Textron Systems, Textron Aviation Defense Demonstrate Simulated Manned-Unmanned Teaming Capability

Multi-vehicle command and control from a moving airborne asset expected to keep manned assets out of harm’s way and deliver new tactical capabilities to military aircraft.

The ability to control unmanned systems  from the cockpit of a manned tactical aircraft is coming closer to reality. Engineers at Textron Systems  and Textron Aviation , part of Textron Inc. (NYSE:TXT) in Providence, R.I., have demonstrated manned-unmanned teaming capability – specifically the command and control (C2) of multiple unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, from a single manned military aircraft – using Textron Systems’ Synturian control and collaboration technology  integrated into the Textron Aviation Defense Scorpion  jet.

“Together, Synturian command and control technologies and the Scorpion jet take this capability to the next-level – increasing Textron Systems’ Level of Interoperability (LOI) from 3 to 4, while enabling multi-vehicle command and control from a moving airborne asset,” describes Textron Systems Vice President of Programs Wayne Prender. “Through Textron Systems’ experience in the field and Textron Aviation Defense’s expertise, we realize the revolutionary benefits that manned-unmanned teaming can deliver to keep manned assets out of harm’s way.”

During the rapid proof-of-concept demonstration, the Textron engineering team installed Synturian software, part of Textron Systems’ family of multi-domain control and collaboration technologies , into the cockpit mission computer of the Scorpion jet. The team simulated a NIGHTWARDEN Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System  and an Aerosonde Small Unmanned Aircraft System  (sUAS ) for the demonstration, which featured flight acquisition and control of the simulated air vehicles and sensors (up to LOI 4). Using Synturian, the Scorpion aircrew set up flight route waypoints, established surveillance orbits, steered the sensor, and changed the unmanned aircraft  heading, airspeed, and altitude. The simulated unmanned aircraft were then able to operate without further aircrew interaction, officials say.

“The ability to easily and intuitively control unmanned systems from the cockpit of a manned tactical aircraft is a game-changer,” says Textron Aviation Defense Senior Flight Test Pilot Brett Pierson, after flying the Scorpion-Synturian test missions. “The tactical and operational ramifications of this new capability are enormous. Further extending Scorpion’s sensor suite and penetrating a weather layer to generate target coordinates; or creating a triangulated solution independently; or adding layers to a multi-spectral fused solution, deliver an entirely new set of tactical capabilities that have never been possible in a fighter-type aircraft.”

Textron Systems and Textron Aviation Defense officials plan to advance integration efforts, testing and demonstrating this capability with fully operational unmanned aircraft worldwide.

Synturian control and collaboration technologies, designed to empower situational awareness and informed action, includes two main product lines: Synturian Control, a multi-platform, multi-vehicle, multi-domain control system that enhances collaboration and dissemination of information; and Synturian Remote mobile, network-strengthened tools that enhance situational awareness through timely information and collaboration. Synturian Control and Synturian Remote package these capabilities into small, lightweight hardware form factors that are scalable based on customer needs.

The Textron Aviation Defense Scorpion jet is a tactical aircraft designed to equip the warfighter with a technological advantage while delivering exceptional mission readiness at low acquisition, operating, and training costs. It features an 85-cubic-foot center payload bay, field-configurable mission packages, six hard points, fast dash speeds, and extended endurance and loiter time. Built to excel as an affordable multi-role platform, the Scorpion jet delivers ISR, armed reconnaissance, CAS, maritime and border patrol, and jet training capabilities.

Textron Systems’ businesses develop and integrate products, services, and support for aerospace and defense customers, as well as civil and commercial customers, including those in law enforcement, security, border patrol, and critical infrastructure protection around the globe.

Textron Inc. is a multi-industry company known for brands such as Bell, Cessna, Beechcraft, Hawker, Jacobsen, Kautex, Lycoming, E-Z-GO, Textron Off Road, Arctic Cat, Textron Systems, and TRU Simulation + Training.

Courtney E. Howard  is editorial director and content strategist at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group. Contact her by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..