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Partners claim milestone in merging air threat data from UAVs

13th January 2022 - 12:41 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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MQ-20 Avenger UAV. (Photo: General Atomics)

Tests with the Legion Pod on MQ-20 Avenger UASs delivered long-range air threat data to a ground centre.

Two company-owned General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger UASs — each equipped with the Lockheed Martin Legion Pod for infrared search and track (IRST) — have fused passively captured long-range air threat data with an advanced sensor algorithm for transmission to a command centre.

In the test flight, the Legion Pod IRST21 system detected multiple fast-moving aircraft operating in the area. On-pod fusion software from Lockheed Martin blended the sensor data from both pods in real time, and the Avengers streamed it to the ground station.

‘This is the first time IRST systems on multiple autonomous aircraft have delivered merged air threat data to users on the ground,’ said Scott Roberson, director of sensors and global sustainment advanced programmes at Lockheed Martin.

‘It’s a big step in developing a common operating picture that boosts situational awareness across domains in joint operations,’ he added.

The 2h industry-funded flight test was conducted in Southern California on 18 November 2021 but only announced by General Atomics on 10 January 2022. It demonstrated ‘the maturing capabilities of UAS platforms and sensors to deliver fused sensor data’, said Michael Atwood, the company’s senior director of advanced programmes.

He added: ‘Avenger with Legion Pod demonstrates how collaborative autonomous platforms with advanced sensing can deliver persistent, shared air domain awareness.’

Sensor fusion technology with Legion Pods and data links was previously tested on F-15s during Exercise Northern Edge 21.

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