The US Army has begun field testing the Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System (ARSS). ARSS is an experimental robotic weapons system that has been developed by the U.S. Army since 2005. It consists of a remotely operated sniper rifle attached to an unmanned autonomous helicopter.
“Having the ability to accurately engage single point man sized targets with an airborne UAV will give the ground based soldier the ability to have a high-point survivable sniper at their disposal when needed,” stated the Army solicitation notice in 2005 when the project was first announced.
The heart of the ARSS is in the Precision Weapons Platform (PWP) produced by the Space Dynamics Labratory at Ohio State. According to Space Dynamics, the PWP is a lightweight turret that SDL is creating for the U.S. Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) as part of the Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System (ARSS). SDL is also developing the operator’s station and the algorithms and software needed to control the PWP.
PWP is intended to integrate a sniper system onto a rotary–winged unmanned aircraft that will allow sniper capability on a platform that can achieve line of sight to a target by going above or around obstacles. This system could provide an accurate delivery of fire with little or no collateral damage, which is particularly useful in urban settings.
The PWP began as an internally–funded research and development project. With the funding provided by AATD, the PWP’s functionality and capabilities have been significantly developed. The PWP weapon payload is a .338 Lapua Magnum rifle, which includes a situational awareness camera and a scope with cameras attached that provide two levels of zoom.
A key element of the program is the use of commercial off–the–shelf components to reduce cost and the time needed for development. The operator’s station is similar to a video game with video imagery from the cameras displayed on a flat–panel monitor. A gaming controller is used for aiming, arming safing, and firing tasks. The controller is also used by the remote operator to change camera views or modes of operation. A laptop computer configures and controls the system.
The system is being developed under AATD’s umbrella Science and Technology program called the Aerial Delivery of Effects from Lightweight Aircraft (ADELA). The purpose of this program is to move unmanned aerial systems (UASs) beyond the reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting acquisition role.