Research Summaries

Back Investigation of Capabilities and Technologies Supporting Rapid Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Launch Systems

Fiscal Year 2015
Division Graduate School of Engineering & Applied Science
Department Systems Engineering
Investigator(s) Livesay, Patrick
Sponsor Space & Naval Warfare Systems Center-Pacific (Navy)
Summary Over their past few decades, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have played ever-increasing and progressively complex roles in private, commercial, and military applications. However, due to a variety of technological limitations, these platforms have many theoretical uses and missions sets that currently remain untapped. One of these developing mission areas that have been on particular interest to many entities in the governmental, defense, and commercial sectors is that of UAV swarming. Swarming is a concept of unit deployment that is based largely upon the observations of emergent behaviors in the natural world where certain creatures are capable of complex behaviors when acting as members of groups which are not observed when individual members act in isolation. It is this highly organized yet largely decentralized set of emergent behaviors that many of today's researchers and military policy-makers are hoping to eventually replicate using unmanned systems. While research covering a wide range of topic areas is currently underway in hopes of facilitating these kinds of unmanned group behaviors, many investigators have failed to identify one important capability gap that has yet to be bridged: how can an organization safely and efficiently get a large number of these aircraft airborne in a short period of time?
While creating a system mechanically capable of high UAV launch rates is a paramount concern, there are many other capabilities that could easily be implemented into the design of a UAV launch system which would significantly enhance the system's utility in the field. The first such capability would be integration with existing UAV operational control systems. By integrating launcher status monitoring and control systems with embedded computer systems, the UAV fleet's Ground Control Station (GCS) operator(s) and "Swarm Commander" will be sure to have adequate situational awareness with regards to the status of the launch platform, UAVs being prepared for launch, and any launcher support systems that might place limitations on launch frequency. Additionally, the ability to detect and monitor environmental factors such as wind speed and wind direction and make system adjustments or recommendations based on observed changes in these characteristics would help optimize UAV launches over longer periods of time than are normally of concern when launching only one or two aircraft. Finally, the launcher could easily be equipped with safety systems that prevent inadvertent or unexpected launch actuation and ensure that all personnel are adequately clear of the launch area and UAV flight path prior to initiating a launch.
Specifically, this report will focus on the identification, selection, and development of interfaces and sensors-based capabilities that will enhance the launch system's utility and margin to safety while improving the overall user experience. Throughout the course of the study, a comprehensive set of potential capabilities and features will be identified and mapped to their appropriate Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) Joint Capability Areas (JCAs). These features will be categorized and prioritized based on the overall utility provided to the system and, based on the results of this analysis, capabilities will be identified for development and implementation into a rapid UAV launching system during an iterative system development process. This process will culminate in the creation of a UAV launch system capable of high launch rates, a high degree of integration with ground-based flight control systems, and a suite of sensor-based capabilities that have heretofore never been seen in a UAV launch system.
Publications Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal
Data Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal