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7 Aug 02. BAE SYSTEMS and the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) successfully completed a series of flight-tests involving multiple Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). In a world first, the UAVs performed fully decentralised picture compilation.

“The technology has potential application in commercial and military sensing networks, where gathering and distributing data efficiently is of critical importance, for example, security and surveillance systems. Importantly, as the role of UAVs in future society increases, Australia is well-placed to benefit from new applications, such as search and rescue, border protection, bush fire monitoring and autonomous exploration,” said Dr Julia Sutcliffe, Research Leader – BAE SYSTEMS.

During the flight-tests, two Brumby Mk3 UAVs, weighing in at 45kg each, were equipped with navigation sensors, downward pointing cameras and communications – allowing direct UAV-to-UAV communication via wireless LAN.

They were then remotely piloted over an area of terrain at the University of Sydney’s test-range in Marulan, New South Wales. The UAVs sensed a number of artificial ground features, processed the data on-board and built a real-time picture of ground activity.

“Processing, sharing and fusing the ground picture, without any central processing facility, makes decentralised networks attractive from a reliability, scalability and flexibility perspective,” said Dr Sutcliffe.

The mission was undertaken as part of the Autonomous Navigation and Sensing Experimental Research (ANSER) programme – a three year R&D programme that follows more than 10 years collaboration between BAE SYSTEMS and the ACFR, under Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte.

This is a critical milestone for the ANSER team, which aims to create a 4-UAV test-bed facility to further develop and demonstrate decentralised data fusion technologies. Its success highlights the important role Australia is playing in the development of technologies applicable to UAVs.

The ANSER team plans to conduct further flight tests later this year.

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