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MUSIC 2011 Spotlights New Army UAS Capabilities

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The United States Army is holding its first Manned Unmanned Systems Integration Capability (MUSIC) demonstration at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.

Viewed by planners as the first of what will likely become a biennial event, the 2011 MUSIC activity was designed to showcase recent advancements made with interoperability within the Unmanned Aerial Systems Project Office and the manned-unmanned aircraft teaming community. Additionally, the event sets the stage for future interoperability improvements for U.S. warfighters.

Event objectives include “demonstrat[ing] interoperability and system integration among Army Aviation assets in accordance with Project Manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Interoperability Profile (IOP) 2.0 to be fielded with Capability Set (CS) 13-14.” In a parallel effort, the network elements of CS13-14 are currently being explored in a series of four Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) being held at White Sands Missile Range [See more on the Network Integration Evaluations in the upcoming Defense, Fall 2011 Edition]

Specific platforms/systems participating in the 2011 MUSIC demonstration included the RQ-11B Raven and Puma small UAS systems, RQ-7B Shadow, MQ-5B Hunter, and MQ-1C Gray Eagle, and the Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS), Miniature-UGCS, and One Station Remote Video Terminals.

Demonstration and capabilities briefings were held at the Army’s Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center (RIAC) located beside Michael Army Airfield at Dugway Proving Ground.

According to Michelle Vigo, lead systems engineer for the MUSIC event, the 2011 demonstration highlighted four significant new capabilities.

“The first is our Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS),” she said. “This is our common ground control station that can operate our three large platforms: Gray Eagle, Shadow and Hunter.”

The event also featured new “universal operators,” which Vigo described as “the first of this kind to be trained to fly multiple unmanned aircraft.”

“The next capability is our One Station Remote Video Terminal – our OSRVT. Currently the OSRVT is a [Panasonic] Toughbook, and it lets the soldier on the ground subscribe to any video feed from our unmanned aircraft as well as our manned partners. Today we are demonstrating a new bi-directional capability that allows that soldier on the ground to take control of the payload on our large aircraft and slew that payload to where he needs to look. This allows him to cut out trying to explain to the payload operator where he needs to look. He can just take controls, slew it, and it allows him to get situational awareness faster,” she said.

According to Tim Owings, U.S. Deputy Project Manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, the Army currently has thousands of the earlier versions of the system in theater today.

“What was new today that has not been fielded yet – but will be fielded over the next several months – was the capability for that ‘RVT’ not just to receive the video but to control the actual payload.”

“Our next capability is our Mini Universal Ground Control Station,” Vigo continued. “This is our common controller for our small aircraft – the Raven and the Puma. And today they are also going to be controlling the payloads on the wings of the Gray Eagle, which [are] known as the ‘Triclops’ payloads. Triclops has added two additional payloads to the wings of the Gray Eagle, which basically allows them to have three cameras in the sky. It can track three independent targets by independent operators on the ground who are outside of the UGCS.”

Demonstration scenarios included two ground commanders using M-UGCS to track separate targets while an OSRVT operator tracked a third target – all from the Triclops payload on a single Gray Eagle.

Program representatives noted that the two additional Triclops sensor payloads (currently Raytheon AN/DAS-2 sensors) could be quickly removed and replaced with weapons stores. Conversely, a single sensor could be replaced by weapons on only one wing, with the system compensating for the different wing payloads.

“Finally we have our Manned – Unmanned Teaming piece,” Vigo added. “Today we have our [AH-64D Longbow Block II] Apache and our [OH-58D] Kiowa Warrior partners here, demonstrating the ability for them to receive the unmanned video in their cockpits as well as sending that video to the ground to our OSRVT operator. They can also perform retrans on the unmanned aircraft video so that it can extend the range to the soldier on the ground.”

The Kiowa Warrior also capped the demonstration with a live fire event to emphasize the enhanced lethality of the manned-unmanned team.

Owings noted that the event demonstrated “the ability to seamlessly share information across all of those platforms, switching back and forth; the ‘universal operator’ taking control of one, two or three systems; a soldier on the ground with a handheld device, taking control of aircraft, taking control of sensors; the ‘Triclops’ capability and what it brings in terms of a multiplying effect on our Gray Eagle, [an effect] that we will probably put into our other platforms as well.”

He concluded by summing up the milestone event with the expressed hope that visitors would come away from MUSIC 2011 with an appreciation for “how powerful that capability is.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...