Unmanned Systems occupies an unusual position within Boeing and Integrated Defense Systems, being in essence a technology bridge between Phantom Works and IDS that connects into virtually all nine business units.

The unit works through Integrated Defense Advanced Systems (IDeAS), which reports into the Phantom Works. "The job of IDeAS is to win new business," says Mike Heinz, vice-president of Unmanned Systems. "Our job is to help them shape those opportunities and win and then execute them and bring them to a maturity state where they can be handed off to the IDS business units."

Heinz's organisation works with Air Force Systems and Naval Systems on unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) as well as with Army Systems in pursuit of the Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft. The creation of IDS last July broadened its internal customers to include NASA with the Orbital Express robotic repair spacecraft, and long-endurance systems for Space & Intelligence such as the previously classified long-range mine detection unmanned underwater vehicle.

"The decision-aiding software that goes into these systems, be it control laws, contingency management, failure detection and reconfiguration, is not too different," says Heinz. "There is a lot of basic technology that can be shared, whether in space, under water, on the ground or in the air, and we have the autonomous technology that feeds all these systems."

Unmanned Systems' future strategy addresses three principal sectors. In the lethal unmanned air vehicles segment, the goal is to build on Boeing's X-45 UCAV demonstrator programme and help accelerate user demand "We believe we're the market leader by virtue of our UCAV contract, which was recently modified to look at a common configuration to meet both an air force and navy requirement," says Heinz.

In the arena of high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs, where Boeing acknowledges the predominance of Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk, attention is on the future need for very-long-endurance vehicles able to stay aloft more than 36h and substitute for geostationary communications satellites. Technology being examined includes stratospheric airships, hydrogen fuel cells and solar power.

The third sector is the tactical market, reaching down to micro-UAVs, where the primary focus is on reconnaissance and targeting. "Our strategy is not to replicate the work already being done by dozens of small companies, but partner them and add value in terms of integrating those platforms in the network and C4ISR environment," says Heinz.

Source: Flight International