Autonomous/ Unmanned Aerial Resupply 2017

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Unread post14 Dec 2017, 19:12

https://news.usni.org/2017/12/13/marine ... more-29984

Marines Fly Helos with Tablets in Test of New Unmanned Aerial Resupply Scheme

By: Otto Kreisher
December 13, 2017


MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. –
The Marines showed off a high-tech system that could deliver life-saving supplies by air to troops operating in rugged terrain in a future conflict, without risking the lives of an aircrew. During the demonstration, an old UH-1H Huey helicopter flew three missions to deliver cargo to Marines at a remote landing zone and a simulated forward operating base, without a pilot on the controls and with two enlisted Marine infantrymen providing minimal instructions from a small hand-held tablet and a laptop. The technology that enabled the missions is called the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) and was described as a major leap ahead of current unmanned aerial systems. It was developed by Aurora Flight Sciences in partnership with the Office of Naval Research, in response to an “urgent needs statement” from operational Marine forces... “This is more than just an unmanned helicopter. AACUS is an autonomy kit that can be placed on any rotary-wing platform and provide it with an autonomous capability,” said Walter Jones, ONR executive director. Unlike standard UAS operations, in which a trained ground operator provides detailed flight directions to the aircraft, the AACUS system in the Huey only received destination information and liftoff permission from the two Marines. The system then did the mission planning itself, charting the optimal route to the destination, avoiding obstacles and no-fly areas and picking the best landing spot near the troops it was supporting.

The mission system draws its information from an array of sensors – optical cameras and LIDAR devices – all of which were commercial off-the-shelf components package and empowered by software and algorithms developed by Aurora and its partners. The two Marines who initiated the missions, Sgt. Dionte Jones and Cpl. Christopher Osterhaus, were infantrymen with no previous training in autonomous systems. They said it took mere hours of instruction by Aurora technicians for them to learn what was required. Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said the “great capability” in AACUS was developed ahead of a formal requirement of program of record. “It’s up to us to determine how to use it,” he said. But Walsh said a system like AACUS could enable the Marines to fight in widely distributed conditions that are considered necessary for survival in a conflict with a peer competitor. The technology also will help the Corps learn how to use man-unmanned teaming and machine learning, he said. Lt. Col. Dan Schmitt, of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, said the AACUS system will be tested further in the second phase of the Sea Dragon experiments, which will focus on logistical support in a distributed environment. Those tests would begin in April 2018 at Marine Corps Combat Development Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., he said. The Marines have been seeking an unmanned cargo delivery system for more than a decade, and tested the K-MAX unmanned helicopter, ... It never became a program of record...
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Unread post14 Dec 2017, 19:22

https://www.army.mil/article/146697/Aut ... d_in_BCTs/

Autonomous aerial resupply systems needed in BCTs

By Maj. Nicklas J. Van Straaten
May 4, 2015

In order to have an expeditionary capability to fight in a contested environment, the Army must decrease demands and increase logistics efficiencies and unit independence. Autonomous aerial resupply within the brigade combat team (BCT) is one capability that would meet these needs. Unmanned aerial systems (UASs) for cargo will be a key component at the tactical and operational levels of the Army of 2025 and beyond. They will make it possible to reduce manned cargo airlifts, ground vehicle convoys, and their associated risks and deliver high-priority parts and medical supplies to remote units with no vehicle access. The potential to reduce demand on sustainment Soldiers and automate Soldier tasks with cargo UASs is limitless. Using UASs for cargo would provide the capability to execute responsive sustainment to widely dispersed units when weather, terrain, and enemy actions pose unsuitable risk to manned air and ground assets. This capability can reduce Soldier exposure to risk, reduce ground distribution requirements, extend operational reach, increase delivery frequency to widely dispersed forces, decrease customer wait time through point-to-point delivery, and increase operational readiness.

CARGO UASs IN THE BCT

Supply convoys that operated in Iraq and Afghanistan often required air support from Kiowa or Apache helicopters. Using UASs for resupply would free up those manned aviation assets for combat missions. According to a September 2009 report from the Army Environmental Policy Institute, Sustain the Mission Project: Casualty Factors for Fuel and Water Resupply Convoys Final Technical Report, the number of water convoys alone in 2007 was 3,725 (3,287 in Iraq and 438 in Afghanistan), which comes out to a little more than 10 convoys per day. Having cargo UASs in the BCT, under the control of the brigade support battalion (BSB) support operations officer (SPO), would give the BCT the ability to be self-sufficient and not depend on support from external organizations. Not relying on external units would improve the SPO's ability to forecast resupply requirements for austere locations because a dedicated asset would always be available.

