FBW12 | CANEUS Fly-by-Wireless Workshop 2012
August 24-27, 2012 | Orono, Maine, USA

Project 4 Wireless Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Wi-UAV)

Objectives: Traditionally, UAVs present an architecture consisting of one centralized and complex unit, with one or more control units (CPUs), to which the instrumentation devices are connected by wires. At the same time, they have bulky mechanical connections. The proposed project dubbed as Wireless Unmanned Aerial Vehicles “Wireless UAVs”, is that the traditional monolithic processing units shall be replaced by several less complex units (wireless nodes), spread out over the aircraft. In that way, the nodes are placed near the sensors and controlled surfaces, creating a network of nodes with the capacity of data acquisition, processing and actuation. This proposed fly-by-wireless (FBW) platform for UAVs will provide several advantages over conventional systems, such as higher flexibility and modularity, as well as easier installation procedures, due to the elimination of connecting cables.

However, it also introduces several challenges that have to be addressed. The overall goal for Wireless Unmanned Aerial Vehicles project is to address many unresolved system related; such as data communication within the UAV and its communications with other UAV aircrafts and the Ground Central Station (GCS). This will include the communications protocol standards, Electromagnetic (EM) wave propagation mechanisms, EM spectrum, physical wireless transmission techniques, and so on. In addition, we have to emphasize the significance and respecting the FCC, and FAA rules governing the use of certain frequency spectrum on-board of UAVs, along with a perspective of how these rules are being rewritten to better facilitate the intra- and Inter- UAV’s wireless communication capabilities without impacting the existing wireless systems in places.

Furthermore, to follow-up with and support the issue of aerospace and aeronautic Frequency Spectrum allocations activities that is planned for the ITU’s World Radio communication conference 2012 (WRC-12) and WRC 2015. Radio frequency spectrum determination and protection are important challenges ahead of us with determination of Regulatory Compliance issues according to the Industry regulations.

Problem Statement – Need for Wireless UAVs and State-of-the-art: Recently, the development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has become an active research area in aerospace and many interesting devices have been developed. UAVs are becoming major instruments for numerous applications, such as forest surveillance and fire detection, coastal and economic exclusive zone surveillance, detection of watershed pollution and of course military missions. A typical mission goal for wireless UAV project involves finding, identifying, tracking and trying to discern various wireless patterns associated with a vehicle. For example, to locate a vehicle of a particular signature in a designated region, the signature might be given in terms of color and geometry in addition to other distinguishing characteristics. Figure 4, illustrates a typical UAV structure that exists in the market.

Figure 4: Typical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Currently, there are many different wireless network technologies available in the market. The goal of Wireless solution for UAVs in this project is to investigate, devise methods and analyse current and future technologies that might be best suited solutions to reduce UAV weight, testing process, and add total flexibility to the system by shifting from wired sensor systems to that of a wireless sensor system. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop a generic wireless UAV system be used as a platform to characterize the functional requirements, operation and behaviour of wireless sensors systems within a UAV system. Variables include selection of target wireless sensors, transmission methods, frequencies employed, access protocols, potential prognostics solutions, and evaluation of sensors vulnerability to detrimental environmental effects (radiation, EMI, EMP, HIRF etc).

AAn end-to-End system networking between the UAVs and the central Ground Control Station (GCS) with their respective GPS connectivity, are illustrated within the Figure 2. As shown in Figure 2, each UAV node includes the capability of encompassing a wide range of sensor devices as well as direct connection with the GPS and direct communication with the central GCS node connected to all the UAV nodes within the whole wireless UAVs networking system. There might be a wide range of protocols be used for the whole network. Hence, it will be necessary to first define the physical hardware requirements of the RF band (i,e., IEEE802.11 to IEEE802.15.4 or others) then to proceed with a modular design of the remaining components of the system. Also, as there are almost limitless sensor type possibilities, a subset of common wireless sensors will need to be chosen, and then the signal conditioning circuitry for these sensors created to make the UAV nodes as easily adaptable to as many scenarios as possible. Also, as shown in the figure, the interconnection of multiple numbers of UAVs with the central GCS node will have a two-tier networking operations. At the first tier, all sensors that are located at vicinity of a UAV node (UAV i) will communicate via a low data rate wireless link as in a Star topology. Then, there will be a small number UAVs as the second tier nodes that will communicate with each other and with GCS node at a higher bit rate radio links in a Mesh topology fashion.

Problem Statement: TThe Wireless UAV for testing of various wireless sensors, communications standards for UAVs and GCS applications, test results of different standards, and functional test results for all possible structural health monitoring and autonomous control applications. In addition, the development of an effective and reliable Wireless UAV solution will mainly be to come up with a development platform towards reducing power consumption, mass, size and increase total flexibility. It is expected the Wireless UAV platform be generic and able to operate for any platform; static or dynamic. Generate a proof-of-concept document and define system integration and design of all components. Plan for a set of prototypes of the Wireless UAV will be fabricated and tested by the customer and the end-users. After refinement cycles, the final Wireless UAV platform will be used by multiple project team members for design, production and qualifications. Then, the final reports for all tasks will be prepared.  

Once, the Wireless UAV platform is tested and fully operational, the technology transfer and technology dissemination and exploitation through the stake holders will be targeted. 

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