Download this article in .PDF format
This file type includes high resolution graphics and schematics when applicable.

Many factors are contributing to the rise and use of unmanned systems across a variety of industries. Air, sea, and land vehicles can provide relief, intelligence, speed, and efficiency in environments where manned operation may be infeasible or too costly (Fig. 1). Because artificial intelligence systems are still incapable of providing complete mission-ready and adaptable robots, manned control of these vehicles is still necessary.

Unmanned platforms

To enable this control, reliable and feature-rich advanced communications and sensing systems are being heavily developed. RF/microwave/millimeter-wave communications and sensing technologies form the backbone of these modern systems. These technologies are being reviewed by military and commercial entities in order to increase the operational ability of unmanned aerial systems (UASs).

UASs have come a long way since the first simple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—WWII drone bombers and remote-control planes. Modern demands on these systems have increased the complexity of the radio control and electromagnetic sensors alike. They also have moved the development of these technologies out of the strictly military space. The requirements of small form factor, high configurability, low power, low weight, and broadband operation—which are seen throughout solutions in the RF/microwave industry—are all enabling more advanced UAS technologies. Another key trend that is spilling over to UASs is the benefit of networked platforms, which was first implemented by the telecommunications industry.

Millimeter-wave imagers

In addition, millimeter-wave technology is surfacing on UAV platforms in the form of higher-resolution radar for ground-moving-target-indicator (GMTI) operations (Fig. 2). Because millimeter-wave imagers are very compact and lightweight, they lend themselves to mobile platforms. Notably, synthetic-aperture-radar (SAR) -based millimeter-wave systems also are capable of photographic-quality images in a mixture of harsh environments: rain, smoke, fog, dust, and clouds. They also operate regardless of ambient light level. General Atomics Aeronautics manufactures its Lynx multi-mode radar using this technology. That radar can detect vehicular movements in real time at ranges to 80 km.

Lockheed Martin's Vehicle Control Station software

Download this article in .PDF format
This file type includes high resolution graphics and schematics when applicable.