Tactical UAVs

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Lower echelons are supported by other systems, including Short Range and Tactical UAVs (TUAV). The short range category includes the IAI/Malat Searcher, Elbit Systems Hermes 450General Atomics PredatorNorthrop Grumman/IAIHunter and Sagem Sperwer while Tactical versions includes AAI Shadow, IAI/Malat Pioneer and the new IAI/Malt I-View. These unmanned aircraft are built to operate with the forward troops, operating at lower altitudes of up to 15,000 feet, and ranges of 125 – 250 km. Systems are designed to be self sustained in the field, deployable by lightweight vehicles and C-130 transports, equipped with the logistical support required for extended operations. Mission endurance is relatively short, around 7 – 20 hours. Short range tactical systems can utilize low-cost day only or night only sensors, but field experience has demonstrated that the use of multi-sensor payloads (EO/IR) provide more flexibility and better performance far beyond the cost saving of single sensor systems.

One of the biggest challenges of the tactical and short range UAVs is the weather. During OIF 60% of the missions were cancelled due to weather conditions. UAVs require relatively calm weather for takeoff and landing, and are adversely affected by turbulence. Operating at various altitudes, different sensors, from diverse locations in flexible concepts could improve mission success and overall system availability. Another issue EO payload operators is the limited field of view of the typical EO/IR payload. To gain situational awareness, operators must switch back and forth between narrow and wide fields of view, risking missing important details or losing tracks of moving targets. A functional solution for this problem is offered by “photo navigation” – building wide area mosaic of the area from individual video frames, or individual views taken in a special “stepping” mode. These images are geo-referenced to a standard grid and can also embed intelligence data and ‘blue force’ locations to provide optimal situational awareness. Stepping images can be obtained by standard or special payloads.

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