NetUASC3: An Unmanned Systems Command, Control, Communication, and Sensing Architecture

Prof. Brian M. Argrow

On 6 May 2010, on the plains of west Kansas, the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) team led by researchers from the University of Colorado’s Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles (RECUV), with partners from the University of Nebraska, made the first ever intercept of a supercell thunderstorm as part of the NSF VORTEX2 (second Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment). This feat was surpassed on 10 June 2010 in eastern Colorado with the first ever intercept of a tornadic supercell with a UAS. Meterological data obtained during these flights continues to be analyzed and coordinated with data obtained from more than 40 other instrument platforms deployed as part of VORTEX2. The command, control, communication, and sensing systems of the Tempest UAS used in these intercept missions is built upon the MANET technology of the RECUV Ad Hoc UAS and Ground Network (AUGNet), first demonstrated for the US Air Force in 2004. The AUGNet is composed of identical, fixed and mobile mesh-network radios (MNRs) connected over an IEEE 802.11 ad hoc network. AUGNet experiments involved as many as three airborne MNRs, carried simultaneously by a fleet of small UAS, with additional MNRs mounted on an automobile and on fixed tripods. The experiments included a demonstration of VoIP calls from a moving automobile over the UAS-enabled MANET, with real-time tracking of the ad hoc links, data throughput, and other measures of network performance. Results showed how network performance is impacted by the total number of hops through the network and its dynamic topography. The Networked UAS Command, Control, and Communications (NetUASC3) architecture extends the AUGNet technology to support a mobile ad hoc sensor network that integrates a subscription-based sensor network into a UAS command, control, and communications backbone. NetUAS has enabled the development and deployment of systems that demonstrate controlled mobility, RF source localization, and mobile sensing systems that are a central focus of RECUV research that includes the targeting, tracking, and sensing capatilities demonstrated with the Tempest UAS in VORTEX2. The importance of mobile sensing systems are discussed with a survey of RECUV mobile sensing systems technologies developed for various applications, with results and lessons learned from flight experiments and deployments.

BRIAN ARGROW is the Alfred and Betty Look Professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, Associate Dean for Education of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and cofounder and director of the Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Argrow received his PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1989, where he was a NSF Graduate Research Fellow. His current research includes small autonomous UAS design and the integration of these aircraft into the National Airspace System. He has other research focused on rarefied gas dynamics and satellite drag. He has received numerous teaching and education awards including the 1995 W.M. Keck Foundation Award for Excellence in Engineering Education, and in 2000 he was named a University of Colorado President’s Teaching Scholar. In 2008 he was co-chair of the first Symposium for Civilian Applications of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (CAUAS), and since 2008 he has co-chaired three workshops on research directions for the integration of UAS into the National Airspace System, sponsored by NSF, FAA, DHS, AIAA, and AUVSI. He is an associate fellow of the AIAA and currently chairs the AIAA Unmanned Systems Program Committee, co-chairs the FAA Research Advisory Group, and last year completed four years of service on the USAF Scientific Advisory Board. He has also served on several NASA and NOAA advisory and review boards. Professor Argrow led the UAS Team for the VORTEX2 field deployment 1 May – 15 June 2010. VORTEX2 (the second Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment) is the largest effort ever undertaken to understand the origin of tornadoes.