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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Take Joint Training to New Heights Story Number

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Take Joint Training to New Heights

By Journalist 2nd Class Vanessa Wood, Naval Media Center Norfolk Public Affairs

Cherry Point, North Carolina -- (NNS) June 25, 2004  -- Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were tested June 12-21 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to see if the different services' vehicles can work together in joint settings.

The Joint Operational Test Bed System (JOTBS), which led the exercise, Forward Look, is a group of professionals who can fly the aircraft, experiment with them in operational settings and test them while keeping the joint environment in mind.

Forward Look was designed to test the interoperability of UAVs Shadow, Predator and Scan Eagle, which are operated by three different branches of the Armed Services -- Army, Navy and Air Force.

"Predator is an endurance-type UAV that operates at medium altitiude, 15,000 to 20,000 feet and can stay airborne for more than 24 hours," said Frank Roberts, U.S. Joint Forces Commands's JOTBS director. "Shadow is a tactical UAV that operates below 10,000 feet and in the neighborhood of five to six hours maximum in the air. Scan Eagle [is such a small UAV] that essentially one person can pick it up and carry it around. [Scan Eagle] operates in the 2,000-foot regime or lower."

With these drones working at different elevations for different amounts of time, JOTBS is able to get a bigger picture of what is going on in a certain area.

"Because the Predator is high altitude, his camera has a very broad footprint on the ground, therefore, we can use him for a large area search," said Gerald Hull, mission coordinator, Joint Forces Command Project Forward Look. "When he sees something in a large area, we can bring in the medium altitude UAV to go ahead and pinpoint it for us. Then we bring in the smaller UAV to sit on top and stay there until we can get some weapons on the target."

This could make the picture of future warfighting more clear.

"The UAVs have really proven their utility in combat and we've had a tremendous proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. All of the services, now, have their own air vehicles. All have different capabilities. What we're trying to do through U.S. Joint Forces Command is to develop a system through which we can get collaborative efforts of those UAVs together," said Hull.

According to Roberts, one of the considerations of this test was to take the input from the UAVs and put it into a common format in a common place.

"What we provide for this overall experiment is the capability to take video imagery from the Predator or the Shadow UAV platforms, for example, and bring that in and process it to make its position more accurate, and provide some different displays to give the operator and analyst a better situational awareness of what a target is," said Pete Raymore, senior operations analyst for the Video Imagery and Capability Enhancement Program at the U.S. Air Force C-2 Battle Lab.

This experiment proved for the first time these drones could be successfully programed to work in harmony with one another, which could change future combat environments and help save lives.

"The name of the game in the end is always to be able to find where the bad guy is quickly so we can take that enemy target out and enemy personnel out before they injure our people. That's the bottom line of the capability we are trying to accomplish," said Raymore.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).