Loughborough University
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Automated taxiing for unmanned aircraft systems

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posted on 2018-06-21, 10:39 authored by William H. Eaton
Over the last few years, the concept of civil Unmanned Aircraft System(s) (UAS) has been realised, with small UASs commonly used in industries such as law enforcement, agriculture and mapping. With increased development in other areas, such as logistics and advertisement, the size and range of civil UAS is likely to grow. Taken to the logical conclusion, it is likely that large scale UAS will be operating in civil airspace within the next decade. Although the airborne operations of civil UAS have already gathered much research attention, work is also required to determine how UAS will function when on the ground. Motivated by the assumption that large UAS will share ground facilities with manned aircraft, this thesis describes the preliminary development of an Automated Taxiing System(ATS) for UAS operating at civil aerodromes. To allow the ATS to function on the majority of UAS without the need for additional hardware, a visual sensing approach has been chosen, with the majority of work focusing on monocular image processing techniques. The purpose of the computer vision system is to provide direct sensor data which can be used to validate the vehicle s position, in addition to detecting potential collision risks. As aerospace regulations require the most robust and reliable algorithms for control, any methods which are not fully definable or explainable will not be suitable for real-world use. Therefore, non-deterministic methods and algorithms with hidden components (such as Artificial Neural Network (ANN)) have not been used. Instead, the visual sensing is achieved through a semantic segmentation, with separate segmentation and classification stages. Segmentation is performed using superpixels and reachability clustering to divide the image into single content clusters. Each cluster is then classified using multiple types of image data, probabilistically fused within a Bayesian network. The data set for testing has been provided by BAE Systems, allowing the system to be trained and tested on real-world aerodrome data. The system has demonstrated good performance on this limited dataset, accurately detecting both collision risks and terrain features for use in navigation.


BAE Systems plc.



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


© William Eaton

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


  • en