A project managed by the European Defence Agency (EDA), which aims to create a basis for a future European interoperability standard for military unmanned systems, has taken a step forward with the successful conclusion of a table-top exercise. The INTERACT (Interoperability Standards for Armed Forces Unmanned Systems) project demonstration was held over two days at the Swedish defence research centre, Totalförsvarets Forskningsinstitut (FOI). The table-top exercise marked a milestone for the project by linking the operational aspects demonstrated by simulation to the standards to be used in the frame of the NATO Architecture Framework V4.
The interoperability standard that is under development within INTERACT will allow unmanned assets to be deployed in flexible and varied configurations such as singular deployment, manned and unmanned teaming, hand over or autonomous swarm, and independent of organisational or national provenance. An enhanced level of interoperability will greatly increase responsiveness and flexibility and hence the warfighting capability of European armed forces.
Handover in all senses
During the tabletop demonstration, a small simulation session with live players was used to demonstrate the operational upgrade stemming from key interoperability aspects such as the handover of unmanned systems from one control station to another, even when belonging to another entity or allied nation.
In testing the execution of a handover, the tool used (Enterprise Architect from Sparx-EA) has proven invaluable for each operational phase. This has shown the best standards to use and the missing standards to develop. These results will be highlighted in the roadmap the project is producing to fully develop a European standard for interoperable unmanned systems.
While the full development of a new standard was out of the scope of this study, this roadmap is the first step to validate a complete standard in this area. This demonstration has validated the key elements of this first step, allowing for follow-on studies.
INTERACT received 1.5 million euros for a two-year study from the PADR (Preparatory Action for Defence Research) in its 2019 call for projects. PADR is managed by the European Defence Agency, a role delegated by the European Commission.
Sweden’s FOI, the Netherlands’ Organisatie Voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek and Greece’s Institute of Communication and Computer Systems are the main beneficiaries of this project under the coordination of Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation. They are aided by the main European manufacturers of unmanned systems in the domains of air, land and sea, along with leading organisations.