Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance (CTA)

Sponsor: ARL
Investigators: Sean Humbert (CU – MCE Thrust Lead); Vijay Kumar (UPenn – CNC Thrust Lead); Kamal Sarabandi (Michigan – SPP Thrust Lead); Larry Matthies (JPL – JX Thrust Lead)

While research over the last 10 years has provided critical insight into the aerodynamic basis of insect flight, formalization of the underlying principles for transition to engineered systems is significantly lacking. Our research objective for this project is threefold:

  1. Leverage tools from system identification and dynamical systems theory to generate a rigorous formulation of reduced order flight dynamics about hover and maneuvering flight
  2. Use these results to characterize the sensing and feedback requirements; and
  3. Provide a comprehensive methodology and set of feedback control principles for the use of unsteady aerodynamics on oscillating appendages to generate both lift and maneuvering forces that achieve robust flight stabilization of small autonomous flying platforms.

Vehicle development for the project (top left) being done in collaboration with Daedalus Flight Systems (Dr. Paul Samuel).

The MAST vision is to enhance tactical situational awareness in urban and complex terrain by enabling the autonomous operation of a collaborative ensemble of multi-functional, mobile micro-systems through collaborative and multidisciplinary research. The MAST Consortium is working towards creating systems of diverse autonomous mobility platforms equipped with miniature sensors to quickly, quietly, and reliably explore and find targets in the MAST scenarios. These platforms will exploit size (tradeoffs between payload, minimum exploitable opening, speed, range, and duration), diversity of locomotion (flight and ambulation), multiple units (redundancy, communication network, observation angles), and diversity of sensing (passive and active, local and long range). Four MAST Thrusts were established to develop these capabilities:

MOBILITY, CONTROL, & ENERGETICS (MCE): MCE develops a fundamental understanding of mechanics for small unmanned air and ground vehicles as needed to obtain desired mobility objectives. The aero-mechanics discipline focuses on key elements of micro-system flight; the ambulation discipline focuses on key elements of micro-system ground movement.

SENSING, PERCEPTION, & PROCESSING (SPP): SPP provides the fundamental underpinning for autonomous operation of distrusted, mobile, multi modal sensing micro-systems. Areas of investigation include control for mobility and situational awareness, distributed sensing and estimation, algorithmic aspects of communication, and architectures for cooperative reconnaissance by a heterogeneous set of micro air and ground vehicles.

COMMUNICATION, NETWORKING, & COORDINATION (CNC): CNC is concerned with the use of communication for carrying out mission objectives, optimizing the network connectivity amongst the heterogeneous ensemble of robots using the ratio, and coordinating the functions of each robot in the ensemble to enable the functioning of the team and optimize the mission objectives.

JOINT EXPERIMENTS (JX): The three core research thrusts (MCE, SPP, CNC) address capability gaps at the level of component technologies. The JX thrust serves as a focal point to integrate and evaluate technical capabilities on platforms performing elements of mission-like scenarios, through a set of research tasks that involve collaboration between multiple Centers and between the Consortium and ARL. MAST Projects being performed at CU include: Bio-Inspired Sensorimotor Control for MAST-Scale Platforms; System Identification of MAST-Scale Platforms; Integrated Air-Surface Operation for Micro Air Vehicles.

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