General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) has demonstrated enhanced situational awareness and targeting capability for ground forces with the aid of the company’s Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) unmanned aerial system (UAS). The demonstration, which took place at Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, saw a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) utilize the unmanned aircraft’s electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor in order to detect an array of targets and rapidly call for direct and indirect fire.
The JTAC used an Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK) and a TrellisWare TW-950 TSM Shadow Radio to communicate with the UAS and access the video feed, aircraft location, and sensor field of regard. Utilizing the GE-ER’s open-architecture, the JTAC was able to send digital ‘Call for Fires’ to request artillery support, as well as a digital 9-line for Close Air Support. The GE-ER, configured for multi-domain operations (MDO), autonomously re-routed its flight path to provide the sensor data that the JTAC requested without requiring commands from the aircraft’s operator.
The use of this new technology marks a significant improvement in situational awareness, and enhanced efficiency, reduced latency, and reduced risk of collateral damage compared to the use of voice communications. The JTAC’s ability to orient GE-ER sensors on targets from an ATAK tablet reduces man-in-the-loop errors and increases targeting speed. These advancements are critical elements to current and future armed conflicts that reduce the risk to soldiers forward on the battlefield.
David R. Alexander, President of GA-ASI, commented: “GA-ASI remains committed to advancing technology that provides maximum situational awareness and lethality to the warfighter. The JTAC’s use of the ATAK tablet, while teamed with the Gray Eagle ER, enables rapid situational awareness and engagements, which addresses one of the Army’s top priorities.”