New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
The CENTER as part of the UNIVERSITY and a partner with the FAA’s TEST SITE is tasked with the dual role of exploring the application of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to academic and scientific research as well as evaluating the safety and proper operating practices in order to integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Air Space. An important component of this is the ability to test a wide variety of sensors and integrate them into UAS platforms quickly to respond to academic and scientific research proposals. This necessitates evaluating multiple sensors and rapidly integrating them into existing aircraft platforms.
The approach taken is that of rapid prototyping utilizing 3D printing and in-house composite layups to create prototypes that can be evaluated. The ability to design a part, print it, and test it in a day or two allows the shortening of the engineering design cycle and the ability rapidly evaluate sensor integration solutions and therefore the sensors themselves. While parts can be out-sourced for final design models, it has also been determined that in-house 3D printed designs, and composite layers using 3D printed molds can be of sufficient quality for field work, depending on the application.
This approach has been applied to the development of aircraft in the example of the CENTER Ptarmigan, an electric powered hexacopter which utilizes commercial-off-the-shelf components combined with custom parts, including 3D printed covers, battery cases, etc. in order to create an “open” hardware/software style system. This gives CENTER the ability to integrate sensors onto a platform without requiring vendor support to overcome proprietary, locked down systems.
Examples of sensors integrated into the Ptarmigan include: 1) multiple instruments designed to sample particulate matter for volcano and wildfire plumes (optical particle, impact drum sensor, and IR technologies); 2) IR cameras for survey of arctic land/marine wildlife, volcano and wildfire footprints, and monitoring critical oil pipeline/processing infrastructure; and 3) single/multiple camera configurations to precisely measure vegetation structure, and create digital elevation models of glacial/sea ice; 4) hyperspectral camera to analyze numerous arctic environmental phenomena, such as vegetation health and regrowth after wildfires, presence of minerals in support of resource discovery, oil spill cleanup, and shoreline soil composition for coastal erosion studies.
In addition, sensor/payload components for other aircraft types have been developed for fixed-wing and rotary wing aircraft, including a methane sensor, numerous gimbal components/protective casings for camera payloads. Additional UAS vehicles include the LM Stalker (wildfire monitoring) and DJI F450 (paired with unmanned ground vehicles for mine rescue operations).
This approach of “open” style aircraft combined with the use of cutting edge technology to rapidly prototype and integrate sensors onto UAS has seen some numerous life success in projects undertaken by CENTER. Impacts of these have enabled great advances in our scientific research and academics.
This paper will provide details of payloads/components fabricated for CENTER UAS assets supporting exciting arctic research, as well as lessons learned and efforts pushing this down to HS/MS students.
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