Draper Led Team to Demonstrate Safer, Smarter UAVs

Draper Led Team to Demonstrate Safer, Smarter UAVs image
January 4, 2016 | Source: Draper Laboratory, draper.com

Technology Could Help Soldiers and First Responders

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The mission of clearing buildings remains among the most dangerous operations performed by military teams and first responders. Personnel searching for hidden combatants or trapped victims must move quickly through hazardous and unfamiliar spaces, facing life-or-death situations around each corner. A smart robotic scout could help perform rapid interior reconnaissance while search teams safely monitor progress from the outside, but walls, doors, and cluttered spaces make it difficult for operators to pilot the vehicles indoors. Towards this vision, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded contracts to Draper and two other industry teams to create unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that autonomously sense and maneuver through unknown environments without external communications or GPS under the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program. The program seeks UAVs that weigh less than three kilograms, and can fly at speeds up to 65 feet per second...

“Developing a system that can recognize and respond to its environment quickly while flying nearly 45 miles per hour in a real world environment presents considerable challenges,” said Steve Paschall, Draper’s FLA technical director. “Our sensing and algorithm configurations must enable the vehicle to demonstrate agile maneuvering, high reliability, and safety, as any errors at high speed could be catastrophic. Such high speeds dictate that the vehicle handle planning and control with low-latency sensing and processing.”