Fregata UAS in flight with AW159 Wildcat

On 17 September, Leonardo successfully demonstrated integrated capabilities between a manned aircraft and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

This took place in the UK during Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) trials between a Leonardo AW159 Wildcat helicopter and a semi-autonomous UAV from Callen-Lenz Associates.

In this instance, MUM-T is when a helicopter crew controls a UAV from the helicopter cockpit in the same way that they would an onboard sensor. By integrating control of the UAV into the Wildcat Mission System, Leonardo was able to minimise the pilots’ workload allowing them to focus more on the mission whilst simultaneously controlling the UAV.

According to the company this is the first time such an integrated capability has been demonstrated in the UK on a military aircraft. A ‘gateway processor’ supplied by Callen-Lenz was used to interface with the Fregata semi-autonomous UAV, which is produced in South Africa by Epsilon Engineering Services, whose design and IP belongs to Callen-Lenz.

The Leonardo solution allows the Wildcat crew to control both the flight path and payload of the UAV, a capability known as Level of Interoperability (LOI) 4, using a task based Human Machine Interface (HMI), rather than the more operator intensive approaches employed on other systems.

Combining the strengths of manned and unmanned platforms, MUMT has the potential to play a transformative role by increasing the situational awareness, tempo, lethality, survivability and combat mass of aviation forces, significantly reducing crew workload allowing pilots to focus on the mission at hand.

MUMT enhances air support capability in both the land and maritime environments. It also enables extended and complex operations to be conducted with a mix of platforms and systems.

The demonstration was part of the British Army’s MUMT themed Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) 19, and was planned and executed by Dstl and took place on Salisbury Plain in September. These trials build on simulation based development conducted under the Dstl funded AMS DE-RISC programme.

This successful demonstration is now expected to inform the MUMT capability roadmap for both the UK MoD and Leonardo.

by David Oliver