ESG Elektroniksystem und Logistik GmbH, a leading German company in the development, integration and operation of complex, safety-related electronic and IT systems, and UMS Skeldar, a joint venture between Saab and UMS Aero Group, have joined forces to complete a range of successful exercises with the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) demonstrating the capability of Manned – Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) between the Unmanned Mission Avionics Test Helicopter (UMAT), based on the SKELDAR R-350, and the Bundeswehr Bell UH-1D HUEY manned helicopter.
As part of a live demonstration, carried out at the airfield of the WTD-61 (Bundeswehr Technical and Airworthiness Centre for Aircraft), Manching Air Base, near Munich, both companies revealed their technological expertise for system integration and mission systems in the field of manned and unmanned aerial systems. Proving tactical benefits of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) deployment in operations, this demonstration shocased the increase in reach and forward reconnaissance of manned platforms to potentially dangerous situations including frontline battlespace.
ESG carried out demo flights of the (manned) mission equipment carrier (MAT) on behalf of the Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use of the Federal Armed Forces (BAAINBw, the Bundeswehr's procurement agency).
In the joint exercise, a German Army Aviation test pilot took the role of Mission Commander, co-ordinating with in-air displays to monitor the UMAT's payload data/video stream, as a UMAT position on a Sense & Avoid display/moving map. ESG proved how a UAV teamed with a manned helicopter can be controlled as an Unmanned Wingman on a command basis.
"By partnering with UMS SKELDAR, we have successfully demonstrated to the Bundeswehr a range of manned-unmanned teaming missions," Christoph Weber, Head of the Business Unit Defense and Public Security for ESG Elektroniksystem und Logistik GmbH, explained. “This proved both the comprehensive functionality of the manned/unmanned platforms as well as the secure communication and data transmission over the appropriate data links.”
Missions included the provision of reconnaissance data from a location, exploration of forest perimeters between positions and the clarification of possible landing zones for the helicopter. These highly complex tasks were only possible thanks to the high degree of automation of systems in the unmanned UMAT platform, including route, sensor and data link management. The route planning took place, for example, considering threats, flight areas, sensor characteristics and data link coverage.
“This demonstration project is a significant development and is testament to our enduring relationship with ESG and the long-term partnership with the Bundeswehr in delivering flexible and mission-proven UAV assets," Axel Cavalli-Bjorkman, CEO of UMS SKELDAR, continued. "Throughout, we provided real evidence of the development of appropriate technologies and procedures for a wide range of deployment scenarios of the joint Manned-Unmanned team for the Bundeswehr.”
The flights were a key milestone in the project MiDEA (mission monitoring by drones for reconnaissance), forming an integral element of the ESG MUM-T programme and VTOL-UAS technology roadmap.