By Marty Shelton, Contractor Wyle/CAS, Inc., PM UASJuly 9, 2012
The Army's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office (UAS PO), is located on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. UAS PO, made up of some 450 Soldiers, DA Civilians and Contractors is one of eight Project Manager Organizations under the Program Executive Office for Aviation. This organization continues to revolutionize our Army's warfighting operations by being a world class leader in the development, production and sustainment of unmanned aircraft and associated systems.
The UAS PO is organized to provide our Nation and its allies world class interoperable unmanned aircraft systems and integrated payloads through excellence in program management and lifecycle support. As the Army becomes leaner and more agile, UAS PO will shape a UAS fleet with commensurate capabilities and versatility.
As of 16 May 2012, Army unmanned aircraft systems have collectively flown 1.52 million total hours, 90% of these hours (or 1.37 million) in direct support of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). Maneuver units such as infantry, scout, aviation, artillery, as well as, intelligence and medical units benefit from the availability and overall effectiveness of UAS.
The primary UAS mission is providing tactical Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA), however they perform a myriad of other functions including; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR); battle damage assessment, persistent stare for around-the-clock lethal and non-lethal operations; convoy protection and anti-ambush / Improvised Explosive Device (IED) emplacement.
UAS PO currently manages four Programs of Record (POR): Gray Eagle, Shadow®, Raven and most recently added the One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT). In addition to the four programs of record, the organization also manages the acquisition and sustainment of the Hunter, Sky Warrior Alpha, Gray Eagle Block 0, and Puma unmanned aircraft systems as well as the Universal Ground Control Stations (UGCS). UAS PO is also the DoD lead for developing Ground Bases Sense and Avoid technologies for integration of UAS in the National Airspace (NAS).
Medium Altitude Endurance (MAE) Product Office
The MAE Product Office manages the MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System. The Gray Eagle provides combatant commanders a much improved real-time responsive capability to conduct long-dwell, wide area Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition (RSTA), communications relay, and attack missions with the addition of four (4) HELLFIRE II® missiles.
The Gray Eagle is the mainstay of the Army Division/Corps commander's battle set for land warfare operations. The program is currently in the production and deployment phase, with two Quick Reaction Capability units deployed in support of combat operations in OEF as well as recent deployment of the first complete operational Gray Eagle Company in March 2012.
Modernization Product Office
The UAS Modernization Product Office is committed to being the world leader in rapidly providing emerging UAS technologies to enhance the Warfighter's survivability and capability. UAS Modernization has been successful to date in providing deployed forces the best, most capable and versatile UAS including the Hunter, Sky Warrior Alpha, and Gray Eagle Block 0.
The weaponized MQ-5B Hunter UAS is used in support of Army Aerial Exploitation Battalion for RSTA and is the Army's longest serving Corps/Division level UAS. The Hunter's enhanced imaging system allows commanders to detect, identify, and track hostile activity/targets for external weapons systems or maneuvers and Battle Damage Assessment (BDA); thereby enhancing the commander's ability to locate and identify friendly forces to avoid unnecessary loss of life and locate enemy targets.
The Sky Warrior Alpha UAS was originally provided to the Army for the development of Tactics, Techniques and Procedures. The system is frequently called upon for its exceptional endurance, high-resolution optics, and its ability to fly at higher levels for surveillance. In vital combat, it has been armed with weapons and can be used as a quick response in the field.
Ground Maneuver (GM) Product Office
The GM Product Office manages the RQ-7B Shadow® UAS. The Shadow is a dynamically diverse, lightweight, and tactical system utilizing a number of technological advances, combined with invaluable human resources and knowledge to make it one of the most productive and widely used UAS in history. The Shadow provides Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Commanders organic direct RSTA capabilities; allowing for greater flexibility in planning and mission execution.
Shadow® has seen extensive wartime use in support of OCO, recently surpassing 700K total flight hours. Shadow® is primarily designed for day/night RSTA and Battle Damage Assessment to provide around the clock, real-time intelligence to ground troops for combat purposes. The Shadow takes off from a launcher and lands autonomously in an area slightly longer than a soccer field. Annotated imagery can be transmitted in near-real time to support the commander's missions.
