The State of Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) have been an important part of U.S. military operations since the 1990s. These unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV) paired with a ground system are becoming more important than ever for our warfighting readiness.
Importance to Mission Readiness
The Department of Defense (DOD) defines UAVs as powered aircraft that:
1. Do not carry human operators
2. Uses aerodynamic forces to produce lift
3. Can fly autonomously or piloted remotely
4. Expendable or recoverable
5. Can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload
UAVs provide a multitude of use cases to the U.S. military; Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV) carry out airstrikes on remote targets and non-lethal UAVs provide surveillance, reconnaissance, battle assessment damage, search and rescue, disaster relief, and other operations. These innovative unmanned platforms can be controlled autonomously, remotely, or both via Radio Frequency (RF) and Satellite Communication (SATCOM).
Problems to Consider
With all the benefits UAVs have in the field, there are problems and limitations that need to be taken into account. This can include a lack of follow-on programs of record, organizational management of UAS acquisitions, UAS interoperation with existing forces, and export controls.
Another issue is the ability for UAVs to stay connected in remote environments, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Once a drone leaves line of sight (RF communication), it is controlled and tracked through satellite communication (SATCOM) from a ground-control station. If the link is lost, drones are typically programmed to fly autonomously in circles or to return to base, until the link can be reconnected. This can happen pretty frequently, which can result in crashing and losing the drone altogether.
To take UAVs to the next level, the Department of Defense and commercial industries need to work together on developing a few areas, beyond funding for acquisitions and developing DoD standards to drive scalability. One way is through technology to improve UAV connectivity.
Giesler has partnered with a company called Elsight to do just that. Elsight’s Halo device utilizes an environment’s existing communication infrastructure to transmit and receive data over multiple IP links, including Cellular, Wi-Fi, RF, and SATCOM. Halo enables the aggregation of several communication links simultaneously, increasing the bandwidth available for transmitting large packets of information over long distances. The Halo device allows drones to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), with Cellular 5G capability, making it the perfect solution for drone connectivity. Halo has been tested with a myriad of different drone companies, yielding an unprecedented 99% connection uptime through thousands of tested flight hours. To learn more about what Halo can do for UAVs, check out our website at https://www.gieslerllc.com/halo.
UASs have a strong future in the DoD and commercial market. Whether it be for defense or delivery, working together we can continue to grow and innovate the UAV capabilities. You can also learn more at https://dod.defense.gov/UAS/.
2. Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Current and Potential Programs published by Congressional Research Service April 13, 2022: https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/21674362/unmanned-aircraft-systems-current-and-potential-programs-april-13-2022.pdf