Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG-SEP 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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14 unmanned systems inside   August/September 2017 (sorta) learned from DESERT STORM and used MQ-1 Predators equipped with satel- lite communications (SATCOM) data links this time. The new links let us f ly Predators based in Bosnia all over Serbia and I worked with them daily while f lying over the Balkans. Even though SATCOM covered all of Europe, we still based all the remote pilots and intel analysts at the base the Predators f lew from. That meant rotating hundreds of airmen in and out of Bosnia. If you got stuck with a bad pilot or slow intel analyst, too bad. You'd get a new one in six months. Then came 9/11 and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. I was chief of intel for the Coalition Air Force and was (mostly) in charge of our faithful Predators from Kosovo. This time, we solved the BLOS basing problem by simply bas- ing our SATCOM links in Europe (the links easily reached Afghanistan from geostationary satellites) and hooking up the links to our clas- sified Internet. Voilà! We could put remote air- crew and intel folks anywhere on the planet. No more rotating hundreds of airmen into theater and back. No more putting up with that one bad pilot or analyst for six months. Everyone got to stay home and virtually commute 6,000 miles by stepping into a control van. Iraq, Libya, Japanese tsunamis, California wild fires, Somali pirates, Yemen, Afghanistan (again), Iraq (again) and Syria followed. (My apologies if I missed a war or two). This time, we changed our drone networks from point- to-point and made them truly distributed. We invented the Sentinel system to distribute drone intelligence feeds. The Air Force is now up to 25 Sentinel locations world-wide. We in- vented the Remote Split Operations network to distribute f light data. (Of course, the Captains at Creech AFB instantly named this network "Skynet"—yet another reminder to never leave Air Force fighter pilots unsupervised.) Skynet remote crews now f ly drones based 6,000 miles away from 13 bases stateside. I had one 15-hour Predator sortie daily during ENDURING FREEDOM. The Air Force now f lies 65 MQ-9 Reapers daily on 24 x 7 combat air patrols. I had maybe 300 intelligence analysts interpret- ing drone data for Afghanistan. There are more than 3,000 working regularly now. What should the commercial world learn from this lesson? BLOS is less about the drone and more about the network. Once you truly remote aircrew from their drones, the pos- sibilities become endless and demand goes through the roof because you can connect any pilot to any drone anywhere and do the same with the data. Once the Air Force net- worked their BLOS drones they saw demand go through the roof. Mark my words: commer- cial drones will see the same explosive demand when we can f ly BLOS. As you can see, with great BLOS comes great drone possibilities. When you build a system where any remote pilot can f ly any drone sup- ported by unlimited analysts anywhere, the game changes. Of course, you must man all that demand, which leads us to next month's article: Manning the Unmanned Air Force. General Overview by James Poss, Maj Gen (RET) USAF LESSON LEARNED: BLOS means BLOS. You can base ANYWHERE. LESSON LEARNED: BLOS makes you super flexible, and that's super useful. LESSON LEARNED: The Internet works. Use it. ONCE YOU TRULY REMOTE AIRCREW FROM THEIR DRONES, THE POSSIBILITIES BECOME ENDLESS AND DEMAND GOES THROUGH THE ROOF BECAUSE YOU CAN CONNECT ANY PILOT TO ANY DRONE ANYWHERE AND DO THE SAME WITH THE DATA.

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