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Mission System Needs for Small Unmanned Systems

Max G. Taylor, Matthew J. Cunnien, James D. Kleveland, Collins Aerospace

May 10, 2022


The United States (US) Department of Defense (DoD) is looking to reverse the trend of new programs costing significantly more than their predecessors while providing advanced capabilities to the warfighter by supplementing existing manned platforms with small Unmanned Air Systems (sUAS). Traditionally sUAS were leveraged for limited tactical objectives with two-way communication to a single entity such as a ground station or as part of a single manned-unmanned team (MUM-T). However, advancements in collaborative networks, mature autonomy and continued miniaturization of key technologies have expanded the potential for a broader operational use of sUAS. The multi-domain connected battlespace of the future envisions significant strategic roles for sUAS to provide actionable information more broadly to the joint forces. The expanded use of sUAS platforms is evident in the future US Army strategy to augment the existing and future capabilities of its own vertical lift platforms. In order to dis-integrate and exploit enemy threat systems the US Army intends to leverage sUAS systems such as Air Launched Effects (ALE) and Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (FTUAS) (Ref. 1). These will be part of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) ecosystem allowing extended reconnaissance, security, and attack operations. The US Air Force is also identifying new Concepts of Operation (CONOPS) which can leverage sUAS as a force multiplier to help against emerging threats (Ref. 2). This includes existing continued enhancement of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities as well as new MUM-T and swarming CONOPS. In this new role, there are several challenges that emerge for sUAS mission systems. - Existing sUAS security boundaries are focused on vulnerabilities between the aircraft and the ground station or controlling vehicle. Introduction of sUAS in the connected multi-domain battlespace opens the security boundary to include all participants consuming data from these vehicles. This results in additional attack vectors for adversaries requiring new security considerations for a sUAS. - Secure and available communications are key to supporting multi-domain battlespace doctrine at the timing and tempo required to gain advantage on the adversary. Introduction of sUAS to this assumes the ability to interconnect securely with existing and future communication protocols at a significantly reduced size, weight and power. Availability of secure communication from sUAS is challenging when considering using these unmanned systems to support operations in contested environments. - Autonomous operations and processing on the edge are key to reaping the benefits of the sUAS operating in a MUM-T environment. Moving the processing of key capabilities to the edge allows for the quicker response times and the ability for the sUAS to continue operations in contested environments and report back when secure communications become available. It can be difficult to combine the processing resources and power required to perform the needed advanced autonomous behaviors in an extremely small form factor. - With advancements in technology, the emerging threats to warfighter are outpacing upgrades of existing mission systems (Ref. 3). The ability to rapidly update mission systems will be required to counter these threats. The mission system architectures for sUAS will need to be designed with Modular Open System Approach (MOSA) solutions that can allow rapid updates to hardware and software. This ability for fast third-party system update and integration will be required to keep sUAS relevant and maintain an operational advantage. The paper will offer analysis of the implications of the emerging role for sUAS with an emphasis on potential impacts to the vertical lift community. This resultant paper will examine how sUAS performing a more interconnected role will impact overall battlespace security. In addition, the paper will analyze and assess the impacts to the attributes of sUAS including size, weight, power, and cost (SWAP-C), life-cycle cost, mission system and payload integration and upgradability. Finally, the paper will identify technology considerations to address sUAS interoperability, safety, security, qualification, and accommodations for new, as well as legacy technology.

Mission System Needs for Small Unmanned Systems

  • Presented at Forum 78
  • 16 pages
  • SKU # : F-0078-2022-17495
  • Avionics and Systems

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Mission System Needs for Small Unmanned Systems

Authors / Details:
Max G. Taylor, Matthew J. Cunnien, James D. Kleveland, Collins Aerospace