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Hi-Tech Award recognition for MAS Zengrange Maritime Remote Initiation capability

FEATURES: Line of Defence, April 2016

MAS Zengrange - a nominee at this year's NZ Hi-Tech Awards.MAS Zengrange - a nominee at this year's NZ Hi-Tech Awards.

 

The NZ Hi-Tech Awards are among the technology sector’s most sought-after accolades. They have been awarded to New Zealand’s most successful high-tech companies. Administered by the NZ Hi-Tech Trust, the awards promote the sector as a leading contributor to New Zealand’s economy and export success.

When Greg Marsden, MAS Zengrange (MASZ) General Manager was invited to the High Tech Awards last year, he noticed that there was little showing from the defence industry.  He thought that needed changing.

“Even though the NZ defence industry is relatively small, there are some really solid defence companies who do some great work.  Innovation-wise we’re right up there, so I thought why not promote MASZ, our industry and the contribution it makes.”

This year, MASZ has been selected as a finalist in the New Zealand Hi-Tec awards. In the running for the ‘innovative hardware product award’ is MASZ Mini-DRFD POP π M4.0 Remote Initiation (RI) capability for explosive events within the maritime environment.

Mini-DRFD POP π M4.0

Mini-DRFD is a long-range UHF radio controlled Remote Initiation (RI) system, designed to initiate explosives and munitions in a variety of environments and operational scenarios. It uses reusable (RRx) or expendable receivers (XRx and STIX) capable of electric or non- electric initiation in both remote or timed initiation modes.

The Mini-DRFD POP π M4.0 capability.The Mini-DRFD POP π M4.0 capability.The Mini-DRFD POP π M4.0 capability provides users with enhanced flexibility when conducting explosive events above or below the waterline. Sub-surface deployments can be executed by diver or Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV), reducing the risk to operators.  The stand-off capability also supports safety when dealing with high threat or unstable targets.

The transmitter has a dynamic initiation ability to initiate one receiver or simultaneously initiate multiple or groups of receivers at any given time, which provides the user complete flexibility and control in the planning, preparation and execution of multiple explosive tasks. Operational flexibility is achieved through the ability to bond receivers to any transmitter allowing the redistribution of receivers supporting dynamic and agile operations.

Possible applications of the Mini-DRFD in the maritime zone are many, including salvage operations and debris removal, clearance of hazards to shipping, force protection, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and support to amphibious operations.

But it’s not all about the end product, says Marsden. “What we’re also wanting to showcase is our ability to target a need, develop a concept, employ effective research and development, and hone the in-house engineering skills that we have here at MASZ which includes a full range of hardware, software, production and requirements engineering.”

“So apart from the product at the end of it, we’re trying to showcase our industry capacity and the ability of the company to develop a concept and deliver it to market.”

Key technologies

To achieve the required capabilities while maintaining high immersion rating performance, the Mini-DRFD POP π M4.0 utilises a number of key technologies.

The main housing components were modelled using a Solidworks 3D CAD package, which allowed part manufacturing tolerances and assembly fit to be refined and verified before parts were realised. Key components of the design where proven using Finite Element Analysis to ensure they are able to withstand the repetitive pressure cycling that they will be subjected to in the sub-surface maritime environment.

Many of the parts used to provide the functional elements of the Mini-DRFD were designed to take advantage of additive manufacturing technology. This has allowed the Mini-DRFD to be developed rapidly using very short prototyping cycles utilising in-house 3D printing, which has optimised design and tool-free operation, which would not have been possible using other manufacturing techniques.

Meeting future mission needs

According to Marsden, the fundamental strength of the Mini-DRFD POP π M4.0 capability is that it fills a thoroughly researched need. Through stakeholder and customer engagement, capability gap analysis and the analysis of emerging trends, the capability has been designed and developed to meet an immediate need within the maritime domain.

“A global snapshot provides significant evidence of the challenges in the maritime domain, and that’s where MASZ sees its capability development path currently,” he says.

Increased instability, such as that currently being witnessed in the South China Sea as well as generic challenges by an expanding spectrum of actors, including nation states, terrorists, transnational criminals and pirates, may result in potential conflict surrounding control, influence and access to sea lines of communication. In conflict scenarios, actors may seek to harass, disrupt, or prevent maritime activity through the use of undersea obstacles and mines including IEDs, small boats, and swarming tactics.

Capabilities such as the Mini-DRFD POP π M4.0 may become part of the maritime capability set available to militaries to mitigate these threats, and support maritime tasks such as MCM, mobility and freedom of navigation, humanitarian and disaster relief, counter-piracy, and coastal patrol activities.

“We’ve been pretty successful in the land domain,” says Marsden, “We’ve been agile and are ‘tuned into’ changes in global context so as a company we have been able to evolve.

“To endure MASZ needs to be aware of these changing trends and we’ve only been able to achieve this by continually auditing where we sit and reacting to those changes.”

The Mini-DRFD maritime capability was launched in October 2015, with its first delivery occurring in December, and has attracted significant interest globally. “The next challenge for us is that requests have already come in to take the capability deeper and to further integrate it with other technologies and platforms.”

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