Velan Mudaliar is an engineer with the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), headquartered at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. He is a team member on the Lethal Unmanned Aerial System project, which was one of eight ARDEC projects to win a 2009 U.S. Army Research and Development Achievement Award.
I happened to be at the right place and right time when I was given the opportunity to work on the U.S. Army ARDEC’s Lethal Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) program. After working for four years on 120-mm Tank Ammunition, I was glad to have a chance to expand my horizons and play a part in the growing UAS market.
The benefits of the program also appealed to me based on what I had been hearing about on the news. For one thing, U.S. soldiers in the field deserve to have the flexibility to engage urban targets from a safe distance while minimizing collateral damage.
U.S. Army ARDEC’s Lethal UAS concept provides such a capability since it is a weaponized small aircraft that can autonomously fly into an enemy target with the assistance of an onboard GPS receiver. This weaponization stems from the aircraft’s fuze and warhead attachments, both of which were designed in-house at ARDEC’s facilities at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
Unlike other precision munitions such as shoulder-fired rounds and mortars, the Lethal UAS does not require line-of-sight targeting, nor does it have a standardized trajectory that can be retraced by the enemy back to the location of the operator.
An advantage over firing missiles is being able to perform surveillance with the help of an onboard camera that delivers live footage to the ground control station while loitering in the vicinity of possible targets. This loitering capability not only allows extra time (if needed) for target selection, but it also provides the option to abandon a chosen target in favor of a new one.
A key safety feature has to do with the fact that ARDEC’s fuze is programmable, which allows it to be remotely disarmed by the operator on the ground while it’s attached to an in-flight aircraft. Our team had a successful live-fire systems demonstration in February 2010 at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.
In addition to the ARDEC members who were involved (all of whom had made vital contributions to the program), the employees of Latitude Engineering, LLC (the company that provided the aircraft platforms), the Dugway Proving Ground staff and RCAT Systems (provided piloting service and avionics expertise) all deserve much kudos. We would now like to build on this success by modifying and miniaturizing the current design for both shoulder-launched and mortar-launched platforms.”