Advanced science.  Applied technology.


Unmanned Aerial Systems

Go to Unmanned Aerial Systems

We are experienced in unmanned aerial systems (UAS), also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Our work includes automated perception, payload integration, high-level behaviors, custom propulsion, unique mission-specific airframes, autopilot development, and ground control systems. We also maintain multiple sizes of commercial off the-shelf platforms to support low-cost and expedited testing. Our experience in avionics includes hardware and software prototypes, system integration, and interface definitions for military and commercial ground-based data acquisition, communication, sensor applications, and test system development.

Autonomous UAS

We develop autonomous UAS for a variety of industries and government clients. For instance, a Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) led team is developing unmanned aerial system (UAS) technology to fly into the containment vessels of the damaged units at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and assess conditions. Working with the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) School of Engineering and Applied Science, SwRI engineers are helping adapt small drones to autonomously operate within the containment.

Automated Perception

SwRI leverages state-of-the art techniques in machine learning to support high fidelity and safety critical automated systems. We have developed automated perception capabilities to support automated landing site detection for Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicles. The Institute has also developed technologies that can support UAS monitoring of oil and gas infrastructure for hazardous leaks and to assess conditions in various environments and structures. 

Payload Integration

Leveraging our own fleet of UAS or customer supplied UAS, SwRI has designed and performed custom vehicle-specific payload integration.  Integration efforts have included new and advanced sensors as well as custom release/deployment mechanisms.

Piloting UAS with Unmanned Ground Vehicles

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has secured U.S. Patent No. 9,625,904 for a technology allowing unmanned aerial systems to cooperate with unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). The system provides more information about the surrounding environment to enable safe maneuvers for UGVs in a variety of terrain. The control system of the automated ground vehicle locates and controls the aerial vehicle and receives data from both on-ground and in-sky perception sensors.