U.S. Navy UCAS Achieves Milestone Aboard U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier USS Eisenhower

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Someoneforyou, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. Someoneforyou

    Someoneforyou Regular Member

    Jan 26, 2011
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    Navy UCAS Achieves Milestone Aboard Eisenhower

    NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. –-- The Navy is one step closer to demonstrating the first carrier-based recoveries and launches of an autonomous, low-observable relevant unmanned aircraft.

    Aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) July 2, a team from the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program office (PMA-268) accomplished the historical first carrier touchdown of an F/A-18D surrogate aircraft emulating an unmanned vehicle using systems developed as part of the Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program.

    “What we saw here today is cutting edge technology for integrating digital control of autonomous carrier aircraft operations, and most importantly, the capability to automatically land an unmanned air system aboard an aircraft carrier,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, N-UCAS Program Manager. “Successfully landing and launching a surrogate aircraft allows us to look forward to demonstrating that a tailless, strike-fighter- sized unmanned system can operate safely in the carrier environment.”

    Demonstrating the UCAS-D system with a proven carrier aircraft, the F/A-18D, significantly reduces risk of landing an unmanned system aboard the ship for the first time. The F/A-18 surrogate aircraft, provided by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, is controlled with actual avionics and software that are being incorporated on X-47B UCAS-D aircraft.

    “Surrogate testing allows us to evaluate ship systems, avionics systems, and early versions of the unmanned vehicle software with a pilot in the loop for safety,” said Glenn Colby, team lead for UCAS-D Aviation/Ship Integration. “With this we can verify our interfaces and functionality while minimizing the risk to an unmanned vehicle.”

    Along with the F/A-18, the test team employed a King Air surrogate aircraft operated by Air-Tec, Inc. According to Colby, the King Air gives the team a low-cost test bed to evaluate the ability of the UCAS-D avionics and ship systems to properly adhere to existing carrier operations procedures. PMA-268 is using the King Air to test all of the system functionality that does not require actually landing on the ship.

    “The most important thing we have done is adapted the ship’s systems to handle a vehicle without a pilot, then seamlessly integrated it into carrier operations,” said Rob Fox, UCAS-D Aviation/Ship Integration deputy team lead. “We’re using both current aircraft carrier hardware and software systems and processes, and introducing new systems and processes to accommodate an unmanned system.”

    The vast majority of today’s carrier flight operations are flown manually and visually by Naval Aviators. The pilot gives the ship information about the aircraft over the radio; all air traffic control instructions are by voice and even a good portion of navigation data has to be read over the air by the ship. The purpose of the UCAS-D integration effort is to digitize the communications and navigation information flow to incorporate capabilities required for UAS flight operations aboard a carrier, with minimal impact to existing hardware, training and procedures.

    “This test period shows us very clearly that the carrier segment hardware and software, and the Precision Global Positioning System (PGPS) landing technologies are mature and ready to support actual unmanned operations with the X-47B,” said Engdahl.

    To support an autonomous vehicle, PMA-268 has modified shipboard equipment so that the UCAS-D X-47B air vehicle, mission operator and ship operators are on the same digital network. For current fleet aircraft, the Landing Signal Officer (LSO), who is charged with safe recovery of aircraft aboard the ship, uses voice commands and visual signals to communicate with a pilot on final approach. Since a UAS cannot reliably respond to voice and visual signals, the LSO’s equipment communicates directly with the aircraft through the digital network via a highly reliable interface. Similar digital communication capability has been integrated with the ship’s primary flight control (“tower”) and Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC) facilities. Most importantly, the UAS operator’s equipment, installed in one of the carrier’s ready rooms, is integrated with the very same network.

    In addition to communications, an unmanned system requires highly precise and reliable navigation to operate around the ship. Today’s first arrested landing of the F/A-18D surrogate aircraft aboard the Eisenhower was enabled by integrating Precision Global Positioning System (PGPS) capabilities into the ship and the aircraft.

    According to Engdahl, these tests demonstrate that PGPS landing technologies and the carrier segment hardware and software are mature and ready to support actual unmanned operations with the X-47B. In addition, these capabilities have the potential to make manned aircraft operations safer and more efficient.

    “Our team has worked vigorously over the past five years to modify and develop systems required to operate unmanned aircraft around and aboard a carrier,” said Adam Anderson, team lead for UCAS-D Aviation/Ship Integration System Build, who has worked on the program since 2006. “This was a very complex and challenging task that required innovative, hard-working and dedicated individuals to get the job done.”

    The first experiments supporting unmanned carrier operations were conducted in 2002 followed by at-sea testing of a King Air in 2005. With the basic concept proven, the UCAS-D team began the detailed design of the carrier integration in 2007. The PMA-268/NAVAIR team worked closely with experts from PEO (Carriers) and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to determine the details of system installation on a carrier, while working to minimize impact to ongoing missions and capabilities aboard the ship. Initial capability of the ship equipment was verified in January 2010 during testing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

    In fall 2010, ship modifications began on the Eisenhower. The UCAS-D team worked closely with ship’s company personnel to lessen disruption to other activities required for normal operations and maintenance of the ship. Initial surrogate testing took place during the ship’s sea trials the week of June 13, which validated the system’s readiness for carrier landings.

