New models for optimizing mission control of unmanned aerial vehicles

March 31, 2010

With funding from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, engineers at Boston University are working on a theoretical approach to improve automated mission control and decision-making for fleets of unmanned aerial vehicles.

While unmanned systems currently rely on the automation of low-level functions, such as navigation, stabilization and trajectory, operating these systems is still quite labor-intensive for Air Force pilots given the variable flying conditions experienced by UAVs.

The BU team, led by Dr. David Castañón and Dr. Christos Cassandras, has focused their work on optimizing "mission control," which describes mid-level control approaches that go beyond simply improving stability and tracking trajectories.

"We were interested in automating functions such as partitioning of tasks among members of teams of UAVs,...monitoring the success of the individual activities, and re-planning to accommodate contingencies or failures in executing the planned tasks," explained Castañón.

Automating these functions would let UAVs adapt their actions more rapidly in response to unforeseen events and ultimately require less human supervision.

To date, the team has developed mathematical algorithms that can make nearly optimal decisions under realistic model conditions. Their approach thus far has been based on the need to account for a number of uncertainties requiring complex computations nearly impossible to implement in real-time systems.

"Our research approach has been to exploit classes of models for which fast algorithms can be developed and to extend these algorithms to generate decisions in more complex models that capture the relevant features of the UAV problems of interest," said Castañón.

While much of Cassandras and Castañón's research is based on mathematical analysis, they have also developed a robotics test scenario for evaluating their approach. Both graduate and undergraduate students at BU are involved in this testing, which uses teams of small robots equipped with sensors to represent the UAVs. In these tests, the robots have to function in a mid-level control environment while being distracted by unforeseen events such as loss of team members, arrival of new tasks and discovery of new information.

As the BU team learns more about the environments in which UAVs operate, they will continue to hone their results, with the long-term goal of increasing the level of self-sufficiency available to future Air Force UAV fleets.
-end-
ABOUT AFOSR:

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), located in Arlington, Virginia, continues to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge through its leadership and management of the Air Force's basic research program. As a vital component of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), AFOSR's mission is to discover, shape and champion basic science that profoundly impacts the future Air Force.

Air Force Office of Scientific Research

Related Robots Articles from Brightsurf:

On the way to lifelike robots
In order for robots to be able to achieve more than simple automated machines in the future, they must not only have their own ''brain''.

Children think robots can help the elderly -- but not their own grandparents
A study that asked children to assess three different robots showed that they responded most positively to simple robots shaped like flower pots, and were most sceptical of Pepper the robot, which looks more human.

Nanomaterial gives robots chameleon skin
A new film made of gold nanoparticles changes color in response to any type of movement.

How many jobs do robots really replace?
MIT economist Daron Acemoglu's new research puts a number on the job costs of automation.

Robots popular with older adults
A new study by psychologists from the University of Jena (Germany) does not confirm that robot skepticism among elder people is often suspected in science.

Showing robots how to do your chores
By observing humans, robots learn to perform complex tasks, such as setting a table.

Designing better nursing care with robots
Robots are becoming an increasingly important part of human care, according to researchers based in Japan.

Darn you, R2! When can we blame robots?
A recent study finds that people are likely to blame robots for workplace accidents, but only if they believe the robots are autonomous.

Robots need a new philosophy to get a grip
Robots need to know the reason why they are doing a job if they are to effectively and safely work alongside people in the near future.

How can robots land like birds?
Birds can perch on a wide variety of surfaces, thick or thin, rough or slick.

Read More: Robots News and Robots Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.