The Naval Research Laboratory has partnered with the Pennsylvania State University’s Air Vehicle Intelligence and Autonomy Lab to demonstrate algorithmic methods for telemetry data exchange between two soaring unmanned aerial vehicles.
NRL said Wednesday its Autonomous Locator of Thermals algorithm and AVIA’s AutoSOAR autonomous soaring algorithm worked to enable two sailplanes to flew autonomously and share information cooperatively during flight tests held at a military airport in Maryland.
Researchers launched a total of 23 unmanned flights at Phillips Army Airfield in September and October to test their cooperative autonomous soaring formulas.
“This testing showed proof of concept on multiple occasions, with both aircraft finding thermals and ‘calling’ the other aircraft over to use the same area of lift to increase endurance of the swarm,” said Dan Edwards, an NRL aerospace engineer.
The algorithms also worked to help the sailplanes glide at an altitude of more than 1,400 meters for up to five hours using only atmospheric power, NRL said.
NRL and AVIA plan to examine the feasibility of combining solar photovoltaic technology and cooperative autonomous soaring methods for solar-powered unmanned flights.