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IAI Adds New Capabilities to Heron UAS Family

: Apr 25, 2019 - : 4:14 am

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has added the capability of remote autonomous operation from forward locations on Heron I and Heron TP as part of its efforts to enhance the multi-mission Heron family of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by introducing new mission payloads and capabilities.

The function enables operators to land a Heron 1 or Heron TP at any airstrip within its range, without prior preparations or on-site instrumentation. Once landed the aircraft can be refueled, change payloads if necessary, and take off, all by remote control Using satellite communications (SATCOM).

Furthermore, an aircraft based at such remote location can be launched on a mission without human support. The Heron family of UAS comprises the Heron TP, two variants of Heron I, configured for maritime and land operations, and the new variant – T Heron (Tactical Heron).

The drone family shares ground segments, common systems, and mission payloads, enabling users to perform numerous missions, consolidate training, qualification, maintenance and logistics.

Long Runner – Remote Operations

To autonomously land at a given location, the Heron would survey the location, monitor the weather condition and wind direction, and autonomously plan its approach. It will transmit this plan to the operator for permission. Once permission is granted, it will descend to the final approach.

Upon touchdown, it slows and taxies to the designated parking spot it is allocated from the air. When full shut-down is necessary, it is performed by the remote operator, who can also start-up the aircraft. Local support is necessary only in refueling.

Mission Operational and Intelligence Center (MOIC)

Long Runner functionality enables centralized management of multiple UAS missions from a single Mission Operational and Intelligence Center (MOIC). Instead of using separate ground control station for each platform, MOIC gathers numerous platforms, payloads and datalinks that utilizes a fleet of UAS in the most efficient and responsive way.

The center’s modular layout utilizes multiple mission operation cells supporting individual platforms, along with mission command, exploitation and C2 cells. The center shares mission trainers, SATCOM and support facilities and maintains a data storage center. By combining MOIC and Long Runner, users can optimize UAS deployments, operating individual platforms from locations at or near their theatre of operation, thus dedicating most of the flight hours to useful operational missions, rather than transit in and out of the area of interest.

Innovative Universal Control

The latest workstation for Heron operators is the Innovative Universal Control Station (iUCS), an advanced multi-tasking system enabling operators to ‘fly the mission’, while the computer automatically ‘flies the platform’. iUCS conforms to NATO STANAG 4586 ED-2 and links to the specific platform through a Vehicle Specific Module (VSM) server.

This way, every ground station can seamlessly control all Heron family members. The method simplifies operator training and qualification, as it allocates many tasks to series of computer enabled functions. This improves mission reliability, by preventing common human errors and enables users to focus on the essential missions. With iUCS, a drone operator can perform self-test, taxi and takeoff on a mission, all with a few clicks of a button.

While air-borne, the operator can perform specific mission segments loaded to the system. iUCS fully supports the Heron’s wideband datalink and stores all sensors data for the entire flight, thus enabling situational analysis while the system continues to scan other targets with other sensors. iUCS automatically performs specific functions through the mission.

Ready for Emergency Response

While the Heron primary mission is military, the UAS can rapidly be assigned to civilian roles such as responding to natural disasters or other emergencies. In such circumstances, the Heron provides rapid situational assessment and real-time monitoring of the disaster area, delivering live video, motion detection and rapid assessment of the locations that need the most urgent assistance. 

Maritime Herons are particularly useful in response to emergencies at sea. To further support first responders, the Heron can be equipped with direct messaging capability, enabling users to receive automatic alerts direct from the drone. Such alerts can include text, image or video.

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