Published: February 2019
GD UK has de-risked the safety and certification aspects of stores carriage and deployment from unmanned platforms. The work included an investigation and integration of Ground – Air command protocols to enable safe operation in multiple categories of airspace. The robustness of the protocol to failure conditions, and subsequent dependencies on communications bearer implementations were also investigated.
Current manned aircraft can pass safety related signals over cables, fibre optics etc. between the cockpit and aircraft systems. For unmanned aircraft, when the operator is removed from the cockpit and placed in a ground-station, a radio link will need to convey these safety related signals. Cables are more robust and reliable than radio links, so the use of radio to convey safety related signals needs careful design. Many systems make effective use of unreliable communications by putting a reliable layer of message exchange on top of the unreliable communications, this is how the public internet works, by placing a ‘control protocol’ on top of a message passing network which makes no guarantee of delivery of messages. The GDUK work focused on what sort of protocol could be developed to provide safe interaction between a human operator and the unmanned aircraft.
The benefit of the GDUK work is to demonstrate that the prototype version of the protocol can allow a human operator at a ground station to have safe control over the control and release of stores from an unmanned platform. This keeps a human in control of the system. The GDUK work proves the concept and gives confidence that the approach can be further developed in the future.
This work-package formed part of the DSTL contract for Advanced Mission System integration work (AMS DE-RISC) for which General Dynamics UK has been integral for the past 8 years. This work package was supported by Thales UK, through their experience in unmanned platforms and lab facilities and Integration events were held at Thales facilities to demonstrate the concept.
As well as initial study reports on the challenges of controlling a stores system over a radio link, initial functionality was developed in MATLAB and Simulink. This allows rapid prototyping of a model of the ground and airborne elements of the system to be executed in order to test the concepts, with the potential to carry the prototype functionality through in to a final system with automated code generation.
A safety analysis was also started, using modular approach guidelines which have previously been developed by UK industry, including BAE Systems and Leonardo who are also part of the AMS DE-RISC programme.
Collaboration is a key element of the AMS DE-RISC programme. The presentation day included a brief to members of the AMS DE-RISC consortium and MoD Customer (Dstl). The work will culminate at an integrated demonstration during 2019 at BAE Systems, Warton. This will show how inter-platform communications will support improvements in the use of existing fixed wing, rotary wing and unmanned platforms.