General Atomics Aeronautical Systems demonstrated aircraft carrier deck-handling controls for its MQ-25 tanker bid using a pair of motion-sensing director wands and an Avenger unmanned aerial vehicle as a stand-in for its yet-to-be-built prototype.

The demonstration showed the ability to control the Avenger UAV on a tarmac using hand movements, including the ability to direct taxing, and transition to the launch and recovery phases, General Atomics showed in a video posted to its website. The specially designed director wands are the same size, shape and weight as those used on aircraft carrier decks to direct manned aircraft, such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the company said.

GA-ASI Deck Director Wand for MQ-25 resized

Image Courtesy of GA-ASI

General Atomics’ wands use proprietary gesture recognition algorithms to identify standard hand movements, as designated by Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures, and then translates and sends those commands to the MQ-25 air vehicle, the company said. The aircraft receives the commands and converts them into the appropriate actions.

“MQ-25 will be able to talk back to the controller and other flight deck personnel using a small series of LEDs that change colors and flash to show that they have received a command and indicate the aircraft’s condition or operating state,” said General Atomics’ David Alexander, president of GA-ASI’s aircraft systems. “A safety observer on deck can stop the aircraft instantly any time an unsafe situation is identified. To give you an idea of how the system works, think Wii for aircraft control.”

Directors can fully control aircraft taxi operations on deck using the wand, including lowering and raising the launch bar, spreading and folding the wings, and raising the arresting hook, General Atomics said.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin also are bidding to win the MQ-25 tanker UAV contract from the US Navy, but have yet to publicly unveil their deck handling control technologies. The US Navy said it plans to award the programme contract in September.