US Army And University Of Illinois Develop Autonomous Drone Tech

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The US Army has enlisted the help of the University of Illinois Chicago for an $8 million, four-year project during which the pair will innovate military drone technology.

The programme is setting out with the aim of helping small battery-powered drones autonomously return from military missions to unmanned ground vehicles for recharging.

The university is developing algorithms to aid route planning for teams of small, unmanned air and ground vehicles.

The project will maximise the operational range extension and time on missions, said program manager for the laboratory’s Versatile Tactical Power and Propulsion Essential Research Program, Mike Kweon.

He commented: “Imagine in the future, the Army deploying a swarm of hundreds or thousands of unmanned aerial systems.

“Each of these systems has only roughly 26 minutes with the current battery technologies to conduct a flight mission and return to their home before they lose battery power, which means all of them could conceivably return at the same time to have their batteries replaced.”

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Kweon continued: “Soldiers would need to carry a few thousand batteries on missions to facilitate this, which is logistically overwhelming and overall, not conducive to a leading expeditionary military operation.

“With this research project, we’re operationalising scientific endeavors to increase Soldier readiness on the battlefields of tomorrow.”

This collaborative program will help small battery-powered drones autonomously return from military missions to unmanned ground vehicles for recharging. The university is developing algorithms to enable route planning for multiple teams of small unmanned air and ground vehicles.

The use of fast, recharging batteries and wireless power transfer technologies will allow multiple small UASs to hover around unmanned ground vehicles for wireless charging, and this will not require soldier involvement, a statement by the US Army revealed.

For larger drones, meanwhile, Army-funded research will explore the fundamental science needed to develop miniaturised fuel sensors for future multi-fuel hybrid electric propulsion systems.

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