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How unmanned aircraft systems could be range project force-multipliers

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published March 16, 2020
Brian Roden, left, a project manager and civil engineer with the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, works with Ryan Strange, research physical scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Aviation and Remote Systems Program and Huntsville Center’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Site Development Branch, to calibrate a sensor on the senseFly eBee X fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system before takeoff at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, during an unmanned aircraft systems capabilities review Feb. 27, 2020.

Brian Roden, left, a project manager and civil engineer with the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, works with Ryan Strange, research physical scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Aviation and Remote Systems Program and Huntsville Center’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Site Development Branch, to calibrate a sensor on the senseFly eBee X fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system before takeoff at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, during an unmanned aircraft systems capabilities review Feb. 27, 2020.

Brian Roden, left, a project manager and civil engineer with the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, works with Ryan Strange, research physical scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Aviation and Remote Systems Program and Huntsville Center’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Site Development Branch, to calibrate a sensor on the senseFly eBee X fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system before takeoff at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, during an unmanned aircraft systems capabilities review Feb. 27, 2020.

Brian Roden, left, a project manager and civil engineer with the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, works with Ryan Strange, research physical scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Aviation and Remote Systems Program and Huntsville Center’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Site Development Branch, to calibrate a sensor on the senseFly eBee X fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system before takeoff at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, during an unmanned aircraft systems capabilities review Feb. 27, 2020.

Navigational Electronics Inc. demonstrator and subject-matter expert Ross Kenney explains features of the Microdrones MD4-1000 unmanned aircraft system controller to members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, during a capabilities review at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, Feb. 27, 2020.

Navigational Electronics Inc. demonstrator and subject-matter expert Ross Kenney explains features of the Microdrones MD4-1000 unmanned aircraft system controller to members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, during a capabilities review at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, Feb. 27, 2020.

From left: Three members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville – Benton Williams, geophysicist; Ellen Haapoja, student trainee; and William Noel, project manager – work together to plot the locations of inert munitions to evaluate the object-identification abilities of three different unmanned aircraft systems Feb. 27, 2020, at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama. Williams and Haapoja work in the Geosciences Branch of the Engineering Directorate, while Noel works in the Ordnance and Explosives Design Center.

From left: Three members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville – Benton Williams, geophysicist; Ellen Haapoja, student trainee; and William Noel, project manager – work together to plot the locations of inert munitions to evaluate the object-identification abilities of three different unmanned aircraft systems Feb. 27, 2020, at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama. Williams and Haapoja work in the Geosciences Branch of the Engineering Directorate, while Noel works in the Ordnance and Explosives Design Center.

Demonstrator Ross Kenney, second from left, in control of an MD4-1000 Microdrone platform, talks about the system's features with Huntsville Center employees William Noel (left), Benton Williams, and Bethanie Thomas, during a capabilities review for three unmanned aircraft systems Feb. 27 at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama.

Navigational Electronics Inc. demonstrator and subject-matter expert Ross Kenney, second from left, who is in control of a Microdrones MD4-1000 platform, talks about the system’s features with three members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center Huntsville – William Noel, left, project manager; Benton Williams, geophysicist; and Bethanie Thomas, civil engineer – during a capabilities review for three unmanned aircraft systems at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, Feb. 27, 2020. Williams and Thomas work in the Engineering Directorate, while Noel works in the Ordnance and Explosives Design Center.

Ryan Strange, research physical scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Aviation and Remote Systems Program and the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Site Development Branch at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, launches the senseFly eBee X fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, during an unmanned aircraft systems capabilities review Feb. 27, 2020.

Ryan Strange, research physical scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Aviation and Remote Systems Program and the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Site Development Branch at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, launches the senseFly eBee X fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, during an unmanned aircraft systems capabilities review Feb. 27, 2020.

A Microdrones MD4-1000 lands at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, during an unmanned aircraft systems capabilities review Feb. 27, 2020.

A Microdrones MD4-1000 lands at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, during an unmanned aircraft systems capabilities review Feb. 27, 2020.

Navigational Electronics Inc. demonstrator and subject-matter expert Ross Kenney controls a Microdrones MD4-1000 unmanned aircraft system and discusses its features with two members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center Huntsville – William Noel, left, project manager, and Benton Williams, geophysicist – during a capabilities review for three unmanned aircraft systems Feb. 27 at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama. Williams works in the Geosciences Branch of the Engineering Directorate, while Noel works in the Ordnance and Explosives Design Center.

Navigational Electronics Inc. demonstrator and subject-matter expert Ross Kenney controls a Microdrones MD4-1000 unmanned aircraft system and discusses its features with two members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center Huntsville – William Noel, left, project manager, and Benton Williams, geophysicist – during a capabilities review for three unmanned aircraft systems Feb. 27 at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama. Williams works in the Geosciences Branch of the Engineering Directorate, while Noel works in the Ordnance and Explosives Design Center.

Navigational Electronics Inc. demonstrator and subject-matter expert Ross Kenney carries the Microdrones MD4-1000 unmanned aircraft system to a takeoff point during a capabilities review at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, Feb. 27, 2020.

Navigational Electronics Inc. demonstrator and subject-matter expert Ross Kenney carries the Microdrones MD4-1000 unmanned aircraft system to a takeoff point during a capabilities review at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, Feb. 27, 2020.

Navigational Electronics Inc. demonstrator and subject-matter expert Ross Kenney explains features of the Microdrones MD4-1000 unmanned aircraft system controller to members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, during a capabilities review at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, Feb. 27, 2020.
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Navigational Electronics Inc. demonstrator and subject-matter expert Ross Kenney explains features of the Microdrones MD4-1000 unmanned aircraft system controller to members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, during a capabilities review at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville, Alabama, Feb. 27, 2020.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. A group of Huntsville Center professionals gathered Feb. 27 at the Rocket City Radio Controllers complex in southeast Huntsville to evaluate the capabilities of three different unmanned aircraft systems to find ways to make range projects more efficient and less costly.

The group included professionals with different technical specialties to evaluate a diverse set of potential applications.

One of those applications is munitions identification. The team set up 25 different kinds of inert munitions and explosives of concern on the complex field and then put each unmanned aircraft through its paces to test a multitude of sensors they had placed aboard the aircraft.

“One of the critical items we look at is the distribution and concentration of munitions on a range so that our contractors can have a better idea where they’re going to work and we can have a better idea of how much work the contractors are going to have to do on a range to clear and allow construction,” said William Noel, a project manager with the Ordnance and Explosives Design Center who specializes in the construction and modification of training ranges.

Ryan Strange, a research physical scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Aviation and Remote Systems Program and Huntsville Center’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Site Development Branch, is also interested in using these systems to obtain accurate tree counts. This is especially valuable data for tree-clearance operations on ranges.

“We are learning about counting the trees in a forested stand by using spatial analysis tools, and we hope to get some really good data out of this demonstration,” Strange said.

“I’m always looking for ways we can apply new technologies and then measure the practicality of that application,” said Noel. “Does it really deliver the benefit that we hope to get from it? Does it help us to work faster? Does it help us to work smarter? Does it help us to control costs better?

“The more we know about a range,” Noel added, “the more intelligently we can design the range work, and the better we can bound the areas that our contractors are going to have to work removing munitions. If we can reduce the scope of the work they have to perform, then we’ve reduced the cost of the project.”