March 4, 2006 BAE Systems recently demonstrated its vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aerial system (UAS) at Fort Benning, Ga., for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and U.S. Army representatives. The unmanned system is designed to fly for more than one hour, and deploy a signals intelligence (SIGINT) payload, known as "WolfPack." As part of DARPA's Network Centric Experiment VIP Demonstration in January, BAE Systems integrated WolfPack with its UAS to demonstrate the deployment and relocation of the sensors.
"This demonstration shows that unattended battlefield sensors can not only operate autonomously, but that they can be made to be self-deploying, self-relocating and, if needed, self-recovering," said DARPA Program Manager Preston Marshall. WolfPack consists of unattended sensors designed to detect and disrupt enemy radio transmissions while avoiding disruption of friendly military and protected commercial communications and radars. BAE Systems unmanned aerial system is one of a number of options being explored to insert the WolfPack sensors in urban and remote battle space. "The mobility provided by the unmanned aerial system significantly enhances the utility of the WolfPack sensors," said Tom Herring, vice president and general manager of Integrated Solutions for BAE Systems. "Together, the sensor suite and the UAS represent an important capability to support the war fighters' needs."
The emitter detection mission was conducted autonomously, carrying the 22-pound SIGINT payload over a 1.1-kilometer course. Launch and recovery were conducted from different locations to emphasize how the UAS would actually be deployed. During the flight, the UAS reached a speed of more than 30 knots while winds varied from 10 to 20 knots. The system landed autonomously within a meter of the designated touchdown point. The flight was monitored from a man-portable ground control station. After touchdown, the system successfully detected the presence of a simulated threat radar.