INL has conducted UAS research for more than a decade and, during this time, INL has been able to apply $4M to training personnel, constructing an UAS airfield, procuring a significant inventory of fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and establishing support facilities. INL also maintains a 1,000-ft, paved UAS runway, over which the Fedaral Aviation Administration, through certificates of authorization, has approved the airspace for flights of ten different UAS platforms.
A number of sensors have been integrated into the airframes to allow information collection and transmission. Sensors that have been developed, tested, and deployed include the following:
Standard and high-definition video
Air sampling (collection) devices
High-resolution still imager (20 megapixel)
Wireless network capability to provide real-time collection and transmission of large data files.
Fundamental control, operation, and sensor integration of the UAS represent a primary focus for research projects that are conducted at the test range. Research efforts include the following:
Collection of high-resolution imagery for environmental monitoring programs.
Collaborating with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, INL's UAV flight team simultaneously deployed a fleet of small autonomous planes from common ground stations as a proof-of-concept for fielding multi-agent UAVs to broaden missions in ad-hoc self-healing mobile network communications. The flights demonstrated that UAVs could replace manned aircraft in situations not suited for a pilot. Additional testing was performed to explore UAV range, payloads, communications, mission operations, and integration of intelligent features.
Site security monitoring of the INL facilities.
Development of a small UAV-based system for rapid, accurate, and safe collection of ultra high-resolution geographically referenced aerial imagery. Utilizing a 16-megapixel camera, ultra high-resolution images are captured and, in near real-time, wirelessly streamed to a ground-based operating interface, where each image is automatically mosaiced into a single geo-referenced map.
Development and deployment of a hyperspectral imager to rapidly "read" the health of the environment on a much larger scale than is practical with ground-based sensors. INL researchers have made airborne hyperspectral sensor technology significantly cheaper and easier to deploy on demand.
Development support and independent validation and verification of a common data link terminal for small unmanned aerial systems used by the U.S. Marine Corps.
Research Contact: Derek Wadsworth - Phone: (208) 526-8514 - Derek.Wadsworth@inl.gov