Inside Unmanned Systems

JUN-JUL 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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AIR NEW APPLICATIONS 46 unmanned systems inside   June/July 2017 A dynamically- updated stochastic grid-map: allowing UAS to extract actionable intelligence (for autonomous waypoint planning) from self- and peer-recorded data, at minimal communication/ computing overhead. "This is still very much in its infancy," he said. "Performing drones inhabit a theatrical space like nothing we've seen before, triggering irre- pressible emotions as they invade the spectators' personal space and perception. I fully expect that small, programmable, flying lights will become a staple at all major live events in the near future." Other Commercial Applications One of the reasons Intel started creating drone fleets for entertainment was to show the possi- bilities they represent for other applications, such as SAR and inspections, Cheung said. There are seemingly endless opportunities, making this an area many scientists are interested in exploring. Vito Trianni is among them. He's a research- er at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (ISTC-CNR) in Italy and is the proj- ect lead for the Swarm Robotics for Agricultural Applications experiment, or SAGA. The group plans to demonstrate how swarm robotics princi- ples apply to agriculture, targeting decentralized monitoring/mapping scenarios, and implement- ing a use case for detecting and mapping weeds in a field via swarms of small UAS. So far, all the research they've done has been through computer simulations in the lab, but they plan to test a small group of three or four drones this summer, and then grow from there. Eventually, Trianni would like to deploy 100 micro drones at a time. The drones will f ly using algorithms for collective behaviors, and will exploit a common control link to issue ra- dio signals to other members of the swarm. "We are implementing protocols for broad- casting messages, so even if a communica- tion radius is limited, information sent by one drone can be sent to the rest of the group so they're all aligned and have the same knowl- edge," he said. "Drones can change the strategy and follow traces left by other drones, simulat- ing behaviors of colonies like bees or ants." The idea is to keep the drones small, Trianni said, and to outfit them with inexpensive cam- eras. This decreases the size of the hardware and the cost of the drone. The challenge is demonstrating a swarm of smaller drones can cooperate and achieve the same precision as one expensive high-end drone. His drones weigh a little less than 5 kilo- grams, Trianni said. He'd like that to come down to closer to 2 kilograms. "If we have machines that are not individu- ally powerful and not individually expensive, we can deploy more of them, and if we lose some it's not a big deal from an economical point of view," he said. "The systems will work with more or less the same performance as a more expensive machine." Ahmed Hussein, an assistant lecturer and PhD Student at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) in Spain, has advised startup Drone Hopper on the UAS system they're developing for farming applications and firefighting. Eventually, they'd like to deploy the drones as collaborative systems. Like the group in Italy, they've only completed simulations so far and know it might be awhile before swarms can be deployed in the field, partly because of the regulations that keep operators from flying more than one UAS. Illustration courtesy of Souma Chowdhury, Zack Ball, and Philip Odonkor, University at Buffalo.

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