Feasibility of an extended-duration aerial platform using autonomous multi-rotor vehicle swapping and battery management
Williams, Alexander G.
Yakimenko, Oleg A.
Bingham, Brian S.
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Although the U.S. military relies increasingly on autonomous unmanned systems, such systems cannot surveil for long periods of time. For better intelligence collection and communication, an extended-duration aerial platform is required. This thesis focuses on the development and evaluation of a multi-rotor persistent system to provide a longer-duration system using vehicle swapping and intelligent battery management. A proof-of-concept system was built using three quadcopters, a single wireless network router and a laptop to execute code. The system monitored vehicle battery life; when the limit was exceeded, the next vehicle was launched and swapped in its place autonomously. This cycle continued as long as fresh batteries were available. The system provided 54 minutes of platform coverage, more than five times the duration of the single quadcopter. Testing found the system to be feasible and suggests how autonomous capabilities can be extended with persistent platforms. The system is easily scalable for increased survivability and coverage. Battery life and recharging capability proved to be key limitations of the system. However, if the rate at which fully charged batteries are available exceeds the rate at which they are expended, the system can operate until all individual quadcopters mechanically fail.
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