Posts Tagged 'Autonomous Flying Vehicles'

Unmanned Vehicle Autonomy

Addressing the Limits to Unmanned Vehicle Autonomy Through Human-Computer Collaboration

Speaker: Andrew Clare

Science, Technology, and Society Program
Spring 2012 Colloquium Series
Date: Thursday April 12, 2012
Time: 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Rodman Room
Thornton Hall
University of Virginia

In the future, teams of networked Unmanned Vehicles (UVs) will be utilized for military operations, border patrol, atmospheric research, forest firefighting, search and rescue, and cargo delivery among other uses. Recent advances in UV autonomy along with the development of optimization algorithms for dynamic scheduling of tasks for multiple UVs have enabled this future vision. The impending use of teams of humans and UVs in American airspace raises new ethical and legal issues. One key concern is that the uncertainty and time constraints inherent to command and control situations can cause poor performance by these automated systems. Thus, researchers at the MIT Humans and Automation Laboratory ( are developing mixed-initiative scheduling systems, where a human guides a computer algorithm in a collaborative process to solve the scheduling problem for the team of UVs. Examples from simulation-based experiments, indoor flight tests, and outdoor flight tests will show how such a human-computer collaborative system can best handle a realistic scenario with unknown variables, possibly inaccurate information, and dynamic environments. On-going research on this topic from Humans and Automation Lab will be described, including investigations into modeling both qualitative and quantitative aspects of how humans work with scheduling algorithms and teams of UVs. Finally, the impact of these research efforts on the relevant ethical and legal issues will considered.

Andrew Clare is a Ph.D. Candidate in the MIT Humans and Automation Laboratory in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He received his B.S. in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology from MIT in 2008 and his M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT in 2010. He has held research internship positions with the U.S. Army Research Laboratories, General Electric Aviation, Aurora Flight Sciences, and the National Aerospace Laboratory in Amsterdam. He was the recipient of a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG) in 2008.

For more information on the STS colloquium series see:

Out of Many, One

Autonomous Aircraft Combine To Increase Stability, Power.

Popular Science (6/8, Dillow) reports, “Researchers at the ETH Zurich recognize that different tasks call for different aircraft, and with that in mind they’ve designed the Distributed Flight Array (DFA), a flying platform consisting of multiple small autonomous single rotor aircraft that can dock with one another to create a larger, more powerful aircraft.” Each “fixed [propeller] aircraft” that makes up the DFA has “its own sensors and flight control system,” and can “fly somewhat erratically.” However, “joined together they become a larger sensor-based flight platform, capable of maintaining level flight by rapidly sharing data between them.” The array “is a proof of concept” at this point, but “such a scheme could have a variety of applications, not least of which is the relatively straightforward yet sometimes difficult task of picking stuff up.”

Reposted from the June 8, 2010 ASEE First Bell

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