Collisionless flying of unmanned aerial vehicles

Innovative system and method for ensuring collisionless flight of three or more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

Software & Information Technology
Drone Crash

Drone crash in Iraq (DoD photo)

As unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, become less expensive their use becomes more widespread in both military and civilian applications. Additionally, where once a single drone may have been deployed, a fleet or swarm of drones may now be used. As the application of UAVs becomes more widespread and the number of UAVs deployed in those applications increases, collision avoidance becomes increasingly important. UAV collisions can result in financial loss, mission failure and possibly even injury or loss of life. Accordingly, there is a need for a cost-effective way of ensuring the collisionless flight of UAVs which does not require the UAV to include collision avoidance sensors or have knowledge and coordination of the flight paths or positions of other UAVs.

The Army has developed a system and method for ensuring collisionless flight of three or more UAVs. Collisionless flight is achieved by overlaying a circulant digraph with certain characteristics over the area to be flown. Circulant digraphs are a type of directed graph, or a set of vertices connected by arcs or directed edges of set jump sizes and which have a direction associated with them. Each UAV is then assigned to a flight path corresponding to a directed cycle of the circulant digraph where each vertex of the circulant digraph corresponds to two waypoints. To maximize coverage, each of the vertices of the circulant digraph may then be updated such that they satisfy two tests: a convexity test and an isosceles avoidance test. The updated waypoint may then be relayed from a control station to each UAV.

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