UAS & Robotics

Army links Apache, Gray Eagle UAS in South Korea

General Atomics Improved Gray Eagle

A Gray Eagle streamed information to an Apache helicopter during tests in South Korea.

Building on its work toward teaming manned and unmanned aircraft, the Army in a recent exercise demonstrated some long-distance data sharing between an MQ-1C Gray Eagle and a manned helicopter. The exercise, conducted in August from Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, involved streaming video and metadata via a line-of-sight data link into an Army AH-64 Apache helicopter from “extended distances,” according to an announcement by Gray Eagle contractor General Atomics.

“These flights represent a major milestone for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle as they successfully demonstrated manned-unmanned teaming in South Korea and proved the aircraft's ability to conduct operations in diverse weather conditions that are typical on the Korean Peninsula,” said Frank Pace, General Atomics’ president of Aircraft Systems. “They also marked a new company milestone for Gray Eagle with its first mission in South Korean airspace.” 

During the tests, the Apache was able to re-transmit imagery streamed from its unmanned counterpart to a One System Remote Video Terminal, which allows ground forces to view the footage. Additionally, commanders in the tactical operations center were able to view both the feeds from the Gray Eagle (live) and Apache (re-transmitted).

Ground forces during the exercise were able to direct the Gray Eagle’s sensors to identify and track targets following the airborne transmission of target coordinates to operators in the aircraft’s One System Ground Control Station. 

The Army has been working on this kind of manned-unmanned teaming for a while. Last year, it tested giving Apache pilots control of Gray Eagles mid flight  and within the past couple of months has issued solicitations looking to improve the Gray Eagle’s data link and modify the Apache so that it is better able to communicate with unmanned aircraft.  

About the Author

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

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