News Column

Autonomous Aerial Vehicle Competition Lands In Dayton Convention Center

August 29, 2014

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, Aug. 29 -- The U.S. Air Force Wright-Patterson Air Force Base issued the following story:

The Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate, in conjunction with the Dayton Development Coalition and Institute of Navigation, hosted the first Autonomous Aerial Vehicle competition at the 2014 Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems conference. The conference took place at the Dayton Convention Center on Aug. 26.

Three teams -- East Carolina University, N.C., University of Toledo, Ohio, and Lorain County Community College, Ohio -- went head-to-head in the collegiate-level challenge. All teams were directed to use a standardized multirotor aircraft kit to compete, which each team then modified and designed to use algorithm development, without Global Positioning System (GPS), to navigate and search for an object in a hazard-cluttered indoor playing field, image an object and report the object's coordinates.

"This is actually a follow-on to a competition we hosted years back using autonomous lawnmowers ," said Eric Vinande, an electronics engineer with the Sensors Directorate and co-chair for the Autonomous Aerial Vehicle competition. "This is the aerial version of that competition. For a number of reasons the Air Force is interested in this technology. We see it as a great asset for future research in growing the science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce by getting students interested in autonomous platforms."

Competing for top prize money worth $7,000, each team was awarded points for team prepared reports, team design review presentations, progress through the competition field, successful object imaging, and accuracy of object geo-location.

The University of Toledo was this year's winner.

"Having a vehicle fly on its own, without GPS or human intervention, is very, very difficult," said Mark Smearcheck, a research engineer at the Air Force Institute of Technology Autonomy and Navigation Technology Center and the other co-chair for this year's competition. "Autonomous aircraft flight has far reaching use. There are many military and civilian applications, such as first responders, mapping, surveillance and any missions considered monotonous or dangerous for manned aircraft. We are hoping more collegiate teams take up this tough challenge and we see the competition grow tremendously in the coming years."

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Source: Targeted News Service

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