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Air Platforms

DARPA UAS effort looks to do more with less

07 June 2017

BAE Systems has received two contract awards from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop the capability for Group 3 unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) to conduct multiple mission tasks with single payloads that can adjust to changing mission needs.

BAE Systems is developing the ability for a UAS to conduct multiple missions with a single, adjustable payload. Insitu is creating a representative payload of its RQ-21A for BAE Systems. (USMC)BAE Systems is developing the ability for a UAS to conduct multiple missions with a single, adjustable payload. Insitu is creating a representative payload of its RQ-21A for BAE Systems. (USMC)

"DARPA's CONverged Collaborative Elements for Radio Frequency [RF] Task Operations [CONCERTO] systems will realise multifunction operations in less space and power than the combined collections of discrete systems, raise operational tempo by increasing the capability of smaller, more readily available UAS hosts, maximise the use of common apertures, and speed technology migration by decoupling hardware from software and firmware," according to the agency's 26 April 2016 Broad Agency Announcement.

BAE Systems is focusing on maximising the RF capabilities of the hardware (such as bandwidth, frequency, distance, and field of view) to ensure all missions can be accomplished from the same components. The company also is developing a flexible, virtual RF processing engine that can be reconfigured to quickly support diverse and simultaneous operating modes. As processing technologies become increasingly diverse, the company's virtualisation technology can provide adaptability and scalability to a variety of platforms, BAE Systems said.

"My belief is that every future RF system should be a converged system and that is what the DARPA programme set out to prove," Randall Lapierre, technology development manager at BAE Systems, told Jane's on 6 June.

RF convergence means providing sensor resources that are reconfigurable and agile across a wide spectrum so that multiple functions can share the same resources, Lapierre said. "We used to use the term 'multifunction' a lot but that has gone out of fashion and 'RF convergence' is sort of the new term for that.

"The point of RF convergence [is that you can] abstract the resources and share [them] among functions [so] that you have more capability in the same space or you can reduce the number of apertures and systems that you need on a platform."

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