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In 2018, Airlander participated in NATO Trial UNIFIED VISION. The trial's objectives were to maximise interoperability of NATO and national ISR assets and to enhance further joint ISR PED. Acting as a persistent, long-endurance airborne collector, Airlander was simulated using an existing UAV as the modelling basis incorporating a GMTI, two FMVs, and single EO/IR camera. Airlander could have carried many more sensors however this was the limit of the modelling capabilities available.

Airlander was used to track the movements of ‘persons of interest’ over five days to establish patterns of life and identify members of the network. During this vignette, Airlander patrolled a large area to maintain wide-area surveillance whilst also identifying individuals and their movements. Airlander was the first airborne collector listed, first used, and the only one to offer continuous coverage over the entire period of the trial. On day two of the trial, one of Airlander's FMVs was substituted for an asset which had become unavailable resulting in each of Airlander's four sensors being fully exploited and simultaneously tasked by different PED cells.

In another vignette, Airlander was tasked with identifying, tracking, and monitoring a potential adversary’s conventional ground assets including ballistic missile movements over five days. Throughout the course of this element, Airlander was able to acquire and select the items of greatest interest to commanders and obtain high-resolution images as tasked by multiple PED cells.

Our participation in NATO Trial UNIFIED VISION 2018 enabled Airlander to demonstrate to commanders the value of having multiple sensors mounted on a single, persistent, long-endurance airborne collector that is able to move between areas of interest and patrol as needed. This brings many benefits, including:

  • Tracking of more than one target could be achieved while maintaining situational awareness and wide area surveillance, thereby avoiding the "soda straw" effect experienced when only one sensor is available.
  • Different sensors could be cued immediately when needed, without having to seek the tasking of other assets or collectors. Specialists had sensors to hand and were able to cue immediately without loss of continuity.
  • Priority between targets and sensors could be determined by the operators as the situation developed and needs changed. Operators were able to discuss priorities and employ the sensors available to achieve the highest priority objective.
  • Continuous tracking of targets from far to near to nadir could be achieved seamlessly, without the need to hand-off or cross-cue other assets. This provided an unbroken audit trail throughout.
  • Continuous unbroken coverage over long periods using both narrow focus and wide area surveillance sensors simultaneously could negate some counter-surveillance techniques currently in use.

Replacing the multi-sensor persistent capability of a single Airlander with a mixture of other existing ISR platforms (i.e. JSTARS, RQ-4, MQ-9, or U2) would have been prohibitive. A significantly larger number of such platforms would be required to provide 24-hour sensor coverage over the same five-day period.

For more information on Airlander's participation in NATO Trial UNIFIED VISION 2018, get in touch with our team.

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