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Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office: U-ROC

October 24, 2011

By Marty Shelton, Mike Livaudais, Tommy Thomas

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office- U-ROC
By: Marty Shelton, Contractor- Wyle/CAS, Inc., Mike Livaudais and Tommy Thomas, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office

The mission of the Army's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Project Office (PO) is to provide affordable through excellence in program management to our Nation and its allies, world class unmanned aircraft systems and unmanned control systems -- interoperable with Army, Joint and coalition partners.

At a moment in time when the defense budget continues to shrink, the UAS PO responds with cost savings initiatives while continuing to make inroads in UAS technology and outpace increasing optempo demands. Unmanned aircraft technology continues to be a growth industry, that brings with it unique maintenance, technological and logistical challenges.

The UAS PO Technical Management (TM) Division is charged with the mission of building cost predictability into UAS operations. The TM Division has initiated a new cost savings focus area called UAS Reduction of Ownership Cost (U-ROC). The effort consists of multiple initiatives focusing on better buying power and horizontal integration amongst the varying UAS products. U-ROC is represented functionally with members from each of the UAS PO products and led by division level personnel.

MG William T. Crosby, the Army's Program Executive Officer of Aviation, recently said of the UAS PO mission, "When I think of UAS, I think of the revolution of aviation." He goes on to say, "it's kinda like you're driving the car down the road and changing the engine out as you speed along."

One of the initiatives under U-ROC is UAS Maintenance (UAS-M). This common maintenance application serves as a Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) tool that will provide a means to download flight data from an aircraft, provide immediate feedback and health status of the air vehicle to the user, and serve as a conduit to send and receive data from the UAS Data Warehouse (DW). UAS-M is a Government-off-the-shelf product funded by Level of Effort that allows for the rapid spiraling of product specific requirements, continuous updates, and no licensing fees. UAS-M V1.0 is on schedule for a 2QFY12 release date.

Through data analysis, prognostics, and Health and Usage Monitoring Systems, the Shadow team has demonstrated some early success in driving toward a CBM solution. Prognostic algorithms resident within the avionics of the Air Vehicle (AV) can predict impending oil starvation events. To date, 17 Shadow AVs have avoided mishaps due to correctly predicted events of impending propulsion failure.

So far, mishap avoidance equates to an approximate cost savings of $336K per incident, factoring in repair and/or replacement costs per aircraft. According to Tim Owings, Deputy Project Manager, UAS PO, "U-ROC has the potential to provide a cost and aircraft saving model that will result in huge cost avoidances in the future. The tools we are developing today will be the basis for dramatically lower cost and higher reliability systems in the future." This is the tip of the iceberg, as the UAS-M tool will continue to develop new prognostics and refine existing algorithms, both on the fly in the field and via long term trending analysis.

The DW will serve as a common repository for all UAS CBM data, facilitating the sharing of data across the product directorates for determining "like" problems among aircraft. The DW will also be a server, used to push data to UAS-M, such as software updates, algorithm updates, knowledge base information, and other future digital dissemination products.

An emerging, innovative area of U-ROC is in mobile technology. Leveraging commercial mobile technology not only reduces procurement costs compared to custom-built military hardware, but also reduces the logistical footprint and cost by integrating commercial supply and maintenance partners. UAS is in the infancy stages of developing mobile applications on smart phones and tablets, to be used both within UAS units for operations and maintenance, and also by soldiers outside UAS operations for limited payload/aircraft control and product dissemination.

Proofs of concept currently range from voice activated tech manuals, Remote Video Terminal video feeds, Level of Interoperability 3 payload control and Global Positioning System coordinate input from a handheld device. These applications will utilize a data infrastructure currently in the design stage within the UAS PO.

Another area of interest within the U-ROC scope is Damage Tolerant Controls (DTC). UAS's DTC effort has successfully flight tested the capability of fault tolerant avionics on a Shadow aircraft where a 20" section of wing was explosively severed during flight. Utilizing adaptive flight control software, Rockwell Collins successfully demonstrated flight and landing with damaged control surfaces and the engine in the idle and off position. Opportunities to extend this capability on Gray Eagle are currently in the early investigative stages.

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