The UK's joint Ministry of Defence/industry Systems Engineering for Autonomous Systems Defence Technology Centre (SEAS DTC) is exploring "autosoar" concepts for unmanned air vehicles, to conserve energy and extend flight times.

The concept is aimed at UAVs with glider-type airframes. The SEAS DTC mandate is limited to exploration of enabling technology and no flight demonstrations have been planned yet.

The work includes developing algorithms to manage the sensors that find the thermals and the autonomous decision-making systems for flight replanning to maximise thermal use.

"Autosoar is the ability of an autonomous system to automatically detect the thermals, which a glider normally would climb on. [A UAV] can then achieve far greater endurance than you would otherwise," says SEAS DTC board member Simon Jewell.

He adds that the concept has potential, but researchers need to increase their understanding to determine its value for UAVs and how much effort should be put into its development. Jewell thinks BAE Systems, a SEAS DTC partner, may want to adopt autosoar as a development for its Herti UAV, which is based on a manned glider.

The SEAS DTC was set up in late 2005 and has 60 research projects under way.

Source: Flight International