    “This was truly a team effort with our industry partners, including Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, SAIC, ARINC and Sierra Nevada Corporation, PEO Carriers, NAVSEA and, of course, the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower,” Engdahl added. “The exceptional support and collaboration of the entire team has set us up very well to achieve our ultimate milestone –autonomous landing of an actual unmanned, low-observable relevant aircraft on the aircraft carrier in 2013.”

    The UCAS-D program continues ship integration and X-47B flight test activities in preparation for sea trials in 2013. Flight testing is underway at Edwards Air Force Base and will transition to Pax River later this year.

    The USS Eisenhower and the Navy UCAS program made Naval Aviation history as a F/A-18 surrogate aircraft was coupled and remotely controlled all the way to touch down, July 2. The is only the second time in 54 years that new technology has been demonstrated for automating carrier approaches; the first time being the touch and goes demonstrated by the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System program in 2001 using an early form of Precision Global Positioning System (PGPS).

    Source: U.S Naval Air Systems Command
  3. Someoneforyou

    Someoneforyou Regular Member

    Jan 26, 2011
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    U.S. Navy, Northrop Grumman Successfully Test Systems Required to Operate X-47B Unmanned System From an Aircraft Carrier

    Manned Surrogate Using X-47B Software Makes Trial Landings on USS Eisenhower

    NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md., July 5, 2011 -- The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) have successfully completed a demonstration of the ship-based software and systems that will allow the X-47B unmanned air vehicle to operate from the deck of an aircraft carrier.
    The test, conducted July 2 in the western Atlantic with the Navy carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69), culminated with several successful launches and recoveries of a manned surrogate aircraft equipped with X-47B precision navigation control software.

    "This manned surrogate test event is a significant and critical step toward landing the X-47B on the carrier deck in 2013," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, U.S. Navy, program manager, Navy Unmanned Combat Air System (N-UCAS). "It represents the first end-to-end test of the hardware and software systems that will eventually allow unmanned systems to integrate safely and successfully with all aspects of carrier operations."

    Strong collaboration between the engineers of U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Northrop Grumman was key to the successful test, he added. Northrop Grumman is the Navy's prime contractor for the Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. A Navy/Northrop Grumman test team conducted first flight of the X-47B in February.

    "The precision navigation and control capability demonstrated by the UCAS-D team represents a potential 'breakthrough' capability for the Navy," said Janis Pamiljans, vice president, N-UCAS for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "It could be applied, in theory, to any manned or unmanned carrier-compatible aircraft, which could have a dramatic effect on the tempo and efficiency of future carrier operations."

    According to Glenn Colby, NAVAIR's aviation/ship integration lead, the biggest challenge associated with landing an unmanned system on a carrier deck is automating – and removing any ambiguity from – flight procedures and communications between aircraft and ship that have traditionally been performed manually by pilots and the ship's air operations personnel.

    "Today's carrier environment relies on human operators to monitor and ensure safe flight operations," said Colby. "As we begin to integrate unmanned systems into this very restrictive manned environment, we have to ensure that the software controlling these new systems can recognize and respond correctly to every type of contingency."

    Colby and his team at NAVAIR's N-UCAS Aviation/Ship Integration Facility (NASIF) at Patuxent River, prepared for the surrogate testing through a steady build-up of rigorous software simulations and flight tests.
    First, they used early versions of the software that the X-47B will use to operate at the carrier to simulate command and control, air traffic control and navigation exchanges between the aircraft and the carrier. Then they progressed to more robust simulations that included X-47B avionics and an X-47B mission operator station, all in the NASIF lab.

    Next were flight tests of X-47B hardware and software installed on a King Air Beech 300 aircraft. The King Air flew in the vicinity of CVN-69 – both pier-side in Norfolk, Va., and while underway – to test mission management, command and control, communications, air traffic control and navigation functions between the X-47B software and the ship.

    In addition to the King Air, the test team used a surrogate F/A-18 aircraft equipped with X-47B software and avionics to evaluate the most challenging areas of launch and recovery operations. Initial testing at Patuxent River focused on verifying that aircraft sensors, navigation, guidance and control systems were ready for shipboard testing.

    "Using a manned surrogate platform to test the unmanned systems avionics and software gives us an extra layer of safety as we test the X-47B software to ensure that it responds correctly and safely to different flight conditions," explained Colby.

    Results from the surrogate testing will be used to continue to refine the mission management, navigation, guidance and control software that the X-47B will use to perform its first carrier landings in 2013.

    Source: Northrop Grumman Corporation

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