Indiana's Vanguard Approach to Unmanned Systems
On February 14, 2012, a Congressional mandate, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, was signed by President Obama. The Act (H.R. 658) includes specific requirements for unmanned aerial [aircraft] systems and national airspace. Under H.R. 658, Section 331(c), the FAA Administrator is required to establish a program to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System (NAS) at six test ranges. A workable integration must be shown before UAS will be allowed to fly in FAA controlled airspace.
Camp Atterbury and Jefferson Proving Grounds in south central Indiana are some of the only restricted airspace locations in the eastern half of the United States and these sites are owned by the Indiana National Guard. These locations provide the state of Indiana and through an Educational Partnership Agreement, Indiana State University with a unique opportunity to be part of the FAA evaluation and to bring large numbers of UAS developers and testers to Indiana. The partnership with the Indiana National Guard will allow ISU to access the airspace, to act as safety inspectors on their behalf, and to assess fees of the commercial developers for evaluating the safety compliance of their vehicles and sensors.
Just a few weeks earlier, on December 30, 2011, the National Defense Authorization Act was signed by President Obama. Section 1097 includes specific requirements for unmanned aerial [aircraft] systems and national airspace almost identical to the language in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Under the NDAA, the FAA's Administrator is required to establish a program to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system at six test ranges not later than 180 days after December 30, 2011. In establishing the program, the Administrator’s challenges include:
A project at a test range (a defined geographic area where research and development are conducted) is to be operational no later than 180 days after the date the pilot project is established. The timeline dictated by the Acts create an enormous challenge for the FAA in a new and largely unexplored field.
To meet the Congressional timeline and increasing demand from the UAS community, the FAA intends to designate UAS test sites based on locations/applications submitted by interested government agencies, private institutions and organizations. In addition to identification of test ranges, the airspace volume that is associated with the test range will need to be defined. Impact on NAS operational efficiency, the ability to accommodate planned and projected research missions, and other factors that are traditionally considered in determining flight test airspace will be elements of the test range airspace designation.
While many entities are pursuing designation as a test site, only a very few already meet the expected minimum requirements expected to be considered a selection criteria by the FAA. Indiana’s unique resources, including the only urban training environment in the nation collocated with restricted airspace, and collaboration between its government, academia and industry partners, sets it apart as one of the few entities that can meet these requirements, if not exceed them. For example, Indiana offers 280 square miles of Restricted Airspace, 1300 square miles of Military Operating Airspace, over 100,000 acres of real estate under Restricted Airspace, a Joint National Training Center with Complex Urban Training, DoD and Non-DoD partners vested in UAV technologies, a 4200’ Runway under Restricted Airspace and a National Test Network for communications support.
Despite recurring media characterizations, and the public’s often varying perceptions, of “drones” as controversial weapons systems, UAVs are now common, cost-effective, and life-saving tools manufactured in 52 countries around the globe, a growing number of which are deployed in support of local, state, national, and international public safety. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) there are some 100 U.S. companies, academic institutions, and government organizations developing over 300 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) designs. UAVs are no longer the technology of the future, but the technology of the present, and are exponentially increasing in usefulness across multiple discipline areas, upon which the world is already developing dependency
At any given moment, a warfighter somewhere in the world is critically dependent on a highly skilled and highly trusted Hoosier to ensure that warfighter’s personal safety and mission success. Elsewhere in the world, in the same moment, a search and rescue team, a firefighter, or a foreign aid worker, may also be equally dependent on another equally trained and capable Hoosier to remotely find, fix, track, target, and assess factors—in real time—necessary to maximize survivability of the general population in any type of natural disaster or emergency situation.
Why are the successful outcomes of these situations, all over the globe, dependent on Hoosiers? Because the Indiana is home to a unique blend of capabilities, assets, personnel, and infrastructure supporting the research, development, testing, evaluation, training, and operation of unmanned systems. This blend represents the government agencies, academic institution, and industrial players detailed in this report, all working closely together in innovative and symbiotic relationships, setting the pace for the nation in emerging Unmanned System strategies and applications.
Indiana is proud to be home to not just the 181st IW, but also a complete package of interconnected and interdependent unmanned systems resources. These resources offer an unparalleled opportunity for the state to play a pivotal role in leading national efforts to improve and expand both the military and humanitarian use of unmanned systems, positively impacting the economy, safety, and security of this nation, and nations around the globe. To borrow a tag line from CAMMCO, unmanned systems are vital to our nation’s continuing efforts to “Win the Peace”.
While this nation and others have enjoyed success in implementing unmanned systems around the globe, opportunities exist for enhanced training before troops or civilians are deployed into unfamiliar areas. Oftentimes, a user of unmanned systems, including UAVs, may not have training on a particular technology until forced to use it in a real-world mission. In some cases, insufficient training can not only have a negative outcome for the technology, but can also risk the mission’s success.
