Cloud Cap Technology, part of the UTC Aerospace System manufactures, services, markets, services and sells flight management systems, gimbaled camera systems and inertial sensors both manned and unmanned systems (Cloud Cap Technology, n.d.-a). As a business, Cloud Cap focuses on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) applications. This post summarizes the Piccolo Command Center (PCC), a multi vehicle command and control ground station (GCS) software that is made to operate with Piccolo Autopilots.
PCC is a complex piece of software designed to run on Microsoft Windows Operating System. Given the application domains and verticals to which Cloud Cap Technology markets to, PCC is normally run on the ruggedized Panasonic Toughbook laptops. The Piccolo Command Center features a multi-view and customizable dockable multi-window graphical user interface that has a primary flight display and graphical electronic flight information system to present various flight parameters. In comes into two primary flavors; free and licensed, with the free version lacking many advance features (Cloud Cap Technology, n.d.-b).
The system supports third-party plug-ins which allows system functionality expansion. This enables other software vendors and sensor payload original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to install plugins that allow for interoperability. This extensibility makes it possible to control not only first-party TASE Gimbals and but also other servo pan/tilt/zoom PTZ camera suites, and directional antennae.
The graphical user interface (GUI) displayed in Figure 1 features a map view typically located in the middle, strip views on either side of the map view, an optional flight profile view at the bottom of the map view and a primary flight display area. The map view is the central view of the system providing an overall view of where the UAV is on a georeferenced map. The map can be set into 3D or 2D mode. It allows the user to directly pace information on it to instruct the UAV. A view feed from streaming from a UAV can be directly view within this area. In addition, PCC supports the control and management of multiple UAVs at once which are displayed on the map view. The system supports real-time flight planning as well as flight control.
A user can alter airspeed, altitude and heading. Through drag and drop, a user can generate or update flight plans which then appear on the map. This allows the user to define or draw on the screen flight boundaries such as geo fence, airspace boundaries. The geo fence sets up geographically perimeters within which an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) must operate. PCC displays geo fenced area in 2D polygons on the map depending on its shape. This communicates to the operator where the fence is. The airspace boundary contains the information about the vertical space in which a UAV operates. Such information includes the airspace class and the altitude above ground level (AGL) within which a UAV must operate. This information is represented as 3D polygons to clearly communicate the operating aerial envelope to the operator.
Data captured from sensors aboard a UAV can be used in creating live mosaic to produce what is known as Map Terrain Warning Layer (MTWL) which displays sections on the map in yellow and/or red of elevated terrains that could fall within the flight path of the aircraft. This is used in preventing the UAV from crashing into terrains. The elevation information for the MTWL is processed live with connected cloud services to produce the needed elevation imagery.
The Flight Profile View visualizes the flight plan from a side profile so that the operator can see vertical (up-down) profiles of the mission. The Primary Flight Display shows horizon, attitude and altitude information to the user in real time. The side strips can be configured to show different kinds of telemetry information from both external (surface) and internal sensors
Cloud Cap Technology. (n.d.-a). Retrieved from http://www.cloudcaptech.com/company/about
Cloud Cap Technology. (n.d.-b). Piccolo Autopilot Unmanned Flight Management Systems. Retrieved from http://www.cloudcaptech.com/images/uploads/documents/Piccolo_Flight_Management_System.pdf