French air force commander General Jean-Paul Palomeros, speaking on the recording of full-motion video (FMV) from airborne platforms–especially UAVs, said, “The challenge today is to exploit the amount of ISR data gathered and then disseminate it in a useful way to different customers.” A huge amount of expert manpower is required, he told AIN, but the general is not convinced that automatic target recognition software is the answer. Artificial intelligence would be best applied to make UAVs fly autonomously, he believes.
General Palomeros told the Dubai Air Chiefs Conference last November that “at least 30” medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) UAVs should have been deployed to support the NATO air action over Libya last year. “The FMV capability provided by UAVs was essential for discrimination of the troops on the ground and for the prosecution of targets,” he said. FMV was also key to battle damage assessment, including the potential to provide the “legal evidence” that a strike had been proportionate and had avoided collateral damage.
In fact, the U.S. provided just a few MQ-1 Predators for the Libyan operation. Those aircraft were joined later in the campaign by French Harfangs (Israeli Herons adapted by EADS) and Italian MQ-9 Reapers
. But there were problems in coordinating these operations, for instance, when a French Harfang was tasked to takeover the monitoring of a mobile target from a Predator. The Harfang was being flown from a nearby ground station, whereas the Predator was controlled from thousands of miles away in the US. In fact, Palomeros noted, planning and coordination is becoming ever more complex, as new wide-area video and COMINT sensors are added to UAVs and other airborne platforms.
Another looming problem is the saturation of Ku-band Satcom datalinks that are crucial to MALE UAV operations. “Ka band seems an interesting option to me, even if the signals are much more sensitive to meteorological conditions,” Palomeros said. He suggested that adaptive modulation techniques could overcome this shortcoming, and that dual-band Ku/Ka antennas should be developed.