Drone are the focal point of technological innovations that are creating the right combination of human and UAV interaction to help take combat techniques to the next level. Manned-unmanned-teaming is expected to increase the mission efficiency of future airborne systems in many ways. A swarm of sensor equipped unmanned systems can provide situational awareness to a mission group commander located a safe distance away aboard the manned aircraft. This manned-unmanned teaming (MUT) has been tested and demonstrated successfully by Airbus in a test zone of Germany’s Baltic Sea area.
Airbus’ vision for future air power is smart, modular and connected air borne systems equipped with the ability to control unmanned systems from a manned aircraft being viewed as a potential and important “force multiplier”.
Advanced flight control and flight management system
A key element contributing to these successful flights was the advanced flight control and flight management system developed by Airbus for unmanned air vehicles – that saw the convergence of fully automatic guidance, navigation and control with intelligent swarming capabilities.
The MUT trial flights served multiple purposes, including validating such elements as connectivity, human-machine interface, and the concept of teaming intelligence through mission group management. For the aspect of teaming intelligence, multiple capabilities and enabling technologies are required at sufficient maturity levels – from teaming/swarming algorithms and new sensors to mission management systems for command and control assistance by the manned aircraft’s crew. A talented, dedicated team of engineers helped make Airbus’ manned-unmanned teaming (MUT) test flight campaigns successful; Sabine Frosh one of the engineers involved in the MUT successful test flight said that, “the team is really great and it’s amazing that everything went off well.”
During manned-unmanned teaming (MUT) test flight campaign this know-how was applied in a dynamic and interactive manner successfully. These campaigns included demonstrations with five Airbus-built Do-DT25 target drones controlled from a mission group commander who was airborne in a manned command and control (C2) aircraft.
The Airbus MUT demonstrations were low cost and brought together several of the company’s in house programme and product lines. Not only were these cost effective main development and test phases conducted during a short timeframe but were also supported by an agile, rapid prototyping environment and a risk-mitigation approach. Expertise gained during the manned-unmanned teaming test flight campaigns will be applied by Airbus to develop Europe’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS).