Lockheed Martin Integrated System and Solutions plans to launch shortly a six month demonstration programme of UAV command and control (C2) using internet protocol version 6 (IPv6).
The demonstrations will initially focus on how UAV C2 can be distributed between multiple authorised users, including sensor package control as well as air vehicle control, says programme manager Frank Cuccias.
Future phases are expected to involve multiple air vehicle operations in which each platform and its sensor payloads - each allocated unique IP addresses - are treated as controllable services over a single radio frequency spectrum allocation.
Speaking to Flight Unmanned, Cuccias says the approach could potentially allow for control of hundreds, if not thousands of air vehicles in a single theatre by a relatively small ground control station (GCS) team.
This approach would dramatically reduce the pressure UAV systems are placing on battlefield spectrum availability, a problem currently being highlighted by US and UK UAV operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. To fly multiple UAVs at the moment generally means having to allocate multiple radio frequency allocations says Cuccias.
IPv6 is being progressively rolled out around the world as a replacement for the existing IPv4 standard which forms the basis of internet communications. The new protocol allows for significantly greater numbers of IP addresses, and a higher level of inherent system security.
The initial demonstrations will be carried out in California using one of two Lockheed-owned RnR Products APV-3 UAVs. However discussions are underway on use of other UAV and aircraft types within the company’s portfolio says Cuccias.
Integration of IPv6 capabilities into the APV-3s was carried out last year but the UAVs have not yet actually been flown using the capability.
Lockheed displayed one of the UAVs in November 2005 as part of a static display where electro-optic sensor data was fed to hand-held terminals using both IPv4 and IPv6 format. “This demonstrated that we had been able to overcome the gap” between the two protocols Cuccias says, with imagery sent using IPv6 able to be received and accessed using IPv4 legacy terminals.
The demonstrations in planning will involve multiple flights and be carried out for “in-house [testing] and customers”.
The bulk of contemporary concepts of “networked operations” are focussed on sharing of information but not the sharing of C2 functions between authorised users Cuccia says. “With our approach we have taken that a step further”.