Army to fuse aerial intell into common ops view

New initiative would enable sharing of operational picture among pilots, UAS operators and troops on the ground

The Army isn’t always the obvious option when unmanned aircraft systems are considered, but the service is continuing to build its arsenal of unmanned capabilities despite budget struggles. Now it is also looking to become more efficient in intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance by integrating unmanned and manned assets.

The efforts are part of the Manned/Unmanned Systems Integration Capability (MUSIC), an initiative designed to bring together both types of systems to interoperate and share a common operating picture among pilots, UAS operators and troops on the ground. MUSIC will include a demonstration at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, in September, according to Army officials who spoke at a Pentagon media briefing May 11.

“We are setting the stage for a future set of capabilities that are much broader than in the past — the ability to transfer multi-intelligence capabilities between platforms…and fuse information in a way we haven’t been able to prior and share information in a way we haven’t before,” said Tim Owings, the Army's deputy project manager for unmanned aircraft systems. “This will allow us to innovate technologies much more rapidly than we’ve done in the past. We’re fundamentally changing the way we’re operating.”

MUSIC comes as demand for flight hours is increasing in Afghanistan, even as that demand is beginning to decrease in Iraq as troops begin to draw down, Owings said. To meet the demand, resources must be better allocated, and soldiers must rely more heavily on automation and dissemination to decrease the workload on operators. The goal is to increase the presence and efficiency of operators and platforms, he added.

The Army believes it can gain an advantage by harnessing the power of unmanned and manned systems, which it aims to do with MUSIC.

“When you have manned and unmanned platforms working habitually together, you see the benefits of the different aspects that the [unmanned aerial systems] and manned systems offer,” said Lt. Col. Kirk McCauley, the Army's assistant project director for armed scout helicopters. “With the unmanned system, you have the persistence, the higher-level perspective, the broader situational awareness. That joins in with the strengths of the manned systems: the situational curiosity of actual warriors looking out at the battlefield and their ability to be on site and make difficult decisions…and rapidly adapt as situations unfold.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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