Defense

February 25, 2013

Lab demonstrates ability for unmanned systems to communicate

Capt. Don Zwick, Common Standards and Interoperability program manager, details the technical implementations and operational significance of the Standard Command and Control (C2) Interface Module.

Engineers from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division here recently conducted a demonstration to test new technology, which allows for interoperability between unmanned air systems.

In collaboration with U.S. Army personnel from Huntsville, Ala., the Common Standards and Interoperability and the Battlespace Modeling and Simulation groups (AIR 5.4.2) held demonstrations at Pax Riverís UAS Integration Lab, known as the UASIL, on Feb. 5 and 22.

The demonstrations validated the government-developed interface, or the software and hardware that enables systems to communicate, for inclusion into future UAS.

Interoperability, or the ability for systems to ìcommunicateî with one another, is critical, said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, (PEO(U&W))after observing the Feb. 22 demonstration. PEO(U&W)ís portfolio includes management of the U.S. Navyís CSI group.

To truly capitalize on the capabilities of unmanned systems, these assets must operate seamlessly across the air, ground and maritime domains while complementing our manned aircraft capabilities,î Winter said.

The hour long demonstration began with a UASIL operator controlling a sensor, or camera, located on a Shadow UAS at the Joint Technology Center/System Integration Laboratory in Huntsville through the Defense Research and Engineering Network. The operator at the UASIL then relinquished control of the Shadow sensor and took control of a sensor at the UASIL using the same interface.

The PEO(U&W) Interface Control Working Group leveraged NATO and Army work to develop a command and control interface that is Navy-owned and interoperable with Army UAS. Software engineers integrated hardware sensors and stimulators to their existing suite of simulations to develop and implement the interface for the demo.

In today’s operating environment, every UAS speaks a different language, making it impossible for the systems to communicate,î said Capt. Don Zwick, CSI program manager. ìNAVAIR ownership and management of the interface not only reduces the effort required to make two systems interoperable, but it also develops a workforce skilled in how UAS, which are essentially flying robots, work internally.

This government-owned technology will reduce cost and development time in the future since today’s defense contractors own the majority of data behind these messages, Zwick said.

ìThis savings is great with regards to cost and schedule, but most importantly it gives the war fighter on the ground access to abundant amounts of information, that to this point wasn’t available,î said Tim Hurley, UASIL manager.

Another live demonstration is planned in May at Pax River, which will demonstrate a more advanced command and control technology.




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