Issue 40 Unmanned Systems Technology October/November 2021 ANYbotics ANYmal D l AI systems focus l Aquatic Drones Phoenix 5 l Space vehicles insight l Sky Eye Rapier X-25 l FlyingBasket FB3 l GCS focus l AUVSI Xponential 2021

76 A s of 2021, the term ‘GCS’ (ground control station) has become something of a misnomer for the computer systems used to operate unmanned vehicles. Major advances in autonomy mean they are used less and less for actual control of unmanned systems: most operations now follow pre-planned waypoints and course corrections with very limited interventions. GCSs are therefore more important for planning missions or monitoring their progress, rather than any actual control, albeit with the operator occasionally having to intervene owing to unforeseen events. Also, calling them ‘stations’ might imply that they are large, fixed constructions such as those traditionally used for operating remotely piloted aircraft, but contemporary GCSs can range from small laptops to handheld tablet-type devices. As a result, GCSs no longer need to be operated from the ground: an operator can walk around a ship deck, be driven around in a car or lean out of a helicopter as they track an autonomous system’s mission. As GCS hardware is increasingly designed for compliance with standardised comms protocols and air traffic solutions, and software systems adapt the latest safety, AI and cloud technologies, it is worth investigating the current array of mission management systems to understand the benefits they can provide to unmanned systems operators. Hardware designs Computer hardware is now so modular and powerful that GCS platforms can be built in whatever form factor makes sense for a given mission application, in terms of ergonomics, cost-effectiveness, lightness and environmental proofing or ruggedisation. Rory Jackson looks at how the key role of a modern GCS is shifting from actual control to planning and monitoring missions Now at the planning stage GCSs now come in a range of form factors, with their screens, physical controls, radios, processors and software all optimised for each user’s exact requirements (Courtesy of UXV Technologies) October/November 2021 | Unmanned Systems Technology