New Genetic Algorithm-Based Technology Coordinates UAVs in Team Missions

An algorithm to mobilize unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in team missions has been formulated by a West Virginia University mathematics researcher. A team of UAVs are now able to fly autonomously to fulfill complex coordinated missions using the new technology.

(Photo credit: AeroEnvironment, DSIAC)

The new genetic algorithm is formulated for the Raven, a UAV used by U.S military and Special Operations Command and military operations in Estonia, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and the Czech Republic.

Over 19,000 Ravens are currently in service, making them one of the world’s most extensively adopted UAV systems. However, they can only be bought in packages of three. Since they are usually flown individually, this research is a chance to apply the technology more efficiently.

Someone on the ground sets an area to be scanned by the UAVs. Within the area, the person selects different priority points for information-gathering. The algorithm then sets what coordinates are surveyed by which UAVs, and determines a plan for them so that it also covers as much of the area as possible without depleting the battery life.

The technology is not bypassing the ground station, not taking over the flight plan. It is just giving the ground station help to complete a complex mission with three planes at once.

Marjorie Darrah, whose project is funded by the Army Research Laboratory

Military operations usually use UAVs for extensive area enemy air defense and conducting intelligence, searches and surveillance, surveillance and reconnaissance, such as securing a specific area or a military base.

With the genetic algorithm, civilian operations can also make use of UAVs in teams. The team-approach is helpful for monitoring biological threats to agriculture, detecting fires, managing natural disasters, and conducting transportation surveillance.  

(Ravens) are never really used in the capacity of what’s at their disposal. What we’ve developed can encourage the military to use a piece of add-on software that works along with the ground station.

Marjorie Darrah, whose project is funded by the Army Research Laboratory

Marcela Mera Trujillo, a mathematics graduate student in Darrah’s lab, is working to apply a similar genetic algorithm method to utilize different mapping approaches in another civilian application. She is creating highly comprehensive, high resolution 3D maps using multi-rotors that fly over structures and capture images from a number of different angles.

This is an idea (Trujillo) is working on with 4D Tech Solutions, a small business in Morgantown. It is a good model for the University to work with government labs and small business. Through a summer internship, Trujillo has helped develop a provisional patent for the 3D mapping algorithm.

Marjorie Darrah, whose project is funded by the Army Research Laboratory

The cover of the fall 2016 edition of DSIAC Journal, the Defense Systems Information Analysis Center’s quarterly magazine featured Darrah’s research team. The magazine showcases new technology to the military’s branches within the Department of Defense.

“15 years ago, this (technology) was an idea. Now it’s a reality,” Darrah said. “Now that we are seeing how the Raven is being used in many countries around the world—it’s versatile, hand-launched, robust—we can encourage people to use the technology in new ways."

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