The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is the development of enhanced autonomous capabilities for unmanned vehicles in aerial and underwater domains. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for multiple applications including search and rescue, maintenance inspections, entertainment, precision agriculture, communication networks, law enforcement, etc. is increasing at a rapid pace and is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Similarly, the use of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) for applications such as mine-sweeping, maritime inspections, and marine life monitoring is also increasing. The proposed technology may provide greater autonomous capabilities to UAVs and UUVs. When used in UAVs, successful deployment of the proposed innovations may strengthen the use of these vehicles to aid firefighters in search and rescue operations, which can save lives. The proposed innovations will also enable a team of defense UAVs to protect airspace sectors from infiltration by hostile and unauthorized drones, thereby benefitting homeland security. When used in UUVs, these innovations may enhance the use of such vehicles to aid inspections of floating underwater infrastructure such as wind turbines and oil platforms, and have a positive economic as well as environmental impact.
This I-Corps project is based on the development of guidance and control algorithms in conjunction with Artificial Intelligence methods to impart increased autonomous capabilities to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Two algorithmic innovations, referred to as Innovation A and Innovation B, have been developed. Algorithmic Innovation A is designed to enable UAVs and UUVs to perform autonomous maneuvers that facilitate their passage through narrow orifices that can be stationary or moving. There are multiple scenarios in air and underwater domains where small orifices may occur. The small size of these orifices requires the maneuverability of the vehicle through the orifice with a high level of precision. Algorithmic Innovation B is designed to enable a team of defense UAVs to intercept and potentially disable drones that have intruded into protected airspace. These algorithmic innovations are developed in a general framework that makes them applicable to a broad range of aerial vehicles, including fixed wing, quadcopter, and flapping wing configurations. The plan is to determine the required user interfaces to benefit the end-users of these innovations.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.