Stigmergic Control of Dual Direction Communication Ferry Nodes for Denied Communication Environments

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Hietpas, Andrew
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All military forces rely on effective communication to gain and maintain tempo on the battlefield. With the proliferation of electronic warfare capabilities, battlefield communication will be increasingly challenged. The practice of establishing preplanned ground or airborne relay nodes does not provide the commander with enough operational flexibility. Too often, the scheme of maneuver is overly constrained by the capabilities of the communication system. The nature of the problem requires a system capable of adapting to the enemy�s electronic warfare efforts as they are encountered. Recent advances in autonomous multi-vehicle operations provide the opportunity to use unmanned aerial vehicles as communication relays or ferries to solve the problem of communication in a contested environment. The United States military, and the militaries of its partner nations, must plan to operate in a contested physical and radio frequency (RF) environment. Currently, no communication system is designed to operate in this environment. The Australian Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) has, over the previous years, conducted research addressing this problem through the use of swarming communication ferry nodes whose global behavior is modified with digital pheromones. This promising concept has yet to be demonstrated with fixed wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and dual direction ferry nodes. The previous work done by the Naval Postgraduate School�s (NPS) Advanced Robotic Systems Engineering Laboratory (ARSENL) program can facilitate such a demonstration while determining how the swarming algorithms themselves may be improved. If the problem of contested communications remains unsolved, the United States military will be unable to leverage all of its capabilities in the dynamic environments of future conflict. The purpose of this thesis is to implement stigmergic swarming techniques on the NPS swarm using bidirectional ferry nodes to speed delivery time. This would serve as a proof of concept for using fixed wing unmanned aerial vehicles in the airborne ferry role as envisioned by DSTG. The results of this effort could then be combined with current algorithm development efforts and inertial navigation to develop a complete system capable of operating in an environment where inter-vehicle communication is unattainable because of a denied electromagnetic spectrum. Additionally, this technique could be incorporated in future ARSENL efforts as an additional control capability. As the ARSENL program collects and refines more control mechanisms for their swarm program, they will be better able to identify the ideal control construct for future UAV swarm requirements.
CRUSER TechCon 2018 Research at NPS. Wednesday 1: Sensing
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This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.