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PerceptOR Team Blitz concept with
"Flying Eye" scouting terrain ahead
of UGV

UGV with "Flying Eye"
at Ft. Polk


The Problem
Today’s unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) require constant human oversight and extensive communications resources particularly when traversing complex, cross country terrains. UGVs cannot support tactical military operations in a large scale way until they are able to navigate safely on their own and without constant human supervision. Off all classes of obstacles, UGVs are particularly vulnerable to "negative obstacles" like a hole or a ditch, which are difficult for a ground vehicle to sense due to the limited range and height of on-board sensors.

The Solution
The NREC-led team developed an innovative PerceptOR "Blitz” concept — an integrated air/ground vehicle system that incorporates significant autonomous perception, reasoning and planning for unmanned ground vehicles.

The autonomous UGV included LADAR, three stereo camera pairs, intra- and inter-vehicle sensor fusion, terrain classification, obstacle avoidance, waypoint navigation and dynamic path planning. The unmanned air vehicle — the Flying Eye — views the terrain from above, an optimal vantage point for detecting obstacles such as ruts, ditches and cul de sacs.

The team successfully demonstrated the UGV and Flying Eye working collaboratively to improve navigation performance. The UGV planned its initial route based on all available data and transmitted the route to the Flying Eye. The Flying Eye flew toward a point on this route ahead of the UGV. As the Flying Eye maneuvered, its downward looking sensor detects obstacles on the ground. The location of these obstacles was transmitted back to the UGV in relation to the UGV’s position. The UGV replans its intended path to avoid the obstacles and directs the Flying Eye to scout the new path.

The improved obstacle sensing capabilities (due to dual, well-separated views) and the optimized route planning (enabled by the Flying Eye's reconnaissance) increase the UGV’s autonomous speed by decreasing the risk of the vehicle being disabled or trapped, and by reducing the need for operator intervention and communications system bandwidth.

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