Unmanned update: Manned-unmanned teaming flight testing, $250 million drone contract

In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, learn about manned-unmanned teaming flight tests, a $250 million drone contract with the US Army, and a top performer in DARPA’s Gremlins drone program.

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In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International(AUVSI), which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics,learn about manned-unmanned teaming flight tests, a $250 million drone contract with the US Army, and a top performer in DARPA’s Gremlins drone program.

Schiebel and Airbus Helicopters demonstrate manned-unmanned teaming

On April 17, Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 UAS and Airbus Helicopters’ manned H145 successfully completed a series of manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) flights.

​The user onboard the manned aircraft was provided full command and control over the UAS and its payload — including launch and recovery — allowing Level 5 interoperability to be achieved.

The demonstration took place as part of a technology partnership between the Austrian Armaments and Defense Technology Agency and Schiebel. The purpose of the demonstration was to look into the benefits and challenges of delivering MUM-T flight operations, especially those with "highly valuable, mission-enhancing advantages for army aviation."

As a true force-multiplier, MUM-T leverages the strengths of both manned and unmanned systems by providing manned aircraft pilots with the ability to take full advantage of the UAS' intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, which significantly improves safety and decision-making in "complex, contested missions."

"This is a perfect example of Schiebel’s commitment to staying at the cutting-edge of developments and capabilities," says Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group.

"The Camcopter S-100 offers unsurpassed ISR capabilities and as such significantly enhances manned aircraft sensors, which is particularly valuable in complex operations and dangerous environments."

UAS are ideal for providing an aerial overview, "operating above manned assets whilst the manned assets benefit from using local terrain," the companies say.

Commanders are able to maximize the advantages offered by both platforms, thanks to this approach of enhancing coverage and timeliness of information while keeping pilots and manned assets safe.

"Manned-unmanned teaming multiplies the capabilities of both systems," says Mark R. Henning, program manager at Airbus Helicopters.

"Smaller UAS with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities can, for example, fly around obstacles as trees or buildings closer than a helicopter could. They are able to explore unknown territory and deliver information to the helicopter crew which is operating from a safe position and then step in with the helicopter’s superior effects having received a clear picture from the UAS."

Schiebel’s Chief Technical Officer, Chris Day, says, "another key advantage of such an approach is improved datalink security. The datalink between the manned and unmanned platform can be moved from a static to a dynamic environment, away from the ground, making it more robust and harder to detect."

Altavian to support largest small UAS program in the world thanks to new contract with US Army

Altavian, Inc. has been awarded a $250 million Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contractwith the US Army.

Altavian will support the largest small UAS program in the world, under the Program Executive Office Aviation, Products Office for Tactical Unmanned Aircraft (TUAS).

The US Army Family of Systems, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (FoSUAS) includes the RQ-11 and RQ-20 UAS, as well as supporting control and communications equipment, and other technologies to be fielded over the contract period of performance.

All systems are designed to be carried by a "single dismounted warfighter," quickly assembled, and deployed to provide "immediate over-the-hill surveillance and reconnaissance."

Altavian says that it supports the mission of the Army to provide "critical, real-time intelligence" for warfighter protection and extended operational reach.

"It is part of our mission to design and build incredible technology, but knowing that our technology is at work in service of the men and women who defend the United States of America is our highest honor," says John Perry, CEO of Altavian.

"We are committed to meeting the challenges of this contract and accelerating innovation in the US Army UAS capabilities."

Under the new contract, Altavian will compete to provide quality components to sustain the FoSUAS fleet, along with upgrading offerings to increase the "capability, resiliency, and cost-effectiveness" of the fleet. Upgraded avionics and radios with increased frequency options, along with a handheld ground control station (H-GCS), are some of the new offerings.

In addition, Altavian will continue to supply RQ-11 and RQ-20 direct replacement parts for the Government.

"We are proud to continue to bring competition to Group I [under 20 lbs] UAS," comments Thomas Rambo, co-founder of Altavian.

"All the technologies that we are proposing for this contract embrace the US DoD’s Open Systems Architecture objectives and by adopting this technology will ensure the continued sustainment, upgradeability, and interoperability of Group I UAS for years to come."

This contract, which is the primary acquisition method for Group I UAS in the Army, has a base award period of five years.

Dynetics selected as top performer for Phase 3 of DARPA's Gremlins program

Dynetics, Inc. has been selected as the top performer for Phase 3 of DARPA’s Gremlins program.

The objective of Gremlins is to "accelerate the ability to perform aerial launch and recovery of volley quantities" of low-cost, reusable UAS. Once demonstrated and matured, this capability enables a "significant expansion of distributed architectures for airborne operations."

The Phase 3 contract is a 21-month, $38.6 million award, and the entire program will last 43 months, totaling $64 million.

"Dynetics is very pleased for our Gremlins offering to be selected for the Phase 3 demonstration phase. This contract award is a natural progression of our expansion into providing the Government innovative solutions to solve challenging problems, often under highly accelerated schedules," says Mark Miller, Dynetics vice president for Missile and Aviation Systems.

"While we offer prime contractor-like capabilities in several areas, the nature of our company structure and philosophy is well-suited for programs such as Gremlins where innovation, agility and affordability are necessary for success."

Dynetics’ offering involves deploying a "towed, stabilized capture device" below and away from the C-130 aircraft. The air vehicle docks with the device in a similar fashion to an airborne refueling operation.

Once docked and powered off, the air vehicle is raised to the C-130, where it is mechanically secured and stowed, and Dynetics says that the key technologies can be "straightforwardly adapted" to allow "under-wing recovery and bay recovery" by other cargo aircraft.

The Gremlins system is beneficial in both contested environments and low-intensity, routine operations. The ability for a single, manned aircraft to stand off from danger, yet manage multiple air vehicles equipped with sensors and other payloads, makes it especially useful for enhanced support of tactical strike, reconnaissance/surveillance and close air support missions.

"The unmanned air vehicles utilized in these future operations will carry a variety of different sensors and other payloads, working together to manage and conduct complex, highly-adaptive operations in contested environments," says Tim Keeter, Dynetics deputy program manager and chief engineer.

"When they complete their mission, they return to airborne manned platforms to be recovered to a forward operating base where they can be quickly refurbished and put back into the fight. The potential to overwhelm an adversary continuously with multiple volleys is tremendous."

For the Gremlins program, Dynetics pulled together a team of industry partners to leverage the "best-in-class past performance, key technologies, and capabilities" needed to successfully develop and demonstrate the Gremlins system.

The fabrication, assembly, integration, and testing of each Gremlins air vehicle is being led by Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, while the precision navigation system essential to rendezvous and dock the air vehicle with the C-130 is being provided by the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) - Salt Lake City group.

The turbofan engine is being provided by Williams International, the control actuation systems are being delivered by Moog, and the parachute recovery system will be produced by Airborne Systems.

The C-130 pylon and launch controller hardware will be prepared by Systima, and the flight computer will be delivered by Applied Systems Engineering, Inc.

Finally, the multi-vehicle control services will be produced by SNC/Kutta, and the C-130 aircraft and flight test support will be provided by International Air Response.

View more information on the AUVSI.

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