Raytheon's "universal remote" could operate all the US Navy's unmanned vehicles
Raytheon is developing what is billed as a universal remote for the US Navy that will allow a single unit to control a wide range of unmanned vehicles. Designed to save space onboard ships as well as make pilot training easier, the Raytheon Common Ground Control System (CGCS) is based on the modular, open architecture Unmanned Aircraft System Control Segment standard (UCS) that promotes vehicle software interoperability.
Unmanned systems (UxS) are revolutionizing naval warfare, but as their numbers and variety expand, controlling them all becomes more and more difficult. Not only are there Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) doing everything from close reconnaissance to in-flight refueling, but there is also a growing fleet of robotic surface and underwater vehicles.
The problem is that, according to Raytheon, each of these vehicles needs its own control systems that take up valuable space inside the hulls of already crowded ships. In addition, each system has its own design, so pilots have to be retrained as they move from one vehicle to another.
The goal of the CGCS is to replace all of these control units with a single, cyber-hardened workstation capable of operating any UxS. Raytheon says that by using the UCS, the Navy is able to not only use one unit instead of, for example, six, but can also add new features, eliminate redundant software development, reuse common software services, and consolidate product support at a lower cost. In addition, the open architecture makes it easy to incorporate other systems, like the Open Mission Systems, Universal Command and Control, and Future Airborne Capability Environment services.
In practice, the new remote control unit allows for both third-party software and the ability to use easily modified GUI displays that are both common from vehicle to vehicle, but can also be customized for specific vehicles with specialized functions. In this way, a pilot who is trained to fly an MQ-4C Triton can also fly an MQ-8 Fire Scout or the MQ-25 Stingray, as well as non-aircraft, like surface and underwater vehicles, and operate their sensors.
"It's really not that different than flying an aircraft in many ways," says Bob Busey, Raytheon director of unmanned vehicle control systems. "They all go up and down – well, hopefully the surface ships aren't, but – they all go left or right. They still all have to avoid different obstacles whether it's bad weather, mountains or actual land masses. And they all have similar missions. Therefore, if the GUI is familiar, a sailor could learn to operate multiple vehicles using a single laptop or tablet."
Raytheon says that the CGCS is ready for deployment and that some of the UCS architecture is already being used in some military ground control systems. The eventual goal is to meet the US Defence Department's goal of developing multi-domain command and control systems for manned, unmanned, ground, surface, subsurface, air, and space vehicles for all branches of the armed services.