Teledyne Technologies’ [TDY] acquisition this month of FLIR did more than dramatically expand its portfolio of sensor capabilities, it expanded the company’s suite of unmanned systems that now range from unmanned and remotely operated undersea and surface vessels to unmanned ground and aerial systems for solutions across multiple domains.
FLIR’s strengths in unmanned systems are in the ground and airborne solutions while Teledyne complements these with “extremely strong” capabilities in unmanned underwater and unmanned maritime surface vessels, said Roger Wells, vice president and general manager of the Unmanned Systems & Integrated Solutions line of business within Teledyne FLIR, a new division within Teledyne.
“The most exciting thing for me in the unmanned systems business is we’ve truly created a unique and extremely capable company for true multi-domain solutions,” Wells told Defense Daily in an interview on May 17. “So, no longer just an airborne or ground vehicle but the opportunity through increased integration and interoperability, tying all of these together to create solutions and enable different ways of executing missions across all of the application space, whether it’s on the homeland border, on the battlefield in a peer, near-peer environment, or it’s doing public safety types of missions.”
In the unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) space, FLIR brings to the table a recognized and established product line of throwable and man-transportable systems to larger robotic vehicles. The company recently received more than $70 million in new orders to supply nearly 600 additional Centaur UGVs to the U.S. military under the Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II contract. The company is also supplying its Kobra robot to the Army for the Common Robotic System-Heavy program.
FLIR, prior to Teledyne closing the deal for the company, also recently booked a $15 million order to deliver more palm-sized Black Hornet 3 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the Army, bringing order totals to $85 million under the Soldier Borne Sensor program. FLIR also has a lineup of small vertical take-off-and-landing UAVs and several small fixed-wing UAVs.
“In terms of scale, we’ve deployed over 20,000 unmanned ground and unmanned airborne systems with well over 10,000 different payloads across all of DoD,” said Wells, who led the UIS business unit when it was part of FLIR. “We’re working in 55 countries and supporting all branches, including the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol.
In the maritime environment, Teledyne supplies the Gavia autonomous underwater survey vehicle for commercial, defense and scientific applications, and the Slocum autonomous underwater gliders, which look like small torpedoes, for long-range, remote observation. The company also has a product suite of autonomous surface vessels for surveying and environmental monitoring.
With a comprehensive offering of unmanned systems, Wells described a scenario where Teledyne’s unmanned underwater or surface vessels could patrol an area of the ocean to serve as a “tripwire” to alert on a potential smuggling boat. Depending on whether smugglers are further out at sea or operating in the littorals, a small UAV could be dispatched from a Coast Guard ship to help identify the suspect boat or a Border Patrol land-based senor tower could be directed to observe the activity.
In all these instances, Teledyne now has the remote and unmanned sensor platforms to bring these solutions to customers, he said.
In early January, Teledyne said it agreed to acquire FLIR in an $8 billion deal that would bring aboard a wide-range of infrared sensing technologies, as well as some capabilities in electro-optics, as well as sensors used in detecting chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) threats. Teledyne’s sensor technologies are based on X-Rays, ultraviolet, visible light, microwave and radio, and it also provides sonar. The acquisition closed on May 14.
Wells said the sensor products Teledyne and FLIR each have can now be used and integrated across more platforms.
“Look across Teledyne’s new portfolio and ours, we’re truly a multimodal sensor company,” he said. “From sonar to CBRNE and everywhere in between, with particular strength in visible and thermal imaging systems, X-Ray, electronic and lidar, and all of those capabilities enhance the platforms that we can bring to bear, especially in the unmanned systems arena.”
These sensing synergies will also benefit existing products, he said.
Wells said Teledyne’s lidar sensors will “significantly” enhance the unmanned ground and airborne systems that FLIR has, adding that the unmanned systems portfolio will also benefit from Teledyne’s strengths in micro-electromechanical, autonomy and battery technologies.
“And that’s the power that we’re really looking at harnessing and the complementary nature of this merger,” he said.