Building self-organised UAS swarms
A Self-organising Communications and Autonomous Delivery Service (SCADS) project, run by Australia's Defence Science and Technology Group (DST), is looking to create 'flocks' of UAS that will enable the exchange of critical information to and from soldiers during times of communication stress.
The project aims to overcome one of the biggest challenges of current military UAS usage, which is their reliance on a control channel which can be jammed. In order to avoid using a network - that can be jammed or flooded - to control a flock of multiple UAS, the idea is to build-in onboard decision making skills into each UAS so that they can act as an intelligent swarm.
To prove the SCADS concept, a team at DST is using octocopters that fly themselves. From a SCADS perspective, local rules are needed to be specified on each octocopter to give the swarm the capability to share critical information between soldiers in a highly contested environment.
According to the concept, a SCADS swarm needs to determine what must be done in different contexts. In order to collect information from the environment and control the UAS in a platform-agnostic manner, DST has created software called Hardware Abstraction and Integration Layer. This software enables the system to identify the environment and modify the behaviour of the UAS.
Machine learning algorithms will also be functional along with simulations so the units comprehend what they should do in certain critical situations. This will be merged with a real-time feedback loop that enables SCADS elements to tune responses on the fly.
SCADS is exploring a stigmergy-based data ferrying approach. Stigmergy is the process of communicating through the marking of the environment.
The DST-developed algorithm enables autonomous control of UAS speeds to facilitate information exchange between disconnected network nodes.
The DST is now planning a three year programme with the US Navy Postgraduate School that will include progressively more complicated swarming trials in California in the US and Woomera in Australia.
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