Small UAS Product Office
The SUAS Product Office provides the smallest elements of the tactical force with dedicated unmanned aircraft reconnaissance and surveillance support. There are currently two small unmanned aircraft managed by this office, the Raven and Puma. However, there are plans to generate a third component to this office portfolio classified as a "micro UAS" which will be used for short range UAS needs.
The RQ-11B Raven supports battalion and lower maneuver elements. The hand-launched aircraft provides day and night real-time imagery directly to the operator and leaders. Raven is present throughout the Army in maneuver and supporting units and is a key system in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). A FY12 upgrade is providing a single fully gimbaled payload incorporating day and night sensors and the IR illuminator.
The larger RQ-20A Puma All Environment Capable Variant (AECV), is operating with Route Clearance Patrols and Brigade Combat Teams. The Puma's increased endurance and longer ranges make it ideally suited for more demanding environments and operations. The two systems, Raven and Puma, employ a secure digital data link and share the same multi-functional control station. Both are compatible with receivers such as the One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT) and VUIT-II (found in manned aircraft). Operators normally fly missions autonomously via preplanned waypoints but may adjust the mission in real time.
Common Systems Integration (CSI) Product Office
The CSI Product Office is committed to providing the best, most capable and most interoperable UAS systems to our Warfighters. The Army One System concept and vision represents a significant leap forward in truly integrating the fight. The One System approach encompasses a true open architecture vision that will allow multiple aircraft to be flown from a single ground control element through a common data link.
However, well beyond command and control, the One System also includes open architecture standards for distribution of video and telemetry information across the battlefield. One System provides a launching point for plug and play payload integration while never compromising the tactical mission. CSI Product Office manages the Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) and the One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT) systems.
The Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) moves the One System concept to the next level of interoperability and commonality. It will be capable of flight and payload control of multiple UAS through a common data link. It employs a Standardization Agreement 4586-based architecture. Protected in a climate-controlled, standard S-280 or S-788 U.S. Army shelter and mounted on either a standard Army 5-ton Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles or High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, the UGCS receives and disseminates battlefield video and situational awareness data through state-of-the-art operator consoles. Consoles can be used to provide aircraft command and control, payload control and weapons launch.
The One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT) provides enhanced situational awareness with near real-time video and telemetry data from multiple manned and unmanned platforms to include Raven, Shadow, Hunter, Predator, Gray Eagle, Sky Warrior A, Block I & II Apache, and other UAS and manned Litening Pod platforms. The OSRVT displays UAS information, payload targeting data on FalconView maps in graphical format that displays icons on maps for geospatial awareness. The OSRVT is the joint solution to enhance UAS effectiveness and provides a common picture of the battlefield to users in all services.
Unmanned Systems Airspace Integration Concepts (USAIC) Directorate
USAIC Product Office is responsible for addressing issues associated with airspace integration and facilitating access to airspace to meet the increasing UAS demand for training and testing hours. Ground Based Sense and Avoid System (GBSAA) is a ground-based means of detecting airborne traffic and providing the necessary intelligence to the UAS to mitigate or provide an alternate means of compliance to the FAA "See and Avoid" regulations.
Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center (RIAC)
UAS PO established the Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center (RIAC) to develop a single integrated location where all Unmanned and Manned surrogate test aircraft could complete end-to-end testing and integration in restricted airspace. Dugway Proving Ground (DPG), Utah with its relatively clear spectrum for data transmission and communication was selected as the home of UAS test and integration.
Airspace is a premium commodity at DPG with its 1,300 square miles of controlled airspace up to 58,000 feet above sea level. PM UAS has all this space available to them for 24 hour operations if necessary. Michael Army Airfield (MAAF) at DPG is capable of handling all Army and Air Force aircraft.
UAS External Programs Directorate
The External Programs Directorate acts as the customer advocate for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. External Programs is responsible for being the single point of entry to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office -- UAS PO - for organizations external to standard Army requirements.
As such, External Programs proactively engages other Government Agencies, Industry, the Joint Community and Academia. In addition, External Programs has a significant international presence. The office manages all Allied / Coalition International UAS programs in coordination with each respective UAS Product Line Office. External Programs is strategically aligned to identify possible opportunities for the benefit of all involved worldwide.