UAV In-Flight Software Upgrades

Collins Aerospace
Arlington, VA
Collins Aerospace and Parasanti recently demonstrated how their solution can make UAVs more agile and collaborative. (Image: Collins Aerospace)

As a U.S. Army lieutenant general, Eric Wesley spent a lot of time thinking about how to share information on the battlefield. There are millions of sensors collecting data across space, at sea, and on land, but bandwidth is limited, security is a concern, and, sometimes, the devices aren’t built to talk to each other.

The vision to connect all those devices is called multi-domain operations, and when Wesley retired, he made it his personal mission to turn that vision into reality. In 2022, he became CEO of startup Parasanti, which seeks to make military devices more capable through software that maximizes their processing power and provides a shared language for systems that were previously incompatible.

A recent partnership with Collins Aerospace, an RTX business, proved how Parasanti’s software could help. They collaborated to demonstrate a new capability that combines two technologies:

  • Collins’ RapidEdge Mission System, software that gives teams of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) the ability to work together — a capability Collins calls “collaborative autonomy.”
  • Parasanti’s UNITE application, which was originally named Lasso and allows UAVs to download new software even when they’re in a contested environment or beyond the range of their command center.

At Collins’ RapidEdge Battle Lab in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the team presented a simulated scenario, where they deployed a team of UAVs from a helicopter.

During the mission, manned aircraft received intelligence that required the UAVs to change their approach. Parasanti's application deployed an additional UAV that flew to the team and, in seconds, installed the software they needed to complete the mission — a step that saved the UAVs from having to fly back to a helicopter for the download.

It saves time, keeps manned aircraft farther from danger, and, by transferring data as close to the source as possible, reduces the risk of an adversary intercepting the download.

The demonstration is an early success story for an initiative called Powered by Collins that launched in 2023. Collins’ Director of Open Innovation, Jonathan Hartman, started it to help the business find small to medium-sized companies with technologies that could easily be integrated into Collins products.

Collins selected three companies to participate in its first round and opened the program again in 2024 focused on key research areas including designing new aircraft displays and using data to improve air-travel time estimates, operations, and product lifecycles.

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