There could be no smart city without a reliable and efficient transportation system. This necessity makes the ITS a key component of any smart city concept. While legacy ITS technologies are deployed worldwide in smart cities, enabling the next generation of ITS relies on effective integration of connected and autonomous vehicles, the two technologies that are under wide field testing in many cities around the world. Even though these two emerging technologies are crucial in enabling fully automated transportation systems, there is still a significant need to automate other road and transportation components. To this end, due to their mobility, autonomous operation, and communication/processing capabilities, UAVs are envisaged in many ITS application domains.
Intelligent unmanned autonomous systems are complex systems created by the fusion of various technologies related to mechanics, control, computer, communication, and materials. AI is undoubtedly one of the key technologies for the development of intelligent unmanned autonomous systems. Autonomy and intelligence are the two most important features of intelligent unmanned systems.
Militaries are relying more on UGVs, UAVs, and other robotic systems to perform critical and dangerous tasks plus serve as intelligent machine partners. They come in the forms of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) that can function without an operator, with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI) and environmental sensors. The UGV is the land-based counterpart to unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned underwater vehicles. Unmanned robotics are being actively developed for both civilian and military use to perform a variety of dull, dirty, and dangerous activities. UGV use by the military has saved many lives. Applications include explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) such as landmines, loading heavy items, and repairing ground conditions under enemy fire.
Significant investments by governments on behalf of military robotic applications are literally driving autonomous robotic technologies full speed ahead toward the vision of a battlefield where humans and machines team as partners. Robots and unmanned vehicles, which have been part of the military landscape for some time, are increasingly used by all four branches of the U.S. military as well as by military forces around the world. Advances in electronic hardware and software support a trend of greater autonomy in these machines, making them more independent from the humans who create them. Military requirements for reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP) also make UAVs, UGVs, and ground robots smaller and lighter.
Traditionally, UAVs and Mobile Robots are viewed as two separate entities. However, upon closer examination of their synergies, a more unified conception of a closely-coupled system of the two could easily justify a view where both are just seen as separable parts of the body of a unitary hybrid symbiotic system – essentially, one robotic entity, whose body parts can separate temporarily, and get together again later.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are limited by strong constraints regarding their capability of carrying large loads in relation to their size. Furthermore, their flight time and range limitations are also subject to such constraints, even more so for the case of VTOL aircraft which require large amounts of energy even for hovering to a point. Such limitations are also one of the main reasons that engineers often under-instrument UAVs, without being able to include in their payload heavy or energy-hungry sensor, actuator, communication or processing sub-systems, given weight and energy constraints. However, UAVs still have a lot of advantages in comparison to mobile robots: they have the capability of a large 3-D workspace which usually has much fewer obstacles, can often have much higher instantaneous velocities as compared to ground vehicles. Most importantly, they can observe a much larger
On the other hand, mobile robots have numerous advantages too: they can carry a much larger load than comparable UAVs, and thus they can carry much larger power sources, as well as heavier or more power-hungry sensing, actuation, and processing subsystems. However, given that they have to stay in contact with the ground, they are much more susceptible to obstacles, harsh terrain, as well as occlusions and other sensing limitations.
The combination of these two types of robots, though, and their conceptualization as a unitary heterogeneous hybrid symbiotic system with on-the-fly separable and recombinable body parts, can create highly beneficial synergies: for example, sensing can become distributed, with top and advance-longer-range views coming from the UAV, while the power needs of the UAV as well transport and a safe docking and hiding area can be provided by the ground vehicle. Thus, the combined unitary hybrid can do much more as compared to the sum of the abilities of its parts. Numerous examples of application areas of such hybrid robots exist – autonomous observation and fire-fighting of forest areas; safe navigation and early hostility detection for mobile robots which are situated in an unknown environment, even for space applications. Of course, aircraft carriers are a good example of a widely-deployed manned analogue of such hybrids.
The Advanced Tactics (AT) Black Knight Transformer is the world’s first VTOL (vertical-takeoff-and-landing) “flying car” to be successfully flown in free (untethered) flight and also drive on the ground like a regular car. This is the historic original technology demonstrator that completed multiple successful VTOL flight and driving tests. The Black Knight Transformer uses 8 aircraft engines for VTOL flight, with each engine connected to a propeller for lift and control of the aircraft. A dedicated car engine and automatic transmission drives the vehicle on the ground.
