology, the next step will be to create partnerships with leading companies in order to achieve complete market readiness."

The following animation demonstrates the Duke RWS.

Source: Duke Airborne Systems

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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11 Comments

Hiding and disposability give it a kind of saturday night special quality, maybe better to just have it mounted in plane view. otherwise Every helicopter including those that don't have them could be seen as a threat, thus a target. It could put them in danger.

SuperFool
23rd June, 2014 @ 09:55 pm PDT

Hiding the cannon inside will give a short-term tactical surprise. When it's no longer a surprise, a fake cannon on the outside will do the trick.

Threesixty
24th June, 2014 @ 02:26 am PDT

Hopefully production models will have thermite destruction packs on the hardware. Jettisoning something like that could be like Christmas morning for someone who can rebuild a jettisoned weapon.

@SuperFool

Every helicopter in a combat zone is a target whether or not it has visible armament. This just allows unarmed helicopters to make some types of runs without an escort. While it wouldn't be good to take it into a known hot landing zone, it'd be enough for extracting people or leaving supplies when there's a chance of hostiles around.

flink
24th June, 2014 @ 07:12 am PDT

What if the robot weapon accidently kills a bunch of kids playing "army' using their Gi Joe toy weapons....

Robot weapons are too risky !

InventPeace
24th June, 2014 @ 08:45 am PDT

I like the idea of a very tiny quad copter with a deadly accurate, small, single shot, rifle. If it is small and electrically powered it could get above an enemy and put a round right in his ear. Terrorists in a camp at night might find it quite unpleasant not knowing if their heads will explode in the night.

Jim Sadler
24th June, 2014 @ 08:45 am PDT

If their gunfire detection technology is any good, it could certainly be incorporated into other systems that give the pilots & crew immediate location of threat awareness. As for this system, "...allows utility helicopters to fly into hostile territory without an armed escort." Almost every mission flown is a utility helicopter in hostile territory without armed escort!

I understand this is the 1.0 version and perhaps as good a starting point as any but it does have a long way to go before it more realistically meets needs.

No structural changes needed is a running joke. It should say no structural modifications needed if you don't mind plenty of cracks. I don't recall many weapons mounted that didn't manifest the added stress in the form of airframe cracks.

I guess the helicopters won't have sling load capability because the mounting plate appears to cover the sling load hook.

You won't be landing with it in the operable position without crunching the device and a goodly chunk of the airframe.

I'll keep two crew chief gunners with electric mini-guns firing 2000-4000 per minute, aided by a screen displaying gunfire points of origin. They can assist the team being moved as well as deal with hot situations and gun feeding problems as well as get me in and out of tight spots by clearing the periphery.

Honorable mention to Duke. I hope they can use some of their tech for different systems that are still needed. We've come a long way but I sure would like a low level obstacle detection system for towers, poles, wires, birds, etc... and improved gunfire detection.

Dr. Veritas
24th June, 2014 @ 11:55 am PDT

"360-degree firing capability."

Wonderful. Now it can also kill the soldiers and the pilot on board !

pmshah
24th June, 2014 @ 02:07 pm PDT

"power, communications, and ammunition remain inside the helicopter and feed to the gun"

How? for a gun claiming 360 degree firing, that will require cutting a very large hole through the floor. has anybody thought about this?

In the event of the system taking damage, where it cannot be either retracted or jettisoned, how do they solve the problem of landing?

toolman65
24th June, 2014 @ 02:15 pm PDT

@ toolman65

For planes that don't come with a hatch in the belly you could lean it far enough out the door that it can shoot under the fuselage.

Please explain the damage that keeps it from being jettisoned that leaves the airframe in repairable condition?

Land over a hole in the ground.

Slowburn
25th June, 2014 @ 11:19 am PDT

Someone asked Benjamin Franklin what use there was

for the Montgolifier brothers hot air balloon, to which Ben

replied 'What use is a new-born baby ?'

This baby is already dangerous, and with the right target

designation and detection capabilities it will be fearfully

lethal - 'Airwolf' brought into the real world.

Mount one on a Snark and use it to terrify the terrorists.

Edward D Maner
26th June, 2014 @ 08:24 pm PDT

Asimov's robotic laws were set aside. The first step to end human kind is loosing respect for machines.

Rui Marques
30th June, 2014 @ 01:41 am PDT
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