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Flight Testing of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

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Systems Concepts and Integration

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Flight Test, Interoperability, Swarms, UAS, Unmanned Aerial Systems


Unmanned Air Systems (UAS’s) are being more widely used by NATO in many of the major conflict areas in the world. In addition to Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) purposes, UAS’s are also employed for weaponized attacks, suppression of enemy air defense and as decoys for denial and deception purposes. When UAS’s are employed in a “swarming” concept for offensive and defensive purposes, this changes the game for modern warfighting. Thousands of mini or even micro UAS’s can easily destroy even the most sophisticated and advanced weapon systems. Their major advantage of being small, light, cheap and even disposable, but intelligent and autonomous make them superior to today’s major conventional weapons. Autonomy and autonomous systems will be the key player in the upcoming decades. So far, we have seen UAS systems as isolated and standalone assets in the war theater for information gathering or for attack purposes. For example, in the past UAS have been used very effectively during the Bosnia operations of NATO forces and today they are being used in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In the future, NATO will continue to employ UAS in increasing quantities and capabilities such as in swarms of UAS’s in the major conflict areas. UAS have become an inevitable means for the modern war fighter. There are many different classes of UASs, ranging from very small light weight micro systems, to very large heavy high altitude and long endurance (HALE) systems where each system is being used for different purposes and applications. Many of the NATO nations are involved in developing new and indigenous Unmanned Air Systems for their own defense purposes and, most of the NATO nations have already integrated specialized UAS forces in their defense systems and are using UAS’s very effectively for their ISR purposes as well as for weaponized attacks. Utilization of UAS by NATO forces has been steadily increasing during the last decade and NATO has formed specialized capability groups on UAS such as the NATO Joint Capability Group on Unmanned Aerial Systems, JCGUAS, whose purpose is to improve and to disseminate among the NATO nations the lessons learned and the best practices and the experience gained from the utilization of unmanned aerial systems in various theaters around the world. SCI-305 task group, the Flight Test Technology Team (FT3) of the SCI panel is willing to organize a follow up symposium on Flight Testing of Unmanned Air Vehicle Systems, building on the success of the first symposium (SCI-269) conducted in 2015 in Ottawa Canada. The subject of Unmanned Air Systems has been previously treated by many different bodies within NATO as well as in the FT3 committee. As an example, the FT3 as previously prepared and published an AGARDograph on the subject of Unique Aspects of Flight Testing of UAS, however, this AGARDograph is circa 2005. The SCI 305 task group believes that with the rapid pace of development in UAS in recent years, there is still a significant amount of interest and information on the subject the flight testing of UAS’s. These concepts and vehicles have seen very rapid development and evolution in the last several years since the first symposium and significant changes in the technology since the publishing of the AGARDograph in 2005. Since the time this AGARDograph has been published in 2005, many new developments have been undertaken and the usage of UAS by NATO forces has become even more widespread in various war theaters. This has been the major driving force for the organization of this symposium.


Flight testing plays a significant role in the development of UAS. Unmanned Air Vehicle Systems are systems of systems, composed of various subsystems, such as the air vehicle systems, the payload and the sensors system, weapons system, the ground control system, the communication and relay system etc. Therefore, the flight testing procedures applicable to UAS and to its different classes are significantly different from flight testing of manned air systems. Although the testing purposes are the same, there are major differences in testing procedures of unmanned Air Systems. First of all since there is no pilot on board the aircraft in control of the vehicle, all controls are to be carried out remotely from the ground control station or carried out fully autonomously during the flight testing. The nature of remote control from a distance or autonomous control makes the flight testing of UASs, unique and totally different from testing a manned aircraft system. The testing of isolated UAS is already sufficiently complex. If you consider now the complications that would rise while testing more than one UAS and even multiple UAS in a swarm configuration, the need for particular attention for the uniqueness of the flight testing procedures, methods and regulations become self-evident. Therefore, the flight testing of UAS has to be treated as a separate subject. Sharing the lessons learned and disseminating the knowledge and sharing the experience gained from Flight Testing of different UASs among NATO nations will help to improve the capabilities of new UAS under development. The purpose of this symposium is to share and to disseminate the experience and the lessons learned from flight testing of UAVs among different NATO nations. This will help all the NATO nations improve, shorten and reduce the time and the risks involved in flight testing of their own UAS. The deliverables of this symposium will be the conference proceedings that will be published after the symposium. All the papers presented during the symposium will be included in the proceedings. There will be a technical evaluator which will be present during all the sessions of the symposium and keep the record of all the discussions taking place during the presentations. These discussions and the questions and answers as well as the overall criticism of the symposium will be included in the executive report of the technical evaluator.


The topics that will be covered during the symposium will include but will not be limited to the following topics: 1. UAS systems and their usage 2. Procedures and practices of flight testing of UAS. What is different in flight testing of UAS 3. Major UAS programs and lessons learned from flight testing of these major UAS programs 4. Issues related to testing of UAS: risk management, airworthiness, configuration control, range clearance; test planning, etc. 5. Ground Testing: modelling and simulation, system integration, data link and control, power plant, attitude and navigation control ground testing, electromagnetic effects, weight and balance 6. Simulation in support of flight testing of UAS 7. Flight testing of autonomy and autonomous systems of UAS 8. Flight testing for swarms of UAS and special considerations for swarm systems 9. Flight testing for different missions, concepts of operations, of different UAS systems, instrumentation, flying qualities and performance 10. Flight testing of payload and weapon systems of UAS 11. Operational suitability and interoperability of manned and unmanned air systems 12. Logistics of flight testing of unmanned air vehicle systems 13. Rules and regulations by authorities for flight in segregated/non-segregated air space 14. Integration of UAS in the civilian airspace

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