AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Recent conflicts have shown that information can be a powerful contributor to warfighter safety. Military users are considering how to turn the many available streams of sensor data, intelligence, analysis, full-motion video and other inputs into a common operational picture that gives them readily actionable information. AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems, headquartered in Hunt Valley, Md., an operating unit of Providence, R.I.-based Textron Systems, is at the forefront of this development.
“We are looking at ways to bring all of these information sources together into a more streamlined and immediate interface,” says Vice President, Business Development Ryan Hazlett of AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “Equally as important, we considered how to maintain data security while enabling real-time collaboration between decision-makers and dismounted teams.
“To put this in perspective, consider the split-second inputs and decisions in our daily lives,” explains Hazlett. “For example, a driver sitting at a red light needs to quickly assess data inputs, like the light turning green, or the status of the vehicle’s fuel supply and tire pressure. There are intelligence inputs, like the traffic report. And accurate, real-time situational awareness is needed, like a visual sweep to ensure there are no road obstructions or hazards before proceeding through that light. Now apply that complexity to a battlefield scenario, and the sense of importance becomes clear.”
AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems has addressed this need with its Integrated Command, or iCommand™, suite, which includes three components. iCommand Distributed Data Services harness a networked framework for secure information synchronization. Core nodes are established at secure strategic sites, which are linked to the deployed network to accommodate data collection, storage, load balancing, information assurance and processing. Decision-makers utilize the iCommand Table, a robust, multi-touch screen device, to easily collaborate with dismounted teams, evaluate real-time situational awareness and dynamically task assets, such as a helicopter, from a single interface. Edge users also can employ iCommand Mobile tools on smartphone and tablet devices for full iCommand functionality at their fingertips.
These three components work together to deliver a comprehensive, collaborative and real-time view of the battlespace. The result is a secure, immediate link between people and platforms for synchronization, collaboration and decision-making.
“iCommand is a great example of the innovative approach we’re taking to give warfighters smart, integrated solutions that help them do their jobs,” says Hazlett. “At AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems, our vision is to extend human capabilities in difficult and dangerous endeavors, and that describes iCommand capability perfectly.”
Also based in Hunt Valley, Md., are AAI Test & Training and AAI Logistics & Technical Services. The former is known for its decades of experience designing and manufacturing innovative, high-technology test equipment for the lab, training range, depot, flight line, factory and more, as well as high-fidelity training devices and solutions.
AAI Logistics & Technical Services delivers comprehensive life cycle support, sustainment and operational services for defense and security equipment, and is a leading provider of unmanned systems services. With experienced logisticians, maintainers and operators that can be deployed rapidly around the globe, the business offers affordable solutions for equipment availability and reliable performance.
“Our employees are genuinely inspired by and dedicated to our military customers, and that’s evident in their hard work and creative ideas every day,” says Vice President, Human Resources and Security Anna-Maria Palmer. “Many are themselves former military, or have loved ones who have served or are currently serving, so we deeply understand and identify with our mission to provide products and services that keep them safe and help them do their jobs better. Products like our iCommand suite really illustrate that drive.”
Through Collaboration to Success
The iCommand suite was developed by a diverse team of employees from both AAI’s Hunt Valley and Huntsville, Ala., locations.
“A collaborative, diverse environment is conducive to innovation,” says Palmer. “Our emerging engineering talent is able to benefit from the experience and skills of fellow engineers, and the new engineers bring valuable, fresh ideas and approaches to solving customer problems.” AAI is hiring across disciplines, including engineering and program management. The company continues to grow as its product and service mix broadens, and as its customer base diversifies.
“Moving forward, we are seeing tremendous international business opportunities,” says Hazlett. “Not only are our allies seeking to build or refresh their military capabilities, but there are numerous emerging missions such as critical infrastructure protection, border control and disaster response for which we can provide value-driven programs based on our platforms and services.
“In fact, our renowned Shadow® Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, which serves U.S. warfighters including the Army, Marine Corps and Special Forces groups, is now in service in Australia and Sweden as well,” he notes. “Our skilled operators and logisticians also are deployed around the world supporting both our Shadow and Aerosonde® unmanned aircraft systems. We have a growing global presence and only expect that to intensify. It’s a dynamic and exciting time here at AAI, as we help to prepare our U.S. and allied warfighters for emerging missions.” I95