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Launch, Charge, and Recovery of Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS)

Description:

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform 

OBJECTIVE: This effort intends to enhance the ability for small units to recover, charge, and relaunch SUAS with minimal significant user input. Improving these aspects of SUAS operations will minimize time and effort spent preparing and recovering the SUAS, and allow the soldier to maximize focus on the surrounding area 

DESCRIPTION: With the introduction of SUAS operational concepts, Soldiers are now able to remotely maintain eyes on target and remain out of harm’s way. Due to a finite power supply, however, SUAS are limited to short flight times before they must be returned to the user, recovered by the user, recharged at a charging station, and relaunched. Additionally, current SUAS that are used by soldiers are not paired with launchers, and require the soldier to manually launch the SUAS when flown. These tasks prevent continuous monitoring of the target, and require additional effort that are a significant distraction from the mission. As a way to provide continuous target coverage, it is possible to use multiple SUAS with overlapped flight times that will allow time for each UAS to charge and return to the target. While this solution addresses the issue of constant coverage, it increases the burden on the user to recover and prepare each SUAS to relaunch. In addition, there is increased interest in SUAS “swarming” capabilities, which allow several SUAS to work together simultaneously to complete tasks that are beyond the capabilities of each individual system. As this capability develops, the management of large numbers of SUAS “swarms” will likely not be feasible with current equipment. With increased fielding of SUAS, and increased number of scenarios that require the use of multiple systems, there is an increased need for a technology that is capable of reducing the physical and cognitive burden of recovery, recharge, and relaunch activities from the Soldier. Therefore, the primary focus of this effort should be on the design and development of a system to reduce the burden of these actions while adhering to the power, size, and weight requirements as specified below. Concept of Operations Description: The CONOPS intended for this system surround a small unit of dismounted soldiers that are tasked with maintaining eyes on target with at least two SUAS units, designated SUAS-A and SUAS-B. The system is intended to launch SUAS-A, while maintaining charge on SUAS-B. As SUAS-A reaches low power state, the system should launch SUAS-B as SUAS-A automatically returns to base and lands on or near the recovery system. The system should then be able to recover, charge and relaunch SUAS-A by the time SUAS-B reaches its low power state. Charging duration of SUAS must be less than the flight time of the SUAS, which differs between each fielded SUAS. CONOP can be scaled to the number of SUAS units carried by the dismounted unit, and developed system must be able to function similarly with a minimum of four (4) SUAS in any given mission. The technology should have the following performance requirements: o System Weight: 10lbs (Threshold). 5lbs (Objective). System weight includes power source and all ancillary equipment. System weight does not include weight of SUAS o System Volume: 3ft3 (Threshold); 1ft3 (Objective). System volume includes power source and all ancillary equipment. System volume does not include volume of SUAS o Power Requirements Interface: System must accept power from standard military batteries. Duration: Operational Runtime must be at least 4 hours (Threshold) and up to 8 hours (Objective). o Interface Compatibility: System must be compatible with military fielded SUAS. This could include direct compatibility with SUAS and its charging interfaces, or just compatibility with the charging units included with each fielded SUAS. o Recovery Range: System must be capable of recovering SUAS within a range of 20 feet of launch point. SUAS recovery is defined as collecting the SUAS from its landing location and connecting it to the charging dock for charging. 

PHASE I: Research, develop and propose a design concept with the potential of realizing the goals in the description above. Describe and quantify how the proposed solution offers enhancement(s) over current technology approaches and/or how it augments other strategies/technologies. Conduct necessary investigation and breadboarding on the design and performance of the components to demonstrate the feasibility and practicality of the proposed system design, minimizing user input. Deliver monthly progress reports and a final report documenting the research and development efforts, identifying any technical challenges that may cause a performance parameter(s) not to be met, results of any modeling, safety issues, and estimated production costs. All drawing and code developed during this effort are to be included in the final report. 

PHASE II: Develop the technology identified in Phase I. Fabricate, demonstrate and deliver one prototype (including SUAS recovery and relaunch device and any ancillary devices, with the exception of standard military batteries). The prototype must be capable of demonstrating the performance goals stated in the description above in the relevant environments, in addition to weather hardening and increased portability of system. For the proposal, bidders can prepare their estimates based on the Army providing two of the selected systems for test and demonstration purposes. Selection process for Army fielded SUAS is scheduled for early FY18. Additionally, the unit cost after development must not exceed $15,000. Deliver monthly progress reports and a final report documenting the design specifications, performance characterization and any recommendations for future development. 

PHASE III: A device meeting the performance requirements outlined in this effort would be applicable to military, industrial, and recreational user groups. Those who operate multiple SUAS simultaneously would realize significant reduction of effort and increased time on task benefits. Detection and Response Personnel would be able to increase coverage of a protected area while maintaining focus on operation of SUAS. 

REFERENCES: 

1: AV Snipe Description http://www.avinc.com/uas/view/snipe

2:  Department of Defense

3:  Release No. NR-008-17

4:  Department of Defense Announces Successful Micro-Drone Demonstrations

5:  9 Jan 2017. Swarming Demonstration https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/1044811/department-of-defense-announces-successful-micro-drone-demonstration/

6:  Army Short-Range SUAS Salient System Requirements http://www3.natick.army.mil/docs/SUAS/Attachment6_Short_Salient.pdf

CONTACT(S): 

Joshua nason 

(508) 233-4265 

Joshua.l.nason.civ@mail.mil 

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