US military seeking stratospheric drones with advanced ISR payloads

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The U.S. military is looking for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of carrying advanced Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) payloads at altitudes over 60,000 feet (18,000 meters) .

The service challenges the defense industry to help develop a capability to “bridge an air layer to space” through high-altitude platforms, according breaking defense.

The initiative comes as the military continues to struggle with stratospheric drones that could provide long-range reconnaissance.

Earlier this year, a US Army Airbus solar drone lost contact with the operator following a flight that lasted 64 days. As a result, the next drone test has been postponed until next year.

Mark KitzThe U.S. Army’s executive program officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, said the service continues to focus on high-altitude platforms despite setbacks.

He also revealed that the military is interested in building and integrating stratospheric sensing technologies that are resilient to future environments.

Multi-layer detection strategy

The US military’s decision to develop high-altitude drones with advanced ISR payloads is part of its “multi-layered detection strategy”.

“Our strategy has three layers and a foundation: the space layer, optimizing what we can get from government or commercial things in orbit; an air layer that includes manned and unmanned platforms from the stratosphere to the mid-to-high altitude layer that is optimized with sensors for a high-end adversary from the ground layer; and the ground layer where we need echelon sensing,” said the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Laura Potter Explain.

All layers must deliver intelligence at high speeds so that soldiers are optimized to deliver crucial information to their commanders.

Stratospheric drones with advanced ISR payloads could support army navigation warfare, assured positioning, navigation and synchronization.

They could also allow the service to have “trust space and trust sensors in our future.”

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