Team Blitz concept with
Eye" scouting terrain ahead
UGV with "Flying Eye"
at Ft. Polk
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 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.