This is not a new concept. In recent deployments to Afghanistan, many BSB SPOs had civilian-contracted air assets at their disposal to use for personnel and cargo movements to remote locations. BCTs also already possess Raven UASs in their organizations, and airspace is coordinated and deconflicted within the brigade air staff section. If BSBs had the ability to use cargo UASs, they could run continuous operations, significantly reduce ground convoys, and potentially reduce the number of sustainment Soldiers required for each brigade.

FUTURE FORCE AERIAL RESUPPLY

A 2014 information paper on the Training and Doctrine Command's technology and capability objectives for Force 2025 and beyond notes that the future Army requires aviation assets with extended reach and increased responsiveness capable of operating in all environments and conditions. The future Army will depend on its aviation assets to deliver combat power and supplies to austere points of need. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is already developing a cargo UAS prototype that the Marine Corps will field test later this year. This technology could be used to establish an initial Army operating capability for BSB resupply to combat outposts. This system, called the aerial reconfigurable embedded system, is capable of conducting resupply from sea basing assets located offshore. It could provide support for special operations forces and other small contingency forces and free up manned cargo aviation for more demanding missions. The system's primary mission would be routine aerial resupply to augment the overall division sustainment effort.

Autonomous systems are combat proven and here to stay for the foreseeable future. Whatever system is eventually fielded by the Army to use for aerial resupply would be best employed by the end user, the BCT.

THE MANPOWER ARGUMENT

Some would argue that placing cargo UASs in the BCT would increase personnel requirements to maintain and operate the systems. Others may counter that aerial resupply capabilities and air maintenance assets already exist in the combat aviation brigade. Personnel requirements may or may not increase. We are some years away from knowing for sure, but what is clear is that the number of supply convoys would decrease, which would call for fewer personnel in the BSB distribution company. This reduction could cancel out the increase in personnel required for cargo UASs. Cargo UASs are coming. If we do not start the conversation now about where they belong in Army formations, then they can turn into a "nice to have" sustainment capability that sustainers will not control. If these systems are fielded and are not placed inside the BCT, they should at least be task organized with aligned supporting units in a manner that can be incorporated easily into BCT training and deployments. Once these assets are provided to the BCT for training or mission requirements, they should be directed by the SPO, who coordinates all resupply operations.

Whichever avenue the Army decides to take, sustainers should be involved in the dialogue now and provide input for how to incorporate these assets into operational and tactical doctrine.
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Unread post14 Dec 2017, 19:38

https://www.army.mil/article/197243/aut ... rt_company

Autonomous aerial resupply in the forward support company

By Lt. Col. Jeremy C. Gottshall and Capt. Richard A. Lozano
November 21, 2017


The concept of using unmanned aerial systems (UASs) to transport equipment and supplies continues to gain momentum and widespread acceptance by Army leaders. For example, the Army Operating Concept, the Robotic and Autonomous Systems Strategy, and the Army Functional Concept for Movement and Maneuver all call for developing this capability.
Accordingly, the Army and its joint and industry partners have been working to introduce and refine autonomous aerial resupply capabilities to expedite sustainment operations and to minimize Soldiers' exposure to risk. However, the focus has shifted from large, unmanned helicopters carrying thousands of pounds of supplies between static forward operating bases to a smaller, decentralized, organic capability supporting small, dispersed maneuver formations. To be sufficiently responsive in the dynamic, rapidly changing conditions of close combat, an autonomous aerial resupply capability must reside in the organization that sustains the lowest echelons of maneuver forces: the forward support company (FSC).

SPEEDING RESUPPLY FOR MULTI-DOMAIN BATTLE

Driven by a renewed emphasis on readiness, capability developers have been examining how unmanned logistics systems could improve distribution from within the brigade combat team (BCT) to the BCT's forward maneuver formations. This effort is even more imperative for the future operational environment. In the future fight, Army forces will face highly capable adversaries who will challenge U.S. dominance in every domain--air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. The enemy will challenge U.S. air superiority and deny the Army's use of static safe havens, including forward operating bases and logistics hubs. To win in this scenario, Army forces will task organize at the lowest practical level and operate semi-independently to exploit temporary windows of advantage. Dispersed and semi-independent maneuver elements require their own decentralized sustainment capabilities to maintain a high operating tempo, endurance, and operational reach. Because windows of advantage are fleeting, the ability to move quickly against an enemy's weak points is crucial. In this environment, the virtue of autonomous aerial resupply is its ability to move mission-critical equipment and supplies when other modes of transportation are not available and before a window of opportunity closes.

