Massive reductions in emplacement, mission launch time and overall footprint are in the works for the GRAY EAGLE Extended Range (GE-ER) UAS, thanks to a new laptop-based interface called Scalable Command & Control (SC2) from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the company announced on 12 October.
GA-ASI recently concluded a series of flight tests using the new SC2 interface hosted on the US government’s Improved Portable Maintenance Aid (IPMA), which is fielded to all UAS units in the Army. This provides 100% of the functionalities of the Ground Control Station (GCS) shelter hosted on a laptop, greatly reducing the logistics burden of setup, transporting and operating a GRAY EAGLE. The effort was closely coordinated with GA-ASI’s government customer, to fully control a company-owned GE-ER, including pre-flight, taxi, take-off and landing.
The operation was later repeated using a government-owned GE-ER to confirm functionality with the field GCS software. The SC2 solution enables control of the GE-ER and its payloads, while also allowing aircraft, payloads and sensors to be controlled by disparate users replicating a ground manoeuvre force or other disadvantaged user. SC2 also efficiently controlled the onboard sensors and commanded release of various payloads from disparate manufacturers, all integrated in less than 90 days.
“SC2 incorporated significant automation and cognitive workload reduction for GE-ER operators, allowing them to focus on mission tasks,” stated GA-ASI President David R Alexander. “SC2’s pre-flight automation reduces emplacement and mission launch timelines by 75% from the currently-fielded [GCS].”
SC2 is a collection of standalone software applications that reduce operator workload through automated check lists: it optimizes the operator steps for pre-flight, taxi, launch and recovery, health and status monitoring, sensor and payload control and maintenance of the GRAY EAGLE. GA-ASI believes SC2’s automation will allow enlisted operators to fully focus on the more difficult and operationally relevant mission tasks, leaving mundane tasks to the software with minimal man-in-the-loop tasks, to meet the Army concept of ‘supervised autonomy.’
SC2 leverages previous automation tools and government-approved architectures to reduce overhead, integration and sustainment costs. SC2 software incorporates GE-ER-specific capabilities needed for conducting everything from simple maintenance checks to full mission operations and flight testing. The company is working closely with the Army to ensure SC2’s open architecture is aligned with the Army’s plans for Scalable Control Interface (SCI).
Incorporating SC2 into the fielded GE-ER configuration will allow the Army to significantly reduce the logistical footprint of a GE-ER platoon and provide a true expeditionary capability to the Army while enabling flexibility in the conduct of Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), providing situational awareness, critical and timely long-range targeting information and enabling future vertical lift aircraft to focus on their missions. The vision is that any laptop computer hosting the SC2 software with a datalink interface (line-of-sight or beyond-line-of-sight) will be able to interface with the GE-ER aircraft and control onboard systems.
“This capability will eliminate over 100,000lbs of Army vehicles in each GE-ER platoon, providing maximum flexibility to unit commanders on the MDO battlefield,” added Alexander.