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). Our work includes autopilot development, ground control systems, and vision. These systems also can be leveraged for low-cost testing of unmanned flight systems. 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. Below are examples of our innovations with UAV and UAS technology.

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.

Buster mini-UAV

The U.S. Army needed a mini unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for backpack and scout force over-the-hill reconnaissance in day or night conditions. This required a small UAV with a miniature flight management system containing the aircraft control operation. SwRI developed flight maneuvering systems and helped select components for the mini-UAV called Buster developed by Mission Technologies Inc. (MITEX). Features of the system include:

  • Weighs less than 10 pounds
  • Has folding wings with a 40-inch wingspan
  • Has a range of greater than 10 kilometers
  • Has a loiter speed of 35-45 knots
  • Provides a fully autonomous flight with launcher take-off and parachute recovery
  • Has an endurance of over 2 hours
  • Uses a SwRI-developed flight management system for aircraft control

Ground Control Station

Also developed was a lightweight, portable, miniature, multipurpose ground control station (GCS) as a command and control station for mission planning and video display. The station is:

  • Self-contained
  • Battery-powered
  • Daylight readable
  • Used for both mission planning and mission deployment

SwRI selected commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, which included each of the following:

  • Ruggedized laptop
  • Commercial digital video recorder
  • GPS receiver
  • 900 MHx datalink
  • C-BAND video receiver
  • Commercially available ground control software package

SwRI integrated the COTS components into a briefcase-size case and provided a software link layer to communicate with the SwRI-developed airborne flight management system.