Finding a common operating picture for UAV data

Data must be exploited in a timely fashion to avoid overwhelming warfighters

The proliferation of unmanned systems on the battlefield has opened new avenues for gathering data for the warfighter. But warfighters risk being overwhelmed by that data if it cannot be exploited in a timely and systematic fashion.

As the Defense Department modernizes and integrates its command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities, officials are looking at ways to streamline what’s now a stove-piped environment in which unmanned systems provide an increasing amount of data.

The priority is to get the infrastructure right so that systems that need to work together actually do work together, said Wayne Perras, director of experimentation for the Office of Naval Research’s C4ISR department.

“That infrastructure should not be unique to a UAS infrastructure as it is today,” “All it is is software. It can go anywhere.”

As the Navy builds out its tactical cloud, the service has identified the need for advanced technologies to handle data from unmanned sensor platforms. According to the Navy’s 2013-2017 information dominance strategy: “The duration, dwell, range, and access of unmanned vehicles demands greater management of sensors to ensure collection is tailored to operational need. The exponential increase in data generated by these assets will require that sufficient processing capability (both manpower and systems) exists to convert the collected information into intelligence.”

The object is to pull all the data obtained from various systems into one system for analysis, making information available to warfighters when they need it, said Jerry Desrosiers, technology transition and experimentation lead for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I.

Exploiting data from unmanned systems is an integral part of the other services’ plans for networked warfare as well. The Army’s Command Post of the Future (CPOF) is that service’s platform that pulls data from a variety of sources, including unmanned systems, into a common operating picture.

“CPOF started the process to bring in data from all these sources and allow warfighting functions to come into one environment so commanders could do what they used to do around a map,” said Maj. Shane Sims, the assistant product manager for tactical mission command. “We're trying to bring everyone back around the map, but in a digital world.”

Officials plan to release in the fall version 7.0 of the technology, which would enable users to disconnect from the network while continuing to employ the system, and later reconnect and resynchronize data with the network.

Researchers also are working on the technology needed to ensure that unmanned systems can securely transmit data on the move. The ability to transmit real-time, high-density video on the move has only been available for a few years because of the challenges posed by the need to maintain global coverage while transmitting at a high bandwidth on a very small antenna, said Karl Fuchs, vice president of technology for iDirect Government Technologies. Any solution has to be both secure and operationally efficient “or else it’s not going to be a viable, seamless system,” he said.

Additional Online Resources

Navy Information Dominance Strategies

About the Author

Charles Hoskinson is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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