Military seeks more capability from UAV vision systems and ground control stations

US Department of Defense designers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) want more capability from their systems in terms of video processing, high-definition infrared imagery, storage, and image processing--and they want it to happen in the air before it is downlinked.

Jul 7th, 2011

US Department of Defense (DOD) designers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) want more capability from their systems in terms of video processing, high-definition infrared imagery, storage, and image processing--and they want it to happen in the air before it is downlinked, says Dennis Smith, vice president of engineering at Themis Computer (Fremont, CA, USA). This also means the ground control stations are adding more capability too, he adds

Designers of control stations for unmanned vehicles primarily use commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) embedded products, but there has never been a common architecture developed for all UAV ground control stations. However, US military planners are pushing toward a common control segment architecture that requires all UAV control stations to work with one set of standards and hardware and software architecture to save costs.

Autonomous missions are the goal--where the UAV is issued a mission plan and executes it while the ground control station essentially functions as a data collection depot, Smith says. Eventually the ground control station will act like air traffic control, because several UAVs will operate without one point of control. Essentially the different ground control stations will be networked together to handle collection of the data generated by several UAVs.

The different ground control stations will have to be interoperable. To get interoperability there will need to be a common architecture and a common set of technology standards and right now that is not the case. Every UAV has its own unique ground control station that is not compatible with a ground control station made by a different system integrator.

Officials at the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) in the DOD are looking to change that and have formed a working group called the Unmanned Control Systems, Control Segment, or UCS, to drive open standards in UAV ground stations thereby more efficiently managing costs in the long term, says George Romanski, chief executive officer of Verocel (Westford, MA, USA). It is an open committee but limited to US citizens, and focused on UAV programs that are 20 pounds and above, Romanski explains.

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Written by John McHale
Military and Aerospace Electronics

For more information on opportunities for vision in UAVs, see Vision for Service Robots report.

--Posted by Vision Systems Design

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