Proxy demonstrates cooperative UAV performance

Published 7 August 2007

Maryland UAV specialist, USAF offers the first successful demonstration of multiple UAVs performing fully autonomous cooperative flight

We wrote last week of the deployment to Iraq of the U.S. Air Force UAV sqaudron — an aviation history’s first robot attack squadron. We also said that some in Pakistan should get a bit worried: The hands-off approach of the Pakistani government toward the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in north-west Pakistan allowed al Queda and the Taliban to take roots there, and after lengthy assessment and evaluation the Bush administration has let the Pakistanis know that the time has come to do something about thses safe havens.

Those Pakistanis who have some sympathy for al Queda and the Taliban should be uncomfortable about this piece of news, too: Germantown, Maryland-based Proxy Aviation Systems said it had successfully completed a series of demonstrations of the cooperative flight capabilities of its SkyWatcher and SkyRaider unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), managed by its SkyForce Distributed Management System (DMS). The U.S. Air Force (USAF) contracted with Proxy to perform these tests under the operational control of the USAF UAV Battle Lab. The demonstration, called Cooperative Rules Based Reconnaissance Unmanned System (CRBRUS), was conducted at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, Nevada from on 1-11 July 2007.

The CRBRUS demonstration was the first successful demonstration of multiple UAVs performing fully autonomous cooperative flight. SkyWatcher and SkyRaider, with two simulated UAVs (each flown by its own onboard Virtual Pilot), communicated over a common mesh network, allowing one operator to manage all four UAVs. SkyForce’s network-centric software allowed the four aircraft to accomplish diverse group tactical goals with different levels of operator control. SkyForce is designed to operate as many as twelve airborne UAVs and twenty ground nodes concurrently.

Participants say that the cooperating UAV constellation, which carried FLIR Star Saphire III sensors on the live UAVs, successfully performed nine missions in nine days logging forty-nine flight hours in very hot temperatures. The USAF established the cooperative flight objectives, testing Proxy’s UAS in a series of complex and dynamic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and hunter-killer scenarios. Among the criteria were target search, simulated weapons and multiple sensor employment, dynamic mission re-tasking, formation flying, collision avoidance, and automatic take-off and landing. Note that the demonstrations marked the first operational display of SkyRaider, which offers retractable gear, a 1,000-lb payload, and the capacity to operate in high-density altitudes, among other features.

SkyWatcher is designed for medium-endurance, low- and medium-altitude ISR missions, while SkyRaider is engineered for heavy-payload missions requiring the carriage and release of external stores. SkyForce DMS, which controls both SkyWatcher and SkyRaider, has the built-in intelligence to formulate independent decisions based on changing mission criteria during flight without human intervention.

To our readers in the Washington, D.C. area: Proxy will be exhibiting at Association for Unmanned Vehicle System International’s (AUVSI) Unmanned Systems North America 2007 Conference to be held 6-9 August 2007 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The company will give a live demonstration at Webster Field and will also offer a static display at its booth at the Washington Convention Center.