The Bigger Picture

UCLASS

A wildlife poacher is stalking his prey …an emergency situation is becoming more threatening in a far off land …a hurricane is quickly building in the Atlantic...

In scenarios like these, we often take to the skies to obtain complete situational awareness and  make informed decisions to remedy the issue. In intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, persistence is the key discriminator that enables efficient and effective management of the information gathered, regardless of any obstacles in the way.

A Bird’s Eye View
Aboard an aircraft or monitoring airborne sensor data from the ground, military personnel often look down. Their perspective in those moments displays the sheer magnitude of the world in which we live. But continuously gathering real-time intelligence becomes complicated when your target knows you are watching from above. Thanks to technology advances, there is a wide-range of choices available to enable discrete data collection.
 

“Depending on your obstacles and operational challenges, careful mission planning and advanced technologies can be implemented that will help you to avoid being seen or heard,” said Robert Ruszkowski, Capture Director of the Skunk Works® UCLASS program.

He explained how low observable technology, noise and electronic emissions reduction, altitude, speed, autonomy, or a combination of these can be applied to meet the task at hand. “Imagine being able to see and monitor an area of interest or a target at all times, and it has no idea information is being gathered; that is a huge advantage,” said Ruszkowski.

For ISR missions that are too dangerous for a manned aircraft or require long-endurance, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are often the answer. In these cases, success relies on the UAS operator’s ability to efficiently manage and use the information being collected.

“With more UAS flying and gathering data, we’re starting to see a bandwidth limitation on how much information can be transferred,” said Ruszkowski. “Satellites are essential in the way we control UAS and we’re making advancements in the way information is compressed or preprocessed before it’s transmitted to the larger communications infrastructure,” he said.

As a result, military personnel and other users of UAS will be able to act quicker instead of having to wait to analyze all of the data they’re receiving.

Sensors for Second Sight
A peek into the future shows that ISR missions won’t just involve collecting data; but also finding better ways to exploit it.

“Through a series of efficient airborne and ground system configurations, we can now combine advanced technology with sophisticated sensors to provide a capability – for any type of mission,” said Rob Smith, vice president of C4ISR systems at Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions. “Through these systems, we can speed the delivery of today’s ISR capabilities,” he added.

Nowadays, end-users’ mission requirements are changing daily and with ever-increasing threats, today’s complex environment rarely allows for a single platform to meet all ISR mission needs.

“The key here is designing for an open systems architecture and interoperability,” said Ruszkowski. “We now have the ability to allow for rapid and therefore more affordable, enhancements and upgrades to a platform. For example, the modular design of the U-2 enables customizable sensor configurations for specific or unique mission sets.”

The future of persistent ISR systems will require advances in multi-spectral sensors, secure communications networks, robust command and control, selective autonomy, artificial intelligence, and data fusion technologies.

“Our continuous innovation in these areas will assure that actionable information is readily available at the national, strategic, and tactical levels of operation,” said Ruszkowski.

 

 

 

March 13, 2014

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highlights
  • Imagine being able to see and monitor an area of interest or a target at all times, and it has no idea information is being gathered; that is a huge advantage.
  • Satellites are essential in the way we control UAS and we’re making advancements in the way information is compressed or preprocessed before it’s transmitted to the larger communications infrastructure.
  • Through a series of efficient airborne and ground system configurations, we can now combine advanced technology with sophisticated sensors to speed the delivery of today’s ISR capabilities.
  • We now have the ability to allow for rapid and therefore more affordable, enhancements and upgrades to a platform.

UCLASS Conceptual Design

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works'® concept for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) air vehicle


Speaking of the Future: Advanced Aeronautics


Learn more about Advanced Aeronautics

Skunk Works® UCLASS Concept Video