Interview: Challenger Aerospace Group CEO LeRoy D. Aday talks company’s programs and plans

LeRoy D. Aday CEO and president of the Challenger Aerospace Group
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Challenger Aerospace Group (CAG) located in Las Vegas, Nevada, was established in 2009 by LeRoy D. Aday the company’s CEO and president. CAG is a privately-held Nevada Corporation and is a manufacturer of complete Autonomous Unmanned Vehicle Systems (Land, Air and Sea), reconnaissance systems and ground control systems. Challenger Aerospace is dedicated to the mission of providing long-endurance hybrid platforms, mission-capable systems with the integrated sensors and data link systems needed to deliver todays persistent situational awareness and rapid deployment capabilities.

LeRoy D. Aday company’s CEO and president answered by email Defence Blog’ questions about his company’s role in the defense industry:

Could you, please, speak a bit more about your company?

Challenger Aerospace Group is the parent company to our divisions (cost centers); Challenger Flight Systems, Challenger Training and Support, Challenger Ground Systems, Challenger Marine Systems and Challenger Dragon works, which serves the global market from our state of the art facilities in the Las Vegas, Nevada.

CAG employees serve a global customer base consisting of private and commercial operators, government agencies and defense departments.

Our customers and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners have our absolute commitment to the service of their equipment at the highest levels of quality, in the shortest time possible, at competitive costs, and with the highest levels of customer service and training.

  • Challenger Flight and Control Systems

Challenger flight systems is responsible for marketing of challengers ground control stations and portable Ground Control Stations (GCS), GCS is a flexible and universal solution for controlling unmanned vehicles and payloads of all types.

  • Challenger Ground Systems

Challenger ground systems (CGS) is responsible for marketing of challengers unmanned ground vehicle programs. This division is new to our group. More to come soon

  • Challenger Training and Support

Challenger training and support (CTS) is responsible for challengers Customer training and support for our customers. (CTS) offers training both in a class room setting and onsite at customer local. (CTS) also support the customer technical needs and parts support 24/7.

  • Challenger Marine Systems

Challenger marine systems (CMS) is responsible for marketing challenger’s marine or surface vehicle programs.

  • Challenger Dragon Works

Challenger Dragon Works is responsible for foster innovation and to maintain close communication with our customers and users

What is your view of the changes in recent years with unmanned systems for defense and military sector?

Military UAV development has been through a quantum leap, from lab prototype to battle-tested proven technology. Forming most of the market to date, military expenditure is expected to decline gently over the next decade. The US market accounts for most global military demand and has witnessed meteoric growth over the past decade. Other major markets for military UAVs include Israel, France, Germany and the UK. Reductions in US budgets are forecast to be partly offset by increased UAV procurement in these other countries and the development of new applications.

The military market can be broken into 7 segments:

  1. R&D tests and evaluation
  2. UAVs
  3. Payloads
  4. Ground Control Systems
  5. Service, support and maintenance
  6. Training
  7. Data management.

The global payload market for UAVs is currently valued at $4bn6 and is forecast to grow to $6bn over the next 10 years. There is a widening gap between growing UAV fleet and UAV infrastructure development, especially in the training; service, support and maintenance; and data management sectors. This gap creates opportunities for UAV vendors.

To date, demand for civilian UAVs has been restricted to imaging and survey, mainly due to the constraint of regulation. The US and EU have made initial efforts to evolve regulations to facilitate the introduction of UAVs in their civilian sectors. Thus, the market for civil UAVs is expected to grow substantially over the next decade. Many applications are already nascent in the civilian sector.

These include:

  • Fire & Rescue
  • Precision farming
  • Inspection of oil & gas rigs
  • Policing
  • Crop dusting
  • Pipeline security surveillance
  • Drug Enforcement
  • Fire detection
  • Inspection of critical infrastructure
  • Marketing
  • Flood monitoring
  • Geo-physical surveys

Remote sensing also uncovered a wide range of future applications in the following markets which can be addressed by UAVs:

  • Development
  • Environment
  • People
  • Natural Resources
  • Energy
  • Communications

These markets are not expected to emerge simultaneously and different sectors will exchange knowledge and experience as UAVs are increasingly used, enabling diffusion from more to less familiar applications. Government users and large organizations such as oil & gas companies are already first adopters within the civilian market, using UAVs in several of the applications discussed.

