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U.S. Army Tests Gray Eagle Drone Using New, More Autonomous Control Software

Military drones are pretty much everywhere now. They are being flown remotely, with pilots sitting comfortably many miles away inside what is generally known as a ground control station (GCS). Usually, these fixed stations need to be large enough to house all the complex hardware required to fly a drone, and at times that could be a disadvantage.
General Atomics Grey Eagle Extended Range 6 photos
General Atomics Grey Eagle Extended RangeGeneral Atomics Grey Eagle Extended RangeGeneral Atomics Grey Eagle Extended RangeGeneral Atomics Grey Eagle Extended RangeGeneral Atomics Grey Eagle Extended Range
But what if an operator could use a straightforward, more mobile solution for the task at hand? This is one of the questions defense contractor General Atomics (GA-ASI) tried to answer back at the end of January when it field-tested the so-called Scalable Command & Control (SC2) solution.

SC2 comprises more autonomous software designed to automate a number of operations, leaving the operator free to focus on more important tasks. It can also speed up the times needed for the drone to be brought to flight status, and, most importantly, it can do all that without making use of present-day GCS locations.

General Atomics announced this week the January test was conducted using “an Army-owned laptop computer,” and SC2 was able to control a Gray Eagle Extended Range drone with no issues for 3.8 hours.

“SC2 represents a massive reduction in emplacement, mission launch time and overall footprint size,” said in a statement GA-ASI Vice President of Strategic Development J.R. Reid. “The SC2 software could be part of the Army’s Ground Modernization plan replacing the Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) with rugged laptops and tactical servers enabling more mobile operations in a defined Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) framework.”

The U.S. Army uses the Gray Eagle Extended Range drone for anything from surveillance to offensive missions. It is powered by a diesel engine good for 180 hp, punchy enough to take off the ground a machine that weighs 4,200 pounds (almost two tons).

The company did not say when SC2 could become routine software for the Army-controlled drones, but the test’s success means the program is going forward.

press release

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