Monday, July 16, 2012

Russian drones can see obstacles

Russia may equip its drones with the so-called “technical vision” device that enables them to see and avoid obstacles, detect small-size objects and assess their potential danger. The system was created by a team of engineers at the Luch designer bureau, who say that it has no analogues in the world.

Installed onboard unmanned aircraft, it gives them capabilities that no other existing system can give, the bureau’s deputy chief designer Yevgeny Andriyevsky told the Voice of Russia: “Drones fitted with such a system can do what none of the existing analogues is able to do. They can fly at the lowest possible altitudes over zones with tall buildings and over rugged terrain of which there are no reliable maps and where a flight planning error might lead to the loss of the plane.”

The Luch-designed Vozdukhoplavatel (Aeronaut) drone is the only unmanned plane so far to have the “technical vision” system installed on it. But it is equally compatible with other types of drones. The small box-shaped device is stuffed with electronics, including a photo camera or a sensor that operates in infrared or radar bands and feeds all observation data into a special processing unit, Mr. Andriyevsky explained:

“The same unit processes all navigation data in real time and sends it to an operator on the ground, who either commands the drone to perform an evasive maneuver or this may happen automatically depending on the mode set by the operator.”

The Vozdukhoplavatel drone complex with an ejection system, a ground control station, a hydro-stabilized, miniature photo camera weighing 500 g was created at the request of a government agency. With a maximum flying time of two hours and maximum range of 30 km, it could be of great use for security operations and in other fields. Yevgeny Andriyevsky:

“These include all kinds of emergencies when there is no time to obtain the electronic map of a certain area, or there are no reliable maps, for as you know, cartographic data becomes outdated pretty soon. Our drones can be used by the Interior Ministry over fast-expanding urban areas, as for example Moscow or St. Petersburg where high-rise construction proceeds at so rapid a pace that maps are unable to catch up with it.”

Unmanned aircraft are robots, and as such they need sensors to be fit to do what they are supposed to. The obstacle avoidance system has successfully passed preliminary tests and may be recommended for use later this year.

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