As the military and other government agencies look towards unmanned surveillance and gun-toting platforms, Blackwing Holdings, LLC, offers unique state-of-the-art high technology products aimed directly at the growing, remotely operated sensor and weapon platforms and Unmanned Remotely Operated Vehicle (UROV) markets. Before we explore some examples of Blackwing’s product line, a quick Business 101 review might be helpful.
What is a Holding Company?
Think of a holding company as a parent corporation. It can be a limited liability company (LLC) like Blackwing Holdings, LLC, or a limited partnership that owns enough voting stock in another company to control its policies and management. In the case of Blackwing, they entirely own their subsidiary companies. Distilled to the basics, a holding company’s operations consist of overseeing the companies it owns. If necessary, it can hire and fire managers, but those companies’ managers are responsible for their operations; the holding company is not. Although the holding company does not manage the day-to-day operations of its subsidiaries, Blackwing’s owners personally understand their subsidiary companies’ operations and product lines, allowing them to evaluate the businesses’ performance and prospects on an ongoing basis. Interestingly, the two companies held by Blackwing, support one another’s product offerings and share manufacturing facilities to create unique capabilities.
Therefore, Blackwing Holdings represents the investment office of a U.S.-based, family-owned holding limited liability company created to diversify their holdings and create future cash flows. Blackwing Holdings does not have any product manufacturing operations or active business itself. Instead, it owns two companies—IEC Infrared Systems LLC (IEC) and Precision Remotes LLC (PRL) —and these are where product manufacturing takes place. So what products do these two companies offer?
IEC Infrared Systems LLC
IEC Infrared Systems LLC (IEC) was formed in 1999 by research scientists from the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Formally recognized as a NASA spinoff company, IEC operates out of a 23,000-square-foot facility in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. IEC is an engineering and manufacturing company that specializes in the design, development and manufacture of integrated thermal and visual imaging surveillance systems. IEC has an in-house technical staff possessing diverse expertise across mechanical/aerospace systems, controls, power conditioning, communications, high-speed digital video processing, software (both imbedded and GUI) and infrared spectroscopy.
When the first line of defense involves surveillance, IEC Infrared Systems is the solution of choice. IEC’s in-house engineering talent allows it to retain complete design control and unique individual customer customization of infrared cameras, thermal imaging products and counter-UAV equipment.
IEC detection technologies are optimized to provide persistent detection of threats in an integrated operational environment using a middleware system they call “IntrudIR Alert.” This system is a combination of hardware and software that allows integration of a variety of sensors and subsystems. It is specifically designed to process and coordinate the data from a range of sensors and subsystems and disseminate real-time alerts to allow the user to take the most appropriate counter measures against threats or attacks.
In conjunction with the IntrudIR Alert system, IEC offers its Raptor Series surveillance platform. Raptor is aptly named after birds of prey with exceptionally long-range eyesight. These customizable surveillance platforms are typically configured with long-range EO/IR optics and other co-located sensors such as ground radars and other optic systems. Raptor can be installed on facilities, forward operating base or on mobile platforms, whether wheeled or tracked. Raptor can integrate with other systems and be networked wirelessly for perimeter or border security. Essentially a “plug-and-play” system, Raptor only takes about 30 minutes to unpack, set-up and connect (or uninstall) the complete system.
The Raptor Series is designed to meet performance requirements for detection and assessment at ranges from 5km to 18km+. IEC can configure the Raptor system to accommodate just about any ground radar systems in conjunction with other complex sensors. Raptor can also be equipped with an optional laser illuminator and laser range finder, and through IntrudIR Alert can not only control the system, but can communicate with other command and control systems.
One of the Raptor Series’ primary ground surveillance radars (GSR) is the SR Hawk pulse Doppler radar; Raptor uses this radar to detect distant targets, then cue the Werewolf pan and tilt platform with long-range visual and thermal optics and detectors through the IntrudIR Alert middleware. This system is ideal for detection and assessment for both short- and long-range perimeter and border security operations. Raptor is intuitive, simple to operate and provides unmatched situational awareness and force protection. Raptor is a fully developed surveillance solution product with a TRL-9 technology readiness level. It is used globally by both commercial and military customers. ITAR restrictions control its thermal cameras and detectors.
Another unique IEC product is their Lycan Counter-UAS system. Lycan detects, tracks and mitigates Unmanned Aerial Systems using both radar and RF detection paired with an Artificial Intelligence engine to find the target (and avoid false targets), long-range imagers to assess, verify and optically track the target and multi-frequency RF and GPS jamming to stop the threat. This causes the UAS to immediately lose control and navigation capability. The Lycan is much like the Raptor in its line replaceable unit configuration and tools-free / cable-free payload that swaps out in seconds. Its capabilities include 360º panoramic image creation and optical target tracking (to 3km) with a mid-wave infrared (MWIR) 40mm–825mm continuous zoom imager. Like Raptor, it has a small footprint that allows it to stand-alone or is mounted almost anywhere, static or mobile. Moreover, it can be powered by nearly any electrical power source available. The Lycan is a genuine advancement in counter-UAS technology and therefore falls under ITAR restrictions.
Precision Remotes LLC
Blackwing’s other company is Precision Remotes LLC (PRL), originally based in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. Now co-located with IEC in Cleveland, PRL designs and manufactures a full suite of remotely operated weapon systems (ROWS) and surveillance platforms. These systems deliver a powerful force protection capability whether you are riding in a vehicle, controlling a chokepoint or securing a critical facility’s perimeter.
|PRL’s sole focus is developing the most capable and cost-effective family of remotely operated weapon systems available. Founded in 1997, PRL created the ultra-light ROWS category. Unlike many ROWS on the market today, PRL’s ROWS system is “right-sized” to the weapons it carries, while fully meeting the extremes of the operating environment, e.g., desert, tropical, arctic, marine, etc.
Recently, PRL was first to market with ROWS models specifically optimized for critical facility security, including a fully armored version, making it resistant to attack. PRL’s facility security ROWS have reliably demonstrated their field capabilities while enduring years of environmental extremes. As of this writing, no other system in this category comes close. PRL has delivered hundreds of ROWS systems to several branches of the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, international governments and private industry.
The flagship of PRL’s ROWS consists of a highly mission-configurable, lightweight, precision-aimed, dismounted remotely operated weapon system they call the TRAP® T360 that can stand alone or be mounted on the unmanned ground or waterborne vehicles.
This system also integrates with sniper detection technologies, surveillance systems or other sensors for automatic hand-off and slew-to-cue operation. Its aim is achieved using a ballistic reticle that compensates the aim point for ammunition type, range and camera parallax. Plus, it will store multiple target locations for quick recall. It possesses a unique high-speed/precision 360º drive system that allows faster target engagement and effortless tracking capability that provides a broad elevation range of 60° up to 20° down. It can also be equipped with a target tracking option and can be securely networked to multiple TRAP® T360 systems; these can then be networked to indigenous command centers.
Because of the TRAP® T360’s lightweight and small dimensional footprint, it can easily be containerized within protective armor or hidden from sight until use. It is further engineered to offer a quick transition (only requiring one person, no tools) between remote and manual operation, as well as easy mounted and dismounted placement, should the need arise. It can be powered from a wide range of AC/DC electrical sources that include vehicles (of nearly any type), generator, battery, solar and 100/220 VAC.
For More Information
Blackwing Holdings’ subsidiaries produce many other quality devices that realize operational imagination. For more information on Blackwing Holdings’ product line see blackwingholdings.com.