You are here

Optical Communications for Control of Unmanned Ground Vehicles


OBJECTIVE: Develop an optical communications system that is suitable for the teleoperation of unmanned ground vehicles (UGV). DESCRIPTION: Radio frequency (RF) communications in the teleoperation of unmanned ground vehicles has always posed challenges due to interference and noise, potential for jamming, bandwidth, and latency. This topic seeks an alternative to RF communications by investigating recent progress in optical communications, which promises potentially higher bandwidth, less susceptibility to interference, jamming, and, perhaps, detection. Most existing land-based wireless optical communications systems are used for computer networks in areas where fiber optic implementation is difficult. Less work has been done in on-the-move optical communications, especially for ground vehicles. Typically, a teleoperation link is bi-directional with control information being sent to the unmanned system and requiring video and other vehicle data being sent back to the operator control unit (OCU). The requirements for an optical communications system for UGV teleoperation are that the transceiver on the vehicle must be able to receive/transmit omnidirectionally, because the vehicle can be oriented in any direction relative to the OCU. The vehicle transceiver must be capable of operating with significant movement and vibration from the vehicle. The system must be eye-safe. The system should be applicable to teleoperation of vehicles as small as 20 Kg up to full-sized vehicles. The system should provide low latency, 50 ms or less. The system needs to provide sufficient bandwidth to allow full frame rate video suitable for teleoperating a vehicle in challenging environments. The system should operate in full daylight and at night. The system should allow for covert and/or secure communications. The system should have a range of two kilometers. While most optical communications systems require line-of-sight, there is active research in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) optical communications. This topic is also soliciting for methods to achieve the stated requirements using NLOS technology and investigating the tradeoffs that may be required to achieve that capability. PHASE I: The first phase consists of the initial system design, investigation of system components, and demonstration of feasibility. Documentation of the design, such as size, weight, and cost, trade-offs in the design space, and projected system performance, shall be required in the final report. PHASE II: The second phase consists of a final design and full implementation of the system, including a camera for a robot, communications software and hardware, and a display system. At the end of the contract, successful operation of the prototype system controlling a robot shall be demonstrated in a realistic outdoor environment. Deliverables shall include the prototype system and a final report, which shall contain documentation of all activities in the project and a user's guide and technical specifications for the prototype system. PHASE III: Military applications include all those that entail wireless control of an unmanned system, especially those where RF communications can be problematic, such as bomb disposal and non line-of-sight operation. Civilian applications include law enforcement, and other users of unmanned systems. REFERENCES: 1. N. Chand et. al,"Compact Low-Cost Non-RF Communication Solutions for Unmanned Ground Vehicles,"Proc. Military Comm. Conf. (MilCom), San Jose, CA (2010). 2. W.S. Rabinovich et. al,"Free-space optical data link to a small robot using modulating retroreflectors,"Free-Space Laser Communications IX, SPIE Proc. 7464, 746408 (2009). 3. G. Chen et. al,"Experimental evaluation of LED-based solar blind NLOS communication links,"Optics Express 16 (19), 15059 (2008). 4. 5. 6.
US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government