UAS & Robotics

Small drones to get more autonomous capabilities

Lockheed mobile Ground Control Station

Unmanned aircraft systems are continuing to gain more autonomous capabilities as new flight control systems and software allow users to focus on things other than flying the aircraft.

Using a combination of its Kestral flight control systems and mobile Ground Control Station (mGCS) software, Lockheed Martin was able to enhance its Group 1 family of UAVs with improved automation capabilities. This will allow users to focus on the mission, instead of flying the various UAVs.

Lockheed Martin demonstrated these capabilities earlier this year using the Desert Hawk III small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS), according to a Lockheed announcement.

The mGCS enhancements were found to deliver improved situational awareness by reducing operator workload. The control system software provides an intuitive interface, a sophisticated set of operator warning, cautions, and advisories, and user-friendly touchscreen and joystick options.

The control station is a derivative of Lockheed’s VCS-4586 software for small unmanned units, said Kevin Westfall, director of unmanned solutions at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business. “mGCS is a single, portable system capable of conducting missions that would typically require multiple controllers and federated software applications in order to manage the many different types of UAS,” he said.

The software was developed on an open system and is designed to be used on portable computers as well as hand-held controllers. It includes a full software development kit that allows other UAS manufacturers to include their own platforms and other capabilities, reducing integration problems and support/sustainment costs.

Users are able to use the software to set flight modes such as fly-by-sensor mode, configurable loiter mode, manual altitude/airspeed/roll control mode, mission waypoint mode, and others.

The mGCS was combined with Lockheed’s Kestrel “Fly Light” flight control systems. The kit improves autopilot capabilities, integrating all flight sensors, communications, and payload interfaces into one package. The flight system provides control, navigation, guidance, health monitoring, and wireless communications of UAS.

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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