AAI UAS and Aurora Flight Sciences Integrate UGCS with Orion UAS and Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft

Auora Flight Sciences Orion

AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), an operating unit of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc.  company, and Aurora Flight Sciences announced today that the organizations have formed a strategic alliance to integrate AAI’s Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) and other ground control technologies with Aurora’s Orion UAS and Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA). This pairing supports medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) missions of up to five days with the Orion UAS, as well as defense, first responder and scientific missions with the Centaur OPA.

The UGCS is a NATO standardization agreement 4586-compliant command-and-control platform based on AAI UAS’ proven One System® architecture. It incorporates a digital Tactical Common Data Link for robust bandwidth and data security, and is designed to command and control multiple joint services UAS simultaneously.

“Our Universal Ground Control Station lives up to its name with features for scalability, interoperability and commonality,” says Steven Reid, senior vice president and general manager of AAI UAS. “We currently provide command and control for numerous UAS including the General Atomics Gray Eagle® and the Northrop Grumman Hunter. Bringing this same proven capability to the Orion UAS enables this game-changing platform to integrate into the U.S. Army’s layered intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] strategy, and continues our efforts to align with the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s interoperable communications architectures.”

The OSRVT also was central to the Army’s demonstration of UAS/helicopter manned/unmanned teaming. AAI UAS is part of the team that created the One System architecture-based cockpit solution that enabled Bell Helicopter’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and Boeing’s AH-64 Apache® helicopter crew members to view and retransmit UAS video and data while in flight. AAI UAS’ commercially available version of this product is called the Tactical Sensor Intelligence Sharing, or Tac-SIS, System.

The Orion UAS will demonstrate five-day endurance sorties with 1,000 pounds of payload operating at 20,000 feet in support of the United States Central Command, or CENTCOM, urgent operational need for persistent, multi-intelligence ISR. With an open-architecture payload and ground station interface, the Orion UAS will provide the U.S. Air Force with flexibility to accommodate the myriad payloads suited to the Orion’s design.

”Integrating the UGCS with Orion and Centaur will ensure they are rapidly available to the warfighter and other customers,” said Dr. John Langford, chief executive officer of Aurora Flight Sciences. “In the current fiscal situation, it is our responsibility to provide the U.S. Department of Defense with affordable and innovative ISR capabilities.”

Under the agreement, the companies also will consider integration of other AAI UAS technologies with the Orion UAS and Centaur OPA. Among these is the Forward Airborne Secure Transmission and Communication, or FASTCOM, mobile telecommunications solution. FASTCOM pods can be utilized aboard airborne assets to create an agile mobile network for voice and data smartphone communications up to Top Secret level. Additionally, the Tactical Sensor Intelligence Sharing, or Tac-SIS®, System enables manned/unmanned teaming by making UAS data and imagery directly available to pilots via cockpit displays.


Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.