Useful imaging at long standoff ranges typically requires longer focal lengths that make the stability of objects within the sensor field-of-view (FOV) more sensitive to platform disturbances experienced during maneuvers in wind fields and from turbulence conditions encountered at different flight altitudes. Further, there are opportunities to exploit the energy available in thermals and ridge lift conditions that vary as a function of underlying terrain, lighting/warming conditions, and weather. However, such benefits may not be available under operational constraints on flight altitude or direction of approach for countering threats from surface-to-air defenses. As such, there is a complex interplay of factors that affects one’s ability to achieve an optimal tradeoff/solution among competing ISR objectives for a given mission over a particular terrain region. This leads to a highly non-linear, high dimensional optimization problem that is not amenable to solution by many traditional techniques, especially when sensor platforms must be responsive to emergent threats and targets of opportunity that appear during the course of an ISR or RSTA mission, thereby requiring rapid re-planning/routing.
The Mosaic team, which includes the BYU MAGICC Lab and the University of Minnesota, has worked to develop a framework and tools to jointly optimize flight duration and video stream “value” acquired by Tier I and Tier II UAS supporting RSTA tasks. Our efforts have led to several advancements in state-of-the-art capabilities for maximizing UAS mission effectiveness. We have achieved the following results:
- Leveraged and extended numerical trajectory optimization work to simultaneously consider aircraft and sensor performance
- Developed and demonstrated a practical, real-time, guidance algorithm for optimizing flight in winds
- Demonstrated the ability to simultaneously enhance both Tactical Seeability™ and flight endurance
- Developed a robust framework that first achieves and stabilizes quality of sensing amidst wind fields and turbulence and then opportunistically harnesses energy for endurance.