Issue 55 Uncrewed Systems Technology Apr/May 2024 Sellafield’s UAV equipment l Applied EV Blanc Robot l Battery tech l Robotican’s Goshawk l UGVs l UAVHE RW1 rotary l Roboat UVD l Autopilots l Arkeocean UVD l UMEX 2024 l CycloTech UVD

10 Researchers in the USA have shown that one operator can manage up to 100 autonomous ground and aerial robots in a swarm (writes Nick Flaherty). The findings represent a big step towards efficiently and economically using swarms in a range of roles, from wildland firefighting to package delivery and disaster response in urban environments. “We don’t see a lot of delivery UAVs yet in the USA, but there are companies that have been deploying them in other countries,” said researcher Julie Adams of the College of Engineering at Oregon State University (OSU). “It makes business sense to deploy delivery UAVs at scale, but it will require a single person to be responsible for very large numbers of these aircraft. This is the first step towards getting additional data that would facilitate that kind of system.” The research stems from a programme at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called OFFSET, short for Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics. This project deployed swarms of up to 250 autonomous vehicles – make minor adjustments to it. The objective data from the trained swarm commanders demonstrated that a single human can deploy these systems in built environments, which has very broad implications beyond this project.” Testing took place at multiple Department of Defense Combined Arms Collective Training facilities. Each multiday field exercise introduced additional vehicles, and every 10 minutes swarm commanders provided information about their workload and how stressed or fatigued they were. During the final field exercise, featuring more than 100 vehicles, the commanders’ workloads were assessed through physiological sensors, which fed information into an algorithm that estimates someone’s sensory channel workload levels and their overall workload. “The swarm commander’s workload estimate did cross the overload threshold frequently, but just for a few minutes at a time, and the commander was able to successfully complete the missions, often under challenging temperature and wind conditions,” said Adams. Autonomous robots Helping operators track bigger swarms multi-rotor aerial drones and ground rovers – which were able to gather information in ‘concrete canyon’ urban surroundings, where line-of-sight, satellite-based communication is impaired by buildings. “The project required taking off-theshelf technologies and building the autonomy needed for them to be deployed by a single human called the swarm commander,” said Adams, who is also the associate director for deployed systems and policy at OSU’s Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute. “That work also required developing not just the needed systems and the software, but also the user interface for that swarm commander to allow a single human to deploy these ground and aerial systems.” Smart Information Flow Technologies developed a virtual reality interface called I3, which allows the operator to control the swarm with high-level directions. “The commanders weren’t physically driving each individual vehicle, because if you’re deploying that many vehicles they can’t – a single human can’t do that,” said Adams. “The idea is that the swarm commander can select a play to be executed and April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Smart Information Flow Technologies developed a virtual reality interface called I3, which lets operators control the swarm