A patent has been awarded to Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) for technology that allows unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to cooperate with unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). Ryan Lamm, director of SwRI’s Applied Sensing Department, explained how the patent helps defense-based applications: “We developed this capability to support defense clients seeking solutions to the challenges of unmanned ground vehicles navigating in extreme environments.”
The patent (U.S. patent No. 9,625,904, “Unmanned ground/aerial vehicle system having autonomous ground vehicle that remotely controls one or more aerial vehicles”) details the use of in-air perception sensors on board UAVs that can detect paths to be followed by UGVs, which have their own sets of sensors for guidance. The control system of an UGV locates and controls the aerial vehicle and receives data from its own sensors and those of the UAV. The combined data help determine paths for the UGV as well as for other nearby remotely controlled UAVs.
Such autonomous control eliminates the need for a human operator when operating multiple unmanned vehicles, providing a safe alternative in hostile environments. The technology also has implications for commercial applications, such as for remote inspection systems.