U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) has developed an outdoor system to test swarming drones that have the capacity of more than 1,500 times the volume of a typical testing facility.

The unmanned aircraft systems use an interconnected swarm to provide capabilities for situational awareness, defense and logistics.

ARL worked with PhaseSpace to develop new motion-capture technology for outdoor use. Typically, sunlight interferes with motion-capture devices for uses such as video game development.

"This new capability enables us to expand the scale of our testing — from indoor testing in small rooms or spaces typically smaller than half of a basketball court, to now the size of five football fields," said Dan Everson, a researcher at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory. "This will allow us to replicate more realistic UAS operation conditions and conduct experiments that were previously not possible, such as using cameras to navigate terrains, testing RF communication within a swarm and flying larger drones."

The lab will focus on navigation technologies, heterogeneous swarming concepts, ground/aerial agent interactions, counter-UAS systems and human-agent teaming.

The system tracks motion and creates illuminated light emitting diode (LED) market strobes that attach to unmanned aerial system test devices and move through the testing area. To track the LED markers, 96 cameras housed within 16 tracking pods are positioned around the testing area. The system had a measurement rate of 100 Hz, measuring the position of the markers 100 times every second.

The system is also portable and could be scaled up or down or even changed in shape so that other organizations in academia, industry or government could use the system to test their own research and development.

The full research can be found on ResearchGate.

To contact the author of this article, email pbrown@globalspec.com