Kutta licenses Operating System (OS) OS-independent STANAG 4586 Vehicle Specific Modules (VSMs) for some of the most advanced Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) auto-pilots and payloads on the market. The VSM efficiently translates proprietary or non-STANAG digital messages into a well-known and open STANAG 4586 standard. Kutta’s VSM software has been tested in hardware in-the-loop simulators as well as in flight tests with STANAG-compliant Common UAV Control Stations (CUCS). Kutta currently licenses the Data Link Interface (DLI) and the VSMs for many commercial and government off-the-shelf auto-pilots and payloads, including the open source Pixhawk-based auto-pilot. Contact us today to learn how Kutta can quickly and cost-effectively make your UAS STANAG 4586 compliant.

Kutta has developed over 30 STANAG 4586 VSMs.

STANAG 4586 Data Link Interface and Vehicle Specific Module Background

NATO standard STANAG 4586 defines a standard interface for the command and control of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The motivation behind STANAG 4586 is to provide UAV “interoperability” – that is, the ability for any of a number of ground stations to control or manipulate a UAV in real time. STANAG 4586 defines a system architecture, message set, protocol and data format for communication between a UAV and the Core UAV Control Station (CUCS). In general terms a CUCS is also known as a Ground Control Station (GCS) but it can also refer to Remote Video Terminals (RVTs) with specific Levels of Interoperability (LOI).

STANAG 4586 defines two sets of messages: one that embodies commands to be sent from the CUCS to the UAV, and another embodying data and information sent from the UAV to the CUCS. Together, these message sets provide for complete command and control of the UAV. STANAG 4586 also defines the transport mechanism for the messages, UDP protocol, and the byte-level layout of the data packets. Most significantly, STANAG 4586 dictates the existence of a Vehicle Specific Module (VSM). The purpose of this subsystem is to take STANAG-compliant commands from the GCS, translate them into vehicle-specific/auto-pilot and Payload specific commands on board the vehicle, and then exercise real-time control over the UAV and its payloads to comply with the STANAG standard.

The VSM automatically acknowledges execution or completion of certain commands and also collects data from the UAV in its native/proprietary format, such as attitude, position, air data, vehicle health data, etc., then converts and packages this data according to STANAG 4586. The VSM then sends the appropriate messages to the CUCS at prescribed update rates. The existence of the VSM is what makes a STANAG-compliant UAV interoperable.

The VSM can reside on the CUCS or on-board the UAV. A CUCS can be considered STANAG 4586 compliant using a ground-based VSM. However, the UAV can not be considered STANAG 4586 compliant when the VSM resides only on the CUCS. A VSM residing on board a UAV provides truly complete interoperability. Any STANAG-compliant CUCS with an appropriate uplink connection (i.e. a compatible radio with a compatible waveform) can discover and control (LOI 2, 3, 4, 5) the UAV.

STANAG 4586 defines five (5) Levels of Interoperability (LOI).

A STANAG 4586 Vehicle Specific Module (VSM) converts an unmanned aircraft systems non-STANAG compliant autopilot and payload interfaces into compliant STANAG 4586 messages. Kutta’s approach to the design of a STANAG 4586 Vehicle Specific Module (VSM) breaks the VSM into two functional components: a Data Link Interface (DLI) and a message translator. Kutta’s DLI is fully developed and ensures that the transmission and reception of the STANAG data is compliant with the standard. The message translator converts the non-compliant messages, using a well-defined software development kit (SDK), into compliant STANAG messages. Kutta has developed over 30 STANAG 4586 VSMs utilizing this two-component approach. Depending on the customer’s needs, Kutta offers these options:

  1. Custom VSM development that leverages Kutta’s highly experienced engineering expertise or a modification of Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) VSM’s for the following autopilots:
    1. Piccolo® Auto-Pilot and TASE® cameras.
    2. Kestrel®-based auto-pilots and camera systems with onPoint®.
    3. Open Source Mavlink/Pixhawk auto-pilots with multiple payload types.
  2. A turnkey hardware-based solution based on the multiple form factors of the Small Mission Computer (SMC). This solution provides an easy upgrade path for advanced, multi-UAS command and control and advanced teaming.

The VSM can be integrated on the ground or in the air vehicle. Kutta’s offers commercial solutions that can be exported Internationally.