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    Naval Air Warfare Center Teams up with Military Sealift Command to Test Unmanned Aerial System Concept in a Maritime Environment

    Naval Air Warfare Center Teams up with Military Sealift Command to Test Unmanned Aerial System Concept in a Maritime Environment

    Photo By Bill Mesta | 210716-N-OH262-0211 ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 16, 2021)--The unmanned vehicle component...... read more read more



    Story by Bill Mesta 

    USN Military Sealift Command

    ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 16, 2021)—A team of contracted civilian Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) specialists, attached to Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s (NAWCAD) UX-24 Unmanned Test Squadron, teamed up with Military Sealift Command and the crew of MSC’s fleet replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO 188) to test a new concept in material transportation, while the ship was at sea in the Atlantic Ocean, July 15-16.

    The team performed three UAS test flights as part of the warfare center’s Blue Water unmanned air systems project. The Blue Water UAS featured a removable, internal cargo bay capable of transporting small payloads of material from one location to another.

    “Our team went underway to test the feasibility of operating the UAS in a maritime environment, which is one of the most difficult environments to operate any type of aircraft in,” said Project Engineer Mark Richardella, of NAWCAD’s UX-24 Unmanned Test Squadron. “The ultimate goal was to see if this UAS could perform a ship-to-ship mission.”

    For the test to be considered successful, the team needed to prove the unmanned aircraft could travel a distance of at least 200 nautical miles while carrying out a ship-to-ship logistic support mission.

    “The Blue Water system is designed to be a cargo transport or logistics UAS capable of delivering a combined weight of supplies and mission fuel of 30 pounds,” Richardella added. “We were here to demonstrate that this UAS could successfully complete an extended range mission of 200-250 nautical miles with approximately 12 pounds of repair parts.”

    The Blue Water UAS tested during the underway included the aircraft, ground station and telemetry station.

    “MSC did a study, where we determined that the vast majority of critical cargo we deliver from our ships is in the lower weight range and smaller in size,” said Willis Williams, of MSC’s Taluga Group, Research and Development Program. “Testing this UAS was an opportunity for MSC to look into a new method of transporting smaller cargo from our ships to other U.S. Navy ships.”

    “MSC wanted to take a look at the UAS and how it operates,” Williams added. “We also wanted to see how the UAS functions because MSC would need to determine how we could implement this system if the concept were to become operational.”

    In each of the test flights, the UAS successfully transported an internal cargo consisting of simulated repair parts.

    On July 15, the first day of shipboard testing, the UAS was launched from the ship’s flight deck and ascended approximately 100 feet vertically. The UAS then descended back to the flight deck where the team of specialists successfully recovered the UAS.

    “The first flight was basically a function test to ensure that the system was fully operational and functioning properly,” according to Experimental Operator Terry Hahn, of NAWCAD’s UX-24 Squadron.

    The first day of testing included a second test flight where the UAS was launched vertically from the ship, transitioned to forward flight away from USNS Joshua Humphreys and executed a direct flight back to the ship, where it again successfully landed vertically on the flight deck.

    “The second flight was an autonomous mission away from USNS Joshua Humphreys, carried out to verify the UAS was functioned properly for its full mission profile; which it did,” Hahn stated.

    On July 16, the second day of testing, the UAS again was launched from USNS Joshua Humphrey’s flight deck and successfully transported its internal payload of simulated supplies to the flight deck of the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96).

    “The third flight was representative of an operational scenario,” according to Hahn. “We transported 12 pounds of payload with 18 pounds of vehicle fuel reaching the maximum payload weight of 30 pounds.

    “This was an autonomous mission flight which lasted approximately 4.25 hours, ending with a successful landing on USS Bainbridge,” he said. “With this mission, we proved the UAS concept. The testing went better than expected and we proved that this concept is feasible.”

    “The UAS flew approximately 220 nautical miles, on a flight path which kept the aircraft within four nautical miles of the two supporting ships; successfully meeting a primary goal for the system testing,” Richardella added.

    Moving forward, MSC is evaluating the UAS concept’s limitations and determining what modifications and improvements would be required for the concept to become an operational capability, according to Williams.

    “This entire test mission has truly been a team effort,” concluded Richardella. “Multiple organizations worked really hard to bring this all together. Experimental planners stuck with us on short planning timelines; the test squadron and project team worked really hard to plan and work up to this mission; the crew of USNS Joshua Humphreys worked closely with the team to provide an effective maritime venue. Everyone really pulled together to make this concept demonstration successful.”



    Date Taken: 07.16.2021
    Date Posted: 08.08.2021 10:38
    Story ID: 402552
    Location: US

    Web Views: 914
    Downloads: 2