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By Julian Nettlefold

BATTLESPACE Editor, Julian Nettlefold, interviewed Michael Johnson, Head of Business Development, DRS Data & Imaging Systems, Inc., about DRS’s new Airborne Tactical Server (ATS).

“Can you give a background to the development of ATS?” The Editor asked

“ATS came about to meet the needs of a Web-Enabled Cockpit Demonstration at NAWC-WD, China Lake to put internet capability into an F/A-18. The Requirement was to provide new technologies to enable the transfer of data between airborne platforms in a timely manner – in theatre time is everything. The goal was to provide a solid state ‘Server in the Sky’ which would take over from the legacy systems which relied on tape recording systems, which were slow and cumbersome and prone to breakdown. ATS was developed using IRAD funds and from our own in-house technology leveraging from recorder base. DRS had already developed a solid state Airborne Separation Video System (ASVS) high-speed digital imaging system, thus ATS provided the platform to merge the two technologies. We developed an earlier tape-based system for the OH-58 helicopter for the U.S. Army.”

“DRS was originally located in Mount Vernon, NY, where it was founded in 1968 by Leonard Newman (father of current CEO Mark Newman) and David Gross. DRS stands for “Diagnostic Retrieval Systems.” DRS moved its headquarters to Oakland, NJ in 1980, and we at Data & Imaging Systems have the distinction of still being the founding division of DRS Technologies, Inc., which today is a $3 billion company. We currently employ 130 people and operate four production lines.”

DRS Airborne Tactical Server (ATS)

DRS’s Airborne Tactical Server (ATS) is a highly reliable and environmentally rugged, next generation data storage and manipulation device. The form, fit replacement for single channel 8mm tape-based recorders has the ability to record four channels each of video, audio and MIL-STD-1553B while providing net-centric playback of up to 2 channels of stored data either within the aircraft or for off-aircraft transmission. It is ideal for use in the Global Information Grid (GIG), and allows for a Web-enabled cockpit and “Push/Pull” of tactical data. ATS has a 5-400 GB (or larger) removable, “hot swappable” solid-state memory module.

The ATS is a powerful data server and a multi-channel recorder allowing robust, on-the-move, high speed automated data exchange within the aircraft and between air and ground participants using IP networking architecture. Initially loaded with pre-flight data, the ATS receives and stores uploaded mission data from ground or air systems and displays it in the aircraft or transmits the updated information directly to a weapon. The ATS’s unique client/server architecture allows real-time pushing and pulling of tactical imagery and crucial mission and flight safety data to/from ground stations or troops, shipboard displays or other aircraft.

The ATS collects and stores multiple channels of analogue video/audio and all forms of digital data including Multi-Function Display (MFD), weapon data, FLIR data, maintenance and aircraft system flight data. The unit is flexibly controlled via discrete signals, RS-422 (FDX), RS-232, MIL-STD-1553B or 10/100BaseT Ethernet. Data easily downloads to a standard COTS PC requiring no special software or equipment via USB 2.0 or IEEE-1394B.

“Does ATS require the pilot to download the data on request from the Ground Station?”

“No, the Ground Station operative can interrogate the ATS and select the images/data to download or the system can download automatically via Link 16 when passing the Ground Station. All the information is stored automatically, thus creating a machine-to-machine interface. ATS is in effect a Net-centric data processor which can record and download all video, radar images and FLIR inputs. The system has its own IP address and thus can be easily interrogated from the Groun

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