Electro Optic Systems (EOS) has released the first remotely operated weapon system that can be entirely operated and controlled by means of wireless network communications.
Remotely controlled weapon systems have been in development for almost 20 years, and have been used in combat operations for approximately five years. The key objectives of these systems have always been the improvement of weapon effectiveness, and the removal of the gunner to a safer position remote from the weapon itself.
A key limitation until now has been the need to locate the weapon system operator relatively close to the deployed weapon, because the weapon controls were connected by cables. Wireless controls have not been possible because of several safety and security issues:
- A wireless system could be taken over by opposing forces and used against friendly forces unless very secure communications were employed
- The absence of a human operator results in deficiencies in the overall situation awareness at the weapon location, giving rise to safety and security concerns
- The need for clear identification of friendly forces to prevent fratricide
- Unpredictable time delays in very remote control links require certain functions of the weapon application be implemented robotically but without allowing robot control of the weapon itself
All of these issues have been overcome by EOS, in cooperation with EOS’s partner on remote weapons systems, Northrop Grumman with a generic device architecture that can be rapidly adapted to specific military digital environments.
EOS has obtained patent coverage in the US and other countries, for its implementation of this next generation of remote weapon system. The patents cover rules-based weapon controls to allow reliable and safe weapon operation over limited bandwidth and stressed communication systems.
Commenting at the recent Army US Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington DC, EOS’ chief executive officer, Ben Greene, said: “The new technology we have developed allows weapon systems to be deployed with no physical connection to an operator. This means that for the first time weapon operators can be located as much as 500m – 800m away from the weapon. By coupling to existing secure communications, this can be further extended almost indefinitely.
“This breakthrough has required parallel development of battlefield network integration, data security and encryption, and other technologies to allow a critical real-time application to be operated across great distances. EOS’ partner, Northrop Grumman has contributed both robotic deployment technology as well as secure network communications technology for this effort.
“The new weapon systems are not only operated without wires, but are also networked as integral parts of modern battle management systems, providing network resource information to enable a distant operator to make reliable decisions on the use of lethal force.
“For example the battle management system may securely communicate directly to each remote weapon system the location of all friendly forces within range, in many cases marking individual locations to prevent engaging those friendly forces. The location of friendly forces is clearly not meant to be shared indiscriminately, so network and data security is paramount in the wireless links.
“Once this information has been reliably shared amongst multiple weapon systems, an optimised engagement sequence for non-friendly forces can be instantly computed and prepared for execution upon command. This can lead to significant increases in the efficiency of engagement.
“The new weapon system does not signify the introduction of robotic weapons. Every firing of every weapon is and must be controlled by a human operator. The efficiency of an operator is simply improved by removal of the stress associated with the weapon location, and by the enhanced data flow of data relating to the location of friendly and other forces.”
The company expects wireless and networked weapon systems to comprise a large proportion of the future market for weapon systems globally.