Chinese scientists develop unmanned, air-ground vehicle for deliveries, rescue missions
In June 2020, it was reported that Chinese scientists have developed an intelligent, autonomous air-ground vehicle, which can be used for deliveries and rescue missions. Developed by a team from Tsinghua University, the unmanned electric vehicle can switch between ground working mode and flying mode. It has a four-wheel drive system and is equipped with a rotor to enable flight.
The vehicle, which is 1 meter long, 0.6 meters wide and 0.6 meters high, can conduct three-dimensional path planning, and can realize the functions of vertical takeoff and landing, spatial planning, hovering in the air and flight obstacle avoidance, according to the team. With a real-time perception module, the vehicle can recognize different types of obstacle or terrain. When it encounters obstacles or terrain that cannot be bypassed on the ground, the vehicle can switch to flying mode and seek a more suitable area for driving on the ground. The efficient and smooth switch of working modes will help improve the efficiency of transportation.
The vehicle has been tested in both urban environment and mountain areas with complex terrain. It can be used in delivering goods and for rescue missions, and it can be integrated into intelligent transportation systems in smart cities.
Miniature Hybrid UAS/UGV Introduced
Robotic Research, a developer of autonomy and robotics technologies for defense and commercial applications, has announced the debut of the Pegasus Mini, a smaller version of the previously-introduced Pegasus transformable hybrid UAV/UGV (unmanned aerial vehicle/unmanned ground vehicle) that can both drive on land and fly. The new transformable drone will be introduced at CES 2020 in Las Vegas.
The combination system provides a new range of capabilities for industry, first responders, law enforcement and military that previously had not been possible with single-mode autonomous drones or land vehicles. Pegasus Mini combines advanced GPS-denied mapping with fully autonomous high-speed flying and driving capabilities, providing the extra reach that a UAV or UGV alone cannot provide. Potential applications include inspection, search & rescue, rapid response, oil and gas, law enforcement, public safety, and more.
Features of the Pegasus Mini hybrid UAV/UGV include:
- Autonomous operation in the air and on the ground.
- Compact and similar in size to a football (approximately 16 inches by 8 inches)
- Weight of 4.2 pounds
- Payload capacity of up to 2 pounds
- Up to 30 minutes of operation in flight mode
- Up to two hours of operation in drive mode
Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research, commented: “We are excited to be at CES to showcase Pegasus as a new line of transformable robots and debut the Pegasus Mini, which offers a super-compact yet powerful drone and land vehicle combination capable of bringing remote cameras and sensors into previously unreachable locations. This small but mighty system has immense versatility and reach like no other robotic vehicle, flying at very high speeds with a payload capacity that can carry important tools to reach critical locations in unpredictable environments. We look forward to leveraging these unique features of the Pegasus Mini to provide more flexible, easily deployable, autonomous systems for customers in both the commercial and federal markets.”
Advanced Tactics Unveils the AT Transformer: The Future of Roadable VTOL Aircraft and Modular Cargo Systems
The AT Black Knight Transformer can fly and drive, combining the vertical takeoff and landing of a helicopter with the off-road driving capabilities of a truck. Not to mention, it is remote controlled! Advanced Tactics plans that the trial runs for this transformer vehicle will start in 2014. The U.S Army is also helping with the development of this automated robot-driven machine, which could be very useful to evacuate people by air or land, and to go through contaminated or hazardous environments without engendering a pilot’s life. Once passengers are in the vehicle, they can take over the controls to drive or fly to their destination.
The operational concept design of the Black Knight Transformer is a streamlined aircraft that has been optimized for payload carrying and multi-mission capabilities. That vehicle will use turbo diesel engines and aerodynamic enhancements to provide a payload capacity of over 1,000 lbs or five passengers with a 250 nm range. Configured without the ground drivetrain, the aircraft can carry up to 1600 lbs of payload or eight passengers. The aircraft will cruise at a speed of 130 kts and drive at up to 70 mph. This highly capable vehicle will provide a safe, low-cost option for casualty evacuation, medical and cargo resupply, and other military or civil missions.
