EADS Cassidian Eyes Further Barracuda UAV Flights

Cassidian is in discussions with the German defense ministry concerning additional flight demonstrations under a program to develop technology for future unmanned, surveillance and strike aircraft.

The EADS defense company conducted the latest campaign of flights with its Barracuda unmanned aircraft demonstrator in Goose Bay, Canada, in July. The tests focused on coordinated operations between two UAVs and mission replanning in flight.

The latest campaign was the third to be conducted using the jet-powered Barracuda under the Agile UAV – Network-Centric Environment (NCE) technology demonstration program funded by the German defense ministry with contributions from Finland and Switzerland. A recce demonstration in 2009 focused on the sensor data chain, using a wide-band datalink, says Franz Bucher, sales director for unmanned aircraft systems with Cassidian’s air systems division.

The second campaign in 2010 tested several technologies for medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAVs, including structurally integrated antennas, automatic taxiing, sense-and-avoid and automatic target detection.

The latest series of flights from Goose Bay in June and July covered two scenarios, called sensor-to-shooter and sensor data fusion and attack, and involved the Barracuda and a Calspan-operated Learjet acting as a surrogate UAV.

The sensor-to-shooter flights focused on a coordinated attack on a fixed target by two aircraft: a sensor UAV with electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor and laser designator; and a shooter UAV that engaged the target with simulated weapons.

In the sensor data-fusion flights, against a moving target, the sensor UAV made the first detection using a synthetic-aperture radar/ground moving-target indicator (SAR/GMTI), then handed off to the shooter UAV using EO/IR and the laser designator to engage the target.

The latter scenario involved coordinating and fusing the SAR/GMTI and EO/IR sensor information. Both scenarios included replanning the mission in flight, Bucher says.

Cassidian plans to continue using the Barracuda as a full-scale demonstrator for future UAV developments. “The program continues. We are still negotiating the next scenarios, for 2014,” he says.