Responsive logistics, including aerial resupply, are paramount in this operational environment. Unfortunately, access to manned aviation support for resupply is typically a 72- to 96-hour process. Maneuver and logistics commanders can expect similar delays from unmanned cargo aircraft assigned to aviation units because they use the same multi-echelon air movement request and approval procedures. For a commander executing maneuver in Multi-Domain Battle, waiting this long for resupply or transportation of mission-essential equipment could mean the loss of an initiative when a temporary window of local superiority closes. The Army should decentralize unmanned aerial resupply capabilities by assigning them to FSCs for local control and immediate response just as unmanned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities are assigned to BCT maneuver formations. Resupply metrics should be in minutes, not days.

WHY THE FSC?

In the future operational environment, fleeting periods of local dominance will require rapid, timely action; this action will require responsive sustainment. Robust organic sustainment is even more critical in an access-denied environment, where lines of communication--including air, ground, and mission command networks--could be regularly interdicted by enemy action. Maneuver units at all levels must become less dependent on higher echelons. Therefore, autonomous aerial resupply should be integrated at the lowest level possible. According to Field Manual 3-96, The Brigade Combat Team, FSCs provide the greatest flexibility for logistics support within the BCT. Although organic to the brigade support battalion, FSCs are frequently attached by the BCT commander to their supported maneuver battalions, and they provide the link from the brigade support battalion to the supported battalions.

Because FSCs normally operate in close proximity to their supported battalions or squadrons, they are best positioned to react quickly to changing conditions and logistics requirements. Furthermore, the FSC commander can divide the company and place some elements forward with the supported unit and other elements in the brigade support area. By doing this, the FSC can anticipate and rapidly respond to urgent movement requirements. It can either deliver supplies and mission-essential equipment from the brigade support area or the maneuver battalion's combat trains. The FSC is ideally situated to use an autonomous aerial distribution capability as an additional means to fulfill routine or urgent resupply requests. This capability would reduce the supported elements' vulnerability to enemy action and increase their ability to exploit an enemy's weakness. Essentially, autonomous aerial resupply gives the FSC a solution to support Multi-Domain Battle maneuver.

CHALLENGES AND THE WAY AHEAD

Providing UASs for sustainment support directly to maneuver formations would present some challenges that would need to be addressed before the capability could be effectively implemented.

These hard questions must first be answered:
• How will unmanned logistics systems be operated in a manner that maximizes safety for other aircraft and personnel on the ground?
• How will these systems be integrated into the tactical airspace control network?
• Who will operate these systems for the FSC, and what level of training will they require?
• How will the systems be maintained, and by whom?
• Will these systems displace other equipment in the FSC?
• How will cyber and network security concerns be addressed?
• How much payload should one systems deliver?
• How fast and how far should the systems be able to go?

To tackle these issues, the Army and Marine Corps established the requirements integrated product team (IPT) for the joint tactical autonomous air resupply system (JTAARS) in October 2016. The IPT is exploring these questions and refining procedures in order to successfully implement autonomous aerial resupply at the most forward tactical echelons. The IPT consists of capability developers and subject matter experts from the Sustainment, Maneuver, Mission Command, and Aviation Centers of Excellence as well as from the Marine Corps headquarters and other stakeholders. The IPT's ultimate objective is to fully document JTAARS requirements and transition JTAARS into a program of record.

In the meantime, Army research organizations and their industry partners are tackling the technical challenges to develop air vehicles with the physical characteristics, automated navigation systems, and associated human-control interfaces that will allow the systems to be integrated into FSCs. Multiple Department of Defense organizations are actively pursuing technology to deliver capabilities simple enough to maintain and operate within the FSC. The Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center has teamed with an industry partner to develop the joint tactical aerial resupply vehicle, formerly known as the Picatinny Pallet. The U.S. Central Command is also pursuing a cargo UAS. Together, these representative technology approaches were submitted as a single joint capability technology demonstration proposal. The proposal seeks to develop and demonstrate air vehicles capable of autonomously delivering payloads of 300 to 600 pounds, which aligns closely with the JTAARS IPT's preliminary requirements analysis. While this joint capability technology demonstration was not funded, the work to investigate this solution space continues.

Additionally, the Army Research Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research are working with an industry partner to scale down an existing helicopter autonomy package for integration into smaller unmanned aerial vehicles such as the joint tactical aerial resupply vehicle. This would greatly reduce the requirement for operator control inputs. In a separate effort, the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center is seeking to develop capabilities for future combat medics. These capabilities include medical resupply and casualty evacuation with UASs that use vertical takeoff and landing when conventional medevac assets are denied access or unavailable.

Regardless of what form the technical solution ultimately takes, autonomous aerial resupply will provide the FSC commander an additional tool to accomplish the mission of providing adaptable and flexible distribution support for the maneuver battalion. UASs may not immediately replace existing capabilities within the FSC, but they will provide a uniquely responsive distribution option to help maneuver forces seize, maintain, and exploit the initiative in Multi-Domain Battle.
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