S-PLANE’s Aircraft Automation, Communication and Ground Control Solutions, combined with suitable sensor payloads, are integrated onto rotary-wing and fixed-wing manned aircraft in order to create powerful Unmanned ISR platforms. Integration can be performed for new aircraft or as modernisation and upgrade projects for existing fleets. Manned ISR aircraft created with S-PLANE technology are easily upgraded to state of the art certification-ready Optionally Piloted or completely Unmanned ISR Platforms.

Solutions include a number of S-PLANE products and services combined with industry-leading third-party equipment and services such as Satellite Communication systems and data services for Inmarsat and Iridium connectivity. S-PLANE supports its customers through system engineering, integration, flight testing and certification processes to ensure the technical and commercial success of every system integration. S-PLANE Solutions are designed and tested according to the principles of exacting standards, including RTCA DO-178, DO-254 and DO-160. Certification packs can be created on demand for every system integration.

With S-PLANE’s solutions, Unmanned ISR aircraft are created from airframes designed for manned or for unmanned operation. This includes the automation of mini-UAVs, Tactical UAVs and MALE UAVs, and extends to manned airframes exceeding 20 000kg GMTOW. The automation process includes the provision of automated flight modes, mission-level waypoint management, automated take-off and landing, automated on-board systems control and monitoring and many other functions.

For rotary-wing and fixed-wing UAV airframes up to the Tactical class S-PLANE employs its nxSERIES Flight Control Unit (FCU) for automation. The nxFCU provides fully redundant flight control, instrumentation/sensors and communication integrated into one certification-ready and compact package not exceeding 1.35kg (heaviest build option). Payload management and data routing is performed by the nxFCU as it serves as interface between aircraft payloads and sub-systems and ground control elements via its communication links.

S-PLANE’s xKIT for UAV conversion is based on the xSERIES FCUs and can be integrated onto most manned rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft as well as MALE and sophisticated Tactical UAV aircraft. The xKIT mainly comprises an xCUBE (the heart of the automation kit) and flight instrumentation/sensors to provide a certification-ready automation system with up to triplex redundancy for all flight critical elements under its control. Unlike the OPV version of the xKIT, the UAV version does not include the Engage/Disengage Unit (EDU) which facilitates pilot/autopilot hand-over for the aircraft. The automation system is compatible with high quality redundant servo mechanisms, guaranteeing safe operation. It also serves as a Power Distribution Unit providing multiple fully controlled and independent safety-critical power buses. On-board functions normally managed by the pilot are controlled and automated via the xCUBE. Missions can be performed in fully autonomous mode, where take-off, flight and landing are managed via a mission-level control interface. Remote C2 operators can operate the aircraft in a fly-by-wire remote piloting mode (with the Remote Piloting Unit (RPU)), taking advantage of the flight safety and protection systems offered by the redundant on-board flight control unit.

For larger aircraft, Payload Management is provided by the Airborne Data Terminal (ADT) within the xCUBE. Sophisticated EO/IR, Radar, SigInt, WAS and Transponder payloads interface to the xCUBE. This appliance provides state of the art data compression, encryption, recording and routing functionality as well as RF link management to make optimal use of Line of Sight (LOS) and Satellite Communication (SatCom) links. It has processing power to spare for complex data and signal processing and fusion tasks customized for S-PLANE’s clients. As an example, the xCUBE Lite easily captures 4 EO/IR HD-SDI and composite video streams, plus a number of additional Ethernet streams. It encrypts them, records them in high definition, transcodes them to lower bandwidth encrypted streams and manages the transmission of these streams via variable bit-rate communication links to remote ground stations in real-time, with minimum latency.

S-PLANE provides sophisticated LOS communication solutions in the UHF, S and C bands with encryption options and MIMO diversity links guaranteeing maximum link bandwidth, optimal connectivity and link security. High bandwidth links provide payload data streaming and command and control functionality and low bandwidth links provide back-up command and control functionality. Maximum communication ranges vary between 40km for omni-directional solutions to 200km using S-PLANE’s TRACKER 150+ tracking antenna sub-system with directional parabolic antenna and integrated communication links. LOS links provide mesh network functionality for multi-hop network range extension and direct connection to the aircraft and ground control station for forward operators.

Non-LOS connectivity is provided by optional SatCom links. S-PLANE supplies Inmarsat L and K band SatCom link equipment and the data services (IP data and Streaming) required to keep aircraft connected to ground controllers. This functionality is backed up by L band Iridium telemetry services to ensure that aircraft remain connected, always!

Ground Control is provided via a rugged and transportable Tactical Deployment Unit (TDU) serving as the heart of any UAV ground station. The TDU provides complete Command and Control (C2) functionality as well as mission and payload situational awareness to the aircraft and payload operators via S-PLANE’s ParagonC2 and ParagonISR appliances. ParagonC2 serves as the C2 appliance for mission management and remote piloting. Both ParagonC2 and ParagonISR also provide sensor payload stream geolocation and projection as well as sensor coverage and viewshed analysis functionality within a 3D terrain environment to optimise payload application and mission execution in real-time, ensuring that you get the most out of your expensive sensor payloads with every mission! ISR sensor payload control is provided by interfacing payload control equipment to the TDU and payload metadata is streamed to and exploited within ParagonC2 and ParagonISR. The TDU provides audio connectivity functions (ATC and ITC) and power management and distribution to all ground components. An Aircraft Control Station (ACS) version of the TDU is available to allow pilots and airborne sensor payload operators to gain much of the sophisticated TDU functionalities within the aircraft. S-PLANE’s RPU interfaces with the TDU to facilitate flight critical protected fly-by-wire flight control by a remote pilot (typically the C2 operator).

As a bonus, Manned ISR installations created using S-PLANE technology are ready for quick conversion to Optionally Piloted or Unmanned Vehicle status by upgrading and adding equipment and without re-engineering systems and architectures already put in place for the Manned ISR aircraft. Maximum re-use of equipment and architectures means that your investment is easily upgradable at the lowest possible cost and in the shortest possible time.