The Product Directorate for Unmanned Systems Airspace Integration (USAIC) conducted a formal two-week demonstration during the weeks of June 4-8 and June 18-22 with a series of vignettes designed to validate the design and functionality of the Army's Sense and Avoid technology.
"The demonstration was a total success," said Viva Austin, Product Director for the Army's USAIC. "Not only were we able to meet or exceed every objective established for the demonstration by flying the system against numerous different DoD concepts and locations, but safely flying a synthetic UAS downtown in Salt Lake City against live traffic, and then against recorded Boston airspace data -- that really allowed us to validate that the Phase 2 technology we are fielding to Gray Eagle sites works and is almost ready to go prime time. Both the GBSAA test bed and the full system/concept demonstration turned out to be more successful than we could have hoped for."
The demonstrations included performance of seven live and synthetic vignettes which exhibited the system's ability to fly in numerous National Airspace System (NAS) environments including Airfield Traffic Patterns, Lateral Transits, Military Operations Areas (MOAs) in Class D, E, and G airspace.
Specific objectives of the demonstration included:
• Opportunity for the Army team to bring the Phase 2 technology out of the laboratory and apply it to actual flight operations (validate models, operations/procedures check, operator feedback, lessons learned, and more)
• Demonstrate the functionality/adaptability of the Army GBSAA system by conducting operations targeting multiple service sites including Dugway Proving Grounds, Cherry Point (Marine Corps Air Station), Ft. Drum (Air National Guard), Ft. Stewart (Army), as well as virtual flight operations in the national airspace surrounding Salt Lake City, Utah and Boston, Mass.
• Highlight Open Architecture/Plug and Play functionality of the Army GBSAA System
• Demonstrate the ability to fuse data from 3-D radar and ATC radar (ASR-9) real time, for use in a GBSAA System
• Illustrate the significant capabilities and benefits of the Army SAA test bed at DPG
• Early validation of GBSAA Requirements (Common Requirements Set agreed upon by the GBSAA Advisory Board representing all three Services)
The Army documented numerous valuable lessons from the demonstrations, which will feed future development of the Army's GBSAA System. The system performed exactly as expected, and no anomalies were encountered.
"After attending the GBSAA demonstration and witnessing the outstanding performance of the system, I am extremely confident that we have a system that will be successful in safely providing a sense and avoid capability to Army UAS," said Col. Timothy Baxter, Project Manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. He lauded the team's efforts adding that this milestone signifies an important step towards the future of integration UAS into national airspace.
The transition of U.S. military's UAS to owning military units stateside and the fielding of Gray Eagle UASs emphasizes a growing need for UAS access to the NAS in order for UAS operators to train and remain technically and tactically proficient. This point, along with the groundswell of interest among other government and non-government agencies to employ unmanned aircraft in the NAS creates the need for a hastened development of GBSAA technology.
On April 27, 2011, the USAIC Product Office, the Office of the Secretary of Defense UAS Task Force lead for GBSAA development, conducted the first ever unmanned aircraft flight within the NAS utilizing an FAA approved GBSAA prototype system. USAIC teamed with Gray Eagle operations to conduct the historic flights at El Mirage, Calif.
In order to accelerate development and fielding time lines for GBSAA, the Army relocated GBSAA test activities from El Mirage to Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah. A GBSAA test bed was installed at Dugway Proving Ground as part of the Army's Rapid Integration Acceptance Center in fall 2011. Two Lightweight Surveillance Target Acquisition Radars (LSTAR) V3, 3-D radar, were installed and integrated into the GBSAA test bed at Dugway in summer 2012.
GBSAA provides a mitigation or alternate means of compliance to FAA regulatory requirements regarding the ability to see and avoid other aircraft in the NAS, and allows for integration of UAS into the NAS
The USAIC product directorate is part of the UAS Project Office within the Program Executive Office for Aviation headquartered on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.