Northrop Grumman demonstrates new UAV mission management control system

SAN DIEGO, 9 Feb. 2013. Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE:NOC) flew a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time using open architecture-based command and control software and hardware developed by the company, moving the company one step closer to offering its common mission management control system (MMCS) product, which is designed to be implemented across various unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) to improve mission effectiveness and reduce training requirements.

The flight demonstration was conducted in December 2012, and was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force's global hawk program office as part of the ground station technical refresh contract.

The MMCS used for the demonstration was comprised of hardware and software developed by the company's common mission management system (CMMS) product center. The MMCS is based upon an open, nonproprietary, standards-based, scalable, common architecture and service descriptions.

The CMMS product center is a new way of thinking about UAVs and their mission management and control architectures. The CMMS approach offers savings in acquisition, operational, and maintenance costs.

During the flight demonstration, a Global Hawk UAV took off under operator control through the U.S. Air Force Launch and Recovery Element (LRE) at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Once airborne, aircraft control was successfully transferred to the MMCS located at the Global Hawk Systems Integration Laboratory in San Diego. The aircraft was then flown through a series of maneuvers until control was transferred back to the LRE for landing.

The ground station technical refresh contract is a stepping stone for continued development of common UAV control systems that can be used by a variety of unmanned platforms. Currently, each UAS requires a costly dedicated, custom-built command and control system. By developing a common foundation for command and control with sufficient flexibility to meet a range of standards, CMMS will ultimately be able to support a variety of UAS platforms.

The CMMS product line is built upon standard commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and core software infrastructure that decreases the time required to develop new unmanned control systems and enhances future technical upgrades because the system architecture is based upon industry standards. Additionally, with the CMMS product line, pilots will be able to operate a variety of dissimilar unmanned platforms using the same informational displays and control features, improving mission effectiveness while reducing training requirements.

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