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The ability to control unmanned systems from a manned aircraft is an important “force multiplier”. This ability of a team of drones to interact intelligently with a manned aircraft was demonstrated in September over the Baltic Sea in a test zone controlled by Germany, European aerospace and defense giant Airbus. The company described the event as an “unprecedented achievement” for Europe.

The successful manned-unmanned teaming (MUT) test flight campaigns included demonstrations with five Airbus-built Do-DT25 target drones controlled from a mission group commander who was airborne in a manned command and control (C2) aircraft, according to the company website. The swarm of unmanned Do-DT25 systems was able to provide situational awareness to a mission group commander located a safe distance away.

According to cbronline.com, multiple capabilities and enabling technologies are required at sufficient maturity levels in order to make this Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUT) happen, As Airbus said – “from teaming/swarming algorithms and new sensors to mission management systems for command and control assistance by the manned aircraft’s crew.”

Biomimetic swarm algorithms are notoriously challenging.

An important factor being tested as part of the trials was Airbus’ flight management and flight control systems designed in-house for specific use in unmanned air vehicles.

The system mixes intelligent swarming capabilities, automatic guidance, navigation and control.

Manned-unmanned-teaming is expected to increase the mission efficiency of future airborne systems in many ways.

The Airbus MUT demonstrations brought together several of the company’s programme and product lines, with the main development and test phases conducted during a short timeframe and at low cost – supported by an agile, rapid prototyping environment and a risk-mitigation approach.

Expertise gained during the manned-unmanned teaming test flight campaigns will be applied by Airbus to develop Europe’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

The technology can be implemented in any kind of helicopter and interact with all types of unmanned systems.