Autonomous Aerial Recovery of Micro Air Vehicles

Award Information
Department of Defense
Air Force
Award Year:
Phase II
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
AF 08T014
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Procerus Technologies LC
452 South 950 East, Orem, UT, 84097
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Blake Barber
Sr. Systems Engineer
(801) 224-5713
Business Contact:
Todd Titensor
(801) 224-5713
Research Institution:
Brigham Young University
Randy Beard
459 Clyde Building
Provo, UT, 84602
(801) 422-8392
Nonprofit college or university
The objective of this project is to develop a strategy to recover micro air vehicles into a flying aircraft. Our solution combines three key technologies that have received significant research attention in recent years, namely towed cable systems, cooperative control, and vision-based terminal guidance. We propose to demonstrate the feasibility of using a flying-aircraft mothership pulling an actuated drogue using light-weight, high-strength cable to recover MAVs. When the mothership enters a constant-angular-rate orbit, the drogue drops into an orbit with the same angular rate but a much smaller radius, and therefore a significantly lower airspeed. The drogue will be actuated and have an on-board autopilot to ensure that it enters a stable, well-defined, orbit. The drogue will have a mechanism to capture the MAV upon rendezvous. Cooperative control techniques will be used to bring the MAV to within capture range of the drogue. Vision-based guidance algorithms will be used during the terminal phase of the flight to maximize the probability of capture. The Phase II effort will consist analysis, simulation, design, and flight test experimentation with the goal of fully validating the approach in preparation for further Phase III development and commercialization. BENEFIT: MAVs have proven to be extremely useful for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) applications. This research supports the implementation of air-launched, recoverable, RSTA MAVs. These MAVs are intended to be launched and recovered from a manned aircraft, such as an AC-130 Spectre at a high standoff altitude. The MAVs would descend, then track and illuminate ground targets for the gunship, perform battle damage assessment, and finally be recovered to the mothership. This project will develop aerial recovery techniques for MAVs that enable the asset to be reused and prevent it from falling into enemy hands.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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