The global market for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – UAVs, which includes Unmanned Aerial Systems – UAS and Autonomous Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems – ARPAS, Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) and UMVS’s unmanned marine vehicle systems, has grown substantially in the past decade, primarily driven by US military demand. Technical capabilities of UAVs have matured over this period, from lab concepts to battle-tested proven systems, which will continue to underpin growth in military and Civilian applications.

In parallel, these technical developments are also enabling new markets and driving high growth rates in civil applications. Emerging markets include police, border security, agriculture, forestry, and maritime, while future markets will be driven by the need to manage the earth’s scarce resources, from urban development, through natural resources and disasters, to energy and people. However, commercial exploitation will not be plain sailing, with competitive challenges arising from different types of aerial platforms, and image / privacy issues creating community resistance to their use.

The growing diversity of markets and applications creates substantial opportunities for UAV vendors, from large defense contractors to small service companies. It creates challenges for these companies and opportunities for new entrants.  Civilian customers increasingly want to purchase data and information services rather than invest directly in the equipment. For capital equipment companies, especially those used to service military markets, this change in business model is a major challenge. Equally, service and data companies wishing to extend their product offerings now need to incorporate unfamiliar, expensive and challenging technologies into their business models. In this changing and unfamiliar world, fortune may well favor the brave, and success is likely to be built on innovative and new business models.

The UAV market is emerging into a very competitive landscape. The primary role of the UAV is as a mobile platform, and UAVs face competition from other competitive platforms such as space, aircraft, terrestrial and maritime platforms. When analyzing the different application and market needs, the strengths and weaknesses of UAVs and satellite capabilities are complementary, creating opportunities for applications and products which utilize the capabilities of both.

What is the situation with the development of the new project and innovation?

Dragon Works Team
Dragon Works Team

To help foster innovation and to maintain close communication with our customers and users, Challenger has established a technical design and engineering group (Challenger Dragon Works) (“Innovation unleashed”) which its mission is to design and engineer the companies project and products. Dragon works also offers its services to other companies and countries. This Division manages the companies ITAR compliance.

For Challenger ground systems, we are working on the (AMT) Autonomous mine Technician, this is a tracked vehicle designed to support the mission of IUD detection and explosion.  The design will be published soon.

For Challenger flight systems, we are working on a new modular system for ground control station systems. This will allow our customer to start small and add to their mission as the need grows without having to replace equipment.

We are working on a Avina HX- Hydrogen-powered Soft-Wing Drone with Long Flight Time.

We also are releasing a line of static balloons and hybrid blimp platforms they are for long surveillance mission and can carry sensors of all types.

Could you, please, speak a bit more about unmanned vessel?

We are working on a longer model of our Barracuda and it will be called the Piranha it is a twin engine, twin jet pump, it is 14 feet long vs the Barracuda 11 feet long. Both platforms are designed to operate in 6 inches of water.

Read more: Challenger Aerospace Begins Construction of First Hybrid Unmanned Surface Vehicle

The design of both crafts are available in gas powered, powered by a 310hp Kawasaki and the hybrid models, are powered by a diesel (heavy fuels) engine driving a gear-box and generator units that provide the power to drive electric motor or motors that drive the jet pumps.  The platform was designed to carry integrated sensors and data link systems and mission armament.

The platform was designed to carry integrated sensors and data link systems and mission armament.

 

We also want to remind that the Challenger Aerospace Group (CAG) has already developed a number of unique projects such as:

The new unique unmanned autonomous system (UAS) equipped with a soft wing and was called the Avina.

“The Avina is an Unmanned, Autonomous System capable of flying for six hours with a suite of different sensors,” said Challenger Aerospace Group CEO LeRoy Aday.

The Heavy Lift Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The new unmanned aerial vehicle is a is a heavy lift, gas/electric hybrid-powered platform and called BH-77 (BloodHound 77).

This aircraft can carry a wide variety of payload configurations and offers extended flight times.

The new Stingray hybrid vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft system.

According to Challenger Aerospace Group CEO LeRoy Aday, the new Stingray is a battlefield advanced targeting and attack platform. The unmanned aircraft is designed to strike missions, shipborne protection, coastal patrol and standard missions like surveillance and monitoring, target pointing and designation.

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