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Aviator Mission Tasker of Distributed Unmanned Assets


TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Information Systems


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals, their country of origin, and what tasks each would accomplish in the statement of work in accordance with section 3.5.b.(7) of the solicitation.

OBJECTIVE:  Develop a software toolkit that will enable Army system developers, tacticians, and aviators to define and tailor cockpit automation, aiding, and tasking associated with mission planning, coordination, and execution to facilitate optimal usage of unmanned systems within an evolving mission context. 

DESCRIPTION:  Current integration of manned aviation assets with unmanned assets is limited both by the workload imposed on the aviators by the mechanics of conventional Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) control techniques, and the cognitive difficulty of integrating “heads up” local information from the manned aviation platform with “heads down” information from the UAS. Manned-unmanned (MUM) teaming combines "the inherent strengths of manned platforms with the strengths of UAS, which produce synergy not seen in single platforms." (U.S. Army Roadmap for UAS 2010-2035, p.15) The Army is moving toward a concept of robotic UAS wingmen to support and team with manned aircraft, expanding sensor coverage and extending standoff ranges. MUM teaming between manned and unmanned platforms requires new methods for Army Aviators to task and maintain vigilance over distributed unmanned assets. On-going efforts to develop the first stages in this teaming between Manned Helicopters and Unmanned Air Vehicles include programs like VUIT 2 and the Block 3 Apache.

One of the keys to transitioning to future concepts is the need to develop tools for adding the needed automation and intelligent behaviors to the UAV control systems necessary to keep workload low and create an intuitive and predictable interface to the unmanned systems. Past efforts to define and automate cockpits like in the Rotorcraft Pilot’s Associate Program have relied on significant knowledge acquisition processes and software engineering efforts on the development of basic structure and tasking architectures.  Although efforts to develop mission tasking software for unmanned systems have been worked for many years, they have tended to produce highly “engineering” centric controls and displays and don’t flow well into an aviator/warfighter centric planning and execution toolset. The problem is that automation and tasking software that must support and adapt to a changing tactical situations and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) requires a complete reengineering and architecting of the software.  To make automation and aiding in cockpits more adaptable and evolve to meet future needs, a better means of defining and adapting cockpit system automation is needed.

What is needed to make unmanned systems more assessable and useful is to develop a cockpit-ready mission oversight mechanism for an Army Aviator to task distributed unmanned assets for key Army unmanned missions (such as ISR, logistics, counter-UAV, etc.). The effort should build upon the Army's experience with unmanned mission control and should take a form that is appropriate for cockpit environments (see reference 4 for examples). Critical to the success of manned/unmanned teaming is the ability for unmanned assets to be tasked from manned vehicles in such a way as to expand the capabilities of the manned asset beyond just extending range of sensors. Critical challenges include maintaining aviator awareness of distributed asset mission status in flight, supporting the coordination of multiple unmanned assets in a variety of simultaneous activities, and providing efficient control capabilities to the Army Aviator while minimizing the impact on workload.

This effort is seeking to develop a software toolkit that will enable Army system developers, tacticians, and aviators to define and tailor cockpit automation, aiding, and tasking associated with mission planning, coordination, and execution to facilitate optimal usage of unmanned systems within an evolving mission context.  It is envisioned that such a toolkit to define aiding, tasking, and automation within a cockpit would ultimately have significant benefit beyond the management of unmanned assets and it is hoped would lead to broader use of automation within the Army. The interface for the toolkit needs to be designed to be intuitive to both aviators and tactician.  It should maintain sufficient oversight and constraints by the software such that it keeps them within system specification and incorporates good human factors. When used to define new tasking and automation or modify existing sets of tasking to incorporate changes in tactics, the system needs be able to validate the behaviors through some level of automation possibly through simulation and /or analysis.  The Aviator side of the software will need to work within current planning and cockpit systems while permitting the aviator the ability to easily tailor and modify the mission plan and automation in an intuitive Aviator centric manner. This software toolkit should be able to work with existing systems onboard and off board the aircraft as defined by a systems developer and then integrate the utilization of sensors and payloads of both air and ground unmanned systems as part of an overall mission planning system. This effort should focus on developing intuitive means for defining monitors, cues, and automating tasks to aid the management of unmanned systems throughout an aviator’s mission. Specific areas where it is envisioned such aiding software would be beneficial and where the contractor shall develop a tasking system for include the following: 1) to identify and assess available unmanned assets in an area; 2) conduct planning and set cues to put assets on station; 3) manage the asset and maintain awareness of the unmanned system while being utilized by the aviator; and, 4) coordinate basic system management and safety issues with the owner of the unmanned asset as they arise. This effort is not seeking to develop all the mission specific behaviors for unmanned system utilization by an army aviator but rather develop a set of tools usable at many echelons for defining them both on the general mission templates at command level and to define and tailor them to mission specific requirement by aviators.

To simplify the UAS and payload control interface, the government will provide at contract award the UAS interface based on the UAS PO Interoperability Profiles (IOP) which are based on STANAG 4586. Other standard interfaces for accessing communications, determining available unmanned assets in the field, and setting up control shall be used as identified with commercial/open standards filling in where appropriate military standards do not yet exist.

PHASE I:  The contractor shall conduct a trade study analysis to look at technologies options associated with architecting the system.  The contractor will use simple mission scenarios and available training material to help scope and develop requirements for the system. The contractor shall conduct a task analysis of potential Aviator and UAS operations to define the scope of tasks and functions that their toolkit must be able to define. The contractor shall develop a proof of concept demo suitable for user review/assessment for key components both tacticians and aviators.

PHASE II:  Develop a graphic user interface (GUI) appropriate for aviators in both pre-mission and real-time environments to conduct planning, automating and monitoring for unmanned system. Develop software architecture and interfaces for the key unmanned air vehicles using the UAS PO Interoperability profiles. Coordination with helicopter and unmanned system developers is encouraged enabling compatibility with current Army aviation systems. If appropriate system definitions are not available then appropriate DoD and Industry standards can be substituted. The system shall ultimately be assessed at 2 levels: 1) an assessment of system to define useful mission behaviors in a command and control environment and 2) and assessment of the planning and execution system to meet mission needs in simulated aviator environment. 

PHASE III:  This technology should have a broad application to all Army and DOD aviation system. Like Kiowa Warrior, Apache, Special Ops 60s, and be able to support unmanned aviation systems, such as Shadow, Raven, Fire Scout, etc. A mission specific planning and execution system like this would have a wide variety of commercial applications such as HLS, Border Patrol, Police Departments, forestry service, and also could prove to be an enabler making unmanned systems operate more cooperatively and make them much more flexible to adapt to new applications.

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