New research underway for the first, last 50 feet of flight

By UAS Magazine Staff | August 15, 2016

Sanjiv Singh, CEO of a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off that has worked on numerous complex autonomous systems and algorithms for government entities, has just embarked on a two-year research plan focused on 50 feet of airspace. Through a $754,000 grant awarded from NASA, Singh’s Near Earth Autonomy team will work on algorithms and sensors that can be used on unmanned aircraft systems to help make take-offs and landings safer and more predictable regardless of terrain or conditions. “There is a lot of complexity in that space,” Singh said. “That is where GPS can be most unreliable.”

The focus of Singh’s work will revolve around the development of what NASA is calling the Safe50. The name refers to a software module that will allow take-offs and landings to be performed without the aid of GPS. The system will eventually allow for an operator to fly, land and take-off a UAV beyond visual line of sight, without a direct link with a base station and with intermittent GPS.

To start the research effort, Singh’s team will first look at the perception part of the system. The eventual system will rely on a suite of sensors, he said, and those sensors will need to feed the right kind of data to a software program that can interpret and provide actionable responses.

This type of work is not new for Singh. His team has previously demonstrated a mock casualty evacuation with an autonomous helicopter. The idea, he said, was to show that you could have such a vehicle pick up casualties without putting other people at risk. Singh and his team have also developed their own rotorcraft they hope to deploy for inspection services when they aren’t performing research.