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International Cooperation Program for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Research and Development (ICPUAS)

Final Report Summary - ICPUAS (International Cooperation Program for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Research and Development)

Project context and objectives

This project aims for an international alliance in research and development on unmanned aerial system technologies and their civilian applications. The proposal brings together world-leading research organisations, such as Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (UPM), Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) and Cranfield University (CU).

While research in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is not new, research is needed on how such systems will be used and integrated in the civilian space of the foreseeable future. Today’s research in UAS still continues to be recognised as a difficult task, and many challenges still remain. The aim of this proposal is to create an international knowledge alliance between three world-class institutions by performing research in different and complementary fields of UAS. For this reason, the Colibri Project at the Computer Vision Group at Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain), the Guidance and Control Group at the Department of Aerospace, Power and Sensors (DAPS) at Cranfield University (United Kingdom) and The Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) are making a commitment for a research and faculty staff exchange. This will permit sharing and complementing the expertise of each institution in areas related to applied visual systems to UAS navigation (UPM-CV), guidance and control systems architectures (DAPS) and the applications of UAS to civilian tasks (ARCAA). This programme comprises a series of staff exchanges, knowledge transfers and resource/facility allocations.

The main aim of this programme is to raise the state of the art in UAS through the exchange of knowledge between world-leading research organisations. This project encompasses an interdisciplinary synthesis of various fields pertinent to UAS such as: estimation theory, computer vision, real-time control and embedded system development. This research programme covers a wide range of topics, from aerospace (guidance and navigation), mechanical (dynamics and kinematics) and electrical (control theory) to computer science (estimation, computer vision). Organisations at the forefront of research have been developing the technologies mentioned above. The programme will bring them together to establish a strong collaborative link for the benefit of UAS.

By bringing together European research organisations and third partner countries, the specific aims of this project are to:

- allow the exchange of staff to improve the quality of the research outcomes in each partner organisation;
- develop UAS frameworks for integration and use into civilian space under a regulated context;
- increase the state of the art in computer vision, control and trajectory planning approaches for UAS;
- perform research with the aim of integrating computer vision approaches and multi-sensor fusion technologies into UAS;
- to carry out trade studies to generate business models and UAS applicability for an effective technology transfer of UAS to society;
- develop operational and safety procedures for UAS flight requirements with the aim of contributing with regulatory bodies in the development of UAS regulation policies.

Main results

There have been 11 successful secondments (five from UPM to ARCAA, two from ARCAA to UPM, two from ARCAA to DCMT and two from DCMT to ARCAA).

One paper in the prestigious 'Autonomous Robots Journal' has been published and seven papers have been presented at international congresses (FLINS12, WCCI12, ICUAS12, IAS12, DICTA11, ICARA11 and RED-UAS11).

One seminar entitled 'Robotics and Automatics' was delivered at a master degree programme at UPM and one seminar entitled 'Linear Automatic Control with applications in manufacturing and aerospace' was delivered at QUT.

Scientific highlights and research achievements

A successful collaboration between ARCAA, DCMT and UPM has been consolidated by means of collaborative research in the following areas:

- safety zone identification for an emergency forced landing: the results developed by ARCAA for fixed-wing vehicles have been validated for rotary wing helicopters at UPM;
- pose estimation techniques based on visual information have been successfully validated on the ARCAA and UPM unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs);
- image enhancement methods developed by UPM has been tested on ARCAA equipment and compared against method bases on inertial information;
- a collaborative project for 'sense and avoid' has been developed between ARCAA and UPM. The method was entirely developed during the staff interchange stays at both the ARCAA and UPM facilities and designed to be implemented on the different equipment belonging to both institutions (fixed wing, ARCAA and rotary wing, UPM).