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Video Imagery Delivered To Military Forces In Urban Combat

The demonstration employed different combinations of four UAVs at a time, including Dragon Eye (pictured), Pointer, Raven and WASP.
by Staff Writers
El Segundo CA (SPX) Oct 18, 2006
Northrop Grumman has once again successfully demonstrated a low-cost, tasking and control system for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that can deliver video information about enemy positions to U.S. military forces in urban battle zones, making their missions safer and more effective.

The system, called "HURT," controls a network of small, low-flying UAVs to send video images in real time to individual warfighters with handheld computers. Military forces in urban warfare situations currently have no direct access to real-time surveillance data. HURT stands for heterogeneous urban RSTA (reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition) team.

Northrop Grumman is developing HURT in a program funded and managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory serves as the technical and contracting agent.

The second and latest HURT demonstration was conducted Sept. 25 to Oct. 6, 2006 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. Marines used HURT's capabilities during regular training exercises in an urban environment. The system was initially demonstrated in September 2005.

HURT allows ground forces to view surveillance images of the surrounding area and request specific information about a suspected enemy position on a user-friendly touch screen. The system autonomously prioritizes multiple requests and directs the most suitable UAVs to the required locations to achieve a closer look.

"In a dynamic urban warfare environment where 'see-decide-and-act' timelines are extremely short, it's important to get information quickly to combat forces on the ground so they're better prepared to act upon it," said Tom Williams, vice president of Advanced Capabilities Development for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "We're one step closer to bringing HURT's capabilities to the warfighter with this successful demonstration."

Building upon the success of the 2005 demonstration, these exercises showed that HURT can control various combinations of UAVs and seamlessly hand off control of one platform for another one while maintaining persistent surveillance.

Other highlights of this demonstration:

-- A user-friendly interface allowed a Marine unit commander on the ground to reprioritize or override requests from individual warfighters. The HURT system was able to distinguish between requests from the commander and those from other ground forces. -- HURT provided continuous updates of a surveillance image that was superimposed in a mosaic fashion over a reference map with GPS coordinates, giving warfighters better situational awareness. -- If one of the UAVs required refueling or recharged batteries, it could be removed from the battlespace, and HURT would autonomously compensate for the reduced number of aerial platforms until the UAV was returned to service. This feature will allow HURT to maintain surveillance coverage for hours or even days. -- HURT easily incorporated "no fly" zones established for certain UAVs so they would avoid fixed obstacles such as hills or mountains.

This demonstration employed different combinations of four UAVs at a time, including Dragon Eye, Pointer, Raven and WASP. Both demonstrations utilized small UAVs, but HURT technology could eventually be used with larger, more capable systems such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the Unmanned Combat Air System, Predator, Fire Scout and Hunter. The technology could also be easily adapted to military surveillance applications not relying on aerial vehicles.

Key members of the HURT demonstration team included AeroVironment, Honeywell Laboratories, Sarnoff Corporation and Teknowledge Corporation, as well as researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

HURT is another example of Northrop Grumman's world-class systems integration capabilities that can enable a variety of military users to exchange real-time information on tactical, ad-hoc networks.

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