Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Collaborative Intellectual Property Pooling: Neuron Completes Flight Test Campaign in France

The French Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and Dassault Aviation have successfully completed the flight test campaign for the Neuron unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) in Istres, France. The demonstration consisted of a series of flights along with presentation of the UCAV’s reliability and efficiency. According to Dassault’s press release, the Neuron managed to show exceptional availability and reliability during the trials.

The Neuron UCAV is a stealth combat drone developed as the final phase in Dassault Aviation’s LOGIDUC (Logique de D√©veloppement d'UCAV or "Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle development solution"). Prime contractors Alenia, Dassault and Saab have brought together their knowhow in flying experimental unmanned vehicles. It is a European program expressly designed to achieve technical parity with the United States. The other aims of the program are to:

a. refine stealth aircraft design with an eye towards addressing air-to-air and ground-to-air confrontations;

b. experiment on unstable yaw aircraft control systems; and

c. master collaborative flight with aircraft and other drones.

The LOGIDUC project started with the Petit Duc and the Moyen Duc, which addressed the first two aims, followed by the Grand Duc, which was supposed to address the third aim but was scrapped in 2003 and replaced by the Neuron.

The series of tests include flight while the flight envelope was open, including a phase with the weapon bay doors open in order to demonstrate the capabilities of the electro-optical sensor and datalink.

The second phase of tests demonstrated the Neuron’s capabilities in EM signature/detection confrontations against fully operational systems. The UCAV performed according to expectations, with Dassault operating the Neuron in full stealth configuration.

Dassault is hopeful that the data and feedback provided by the testing will serve as a reference for future aircraft projects. The next rounds of flight tests will be in Italy, before moving on to Sweden.

When this project was reported in the press in 2008, Saab noted that the partners had paid special attention to the intellectual property rights. Saab’s spokesman was reported as saying, “What we do together is owned collectively. What we do separately is retained separately.”

Dassault was more conciliatory. “The intention is to create niches of competitiveness, not six manufacturers each capable of doing a UCAV….We’ve developed an innovative way of cooperating.”

According to this site, Saab’s spokesman noted, “Specific interfaces between software and hardware elements will help clarify the scope of responsibility. And the details of what a company does behind the interfaces will remain largely proprietary.”

Interface is a euphemism for “technology wall”. All of this suggests a very high degree of sophistication in the definition of background intellectual property and project intellectual property.

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