November 2, 2011

Manned to Unmanned

News Report

A recent report published by ASDNews discusses the results of the first ever Manned-Unmanned Systems Integration Capability (MUSIC) exercise, in which several the US Army's organizations worked together to provide a live demonstration before an audience of leaders from across the US Department of Defense as well as civilian onlookers.

The event established seamless integration of Apache Block II and Kiowa Warrior helicopters, along with the US Army's complete fleet of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), which is comprised of the Raven, Puma, Hunter, Shadow and Gray Eagle.

There were many objectives to this exercise including:
  • demonstrating advancements made in manned-to-unmanned teaming, or MUM-T;
  • demonstrating interoperability among unmanned systems through the Universal Ground Control Station, known as UGCS, Mini-UGCS, or M-UGCS, and the One System Remote Video Terminal, or OSRVT;
  • highlighting Program Executive Office Aviation's open architectural approach that allows multiple control nodes and information access points via the Tactical Common Data Link, or TCDL.

Video was exchanged flawlessly among all the systems. Additionally, the ability to control the UAS payloads of the larger aircraft from both the M-UGCS and the -OSRVT were demonstrated.

On the piloted side were an Apache AH-64D Longbow attack helicopter and an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopter. The Apache established communications with a MQ-1C Gray Eagle—the Army’s largest unmanned aircraft—while both were in flight over the airfield. The helicopter crew received video from the Gray Eagle just like they would from their own on-board sensors, then relayed the signal to a new Universal Ground Control Station. The UGCS and a smaller, mini-UGCS are slated to be fielded next year, first for the RQ-7B Shadow and later for the larger Gray Eagle. Mounted on a truck or Humvee, the new stations will allow Army combat aviation brigades to operate multiple unmanned aircraft with a single controller, a capability long sought by the military.

In another test, soldiers on the ground used the handheld One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT), which previously allowed them to operate just one small UAS, to control the larger Gray Eagle and Shadow. Operators showed how the battery-powered terminal could control the cameras on a Gray Eagle equipped with the new Triclops system. Triclops has three imaging sensors, one mounted under the aircraft’s fuselage and the other two beneath the wings. Each can be controlled by a different operator, allowing one Gray Eagle to acquire three separate targets. The system allows helicopters and unmanned aircraft to work as a team to locate, identify and target enemies from miles away—an ability that will be crucial for the Army’s new Full Spectrum Combat Aviation Brigades, which will each be equipped with eight Shadows and a dozen Gray Eagles.
The demonstration clearly illustrated the remarkable capability and synergy that the combination of tightly integrated manned-unmanned systems provides. Furthermore, the demonstration showed clearly how this information could be rapidly provided to individual Soldiers on the ground.

The Context

Known as MUSIC, for Manned Unmanned Systems Integration Capability, the exercise above the Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City highlighted the US Army’s plan to integrate its growing fleet of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with helicopters and ground troops, who rely on the helicopters’ firepower and the drones’ surveillance data. This first in a planned series of biennial exercises, held on September 15 and 16, had both types of aircraft sharing video and data, while soldiers in the air and on the ground took turns controlling the drones.


"I am most proud of the teamwork and selfless attitudes demonstrated by our industry and government partners," said Tim Owings, deputy program manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. "You can't make MUSIC without an orchestra and everyone playing their instruments. This really is an amazing story of teamwork and perseverance."

"In my short tenure here as the PM, the work I witnessed, day in and day out was brought together and displayed in the first ever MUSIC Exercise," explained Col. Tim Baxter, with PM-UAS. "Although I had been briefed about this thing called MUSIC, I couldn't fathom the amount of effort given by each member of PM's UAS, Apache and Attack Scout Helicopter. The heavy lifting done by a workforce comprised mostly of civilians, and for the good of our Soldiers, is heartfelt and makes a positive impact every day to the lives of those operational folks we send into harm's way."

References: ASDNews (1), Air&Space Smithsonian (2)

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