Imagine the minimization of risk, and maximization of mission success, for each and every participant if unmanned systems were fully utilized in their training exercises. A winged UAV flying over Jefferson Proving Ground monitoring one side of a building, an Unmanned Ground Vehicle in the building, a rotary UAV flown on the opposite side of the building from the winged UAV, and a remotely controlled watercraft in the lower level of a flooded building inside an entirely flooded city, can all significantly increase the situational awareness of anyone involved in the exercises. The building surrounded and infiltrated with unmanned vehicles, signal intelligence can be observed and analyzed by the skilled servicemen of the 181st and the necessary information relayed to combat troops in the field or flying in the FAA restricted airspace over south central Indiana.
For this reason, efforts are underway to utilize assets like Muscatatuck, in close coordination with personnel, infrastructure, and capabilities resident in Terre Haute’s 181st IW, to promote training of deployable personnel in the use of various UAV technologies, in a realistic urban environment, before having to learn to manage and depend on such technologies while on deployment.
The Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is designated as a Joint National Training Center and offers a key, national-level capability for testing, evaluating, and training both soldier and civilian users of unmanned systems. Considered the largest, fully functional real brick and mortar urban training environment in the United States, Muscatatuck offers the only site in the nation where unmanned systems, including but not limited to UAVs, can fly in restricted airspace and collect data from an urban environment. Muscatatuck’s proximity to Jefferson Proving Ground (JPG) allows UAVs to fly in safe and restricted airspace over a defense installation, using sensors to monitor training exercises involving not only uniformed personnel but civilians from local, state, federal, and international organizations. JPG’s ranges are also of incredible value for testing existing and future weapons capabilities associated with UAVs.
In theater, UAVs also require various levels of activity and support. While some smaller hand-held UAVs can be launched on the front line, or within a combat environment, urban or otherwise, intermediate size UAVs need additional infrastructure, a safe distance away, to launch and recover. In Indiana, the North Vernon Municipal Airport, and other regional municipal and private airports, can be utilized to create a realistic, echelon-based training environment. Unfortunately, some UAVs are incredibly large or have additional support needs that require an even larger and more distant rear echelon.
Grissom is an Air Force Base and community steeped in experience with refueling and large strategic aircraft capabilities. As UAS become more integrated into both military and civilian applications, the ability to conduct airborne refueling will become a critical venture. The location of Grissom and the experience level of its clientele make it ideal to conduct this testing and training.
Grissom Air Reserve Base provides many assets available to both manned and unmanned systems. Everything utilized in the manned environment can be utilized by unmanned aircraft as well. The availability of 12,501 feet of runway 200 feet wide is an unbelievable asset to any pilot looking for a safe landing environment, whether the aircraft is manned or not. The option of using acres of ramp space for parking multiple aircraft provides an opportunity for squadrons of manned aircraft or “swarms” of unmanned aircraft. The standing available hangers and support infrastructure is valuable for both manned and unmanned aircraft. The hangers at Grissom provide an enormous advantage to conduct small UAS training in a controlled environment without wind interference. Complete scenarios for training may be conducted in a scaled environment, but applicable to the concepts and principles of real-world. The base itself is limited access and secure for any military or DoD contractor working on new or improved Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The entire infrastructure of the air base is critical to both manned and unmanned operations.
The location of Grissom places it directly under the eastern edge of Hilltop Military Operating Area (MOA), an area used for military operations and training for many years, and within range of Minnow MOA over Lake Michigan. Once the FAA allows unmanned system operations outside restricted airspace as part of the National Airspace System (NAS) integration, UAVs will be allowed to utilize MOAs in the same manner that manned aircraft use them for training today. UAVs launched from Grissom would simply climb into the Hilltop MOA for training exercises, execute their training programs, and return safely to the runway directly below the MOA. For the opportunity to conduct refueling testing, a refueling tanker and UAV can launch from Grissom and travel north to the Minnow MOA over Lake Michigan. This distance is not far and affords the testing of refueling operations to be validated even before conducting refueling training in Hilltop MOA.
Thanks to the strategic planning of the state and thought leaders at all levels of influence, Indiana has successfully developed into one of the nation’s foremost regions conducive to unmanned systems research, development, testing, evaluation and training. As such, Indiana is uniquely positioned to support FAA requirements to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS).
Indiana is already a destination of choice for a growing number of local, state, federal and international government organizations, as well as defense industry partners. Most, if not all, of these organizations already use, or would benefit from using, unmanned systems. Indiana’s variety of infrastructure, climate conditions, terrain and other features make it a destination of choice for research, development, testing, evaluation and training of unmanned systems and related technologies. Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industry, its energy, battery and power industry, and its business-friendly environment combine to make it a highly desirable location for unmanned systems manufacturers as well.
In Consideration of Unmanned Systems for Security, Markets and Citizens by Brigadier General Jeffrey Hauser and Dr. Richard Baker