UAS & Robotics

Northrop demonstrates multiple-UAS control with Global Hawk

Global Hawk UAV

Northrop Grumman recently demonstrated a mission management system for unmanned aircraft that can give one controller command over more than one RQ-4 Global Hawks. In the demonstration, the Global Hawk, a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) aircraft, responded to external requests to “dynamically alter its route of flight and sensor functionality, thereby breaking the one-user to one-vehicle paradigm,” Northrop announced.

Developing command and control systems for multiple unmanned aerial systems is something the military has put a priority on. The services ultimately want to be able to conduct coordinated operations involving not only different types of UAS, but different unmanned platforms regardless of whether they operate in the air, at sea or on land. 

Northrop’s Control Mission Management System [CMMS] represents another step toward standardizing command and control for  UAS. “Our customers' advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements call for modern ground control systems based on emerging standards that can be used across air vehicle platforms – that's what we strive to deliver,” Michael Leahy, Northrop’s CMMS program director, said in the announcement. 

Northrop’s successful demonstrations bode well for future mission interoperability with various software types and interfaces supporting objectives of the Air Force’s Common Mission Control Center program, the company said. 

In addition to the U.S. Air Force, which recently announced it will spend $4 billion over the next five years for various retrofits and modernizations to the aircraft despite calls just a year ago to phase out the program altogether, Northrop also will deliver the first five Global Hawks to NATO under the moniker of the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft – a move intended to expand NATO’s ISR capacity at a time when the alliance is feeling the greatest threat in at least the last decade.

The HALE aircraft has proved a useful resource for intelligence gathering in Afghanistan over the last decade of war – notwithstanding its failed expectations to replace similar manned spy aircraft. 

Northrop lauded the successful demonstration to interface with new message standard, the Global Hawk system has the growth potential to support emerging concepts of operation. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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