Textron Introduces Next-Generation Drone Station

Textron Inc. wants the Army and other military services to consider buying its new station designed to control multiple types of drones and other aircraft.

The company introduced the product, which is called Synturian and features large touch screen monitors and a portable stack of computers, at last week's Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.

"It can scale from very small to large systems," Wayne Prender, vice president of ground control technologies at the Providence, Rhode Island-based company, said during an interview with Military.com at the show.

The technology, in development for two years, has already been tested on an optionally-manned aircraft and works with the company's own Aerosonde drone, Prender said.

But the goal is to expand the number of compatible systems to include such drones as Textron's RQ-7B Shadow, as well as Northrop Grumman Corp's RQ-5 Hunter, General Atomics' MQ-1C Grey Eagle and Aurora Flight Service's Orion -- aircraft already controlled by the company's Universal Ground Control Station, Prender said.

"We very much are platform agnostic," he said.

The new station is smaller and lighter than the existing system, with a simplified, map-based user interface designed to make it possible for operators to control more vehicles and payloads at the same time, Prender said.

"It provides significantly increased capability, but at a fraction of the size, weight and power," he said. "That's really important in today's day and age, especially as most of the operations we do -- both commercially and for the government -- they want to be rapid, they want to be expeditionary."

While the touch screen was on display at AUSA, the station is designed to accommodate operators who prefer a videogame-like hand controller or mouse and keypad. For example, a user can use his or her fingers to expand or shrink a circle to change the aircraft's loiter pattern.

"It's not a gaming system," Prender said, "but we are leveraging the game-like experience."

Textron wants Army to consider the system for potential use as part the Future Tactical UAS program, he said. The firm is also marketing the product as a solution for international customers, he said.

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