Army tests new drone-control technology
- By Kris Osborn
- Feb 21, 2017
Soldiers can now use a portable laptop computer to navigate nearby drones while on the move in combat, Army and Textron Systems developers say.
One System Remote Vehicle Terminals (OSRVT) enable individual soldiers to see over mountains, convoys and other obstacles by controlling drones and real-time drone video feeds from a single portable device.
The laptop-like drone controllers are configured with a vehicle-adapter
kit so that they can operate from almost every Army vehicle. In fact, software is hosted in the Army’s emerging Humvee replacement, the
Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Fielding OSRVTs is currently 69 percent
complete, Army officials said.
The OSRVT, has been in combat with the Army since 2007. They are integrated into vehicle platforms such as Stryker vehicles, allowing infantry to view feeds and control sensor payloads from nearby drones while on-the-move.
Current OSRVTs include a transceiver, antenna, and ruggedized tablet computer that enables secure communication with an unmanned aircraft, said Maj. Alan Wood, Asst. Product Manager, OSRVT, UAS Common Systems Integration Office.
Now, the Army and Textron are developing a lightweight portable OSRVT for dismounted soldiers using a modified frequency, Wood explained. The new device is slated to be ready by 2020.
“We are working on soldier-portable versions of the OSRVT to reduce the footprint and allow them to become even more capable,” said Wayne Prender, Vice President, Control and Surface Systems, Textron Systems.
Certain small, handheld Army drones, such as a Puma or Wasp, can be operated by dismounted soldiers. However, while quite useful in combat circumstances, they have a more limited range, endurance and sensing ability compared to larger, medium-altitude drones such as an Army Gray Eagle.
Other planned upgrades to the OSRVT configuration include a modified Ku-band Directional Antenna (KuDA) for mobile vehicle operations to be ready by 2018 and bi-directional technology by 2020. The Army plans to have additional communications security for the OSRVT in place by 2020 as well, Wood said.
“These upgrades allow OSRVT to continue meeting its operational requirements while improving operational flexibility with vehicle and dismounted operations -- and keeping pace with Manned-Unmanned Teaming interoperability initiatives,” Wood added.
The OSRVT system supports what’s called level of interoperability three (LOI3) via a KuDA; LOI3 allows the OSRVT user to control the UA payload (except weapons) when allowed by the primary UA operator.
Army OSRVTs have been fielded to active duty forces, reserves and National Guard units.
Upgrades to the OSRVT supports and improves the Army’s current combat-zone progress with “manned-unmanned teaming.” This technology, already deployed in combat in Afghanistan, allows Kiowa and Apache attack helicopter crews to view video feeds from nearby drones and control the sensor payload from the air.
Kris Osborn is a former editor of Defense Systems.