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A developing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) field of interest is that of swarming which requires multiple UAVs to be launched in a short period of time. A swarm can provide extended coverage area, enhanced sensor data, and mission redundancy.
Under these scenarios, the launcher becomes a focal point. It must provide sufficient force for launch in a fast cycle in order to maximize the usability of the entire swarm once airborne.
Further, if such a launch is intended from remote areas, the launcher must be compact, transportable, and ruggedized with a minimum of force-bearing components to enhance reliability. Additionally and perhaps most importantly, the launcher must be able to precisely control the launch speeds of the drones in order to provide sufficient speed for lift and at the same time manage the effects of G-forces. Take-off G-forces above ~4 can be catastrophic to a drone.
Scientists at the NPS have addressed these goals with a novel UAV launcher system – the Automated Multi-Plane Propulsion System (AMPPS) – capable of launching multiple UAVs in rapid succession using a conveyor mechanism. The conveyor is driven by a DC motor and associated intelligent motor controller capable of issuing speed commands based on software instructions so that the linear velocity of the conveyor system may be controlled within strict parameters.
A UAV is propelled over rail guides and to launch by a wedge interface coupled to the conveyor. The motor controller drives the DC motor through a motor speed profile in order to accelerate the conveyor to a specific launching velocity over a length defined by the frame and the placement of the driver.
- Offers precise control of launch velocity to manage G-force effects
- An automatic reset function may be facilitated through software timing to decelerate and stop the conveyor and wedge interface at a consistent point between launch revolutions, to facilitate rapid loading and launching of multiple UAVs in succession
- US patent 9,969,504 available for license
- Potential for collaboration with Navy scientists