Arlene & Arnold Goldstein UAV & Satellite Division
UAVs and Satellites are the among the most natural applications for advanced autonomy, as the distance at which they operate from the control centers is such that the operators are often out of reach, optically and electronically. In space, the situation is further aggravated as the time required for signals to travel from transmitter to receiver can be many seconds, and for interplanetary missions, even minutes. Thus, decisions have to be made autonomously. One special research area is study of groups of satellites that perform a common function and need submillimeter accuracy, at distances of many kilometers.Aerial vehicles are perhaps the best known existing autonomous systems. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been active in the Israeli military for the last 40 years, first as drones, but advancing to include a variety of defense, security, and environmental applications. Today's UAVs include giants that use solar energy to remain in the upper atmosphere for weeks on end, and micro-vehicles that weigh just several grams. Activities in this area include research and development of new types of micro-UAV configurations such as wing-flapping, birdlike forms, and cyclogyros, which can only work at small sizes, as well as interactions of swarms of flying vehicles.
Driven by the need to identify and address constant terrorist threats, Israel has been a leader in UAV technology for more than 30 years. UAVs carry out surveillance, identify threats and attempted infiltration, respond to and deter enemy action, and let soldiers know what lies ahead on the battlefield, all without risking the loss of priceless human pilots. Improving and expanding UAV capabilities is imperative for military and internal security, but next generation UAV technology has implications that go far beyond defense. In addition to their military and security applications, UAVs can make major contributions in other areas including: surveying; law enforcement; border security; industrial site inspection; crop monitoring and precision-targeted spraying of fertilizers or pesticides; aerial filming of events; high-voltage line inspection; monitoring and fighting forest fires; oil and gas pipeline inspection; searching for survivors or bodies in natural or man-made disasters in urban, jungle, forest, or desert environments. The new UAVs will not just help protect, but will improve the quality of life around the globe
UAVs require advanced capabilities to monitor, interpret, and respond to activity on the ground or in the air, and to compare the data they collect with the intelligence that has been provided pre-mission. Their complex and heterogeneous control systems and sensors must be integrated to operate together efficiently, and the UAVs must have the capability to act appropriately based on their analysis. Because UAVs travel at high speeds, their multiple sensors must collect and process enormous quantities of data in real time in order to avoid collisions, a particularly difficult challenge for low-flying UAVs. (Tiny UAVs are being designed to operate inside buildings and other confined spaces). UAVs must be as small and lightweight as possible, which limits the amount and type of sensors and processors that they can carry and drives the development of smaller, faster components. Compounding these challenges, UAVs that operate in hostile territory may not be able to maintain contact with the base, so they must be able to decide, completely on their own, how best to fulfill the mission plan under changing circumstances.
In order to optimize the effectiveness of UAVs, it is also necessary to develop refined distributed systems that will enable groups of UAVs to operate independently as a coordinated flock and to make decisions on how best to carry out the mission based on assessment of external disturbances, changes in the general situation, moving obstacles, atmospheric disturbances, and system failures. In addition, UAVs that need to travel great distances or remain airborne for extended periods of time need to be able to carry out in-flight refueling. The Arlene and Arnold Goldstein autonomous systems division is starting to play a key role in bringing together experts from a wide variety of disciplines to find innovative solutions to these extraordinary engineering and computing challenges.