Revolutionary New 'Cockpit' for UAVs dramatically improves operator performance
By Mike Hanlon
November 1, 2006
November 2, 2006 Raytheon has unveiled what it calls its Universal Control System (UCS) - a first of its kind unmanned aerial system (UAS) "cockpit" that revolutionizes operator awareness and efficiency, while providing the ability to control multiple unmanned aircraft, reduce potential accidents, improve training, and decrease costs. The announcement was made during the Shephard UV North America 2006 conference in Tysons Corner, Va.
"We took the best-of-breed technologies from the gaming industry and coupled them with 35-years Raytheon UAS command and control expertise and developed a state-of-the-art universal cockpit built around the operator," said Mark Bigham, business development director for Raytheon's Intelligence and Information Systems business. "We broke down the operator's tasks and objectives and constructed a system built entirely around them, rather than building the system around the air vehicle first, without input from the operators. Improvements included adding a wrap-around display to enhance operator effectiveness. We wanted to put the operator in the UAS 'cockpit' virtually and dramatically enhance his or her situational awareness. UCS operators will have better situational awareness than any manned platform, which dramatically improves safety." "Aircrews today need UCS superior control interfaces and situational awareness, which will dramatically improve the combat effectiveness of pilot and sensor operators," said Michael Keaton, former commander of a U.S. Air Force Predator squadron who is now working for Raytheon. "We developed the essential tools and technology needed to bring UCS to fruition, and I believe this is the only UAS control system on the market designed specifically around the operator to enhance combat operations." Raytheon designed and developed the UCS to meet operator demands and decrease human factors issues when operating a UAS. The enhanced operating system addresses ergonomic concerns and caters to the needs of the operators to help them perform their jobs more effectively. In addition, the system gives the operator the option of standing or sitting and provides flexibility in controlling multiple functions. Moreover, the technology provides a safer work environment for operators, keeping their minds more focused to perform their missions more effectively and safer. The UCS system can control multiple dissimilar UASs simultaneously, with software designed and developed by Raytheon. Raytheon developed an intuitive interface technology, which makes UAS operators much more effective in learning the UCS system and with significantly less training. The gaming industry has invested billions of dollars in developing advanced human interface technologies which are simple and intuitive; Raytheon leveraged the technologies and adapted them to the UCS system. A 2004 study by the Federal Aviation Administration, "A Summary of Unmanned Aircraft Accident/Incident Data: Human Factors Implications," states that " ... a common theme across many of the mishaps reported involved a problem with the command interface to the system." The study also noted that "In the systems analyzed, human factors issues were present in 21 percent (Shadow) to 67 percent (Predator) of the accidents ... numbers suggest there is room for improvement if specific human factors issues can be identified and addressed." Bigham added that Raytheon is confident that UCS will improve operator performance statistics such as these found in this study, and that the company looks forward to analyzing user results. The RUCS system is based on flight proven technology and an open architecture, multi-platform, multi-sensor and STANAG 4586 compliant. STANAG 4586 is a specification that allows members of the NATO alliance to share information obtained by their unmanned air vehicles.
Raytheon has been a pioneer in developing a wide variety of UAS ground control systems for the U.S. military for more than 35-years. Most recently, Raytheon developed the Global Hawk ground system for the U.S. Air Force and the Tactical Control System for the U.S. Navy. The Global Hawk ground system was ranked as the "most automated of all systems," according to the FAA December 2004 study.