Autonomous terminal area operations for unmanned aerial systems

2013-06-18T12:49:43Z (GMT) by Owen McAree
After many years of successful operation in military domains, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) are generating significant interest amongst civilian operators in sectors such as law enforcement, search and rescue, aerial photography and mapping. To maximise the benefits brought by UASs to sectors such as these, a high level of autonomy is desirable to reduce the need for highly skilled operators. Highly autonomous UASs require a high level of situation awareness in order to make appropriate decisions. This is of particular importance to civilian UASs where transparency and equivalence of operation to current manned aircraft is a requirement, particularly in the terminal area immediately surrounding an airfield. This thesis presents an artificial situation awareness system for an autonomous UAS capable of comprehending both the current continuous and discrete states of traffic vehicles. This estimate forms the basis of the projection element of situation awareness, predicting the future states of traffic. Projection is subject to a large degree of uncertainty in both continuous state variables and in the execution of intent information by the pilot. Both of these sources of uncertainty are captured to fully quantify the future positions of traffic. Based upon the projection of future traffic positions a self separation system is designed which allows an UAS to quantify its separation to traffic vehicles up to some future time and manoeuvre appropriately to minimise the potential for conflict. A high fidelity simulation environment has been developed to test the performance of the artificial situation awareness and self separation system. The system has demonstrated good performance under all situations, with an equivalent level of safety to that of a human pilot.