The United States military has used unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for decades, and increasingly counts on them to perform dangerous missions that save Soldiers’ lives. Capable of 15 hours of flight time, the Aerosonde is highly portable and boasts outstanding optics at high altitudes. The system has undergone extensive testing at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) for most of its existence. Among these flying wonders is the Aerosonde, a catapult-launched and net recovered aircraft used primarily for surveillance and reconnaissance.
The sheer volume of commercial air traffic in the United States means that conducting developmental testing of even the smallest UAS in a safe, sustained manner within the national airspace is highly problematical. However, such constraints do not exist at YPG—the proving ground controls nearly 2,000 square miles of restricted airspace in addition to boasting clear, stable air and an extremely dry climate where inclement weather is a rarity.
Aerosonde is typically deployed in a system with multiple aircraft and ground control stations, all of which can be accommodated in a realistic manner at YPG. The vast range and air space here means the testers can easily evaluate things like fuel consumption and the ability to smoothly hand-off control of the craft between controllers located in multiple ground control stations. The Aerosonde is a relatively quiet aircraft, as is necessary for its surveillance mission.
The proving ground’s extensive experience with testing UAS and associated sensors is another attraction, as is the ability to control a large swath of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum. YPG has more than 500 permanent radio frequencies, and several thousand temporary ones in a given month. The Aerosonde will continue coming to YPG for testing well into the future. Utilizing the test ranges, frequencies, and facilities here is crucial to us getting to that point. The work we were able to do at YPG got us to this point.