The US Air Force (USAF) has disclosed details of a prototype platform-agnostic modular, reconfigurable, multi-sensor payload pod planned for flight testing on an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft system (UAS) in late 2017.
Known as AgilePod, the multi-intelligence (multi-INT) pod system has been developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to demonstrate the benefits of agile manufacturing and a modular open systems architecture approach so as to increase the affordability and flexibility of podded intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities operated by the ISR and Air Force Special Operations communities. As well as owning the prototype, the AFRL also has unlimited rights to the technical data for its design.
Delivered to the AFRL's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate by contractor KeyW Corporation in December 2016, the AgilePod design is a standards-based modular open systems pod engineered to support rapid multi-INT payload re-configurability, and multi-platform agility. The nearly square 30x30 inch cross-sectional pod size can scale in length from three to five compartments, or approximately 7 ft to 15 ft.
According to the AFRL, operators can pick the sensor equipment they need for a particular mission tasking and configure the AgilePod on the flight line to accommodate their specific collection needs. Hosting various different sensors in a single pod system is also intended to eliminate the weight overhead associated with integrating multiple pieces of discrete equipment, and decrease the overall logistical footprint.
There are two different size electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret sensor compartments (33-inch and 28-inch) specifically designed to house sensors defined by the Class I and Class II mechanical interface standard for airborne systems, respectively. In addition, there are two different size centre compartments (45-inch and 60-inch) able to support a range of other sensor types and associated equipment, including radar, electronic warfare, signals intelligence, full-motion video, communication systems, wide area motion imagery, common launch tubes for tactical off-board sensing unmanned aerial vehicles, and various other equipment rack configurations.
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