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September 11, 2019 | International, Land

DSEI: Unleash the hornets: Combat vehicles and robots get new kit to increase standoff

DSEI: Unleash the hornets: Combat vehicles and robots get new kit to increase standoff

By: Jen Judson 

LONDON — A FLIR System that deploys tiny unmanned aerial vehicles from a ruggedized container affixed to the front of a vehicle is helping to shape how advanced teaming can be used on the tactical edge against near peer threats.

At DSEI — a major defense exposition in London — the system that deploys Black Hornet UAVs, which is the system chosen by the U.S. Army for the Soldier Borne Sensor program, made its appearance in several variations around the showroom floor.

Rheinmetall had it built onto the front of its Mission Master Unmanned Ground System representing a surveillance variant.

At Kongsberg, the system is integrated with a remote weapon station. The idea is that the package of tiny UAVs can be forward deployed from a combat vehicle while soldiers stay inside and maintain standoff from enemy forces. The UAVs can perform reconnaissance and possible targeting assistance so the vehicle knows where it can shoot.

The data from the UAVs tiny camera can feed right back into the vehicle’s weapon station providing intel to the gunner, for instance.

The concept was first unveiled in a prototype at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington in 2018, but it is now a full-up system ready for the market, according to Ole Aguirre, FLIR senior director of UIS Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships in the company’s unmanned systems and integrated solutions division.

The system accommodates four Black Hornets in four individual compartments, which close up to protect the little drones. Two UAVs can be deployed at once while the other two charge using power from the vehicle, Aguirre said.

The entire box that can be attached to the front of the vehicle is ruggedized to the level it can withstand the environment of a tank, he added.

The system can be controlled from inside the vehicle using the remote weapon station or a tablet or the traditional controls that go with the U.S. Army’s Soldier Borne Sensor. It has been built using NATO standards so it can be integrated into command and control systems.

Placing the box of UAVs outside of the vehicle is important so that a soldier wouldn’t have to open up the hatch on a vehicle to throw one out and space is highly limited inside most tanks and combat vehicles.

The Black Hornet’s range is roughly a 2,000 meter radius, but FLIR is looking at how to extend the range of the UAV to meet a requirement defined by a pacing threat of 3,000 meters, Aguirre said.

Because the system is versatile, it can be used on small UGVs all the way up to tanks and so FLIR sees opportunity across the U.S. Army’s many vehicle modernization programs and also with current systems.

The company is investing heavily in evaluating utility for the U.S. Army, Aguirre added, but there is also strong international interest in Europe and the Middle East particularly.

The system is a step forward in conceiving feasible integration concepts for advanced teaming between UAVs and manned and unmanned ground vehicles.

Two years ago at DSEI, there was a striking lack of integration of unmanned aircraft systems into vehicle concepts.

For example, Finnish defense company Patria was the only one to display a concept integrating a drone with a vehicle — mounting the hand-launched Black Hornet atop a little stick on the roof of the back end of its armored modular vehicle.

Eurosatory in 2018, held in Paris, showed a little more evolution in advanced teaming between aerial systems and vehicles.

The U.S. Army’s plans to evaluate a wide variety of advanced teaming concepts as part of a major modernization effort through its brand new Army Futures Command could be driving much of the proliferation of ideas now popping up at defense trade shows.

https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/dsei/2019/09/11/unleash-the-hornets-combat-vehicles-and-robots-get-new-kit-to-increase-standoff

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