US: The U.S. Air Force has granted $185,000 to a Worcester Polytechnic Institute professor to make UAVs more intelligent and reliable, even when they experience mechanical problems or encounter unexpected situations.
The grant will fund 18 months of research led by Raghvendra V. Cowlagi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering. He received the grant in collaboration with Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., a Cambridge company that manufacturers and designs optionally piloted and unmanned aircraft.
The research can be applied in UAVs used in military and civilian applications, including those designed for search-and-rescue missions. The research would extend to UAVs operated by the Air Force include the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which has a wingspan about one-quarter the size of a Boeing 747 and can carry about 450 pounds of payload.
UAVs are designed to fly under the control of a human pilot on the ground. However, damage or a loss of communications can disrupt the UAV. Cowlagi and his research team are developing algorithms to run on a UAV's onboard computer that will allow the aircraft to perform high-level missions with minimal human supervision or remote piloting, while also enabling the vehicle to tolerate severe degradation to the airframe and engines.