The TextronAirland Scorpion light jet has been fit checked with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL’s) intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) AgilePod. ‘We met with the Textron Aviation Defense Scorpion team and discussed the possibility of doing a fit check with their Scorpion platform and the AgilePod,’ explained Andrew Soine, an electronics systems engineer in the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. ‘A few days later they called and said they could get the plane to Wright-Patterson within the week. We couldn’t miss this opportunity to show the AgilePod’s capabilities on a new class of aircraft.’
The AgilePod is an Air Force-trademarked, multi-intelligence reconfigurable pod that enables flight-line operators to customize sensor packages based on specific mission needs. The pod takes advantage of the AFRL Sensors Directorate Blue Guardian Open Adaptable Architecture construct and Sensor Open System Architectures. Open architectures enable rapid integration of sensor technologies through standardized software and hardware interfaces that enable the pod to seamlessly integrate on platforms that use the standard architectures. This increases the number of missions the pod can augment, expanding the scope of ISR mission possibilities.
‘We showed the openness of the pod by taking an aircraft with a standard set of mechanical and electrical interfaces and attaching the pod. Ultimately, we demonstrated the AgilePod’s plug-and-play ability to rapidly integrate on an open architecture platform. This is a new paradigm for ISR,’ said Soine.
Built to integrate onto the Special Operations MQ-9 Reaper remotely-piloted aerial system (RPAS), this is the first time the AgilePod was fit-tested on a commercially-built manned platform. The industry-standard interfaces reportedly enabled the AgilePod to integrate easily on the platform, ultimately demonstrating the value of the pod’s open architecture design for Air Force mission needs.
Capt Russell Shirey, the chief engineer of the AFRL Sensors Directorate’s Advanced Projects Branch commented: ‘The AFRL Blue Guardian team has been developing rapid integration sensor technologies and standards, which are not only on the AgilePod, but are beginning to show up on aircraft as well. For the Air Force, we are augmenting efficiency by enabling aircraft operating around the globe to swap out sensors and missions right on the flight line. By removing the proprietary sensor fittings and interfaces from the field, we open competition and expand capability.’
‘Just mounting the pod on the plane in the hangar shows how adaptable the AgilePod is designed to be,’ said Capt Juliana Nine, an AFRL Blue Guardian program manager. ‘The reconfigurability allows us to focus on different mission sets compared to the past, and we can do this with short notice.’