UAVs do battle with the troops

The US military has tested a system that helps soldiers to move faster and further into enemy territory while maintaining contact with their commanders.


The US military has tested a system that helps soldiers to move faster and further into enemy territory while maintaining contact with their commanders via a UAV-enabled communications network.

The system, developed by Northrop Grumman and the US Office of Naval Research, uses a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV to send voice, data and video messages to troops in the battlefield.

Soldiers at the spearhead of military operations can often move much faster than the support units that provide them with communications infrastructure.

They can quickly disappear beyond the line-of-sight proximity (sometimes as little as 20 miles) needed for standard military radio systems to operate, leaving them reliant on commercial satellite communications networks to maintain any contact with their colleagues. Rough terrain can also interfere with standard communications systems. Use of the UAV is designed to give battlefield commanders a more responsive and flexible alternative to satellites when carrying out ‘over-the-horizon’ operations.

During tests in Arizona the Fire Scout UAV successfully acted as a relay point for messages between troops and commanders, delivering data to laptops and PDAs carried by the soldiers. The test is the latest development in a major US Marine Corps initiative called Condor, which is investigating the use of a range of advanced technologies on the battlefield.

Condor is designed to unify the various networks and systems used by the US Marines and provide the service with the bandwidth needed to carry high data rate communications required during combat operations.