Software could enable autonomous terrain hugging

An unmanned Little Bird helicopter could fly nap-of-the-earth autonomously using software-enabled control (SEC) technology developed for unmanned air vehicles under a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and US Air Force Research Laboratory project, says Boeing.

Boeing unmanned rotorcraft W445
© Boeing

The software enables a UAV to fly low, hugging the terrain, determining safe landing zones using vision-based algorithms and avoiding known and pop-up threats.

Boeing’s SEC developers are evaluating the Little Bird, based on MD Helicopters’ MD530F Maverick; an unmanned variant of the Robinson R22; and the A160 Hummingbird rotary-wing UAV.

“SEC is a standards-based middleware that could be used for complex mission management,” says Boeing Phantom Works principal investigator James Pontiker. The last flight under the current demonstration programme, which began in 1999, took place in February when a DARPA Renegade rotorcraft UAV executed terrain-hugging manoeuvres and avoided pop-up threats using SEC.


Source: Flight International