Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) developer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) says it used two Avenger UAS, each equipped with a Lockheed Martin Legion Pod, to demonstrate the ability of UAS to deliver fused sensor data.
The flight test took place in November last year and saw the Avengers send long-range air threat data captured passively and fused by an advanced sensor algorithm to a command center.
In the two-hour flight, the Avengers flew over the high desert of southern California while the Legion pod’s IRST21 infrared search and track system detected multiple fast-moving aircraft operating in the area. On-pod Lockheed Martin fusion software blended the sensor data from both pods in real time and the Avengers streamed it to the ground station.
“This first-time, industry-funded flight test demonstrates the maturing capabilities of UAS platforms and sensors to deliver fused sensor data,” said GA-ASI senior director of Advanced Programs Michael Atwood. “Avenger with Legion Pod demonstrates how collaborative autonomous platforms with advanced sensing can deliver persistent, shared air domain awareness.”
This fusion technology was previously tested in F-15-equipped Legion Pods and datalinks at the Northern Edge operational exercise earlier this year. Legion Pod is a proven long-range passive IRST sensor on multiple platforms including two types of Avenger UAVs.
“This is the first time IRST systems on multiple autonomous aircraft have delivered merged air threat data to users on the ground,” said Scott Roberson, director of Sensors and Global Sustainment Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin. “It’s a big step in developing a common operating picture that boosts situational awareness across domains in joint operations.”
The fusion engine’s ability to take in multiple sensor sources makes it a central node that connects Legion Pods on manned and unmanned platforms. Lockheed Martin has plans to test the Legion Pod with datalink capability among F-16s as well as F-15-to-F-16 sensor fusion. The sensor’s open design readily supports Joint All Domain Operations requirements for alternative datalink architectures.
The sensor-fusion test flight from November followed the first ever flight of an Avenger UAS with Legion Pod from July 2021.