Development of a High-Performance, Low-Power Microprocessor
for Use in an Autonomous Vehicle Control Platform, 09-9542

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

Inclusive Dates:  04/01/05 – Current

Background - Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have played important combat roles as part of the Department of Defense (DoD) combat inventory. The SwRI flight management systems for UAVs have continued to improve and to 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 and then reduced to one candidate based on lab results. While the processor is being 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 are specified. One design goal for the system is to replace the current Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus with a 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 candidate microprocessor and RTOS have been selected.

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