The vehicle is using 8 rotor blades to fly, and can go through the toughest terrain thanks to the four heavy-duty wheels underneath. The helicopter-style blades fold into the sides of the machine while it’s on the ground. Chief engineer Rustom Jehangirl also said that the AT Black Knight could be used for cargo delivery. The Black Knight Transformer was designed to drive on and off road with up to 6 people at speeds up to 70 mph, and then to transform into a VTOL flight vehicle to take off from and land in small spaces. With the propeller/engines arms folded against the vehicle, it has a width of just 8 ½ feet (although this vehicle is not yet registered for driving on public roads). In addition to successful driving and flight tests, the Black Knight Transformer has been transported coast-to-coast on a custom trailer (included with this sale) that can be pulled by a large pickup truck.
The Black Knight and Panther Transformers both utilize the AT Transformer technology, which leverages the simplicity and robustness of a “multicopter” helicopter at a full-scale size. Like the small electric multicopters that are prevalent today, the AT Transformer uses engines with a direct drive connection to prop-rotors. The components of the propulsion system, including the engines and prop-rotors, are low-cost commercially available parts and the aircraft’s structure is made of modular field-replaceable components. Like an electric multicopter, the vehicle is stabilized and controlled by differential thrust between opposing sets of prop-rotors. This design is simple and robust, eliminating the mechanical complexity and cost of the articulated rotor system that stabilizes and controls a conventional helicopter and replacing it with a high-speed computerized feedback control system. Additionally, the configuration negates the need for a tail-rotor or engine transmission. The AT Transformer has the ability to perform controlled engine-out flight in case of a critical component failure.
The design benefits from a large interior volume compared to the overall footprint of the vehicle, which makes it an ideal candidate for unmanned cargo resupply missions as well as civil missions such as package delivery and fire-fighting. Both the Black Knight and the Panther Transformers have automotive suspensions and drive-trains similar to those used in off-road trucks. Large truck tires and shocks provide excellent terrain handling and soften the vehicles’ landings. The wheels are driven by an independent engine and transaxle for speeds up to 70 mph.
The AT Transformer design is highly modular for rapid repair and reconfiguration. For instance, each of the eight propulsion subsystems can be replaced in the field by two people and the payload bay can be changed from casualty evacuation life support equipment to cargo for multi-mission capabilities. Additionally, the modular automobile portion of the vehicle can be replaced with a boat hull or an amphibious hull for water operations.
“The Black Knight Transformer is designed for autonomous casualty evacuation and manned or unmanned cargo resupply missions,” says the official Advanced Tactics press release. “Its unmanned capabilities keep pilots out of harm’s way, making it the safest casualty evacuation option. The interior volume is comparable to a Blackhawk helicopter, making it well-suited for cargo missions as well.” Video: AT Black Knight Transformer first cargo truck helicopter VTOL vertical takeoff and landing aircraft
HUUVER Hybrid UAV-UGV for Efficient Relocation of Vessels
“The project HUUVER – Hybrid UAV-UGV for Efficient Relocation of Vessels will result with a prototype UAV-UGV platform that combines two types of propulsion systems. This patented technical solution will activate flying and driving capabilities in one compact and highly integrated autonomous drone.
The HUUVER drone will be the first fully integrated with the Galileo navigation system that provides the authentication service and precise navigation and will be fundamental in the navigation system. The positioning accuracy shall be achieved with the sensor fusion system based on multi-constellation satellite navigation system, inertial data and ranging information. The dual-frequency Galileo signals on the E1 and E5b bands will be used for correction of the ionospheric error, will also protect against malitious attacs. The credibility of the provided Galileo positioning will be assured by the new Open Service Navigation Message Authentication.
The motivation of the presented product takes its origin directly from the user perspective and expectations, where the flexibility, reliability, extended range are among the most mentioned. Completing for interfacing with an end-user, the HUUVER system will also include a core management system with features like mission planning navigation, guidance and control.
complementary part of the system will be an end-user mobile application enabling mission demand, launch control. The HUUVER platform is expected to be successful in professional missions for search & rescue, patroling & monitoring and industrial logistics. The solution will be tested by end users during the project realization.”