UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE
12 Oct 07. The Air Force announced Thursday that the service’s new hunter-killer unmanned aerial vehicle is now flying operational missions in Afghanistan. The MQ-9 Reaper has completed 12 missions since its inaugural flight there Sept. 25, averaging about one sortie per day. Capable of striking enemy targets with on-board weapons, the Reaper has conducted close air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Operational use of Reaper’s advanced capabilities marks a tremendous step forward in the evolution of unmanned aerial systems. Air Force quality assurance evaluators gave a “thumbs up” to the aircraft’s debut performance and have been pleased with its operation ever since. “The Reaper is a significant evolution in capability for the Air Force,” said Air Force Chief of Staff T. Michael Moseley. “We’ve taken these aircraft from performing mainly as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms to carrying out true hunter-killer missions.” The Reaper is larger and more heavily-armed than the MQ-1 Predator and in addition to its traditional ISR capabilities, is designed to attack time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or disable those targets. To date, Reaper operators have not been called upon to drop their weapons on enemy positions. Like the MQ-1 Predator, the Reaper is launched, recovered and maintained at deployed locations, while being remotely operated by pilots and sensor operators at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. That’s where the resemblance ends. The MQ-9 has nearly nine times the range, can fly twice as high and carries more munitions. (Source: Military.com)
13 Nov 07. Aptima, Inc. announced the award of three contracts for developing technologies to improve the control and functions of unmanned air, land, and sea vehicles (UxVs) and their integration into military operations. The Army and Navy contracts address a continuum, scaling from how individual unmanned vehicles, such as drones, can be operated with fewer personnel, to the coordination of teams of UxVs used in joint military operations. Having evolved from a battlefield curiosity to today’s use in urban warfare – for surveillance, to detect and disarm IEDs, and as weapons systems – UxVs are a key part of the US military’s transformation. The pursuit of a ‘mixed initiative’ force of the future that combines humans and robotics requires that unmanned vehicles systems possess 1) greater intelligence by learning from humans, and 2) that human operators wield greater control over the types and number of unmanned air, land and sea vehicles that can be coordinated simultaneously across missions. Aptima, applying its understanding of complex organizational models, systems and technologies, will address UxVs at the individual, networked, and ‘team of teams’ levels – illustrated by three of the contracts below:
C2RAD (Command and Control of Small Robotics Assets Display)
To support the human operator in the field using a robotic vehicle as a forward observer, C2RAD will provide an integrated display that both maps and shows locations of red, green and blue entities, such as snipers, obstacles, and friendly forces, and shares that data with other troops and command. Aptima and Lockheed Martin will develop C2RAD to overcome the challenges that lie at the interfaces between human and machine, and between human operators and commanders. Applying new scientific principles concerning human-to-robot and human-to-human collaboration, C2RAD is envisioned as the interface on a handheld device that plans the route of the robotic asset and links its intelligence to others, such as members of a platoon that may be operating in harm’s way. This will dramatically improve the real-time situational awareness of field troops and the larger mission concerns by command and control.
MIMIC (Mixed Initiative Machine Instructed Computing)
While unmanned aerial vehicles have advanced, particularly