U.S. Army Explores Manned-unmanned Air System Integration

 - August 29, 2011, 4:35 AM
The Northrop Grumman MQ-5 Hunter will be one of a number of unmanned aircraft systems taking part in a U.S. Army exercise to explore manned-unmanned teaming concepts.

The U.S. Army will mount the largest yet demonstration of manned and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) interoperability.

The manned unmanned systems integration concept (Music) exercise will take place September 15 at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Music will demonstrate new manned-unmanned teaming concepts. These include the use of a universal ground-control station (UGCS) to manage multiple, different UAS platforms, and the ability of a soldier on the ground to steer a UAS sensor payload using the one-system, remote-video terminal (OSRVT). The first iteration of the army’s mini-universal, ground-control stations (M-UGCS) will be rolled out, demonstrating movement toward a common controller for small UAS, including the Aerovironment RQ-11B Raven and Puma AE. The service also plans to demonstrate M-UGCS control of the sensors on a larger General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle. Other participating aircraft will be AH-64D Block II Apache and OH-58D Kiowa helicopters and AAI Corp. RQ-7 Shadow and Northrop Grumman MQ-5 Hunter UAS.

Music will be “the largest demonstration of interoperability between manned and unmanned systems ever conducted,” Tim Owings, Army deputy project manager for UAS, told the Army News Service.

AAI Corp. is the contractor for both the UGCS and the OSRVT. The truck-mounted UGCS will be used to control the Shadow, Gray Eagle and Hunter. Dismounted soldiers using the OSRVT with new bidirectional datalink can take control of the sensor payloads of these platforms and “steer the payload to where the operator needs to look,” the Army says.

Also to be demonstrated will be the ability of the remote terminal to receive video from the Raven and Puma, as well as the Apache and Kiowa. Under the manned-to-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) concept, the Apache can receive UAS sensor video in the cockpit and retransmit video to the ground via the OSRVT. The Kiowa is also capable of re-transmitting video from UAS to the ground, increasing the range of video available to ground troops.

Reportedly, the UAS control segments and mission- and flight-control systems operate off a very secure software platform developed by Green Hills Software, of Santa Barbara, Calif. AIN was unable confirm this, although Green Hills did introduce an autonomous-vehicle, open-software platform at the recent Unmanned Systems North America conference.