UAVs assist urban warfare exercise

UAVs assist urban warfare exercise

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit this month conducted a two-week urban warfare exercise in New Orleans with streaming imagery and sensor data from two unmanned aerial vehicles flying overhead.

The Extended Awareness 1 exercise 'was the crawl stage' of using UAV sensor payloads in urban combat, said Frank Roberts, chief of UAV initiatives in the Joint Forces Command's Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division.

A follow-on exercise called EA2 planned for March 'will be the walk stage,' succeeded by full running mode in EA3 late next year, he said.

Because of Federal Aviation Administration regulations, EA1 could not test the sensors on a UAV in U.S. air space, Roberts said. Instead, his 75-member JFCOM and industry team used an actual Predator UAV sensor package mounted on a converted Cessna aircraft with a human pilot. The sensor package was controlled entirely from a ground station at a small airport in Slidell, La.

'We pushed the line-of-sight imagery feed' to the Marine expeditionary unit's combat operations center about 45 miles away via CollabCast, the Defense Information Systems Agency's two-way IP return channel on the satellite Global Broadcast System, Roberts said.

In addition to the Predator visual imagery from overhead, a small Boeing Co. Scan Eagle UAV flew low over the exercise area to test airborne use of Shot Spotter, an acoustic locator system that can triangulate locations of weapon muzzle blasts.

The spotter system 'has blue-force tracking that continuously provides the position' of wristwatch-sized units on humans or ground vehicles. 'The watch vibrates when shots come from a friendly force,' Roberts said.

Besides the Marines and JFCOM personnel, EA1 drew participants from DISA and the Army Intelligence Information Warfare Directorate at Fort Monmouth, N.J.

Some of the EA1 participants joined in because they had heard by word of mouth of earlier JFCOM experiments, Roberts said.

'We expect more UAVs and surrogates and a variety of sensor types' in the subsequent exercises, he said. 'Our charter is not to field the technologies but to demonstrate their value. We hope the warfighters will say they would like to see this hardened for the battlefield.'

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