High-Performance, Low-Power Microprocessor for Use in an Autonomous Vehicle Control Platform, 09-R9542

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Principal Investigators
Khanh Q. Trinh
Roger R. Lopez
Rodrick K. Draney
Jeremy J. Ford

Inclusive Dates:  04/01/05 – 04/01/06

Background - Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have played an important combat role in U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) operations. SwRI's flight management systems for UAVs have continued to improve and refine controls, integration, and capacity with a focus on small-scale platforms and missions. The flight controls for smaller UAVs must operate on reduced power budgets while performing vastly more complex tasks in real time. Smaller, low-cost UAVs are driven to be lighter weight, use less power, and provide a higher degree of processed data for longer mission duration times. However, SwRI's current UAV autopilot has reached its maximum processing performance level within the power, size, and weight envelope allowed.

Approach - The first stage of the approach will be to evaluate low-power microprocessors available on the market. Three candidates will be chosen based on their stated performance and rated power consumption. Then one will be selected according to laboratory results. While the processor is researched, a software path for the upcoming prototype platform will be determined. Real-time operating systems (RTOS) and compilers available for the chosen processor will be researched, compared, and assessed for applicability. Based on benchmark results and scoring system, the RTOS and compiler will be chosen and purchased to enable the creation of prototype system. A prototype system will be designed and built after the RTOS and the processor is specified. One design goal for the system is to replace the current Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus with modern bus architecture to interface from the microprocessor to the suite of sensors. The final stage of the project will consist of porting a small portion of the UAV flight control software to the prototype and comparing the processing performance and power consumption between the new and old systems.

Accomplishments - Based on performance results, power measurements, and scoring system, the microprocessor MCP5200 and RTOS VxWorks have been selected. The set-up system included the MPC5200 processor board with VxWorks RTOS to compute flight control algorithm and an AT89C51microcontroller to manage flight data inputs/outputs. The processor communicated with the controller through CAN two-wire bus. Data validation and performance tests have been performed on the system. The MPC5200 CPU provides 251 Million Whetstone Instruction per Second (MWIPS), 38 times faster than the performance of the current CPU. Moreover, the MPC5200 consumes only 5.6W of power, which is only 0.6W (or 10 percent) more than the power consumption of the current CPU.

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